"Full-Stack" is often used in programming to mean a developer who can work on every stage of the software development process from end-to-end.
So a "full-stack" approach for a product company means keeping everything about product in-house.
In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll learn from two entrepreneurs who built a company with their design, manufacturing and marketing done under one roof.
Eric Prum and Josh Williams are the founders of W&P Design, bringing new ideas to life in the food and drink-iverse, like the Mason Shaker, Carry On Cocktail Kit, and more.
All of our design is done in house. All of our photography is done in house. Production, manufacturing, logistics, sales, marketing—all of that is under one roof.
Tune in to learn
- What does it mean to be a full-stack company.
- How to outsource parts of your business when you’re a control freak.
- How to create an effective product video.
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
Download this episode on Google Play, iTunes or here!
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Felix: Today, I’m joined by Eric and Josh from W and P Design. W and P Design brings new ideas to the food and drink verse. Makers of the Mason Shaker, Carry On Cocktail Kit and more. It was started in 2012, and based out of Brooklyn, New York. Welcome, Eric and Josh.
Eric: Hey, how are you.
Josh: Hey, thanks for having us.
Felix: Yeah, excited to have you on. So let’s start with the products. You guys have lots of cool live in products on your site. Maybe tell us about what are some of the most popular ones that you guys sell.
Eric: Yeah, so we got our start with the Mason Jar Cocktail Shaker, which is sort of a novelty and functional cocktail shaker using a Ball mason jar. And since then, we’ve kind of defined the company by producing products that are interesting, often in the food and beverage world. So that includes hard goods, consumable goods, and content, so books. We’ve kind of created a diverse line of products. Everything from very giftable, novel products, to very functional tools that can be used in the kitchen, both at home, at service. So it sort of spans a broad range of things, but at W and P Design, we kind of keep the lane that we run in food and beverage.
Felix: Very cool. How did you guys choose this industry? How did you settle on the food and drink world?
Josh: So actually, back in college I took time off from university and went to culinary school. So I spent time in Italy, actually, doing culinary school, learning how to be a chef. And then after graduation, we both knew we wanted to get back in business together. Originally, we were considering starting a restaurant, but really what we wanted to do was create new things in food and beverage. So we started W and P to basically create a platform for us to bring to life new ideas in food and beverage.
Felix: And had you guys worked together in the past to start other businesses?
Eric: Our first venture back in college when Josh got back from culinary school, was a catering company that we started. It was Josh, myself, a friend who’s now a chef and actually our marketing director, who’s a pastry chef. So we have all worked together in some capacity in the past.
Felix: Nice. And are you guys designers by trade. How did you … Where does this background come from to create new products?
Eric: Yeah, I think professionally, Josh had a lot of experience on the culinary and sort of creative side. My background is in product development. So not so much on the design side, but on the product development, bringing a product from idea to reality, working with various factories and manufacturers across the country and the world. So when Josh and I first launched W and P, our first collection was done with a retailer, West Elm, and we ideated, created and physically built that line of goods ourselves. It’s very much a collaborative effort between Josh, myself and the entire team, which has grown quite a bit since it was just he and I coming up with this stuff in our apartment.
Felix: Got it. So I think you mentioned earlier that the mason shaker was the first product that you guys came out with. How did you settle on this? How did you decide that this was a product that you would bring to market first?
Eric: Yeah, so we came from Virginia to New York originally. We graduated school from the University of Virginia in 2008. We were in New York sort of making our way professionally, trying to figure out how we could start a business in the food and beverage world together, because we knew the field really interested us. We wanted to create a collection of products in the food and beverage space that kind of had a Virginia aesthetic and a New York sensibility and function. That was kind of the original thought. And the mason jar cocktail shaker was the original expression of that, around which we ideated and created our first line of products.
Felix: And did you test this product out at all? I’ve never seen a product like this, so I can’t say that I would know to look for it. How did you know that this was a product that would do well enough to launch a business on the back of?
Eric: Sure, so that’s a pretty easy one. At the time, the mason jar was a pretty iconic and popular piece of glassware. It’s super functional. We were already using it to shake and infuse bourbon drinks and other drinks in the jar. So we thought that creating a cocktail shaker around a super durable piece of glass that had metric and imperial measurements on it would be pretty cool and it was an on trend piece of glassware, again, so we actually launched a Kickstarter campaign that did really really well, and as a result of that campaign that kind of validated the thought of the product and a line of goods sort of in that theme would do well at market.
Felix: Got it. So when you launched this product, did you mention that this was the product that you partnered up with a company for, or was it a different one?
Eric: No, we … So the mason jar cocktail shaker was pre funded and launched on Kickstarter initially, followed by a launch of a full line of goods that we partnered with West Elm on. Our partnership was just selling the product to them. They didn’t really have much to do with the ideation, creation or manufacturing of the line. But they were our first customer.
Felix: Got it. And were they your customer because of the success of the Kickstarter campaign? How were you able to have that connection with a large retailer for a new business?
