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EPISODE 080 : 09/22/2022

Deborah Weinswig

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Deborah Weinswig is the founder and CEO of Coresight Research, where she focuses on disruption at the intersection of retail and technology and helps her clients accelerate innovation and growth at their companies. Before starting Coresight, Deborah served as Managing Director of Fung Global Retail and Technology, the think tank of Fung Group. Today, she serves on the boards of several global brands and is on the advisory board of the World Retail Congress. She has been hailed as a top influencer and voice of retail by Retail Technology Innovation Hub, LinkedIn and Institutional Investor.

Host: Ned Hayes and Ashley Coates
Guest: Deborah Weinswig

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 [00:00:01] 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 Sparkplug is happy to welcome Deborah Weinstein to the podcast today. Deborah is the founder and CEO of Coresight Research, where she focuses on disruption at the intersection of retail and technology. Very similar to what we do here. And so she helps her clients accelerate and grow their retail companies. And before starting Coresight, Deborah served as managing director of Fun Global Retail, and today she serves on the boards of several global brands, and she’s on the advisory board of the World Retail Congress. So she’s been hailed as a top influencer and the voice of retail by Retail Technology Innovation Hub. And we’re really happy to welcome her to the podcast. Welcome, Deborah. 

Deborah Weinswig [00:00:56] Thank you so much. Honor to be here today.

Ashley Coates [00:00:58] Thanks so much for joining us. Well, let’s start back, Deborah, towards the beginning of your career, when I believe you worked on Wall Street at Morgan Stanley and then followed by Citibank. And you actually gave a talk at the 2016 Global Retailing Conference called From Wall Street to Main Street. I don’t know if you remember that all the way back then. I’m wondering if you can share more about that journey with us and the differences and similarities between the two. 

Deborah Weinswig [00:01:26] I absolutely remember that because I had so much content. I when I was like starting in the direction of going way over, I’m like, I know that we have to end on times unlike let me just like fast forward through like 20 other stories are not getting through. So I do actually hear that conference and in terms of I think in that that presentation specifically, which I remember shockingly well, is I talked a lot about some of the regulation. Right, and some of the changes and kind of, you know, when we started to see things, you know, post GFC and and what that meant for the industry and you know, potentially like the lack of innovation at the time and just kind of where you have a very regulated industry but with a lot of incredibly, I would say talented, motivated, curious individuals. I just kind of how how it all comes together and. Right, I was I led the global consumer team for Citigroup at the time. Just what that meant from a research perspective and and kind of what we did right, we would bring together big kind of global themes and then trickle down throughout different stocks or companies. Right. So when you go to kind of mainstream, I do think that, you know, even here we are 20, 22 and retailers for the most part, I don’t know. I mean, obviously there was a fear factor. Don’t really share their insights outside of, you know, kind of few closed door, I would say, meetings, conversations, etc.. And as a result, I think it’s more about learning, right? Learning around, you know, topics that we’re obviously very passionate about which are live streaming, metaverse, quick commerce, NFT, etc.. How are your peers approaching this? Which is actually why I think conferences have been kind of like everyone I’ve been to has been sold out because there’s this idea that executives want to get together with other CEOs and be like, Have you tried this? What do you think about this? How is this? I think the question I’ve had asked most recently is around headless commerce. And I think that there’s also just because of the differences around, let’s just say, capital that they have access to in the banking world versus retail, that, you know, they’ve got to be incredibly careful on where they place their bets on Main Street. Right. So if you’re going to choose a new software solution, right, these days we’re seeing more sass because if you were to kind of, you know, make a bigger investment or a different kind of investment, even with SAS, it’s not the software that costs a lot, it’s more the implementation, which is also quite interesting on so many levels. But the this idea of being agile, I felt much more so in banking than I ever have in retail. And I have to say that pain point is actually like why we exist, right? How do we kind of drive agility? Right. No one. Sorry. Right. We tried it. We thought it would work. Okay. It didn’t like let’s go on to the next thing. And this kind of like Mel culpa that I think, you know, certainly Wall Street holds these for retailers to, etc.. I just first of all, and we’ll talk about later today, but I think that retail now is in like the center of kind of all things. Yeah, if you will, future looking. And I think that now is the time. I think that Mainstreet has got almost an inflection point, if you will. There’s a huge opportunity here at the same time, right? This is a moment in time. I think they need to kind of jump on the train so that they don’t get left behind. 

Ashley Coates [00:04:43] Well, and you started your company, Coresight Research in 2018, and here we are, as you said, in 2022 and of course, in 2018. We did not know what was coming yet. Are you in a different place with your company than you thought you might be? What have these last four years that. Like for you. 

Deborah Weinswig [00:05:00] You know, it’s interesting. You know, obviously, our roots are around proprietary research. 

Ned Hayes [00:05:05] And, you know. 