Eric: Sure. I think the Kickstarter campaign helped a lot. We reached out to West Elm interdependently. They’re located in Brooklyn where we were. And so we were able to connect with them and preview the products with them. But I think the Kickstarter was a really big help in showing them that the product or that the line around the product would be really really popular. So it certainly helped.
Felix: Got it. Now when you work with a retailer like West Elm, what are they looking for? If someone out there is thinking about getting into a retailer like West Elm, what kind of ducks should they get in order to be successful in pitching their product.
Eric: Sure, I think they’re looking for products that are on trend, that are gonna be interesting to the customer that are relevant to their customer base. So not all products are great for all retailers. And then I think on top of that, they’re really looking for the person that can then responsibly deliver those products to them in a compliant … In our case, food safe and scalable way. The last thing a retailer wants to do is to launch a product and then the supplier to either run out of the product or to not be able to deliver it in a reliable way. So it can be a tricky thing, especially if you’re just starting out. So it’s one of those things that you just have to work out over time.
Felix: Yeah. That makes sense, right? You can’t just have a really cool product that they think that will sell. You need to make sure that what they care about that you have your supply chain order, you have your manufacturing, distribution, on lock. So being a new company, and I’m assuming you didn’t have much track record here at that time, how were you able to convince them to believe in you, to take that gamble and sell your products on their shelves?
Eric: Yeah, I think it was a slow ramp at first. They do test sampling, auditing of your manufacturing, and then a small test order. And if you check those boxes one at a time, they begin to ramp their level of purchasing and long term business with you. So that was kind of how we did it.
Felix: Got it. Doesn’t just start with a huge order. They probably start something smaller and then ramp up.
Eric: I mean, maybe for others. Just not for us.
Felix: I got it. So when you say there was auditing involved, what was involved? What do they care to look into? What was important for them?
Eric: Sure, with any major retailer, it’s food compliance, material compliances, testings, labeling and packaging requirements. It depends on the customer, but for some of the larger ones, there’s a whole bevy of things that you kind of have to go through in order to deliver something to market because the last thing a company like that wants to do is to purchase something from a small designer or retailer that might not be, in our case, food safe, packaged correctly, you know. Go through the rigors of shipping and things of that nature that it might take. If you’re creating a product in a warehouse in Brooklyn or Long Island or something, as we were, it might be shipped three or four times before it arrives to the customer.
Felix: And were there things that they asked for you to change or fix as they were going through this process of reviewing your business?
Eric: Sure, yeah, packaging tweaks, labeling tweaks. Things of that nature. It wasn’t too crazy. But it’s a two way street conversation.
Felix: Yeah, I’ve heard this before where retailers are very picky, of course, about the packaging and labeling because it is going to be represented on their shelves. What were some key things, if someone is to launch or start working with a retailer, that they, based on your experience, that they should keep in mind going into this possible review or audit process, that they should make sure they have ready with their packaging and labeling?
Eric: I mean I think that every retailer is actually … Well, not unfortunately. But every retailer’s different. So my recommendation would be to pay attention to the manual or the compliance documents that they send your way, because they have some pretty strict guidelines that you can, if you sort of step out of bounds of, there can be like fines for exact ship, back, things of that nature.
Josh: And I think one thing that you can do when you’re thinking about packaging and requirements like that, away from reading the compliances and asking your buyers for direction on that, is looking at comparable products that these companies or retailers carry. Because if there’s a product in the store, you know it’s gone through that level of rigor and testing and compliance. So you can kind of take notes from what others have done on your own packaging when it comes to labeling and things of that nature.
Felix: Yeah, that makes sense. And now how much creative freedom do you have when it comes to your packaging? Is it pretty restrictive, or do you have a lot of freedom to create the packaging as long as you check a certain number of boxes?
Josh: Generally, for our in house brands and collections that we’re producing, we have total freedom when it comes to packaging. These are products that we’re creating for our own sale and our own brand. We do work with some retailers on sort of a private label or customized basis, where we’ll do some minor packaging tweaks for products we existing products to create something really special for a retailer. And in those cases, the retailer does have some really great input into the product and the packaging and what they’d like to see.
Felix: Right, I’m sure they wanna set you up for success anyway and help you design a packaging or labeling that will sell to their customers. Now what was the timeline for this? Again, getting into a large retailer like this is a key win for a business. How much effort, how many meetings, or how long did it take before you were … Between the time you had your first conversation to being able to walk into a West Elm store and see your product?
Eric: We were pitching pretty aggressively. I think we started in early spring and we were to market by late fall. That was incredibly aggressive on our side. A lot of these larger retailers plan 12, 18, or 24 months out. We had a special exception in the way that our product was doing quite well and kind of on trend. So I think everybody’s experience in our world is a little bit different, but you kind of want to get ready for the long haul. That’s where you kind of have to balance your business by primarily working via … You know, if you’re working business to business with smaller retailers, as well as actual retail customers, if you’re gonna have sort of a stable business that’s got all the various platforms of people you’re selling to.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And what does that mean? What do you mean by aggressive? Were you doing a lot of follow ups? A lot of meetings? How were you able to move things along at a faster pace?