Deborah Weinswig [00:05:07] From that we grew into doing customer research for our folks. And then, you know, we were like, let’s think about doing some. And we were on the research side. We’d actually done some advisory projects, I think certainly a different lens through which we, we looked at them, but they went well, we started see, right really the minute that the pandemic hit. And once again, I was based in China pre-pandemic, so I had kind of already thought through. I had like a three and a half month head start on thinking through everything. I was like, we got to like bring in an advisory team because you could see the ways of working and the ways of like retail and commerce. It was all going to change very quickly and nobody was really prepared for that. Right. I mean, if you think about from like an e-commerce perspective, buy online bopis, buy online pick up in-store, even just like I mean supply chain, which once again, having spent almost five years only in fun, right. That that was a whole kind area that we could see. Right. Once again, anyone who is sourcing globally, which is pretty much everybody. Right. That was going to be disrupted. Some of the changes domestically at the ports we’re make. Right, there’s this whole thing around the charities and everything that was then we had like a lack of drivers because there was this idea that I was going to take all their jobs and we saw less people going to driving school. And it was like literally every point of the supply chain that I could think of. We had not been prepared for what was happening and in fact, if anything, we pulled back. And so income’s right. 2019 and what we started to see mean the end of that year and into 2020, I was like, We got to get advisory teams and we brought in an advisory team. We hired someone on McKinsey, and he actually has built up a whole team around him. And so it’s been amazing. Like what I’ve loved is to take the research like things we think are true, right? And we have a proprietary data and then to see them actually like come to life, like, I love my job because I’m like, I get to think about and I get to research and I get to be really become smarter every day because I’m researching and I’m reading, right? And then you get to test what you thought might work. So we’re in seven countries on four continents. So we are very, very diverse in so many ways and we all work together on these projects. I have to say it’s been fascinating to see ideas that might work in one year that we weren’t sure if it would work on another. And they do. And then we’re all like, this is so exciting, right? It’s it’s been really unbelievable. And then one of the other things that I’ve tracked actually since gosh, since I was back at city was store openings and closures more just because I was trying to figure out. Right. It used to be, although I actually still think is a whole nother issue, that Wall Street valued retailers based on store openings and on comp sales. So comp sales where stores open up over a year. Right. So you take Amy and that’s your picture on what look like, you know, future stores and sales. So I really want to track openings, of course, tracked closings on the other side. But I used to have on my gosh, I used to have these maps, I would go to clients offices, anyone who’s listening that would be like, Oh yeah, I remember those. I like overlaying them on top of each other and you know, isn’t this interesting and like ocean so and so acquire so and so of course they they ultimately did, you know, and I’m like so once again, 2019 and 2019, you’re seeing all this. I’m like, Oh, we got to really like double down on this plan, store openings and closures data we have. And we ended up hiring a chief data strategist to really kind of productize this just like a people can subscribe to write store openings and closures, but like really down to the zip code. What malls are they in? Right. What malls might be in trouble? What malls might be interesting for DTC companies to enter? We ended up we had a unique opportunity, unfortunately was very early in the pandemic. One of our clients ran to some challenges. He actually had his head of h.r. Reach out to us and she was like we’d already hired some people in the region. This is in lagos. She’s like, you know, would you like to think about, you know, kind of eating this whole team, right? Which was definitely much more than we we were planning on on biting off at the moment. We ended up acquiring a basically data science team of about 25 people. And that, as you can imagine, completely changed the direction of our organization and to date. Right. Like I’ve met them all over Zoom and we’re like planning on like we’ve got to like meet in person because it’s just, it’s just we’ve all been through so much together over the past few years and we haven’t yet had the chance to kind of sit down and have that kind of across the table conversation. Certainly there are a lot of different platforms that make it feel like you’re across the table, but that has taken our our data product into a different dimension, right? Like our research portal and, you know, kind of many other areas of our organization got people in a pack. We’ve got folks in Israel, we’ve got a team, right? I mean, we’ve we’ve got a very diverse team. And to me, kind of increasing that diversity geographically and also even like academically, I mean, we’ve brought in like a bunch of PhDs. That’s just a whole different realm of kind of intelligence we didn’t have in the organization. So. We all now think very differently. 

Ned Hayes [00:10:01] Right. Well, if I could just back up to Coresight research itself, and if you could give us the elevator pitch, what does the company actually do and what value do you provide in the market that would help us to understand why you have this diverse, amazing team? 

Deborah Weinswig [00:10:17] So I’d say the kind of quick elevator pitch, right? Doors are closing. You’ve got 30 seconds. We really sit at this intersection of retail and technology. We help retailers really understand the technology solutions, but also what tech is available to transform their businesses. And then on the technology side, we really help them understand kind of what retailers are thinking about. And then many of us kind of sit right, we have a foot in each and like we just get to kind of dream all day, right? If retail was this perfect kind of world, what would it look like? I have to say, they don’t have a metaverse recently. I’m like, we’re pretty close. Right. And so I think that is when you start to see a disruptive technology get kind of dropped in your lap and you start to see actual retailers engage with it and the success that they have. And then we do right events to tell people about what’s happening in the world of retail, in tech and in other things around that. The crux of it is taking research and data to make better decisions, whether you’re a solutions provider, whether you’re a retailer. And then looking at this kind of almost I would say this is very we really look out. Yes, we will give you a an estimate for holiday sales this year. But I think, you know how we always say it’s like we look around the corner. So. Right, you’re everyone’s right here. We’re trying to kind of look about what you may not have had the chance to spend time on and basically say, hey, this is really important. You need to spend some time thinking about how you’re going to approach this one way or another. So I would say it’s very much elevator pitch intersection of retail and technology, utilizing our consumer research as the foundation and really helping retailers and technology solutions look around the corner so that they can stay focused on today and we can help them think about what’s really important for tomorrow. 

Ned Hayes [00:12:02] So I know technology has been a big disruptor for the retail industry the last few years, especially during COVID, and we’ve seen a lot of new technologies come to the forefront. I wonder if you could talk a little bit by looking around the corner, what’s coming next and what kind of technologies are retailers really finding innovative in the current environment? 

Deborah Weinswig [00:12:21] So it was interesting. I was trying to I’d like to kind of put my own thinking frameworks together and it sounds like, you know, I’m probably on like some airplane ride right when it’s quiet. I was like, you know, there’s three new things. We see companies selling, right? So they’re selling and keys, they’re selling their own data, which is anonymized. So like the banks or credit card companies and then. Right, retail media, they have these digital shelves now and they had them before the pandemic. Now we just kind of think of all the differently. And ultimately none of those are, if you will, tangible. You don’t have like inventory. And then we’re like, there’s three new ways to sell, right product on the metaverse. And once again, you can sell, right? I’m going to be first in line. I’m Black Friday. I’m going to get this token and I’m going to turn it in for, you know, a and a one sweatshirt or I’m going to get this digital collectible. Then there’s livestreaming, which is one thing. And we had lived through all of that in China. The opportunity to kind of take that here to the U.S. is definitely been slower than I would have expected. I will be quite direct there. We’re looking at about a $20 billion of revenue going through livestreaming this year. That compares to this year. Our estimate for China is 497 billion. So considering it started kind of 18 months later in the U.S., it’s a pretty big delta. But I think that there are so many different platforms. And also who owns it in the U.S., right. That’s like another challenge and, you know, payment gateways and whatnot. But, you know, we can dove into that a bit later and then quick commerce is another way to sell it, right? So basically I’m ordering from Gopuff, get to your gorillas, whomever it might be, it could even be right like my my local grocer. And the item is going to be here in 30 minutes or less. And that starts to create all kinds of interesting thought processes and discussions around sustainability. Right. Maybe I don’t need to go and buy like, you know, £5 of carrots from Costco like I did this weekend. Right. Maybe I can buy, you know, kind of two carrots if that’s a I’m going to eat that day. Maybe I’m getting fresher product, but also there’s less waste. And so that’s where the e-commerce, I think is fascinating. So we’ve got three things to sell, three ways to sell them, and then you can have three ways to deliver them. And so that’s personalized, right? Experiential and sustainable for me. Right? Any time I now kind of get more intelligence around a retailer, a technology solution provider, a brand, the consumer, I try to think about it in those nine buckets, but in kind of three, if you will, subject headings. And it’s been very helpful to help kind of organize and strategize and think about. Even in the next 18 months. What’s possible? And maybe where are we kind of like three plus years out just because we don’t even have the the infrastructure or the buy at this point from either retail or tech. 

Ashley Coates [00:15:09] Thank you. It’s so helpful to hear you categorize it in that way and kind of structure it in that way. I know, Deborah, you mentioned that you were based in China prior to the pandemic and your team actually looks at the impact of places like China on supply chain and overall business models in the West. When did you start tracking this impact and what are you seeing today? 

Deborah Weinswig [00:15:31] So I was based in Greater China when I was at Leon Fung, and since I’ve been the head of Global at Citi, I’d say well over a decade have looked at the region and was situated there geographically for almost about the same amount of time. If you think about the build out of these platforms and it’s very different between platforms in China, the platforms we have here is that the platforms are technology providers, right? They are not retailers. So they are just trying to come up with a best in class solutions systems data to empower the retailers and they also get the retailers together. This is where it’s really interesting, right? The platforms are ecosystems to get the retailers to kind of talk to each other and to better understand how they might problem solve. What’s also interesting, because we bring a lot of companies, I mean, some are very well known like Macy’s and Kroger and others who we can’t necessarily say. But it was fascinating to see where didn’t matter which platform they would inbound to us. Right. As the advisory team on. Right. Hey, so-and-so’s not listening to us. They really need to have less SKUs, need to have more teeth whitening, they need to have more dandruff shampoo. And these are huge, right? Like our data is showing us that the consumer spending endless hours searching and we don’t have time when you start to think about that and going back to sustainability. So you don’t have platforms that are like overloaded with that or shampoo. In fact, we have platforms that are like begging us for more to enter shampoo, supplements, those kinds of things. And I think that that is a very different approach and it really does put the retailers. I actually think the biggest difference is that in China, the retail or the consumer right there in the center, so the platforms with the retailer in the center, the retailer puts the consumer in the center. So ultimately how things should be structured right logically is kind of how things are, which is where it goes back to. It’s like China speed. We don’t have all of these kind of like, you know, folks who are decision makers who are going to slow things down. Right. It all is like, okay, so-and-so said like, this is the data. Okay, I need to look at this. Okay, I’m looking at this. I need help making this decision. Okay? I’m going to be giving these solutions to help with that decision. And I think that that is where things move very quickly. I mean, livestreaming, for example, I think some of the challenges here is we don’t have influencers are not necessarily they do what they do. Well, selling product is different than selling your your influence. Right. And I think it’s like, you know, coming on and saying, hey, right, you know, this great new hat, right? It’s going to protect you from sunburn. It’s going to extend your life by three years. Right. These are the materials. This is how our team came together to think about this. Right. And what we see is and this sounds like going of right to do like shipping. Well, you spend like 5 to 7 minutes on one product. And what happens in livestreaming is returns are about 50% less because the consumer really knows that product when they go to buy it. Right. Okay. Right. This sounds like it’s right for me. And even like in a livestream, you can ask about sizing. Hey, I’m sure wasted. What do you think? Or is that like a really brilliant blue or is that more like a royal blue or whatever it might be? And so you get your questions answered in real time. And the idea that this is done for the most part on a platform, you can then save all your items right in your basket and then go back and look at a later time. Whereas today, most of these are solution providers who work kind of one on one with the retailer. I think it’s great that the livestream is hosted on their website, but oftentimes the items fall out of the cart in between the technology provider and the retailer. When you’re using influencers, it doesn’t seem super genuine always, right? Because there’s they don’t really know the product. They’re like like the teleprompter, which they probably are. And I think that what we thought and this is like a big idea as we’ve seen a lot of turnover in store associates as a very large pain point for retailers right now. We looked at different technology solutions to help with that. If you can have an upward trajectory for your sales associates that they can one day live stream, it could be from a store, it can be from their bedroom, it can be from out in front of the store, wherever it might be made from a studio. And they can then, right, quote unquote sell product. Right. You will train them. They make whether it’s a commission or a flat rate, but they’re passionate about your product. They know better than anyone, right? They know what the customer thinks. They know what the customer. Going to say before they say it, and if we can then think about a trajectory for them. I think that’s really interesting on many levels. Now you can pair them with an influencer who could drive the traffic. Right. But just having them close are kind of there and be like, Yeah, yeah, yeah. But that’s just not how we necessarily right now are thinking about things. I do believe that live streaming will eventually hopefully be a much bigger opportunity because of the sustainability aspect. And then actually there’s a platform called Bomberger. They actually started off they were a company that sold beautiful baskets. There’s actually quite a bit of heritage. And now they sell all kinds of things, right? They sell Sarah Bass and they sell like 1% pure, but all types of other products, all really kind of in like an organic health and wellness kind of approach. Their return, right? 2%. 

Ned Hayes [00:20:46] Wow. 

Deborah Weinswig [00:20:47] So when retailers start to understand the impact, but just using this simple solution, it’s very inexpensive to work with. But I do think there is like a lot of noise out there because there are so many platforms and solution providers. Because back to probably we’re like all of us together, right? There’s huge opportunities for us. It’s really just to drive awareness. Ultimately, the retailers have to make their own decision. But I guarantee you. Right. If I were to talk to 100 people, maybe I would know about Long Burger. And that’s actually where I get super excited about our job because I’m like, not only can I educate them on what is livestreaming, how is long a burger different? What’s important to us as analysts and bring in our advisory team, but ultimately being able to help people find what they love then what they’re going to take better care of, have for longer. And then this idea that on the retailer side, they’re now really connecting with people in a new way, but they’re not getting these returns. And so ultimately, from a sustainability perspective, from a profit, I mean, most of what is like a profitability perspective, but think about this in retail. Nobody owns returns and nobody owns loss prevention. 

Ned Hayes [00:21:54] Right. People don’t really care about those aspects of the business because those are not the exciting aspects of the business. 

Deborah Weinswig [00:22:00] Well, they’re not driving top line, which it goes back to, though, on Wall Street. We just care about top line. That’s how we’re going to measure you. And so I actually think that right now, to be honest, there’s an opportunity for retail going back. That’s also the whole reason we did the three by three by three. Is there a new way? Maybe we need like another three or another six or nine? Or is there a new way to think about how to value retailers? That can be a real game changer in terms of how people invest, how they look at their opportunities, and even just kind of what employment opportunities might be available. And and maybe we start to decrease turnover in retail because there’s another reason that people want to work there, whether it’s sustainability angle, whether it is starting to tackle some of these real challenges that are maybe, you know, somebody always said to me, I was a tech from there, like, you know, returns or everyone’s like dirty little secret. And I still think it’s very difficult to measure. We actually met recently a an Israeli tech company. This is really cool. So they actually called Shabani. When a product comes back, they’re basically a computer vision. They can, like, look at it and see what state it’s in. Right. Is it able to kind of just get like a nice new wrap and go back onto the website? Is there some wear and tear so maybe we can sell it on our own site in like a recommerce way? Or does it need to ultimately be recycled? This is where you start to kind of connecting the dots per say and all gets to be so much more interesting. So returns our problem. Let’s look at what what may be able to solve them and how do we make it kind of an opportunity and great story to tell, which is like a problem. 

Ned Hayes [00:23:40] Right. So I know we’ve talked in general terms about these issues and how to make retail more sustainable. And I’m just curious if you could dig into a couple actual retailers on the market that are making this shift and that maybe we should look at their operations or even pay attention to how they’re leading the market in this way. 

Deborah Weinswig [00:23:57] I mean, I’ll jump on a few. So I think that Ralph Lauren has been very focused, right, on thinking about what they sell, where they sell it. Right, the fibers that are being used. David Lauren Actually, I’m on the board of Goodwill and the Tri-State area. He joined our event last year and he had like a jacket that they had kind of repurposed with like patches and stuff like that. And so this idea that you can take kind of previously loved or, you know, found in the bottom of a drawer by product and to repurpose it is and right in this case make it incredibly special. That’s a phenomenal opportunity. And what’s really interesting there, which is actually unusual, I’m trying to think I’m sure there are other retailers, but you actually have the head of product and the head of sustainability actually are the same person. And, you know, it’s kind of like usually, right? So the person is like, oh, how should we approach as well from a sustainability perspective? I do it this way, right, Eric but top line perspective, I do it this way. And I think that they’ve also just set up. I think it’s I think the person is. In a bit of an interesting relationship with you in terms of which lever do they pull on which day? But I do feel like they’ve at least set up their structure. I do think that very importantly, process, procedure, structure, which I think because of the pandemic, so much of that has been like thrown into the wind because it had to. I do feel that one of the things that they’ve done well is that the other company that I’ll mention, which I think this is probably no surprise to anybody, but is like Nike. And as they are starting to think about how to take their previously loved product back into their own ecosystem. Right. Improve upon that and repair so that they can once again. And the thing is where it’s to me, what’s very important in some ways to do this on your own site is like that authenticity. And that is where we we really start to see. So I think that I’m much right now I’m very focused on the and it’s not we look at it as low hanging fruit if we want, because there are many technology solutions who can assist you with bringing, you know, kind of previously loved product or prices, return back onto your website to sell it right. To me, that’s at the top of the list of like check. Got that done. When you start to really look at like supply chain and blockchain and right. Monitoring things from like cotton field to consumer. Those are all I mean all work that we do a for site I find incredibly interesting on on so many levels because you can figure out ways right oh wow we’re using right this much water to make a pair of jeans. Right. We can probably take that down by a thousand gallons, to be quite honest. And there are these and it goes back to right where we started this conversation. If we were able to easily have retailers, brands, technology platforms, share some of these insights in a way that, you know, hey, what are the top ten ways that I can be more sustainable and who are the companies I work with to do it? And if I could have that playbook, I mean, right, we would all do that all day long and then we could like move on, right? Okay. If that problem is solved. All right, like, what’s the next one that we want to tackle? But I do think that it could be right. Hey, there are these ten companies we’re going to help you kind of repurpose some of your your product that was either returned or that you had made too much of in a very sustainable way. But I think that the retailers are doing an amazing job considering how much noise there is. And I do think that they have massive decision fatigue. And so I think that right to have to like figure out like every nit and net of every technology solution and what we don’t think about and you thought about this a lot during the the pandemic, because I was interviewed quite a bit during Black Lives Matter, because I used to say to a lot of the retailers, right, when they had like people on stage, I’m like, you know, I don’t when I look at the data, the data suggest that a certain person is your customer. And I don’t see that represented on stage. So if who your customer is, is it represented in your management team think it’s really hard to make decisions that appropriately reflect your customer? And so I’d always been on that soapbox. And so it was really interesting when, you know, when we saw a lot of change and change in thinking, like I said, a lot of people had remembered some of the you know, what I had said for a long time, and it was really just doing the right things for the consumer and ultimately right diverse teams. Do you I mean, we got all the data at your fingertips, but I think when the team is representing your customers, I think that that is kind of increasingly important. And so I think that the retailers have really had, you know, they are public facing. Right. I mean, any time I’m sure it is as you talk to like these DTC companies, once they go into physical retail, they’re like, wow, we had no idea that it was like this hard that we need a PR team to do this right, like those things because the consumer sees them right. Like the good, the bad and the ugly. Right? Your bathrooms are like not clean and like people are now these days, like photographs and they’re putting them all over, right? Whatever kind of form of social media of choice. And and that, I think is that’s a lot for retailers. I think that some of the store closing frenzy that we saw in the kind of throughout 2020 was it really wasn’t more. Our first half is really the whole year I think retailers like oh my gosh, we just got like our lease on life. All these stores that have been like, you know, weighing on us, right? We’re able now there’s regret because the consumer is super excited to be back in the store and engaging with store associates. But I still think that the level of sophistication of social media and the fact that pretty much everyone is using kind of some form of it is the retailers are really on like high alert. And I do think that there’s a different level of training that they probably need to do from the C-suite all the way down to kind of your cashier, who that person as a face, your company. What do you think about the importance of that individual? I mean, it’s huge. 

Ashley Coates [00:29:51] Speaking of that interaction between your customer, the retailer and that customer experience, we’d actually love to get your. Perspective on customer experience and really customer loyalty in retail today. A question we’ve asked many people on this podcast is, does loyalty still matter today in a world of ecommerce and convenience shopping? We’d love to hear your perspective on that. 

Deborah Weinswig [00:30:14] I think loyalty matters more than ever. I want to say, I mean. Right, we just seen Walmart, right. Who I remember sitting with their management team. Right? Like, no, Mr. Sam, number one, a loyalty program. Right. Because right where he disappeared is the idea that things are right. To me, this is like there is like something screaming from the top of some building, right? Loyalty. So this is how I think about it. I think loyalty with a gamification element. So if I come to your store in person three times, I want to get, let’s say, a virtual banana and I can turn my virtual bananas into a $35 shirt or something like that. Right. Going back to I mean, I don’t know if it’s the banana currency or if it’s, you know, whatever it might be, it could be your logo, etc.. And then, hey, right, think about, okay, if you shop us online using your mobile device, using your desktop, if you join a live stream, if you join us in the metaverse, if you join us in a physical store, right? You’ve now had like these five, six touch points. Okay, you’re going to get like a big gold ribbon that says number one and that actually will get you five of those ribbons will get you and Olga could be like $100 gift card or something. So I think that there is loyalty for loyalty, saying, hey, if you bring your customers together in a live stream, if it’s like your most loyal customers, etc., we haven’t really seen that. I mean, I think back in the days. Right. And these luxury companies would bring their best customers together. I think that to me, I like the idea that it’s democratized and that if I do these things right, I, too, can get this like big gold ribbon. It’s interesting where I get reached out to all the time, right? Like do this survey. I keep on getting one about like being a taster and I’m like my taste buds, right? Like, everything is like, I’m not the person you’re going to pay to be. Like, you’re your professional taster. There are other people out there. But I also think that if you could start to bring your customers together to get their opinions on product before you design it and launch it and save yourself all this money. If you have a group of customers at once and you somehow maybe pay them in gold ribbons or bananas or whatever on a virtual one, and then a few bananas, whatever it might be. You know, this idea that I’m being rewarded for taking good care of my health, I mean, it’s like one of the things don’t get me started on Peloton, but I think the fact that not only have they like literally not I got a bike in 2016, everything is the same. But if you drive me back to 2016 or you bought my 2016 kind of interface, it’s the same. It’s interesting when you can start to compare and contrast who’s kind of really surprised us in the last few years. And yes, what I expected Nike to do of so is very interesting, right? Kind of taking back your distribution. Oh that makes know I can I can think about that then doing it and the way they did it was I think it’s fascinating. It was Ralph Lauren being so focused on sustainability and then even like reflecting that and how you organize your C-suite and Walmart getting very involved with the program and even having kind of a, let’s say a very affordable with Walmart plus program to kind of save on shipping and whatnot. I think we should herald the amount of innovation that’s taking place. And then you look in the metaverse at what Mattel has done. I guess the best way to say this, every retail NFT has been successful and it’s more like did it in 90 seconds or this all in 120 seconds. And I think that is telling us, right, that the consumer still wants to consume maybe in different ways, but it also allows retailers. Right. To think about reinventing themselves as to who are their customers in the metaverse. I think they look shockingly different than what they think. Right. I think it’s much more demographically, it’s like a graphically diverse. And how can they think about selling them virtual assets versus physical and what does that mean for the future of retail? 

Ned Hayes [00:34:05] So I know that you’ve talked a bit about the metaverse and you’ve talked about kind of the future of loyalty. I’m curious if you have any examples of a loyalty program that you actually participate in today at a local retailer? Like are there loyalty programs that you really enjoy? 

Deborah Weinswig [00:34:20] That is a very good question. I’m going to give example. I’m sure it’s not the one you would have expected, but I have to be true. So I do shop on AliExpress and they have games for those who know me. I grew up in a very strict household. We never watch TV and like my brother and I would get a bit like five in the morning and let me watch Crash Test Dummies like you can’t make this stuff up. And I’d watch people fishing and then my parents would wake up and I was over you every once in a while and they would oversleep when we get to watch Scooby Doo. So I grew up in a very like we would discuss politics at dinner, right? I was we read I play the violin. Right. That kind of a house as you were thinking about kind of anything digital there just like wasn’t. Much of that in our home. No gaming or anything like that. And, you know, you can go one or two directions, like the minute you go to college is like, oh, my gosh, I this consumption or like it, I’m going to have a little bit of it. My approach is just like a little bit of it. So AliExpress has all of these games. One of them is I don’t even it’s like you’re like literally like jumping from like platform to platform to platform. And then if I do like five jumps in a row, I get like a dollar. Oh, I’m telling you over time, right? Like I have like $15 a currency that I spend on all express and I had like a super fun time doing it. And then I express how works is so just to help everyone to share. And so there are coupons that the platform gives out. Right. So if you spend a certain amount of money and there are coupons that each and every retailer give out, I mean, think about this from like an Amazon perspective, right? I mean, they can look at all express. It would make so much sense. So right. If I buy five things from a certain retailer, then, you know, could I get like 20% off and. Right, you know, and it’s much more seamless and fast, I would say, from my perspective, because I like the game aspect. I also then like the platform, how they take care of the retailers. And then I like the fact that the retailers get to have their own approach. And then actually and then what’s even more interesting, right, because these businesses now have your information right to them. They’re emailing you after the sale and they’re like, Hey, we’re running a one day sale, like everything’s 50% off. And I was like, But it’s more just informing, right? Is like, kind of like one way communication for the most part. But that kind of works well for me because I do want to develop some kind of relationship with the retailer that seems a bit more authentic. I do want to kind of at the platform level understand like the platform and then having this kind of gamification element I find is super fun and I enjoy kind of, you know, participating in that, you know, kind of all day long. And so, you know, what I’ve never understood is back to school like this, right? We’re about to school right now. I’m just got to call him out because it’s like the only like national retail really near Mason’s over Manhattan. So I was at Target on Sunday. They’ve got crayons on sale and pencils and notebooks and all this. Then like it’s back to school, people are going to buy pens and pencils and notebooks and all this. So I have those items on like 50% off that doesn’t actually like I’ve never seen something like why would you ever have cream cheese and bagels on sale, one or the other, but not those. And so, I mean, to me, I can figure that out as a human, let alone I, which should be the driver of many. I should make all the decisions and then, you know, probably human signs off. We work with all these technology providers. There are so many. There’s a company called Prasada. It is so interesting they can help you, the retailer, send more effective emails, first of all, so you’re not offending people, which I think is the most important. But also, see, you’re talking to them in in a way that makes them feel comfortable or makes them at least interested. And to me, I really like what they do is I think we should all have the opportunity to discover all these retailers that we can then figure out where the product right is right for us, where it fits color style, if their communication to us doesn’t feel right and then we don’t kind of dig down a few layers and then we never have the opportunity. And I mean, hey, I just think that going back to kind of intelligence and research and there’s a lot that we can do to help the consumer find product that they love, brands that they love. And that’s also why I love kind of like this idea of a platform like verb is a technology company and they recently hosted this kind of big kind of shopping festival. It’s like Shop Fest Market and, you know, to be able to kind of have everything and they have like a lot of giveaways, right? To me, this is like where we see the future of livestreaming going. Yeah, and it goes back to right. And I will say, like we’ve often said, it really should be on the retailer’s own site. That way the retail, I get the data as any other, but from a consumer perspective, right, you may want to be with other consumers who’ve also found this experience because of the other day. Retail is experience of hungry. 

Ashley Coates [00:38:57] It is. Yeah. Well, Deborah, just as we start to close here, we just have to mention that we’re speaking to a fellow podcaster today. You host the Retail Lipstick podcast, and then they’re actually going to be joining you in a few weeks. 

Deborah Weinswig [00:39:11] As we. 

Ashley Coates [00:39:13] We’re so excited. Will you tell us just a little bit about your audience and the topics that you cover? 

Deborah Weinswig [00:39:19] So start off about a year and a half ago and it was this idea of like, you know, just kind of you get to meet all these interesting people and have these conversations, but nobody else gets to hear them. And so, you know, obviously having people understand that these are for public consumption, but starting to do so. My first one ever was it was it was fascinating in terms of just and especially if we think about where we are today. I think he had just like really kind of gotten his whole kind of tech stack enabled, but it was a company called Food Finder and I don’t know why, but it really resonated with me. And so as a guy by the name of Jack Griffin, it’s fascinating, right? It was. Basically an app for those looking for like a way to put it like a food pantry or a soup kitchen. But they were food insecure. And this is pretty much everybody has a phone of some sort these days. This was kind of like the idea. And as we were starting to see, some people did lose their jobs, especially early in the pandemic. There was a lot of displacement. And, you know, and especially now that we have inflation where it is, there’s even more people who are food insecure. I think that number will continue to grow exponentially. So it was like the first time either of us were doing it. And I was like, This is so interesting, right? Like I was like, yeah, I was getting like wave the wheels really fast. But it was like I was like, this is super fun, right? Like I get to have the conversations I want to have. And so I did like a bunch of those. And then I was like, Well, it would kind of be fun if I’ve got somebody else on the retail list side and then we can ask people questions so that it’s not just back and forth and jumped out a bunch of different people and tried it. And ultimately there’s a gentleman by the name of Andrew Smith. We have finally met in person. Now we met like it was. I don’t even know. It was like I was talking. And one day I was like, well, try like being on my podcast list. Yeah, because we’re so like yin yang, like massive extrovert. He is a self-described introvert and we have like the best time and we’re also just kind of and I said him, I said, we’re not giving any just, you know, we’re not getting any questions. This is not how we do it because we want it to be. We do it on Fridays for a reason, like it’s just kind of our mental health decompress. And I will tell you, I am the happiest that I am pretty much all week after that podcast or something about it. Talking about what’s interesting to you, having people on the other side who are also interested in the same thing and have the same questions and concerns. Because our podcast is really both very passionate about sustainability and trying to weave that into our conversations and really understand like, what does it mean today, right? Could mean something different in six months. And how can we also kind of help you kind of really cross fertilize a lot of information? And so, I mean, we’ve had some wacky ones, I will say. I won’t even go into all of it. But he actually got a buzzer that says retail and he’s like, That’s retail a stick. And so we just have a lot of fun. And I would say in terms of topics, it’s anything kind of retail, consumer technology. And like I said, when you think about this idea around those who are food insecure, how do they kind of get access or even find locations of food pantries? Right. There are solutions for that. But we got to be able to like make sure that others are kind of aware of that. And so I guess it’s like a discovery even for us sometimes. Like we like I said, we have no we have no kind of beginning an end. And I find actually the quality is not as good if one of us is like, oh, well, let’s touch on these points, because then we try and tick those off. So if we’re a little like just like start to chat the best how to be like I’m like, Andrew, are you going to this conference? No, I’m not going. I’m like I’m like on their website and you’re speaking so perfect. 

Ashley Coates [00:42:48] So I guess I’m going to. 

Deborah Weinswig [00:42:50] Do you like. I guess I’m going. 

Ashley Coates [00:42:51] I guess so how? 

Deborah Weinswig [00:42:55] I have a lot of fun with it and we don’t we’ve had some like crazy things that we don’t edit anything out. We want to be who we are and if we like trip up, I mean that’s goes back to my livestreaming heritage but like just kind of like what the real world understand. Like we actually have somebody who is a fairly, I would say, a very impressive producer. We more want like if there’s like a dog barking, we want to kind of pull that out so that doesn’t disrupt. But, you know, we’re we’re like and my whole thing is like, nobody can swear. There’s like no swearing, so no swearing, no dog barking. And also that there are parts like, you know, in my house unbearably like during the podcast, I’m like, oh, come on, please. So yeah, so I will say it’s just be ready to kind of roll with it. And if there are things that are, don’t tell us ahead of time, but they’re things are important to you. It’s really just kind of a great conversation and an opportunity to, you know, kind of extend the community and, you know, thinking about. Opportunities, challenges. Right. We are going into. Right. We’re just kind of finished the back to school season. What do we learn as we go on a holiday? And then, I mean, you know, most companies are doing 23 planning. So what should they be thinking about that kind of stuff? 

Ashley Coates [00:44:01] Oh, that’s fantastic. Well, we can’t wait to come on your podcast. So, Deborah, thank you so much for being with us here today. We do have one last question for you, which is what’s your legacy? How do you want to be remembered? 

Deborah Weinswig [00:44:14] It’s so interesting you brought that up because I actually spoke to somebody today who has developed a software solution that actually allows you in a very unique way to kind of leave a legacy and to think about doing that in ways you maybe hadn’t before. Oh, and so we actually spent a lot of day talking about that. But as far as for your site, we developed this 1010 shopping festival and we did it three years ago right where Last Mile was, very challenging supply chain. We trying to pull the holiday season in October and we didn’t charging the retailers right. The whole idea was right. This was like our give back to the industry and we wanted everyone to come in and to try once again this whole like democratization of intelligence, everything just kind of come together. And it was incredibly successful our first year. And then last year we did a livestreaming shopping festival and we actually had a in the first year and we’ve always had a kind of tie in with philanthropy, asking the retailers to participate, to give back 10% this year is we’re looking kind of ahead, right? We’re going to have like a whole and a t tie in a philanthropic and once again like livestreaming since we’re still fairly early there. And, you know, going back to this this philanthropic angle and bring everybody together and educating right around livestream where there’s still a lot of questions I think is just such a such a great opportunity. So that’s what I want. The legacy of foresight to be is really kind of this 1010 idea and then right are coming. We’re joining, we’re all going to walk. Those of us who are on your app walk physically and those who are virtual walk virtually or physically in their time zone. Current organization called My Face, which is for children and adults with craniofacial differences. And so there’s a walk in September we’re all participating in. And then I’d actually started a charity in early 2020 and it was called Retailers United. And the whole idea was that a lot of retailers were very challenged right during that time. And so how can we provide advice, money, introductions, whatever it was that they might need? And so we’ve got their their kind of five person board and then a very large advisory board, people providing lots of advice and kind of help on the side. And on the legal side, we have designers who we have gotten help get contracts it QVC, see others who we’ve helped get acquired, get placement at like Macy’s or Target. Right now we’re involved in which I would send this to me. Three years ago, I was like, No way. We’re bringing over six designers from Ukraine to participate in New York Fashion Week. MasterCard is providing us with space for this kind of opportunity to engage and get to meet these designers. And so to not only introduce them to the consumer ultimately, but really brands, retailers, others who may be able to support them in some way. And so that’s on the morning of September 13th. And then that evening we’re doing a big cocktail party with them left, right, kind of like for Gerber. They’re actually going to host this in their kind of micro factory in New York City and this opportunity to really make a difference. And like I like the 1 to 1, right? So there are six designers. We can actually help them get their product in front of more people to ultimately maybe drive if it is, you know, can have relationships with other retailers, brands, designers, technology providers, etc.. But to do something that I know in this time period right now will speak a lot to a lot of people. And, you know, we’re a small organization. We’re just trying to do what we can. Like we’re all rolling bar sleeves, and I’m worried about getting rolling racks for people and things that I remember. And I got to tell you, when you start to really think about this industry in a way, we’re an amazing industry now. We’re all here to, like, make a difference and to help those who may be challenged at this time. And, hey, there’s going to be a time, believe me, I will say their point. In 2020, I was like, oh, my gosh, I’m not sure if we’re going to make it. And you know what? Others jumped in to help us and you never forget that. And so I want to make sure that we’re still kind of paying up. It’s inside, even pay it forward. I just want to do this to make a difference and to have an impact on the industry and to bring the history together. That’s, I think, where it’s even better and, you know, drive ideation, etc.. So that’s kind of where I’m spending my time right now in terms of leaving a legacy and hopefully more to come and all that. 

Ned Hayes [00:48:38] Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for your time in the great discussion. 

Deborah Weinswig [00:48:42] Thank you. And look forward to seeing you very soon. 

Ned Hayes [00:48:45] Spark Plug is a wholly owned property. It’s no. All content and copyright 2021 Sparkplug Media.