Eric: Mm-hmm (affirmative). A lot of follow ups and a lot of meetings, for sure. We were local, so we were able to meet with them relatively quickly. And we were able to deliver samples and four photograph samples and things like that as quickly as they were asking and the timelines were very very rapid. We were just doing everything in house, primarily by hand at the time, which kind of made it a little bit quicker than it might be. Also the line at that time was quite simple in that it was a relatively easy grouping of products to do that with.
Felix: Got it. Now one thing I saw that on your, I think, about page on your website that I found interesting was that you describe you company as a full stack product design company. Can you say more about this and what does this mean to you?
Josh: Sure, yeah. So the way we think about our company is we handle all steps of a product’s life cycle. So from the ideation, through design, production, manufacturing, delivery, sales, marketing, all the way to the consumer’s hands, we handle all of that in house. So all of our design is done in house. All of our photography is done in house. Production, manufacturing, logistics, sales, marketing. All of that is under one roof. And what that allows us to do is have total control over seeing products through from sort of that kernel of an idea to a delivered good. And to us that’s super important because it really creates the truest expression of what that original idea was and delivers the best product possible to an end user.
Felix: Similar to I guess like an Apple, the way that they design everything from beginning to end. Is that a way that you like to model your business?
Josh: Yeah, I mean it was sort of inspired by that, but honestly, driven most by us maybe being control freaks, just at our core. Of just wanting to make sure that each step of the way, we were involved in the process and driving it for how a product comes to life. And I think that, in my opinion, what drives a lot of the success of our products is when we release it, we only release things that we’re incredibly passionate about and happy with and we get to that point by taking part in each step of the way in bringing that product to life.
Eric: I would say rather than look at it from an Apple perspective, almost look at it from a chef’s perspective, who’s ideating a dish, sourcing the ingredients from a local purveyor or farmer, preparing those ingredients, preparing that dish, and then serving the dish at a restaurant where he might have had all of the input on what the restaurant or service sort of environment would feel like. And that’s hopefully what we’re able to do with our product.
Felix: Got it. Now on the other extreme end of the other side is that there are entrepreneurs that are outsourcing everything. They want to hire out for all their different tasks, processes, to other companies, other vendors. And obviously when you are, like you guys say, control freaks, it can make business difficult in other ways that maybe someone that’s outsourcing everything doesn’t experience. What have you run into? What kind of challenges do run into because you are controlling this entire stack.
Eric: Certainly. We have learned where to outsource certain things when it comes to fulfillment. Initially, when we launched, we were kitting, manufacturing and fulfilling everything from our own full stack warehouse. Doing things like understanding that that’s not the best way to do things and outsource. We’ve done those things in our business. When it comes to the actual product design, development, and deliver, though, it’s really the delivery that we’ve kind of outsourced. Everything else we generally do in house, unless it doesn’t seem to make sense. We do outsource some functions of our business, but whether it’s marketing, social media, web development, sales. We do like to keep all of that in house in Brooklyn. We have great design team that spans all aspects of design and project management, product development. It’s a very collaborative and fun environment and when we run up against something where we think it’s less than efficient use of our time to have it in that full stack process, we’ll try and figure out where to outsource. And so we’ve done that over time.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I’m sure that you aren’t the only control freaks that are listening to this podcast. So what tips do you have for others out there that need to learn how to let go of their business a little bit more and begin to outsource pieces that they’ve held on to so tightly?
Eric: Sure thing. I think it would be always understanding where you’re in the stage of business that you’re at. So when it comes to say for summer, trying to recognize where you’re at and asking others who might be in certain similar situations, or maybe one or two steps ahead of you. So we’re constantly humbled by all the knowledge and information and research that exists with the other entrepreneurs in our space. We’re constantly talking to them to understand where they were at in their business when they had to outsource something or made a decision to bring something in house. So it’s a constant dialogue and we found, not only in New York, in this sort of space of people that are making things and delivering them and creating real tangible goods, it’s one of those things that we’ve constantly reached out to others and talked to them and weighed a number of people’s opinions and decisions and talked about it ourselves and implemented the sort of next steps for our company.
Felix: Got it. Now when you do sit down to think about the next product, what does is that process? How do you guys decide which product to work on next?
Josh: Yeah, I mean, we’re constantly looking at what’s happening in the food and beverage landscape to identify new ideas that we can bring to the table. At this point, we’ve got 30 people in Brooklyn that are all very much into food and beverage world and pretty active in that community. So we’re constantly in dialogue, internally as a team, about what’s the latest thing in food and beverage and sharing those things across the company. And when we do identify a new thing happening in food and beverage, we all come together as a team and talk about it and really brainstorm how we could participate in that trend, or in that movement in food and beverage.
Eric: And whether it’s a product manager, or designer, an intern, people in the marketing team, sales team. Everybody on our broader team contributes to those ideas. And there have been products and projects that come from Josh and I. There have been products and projects that come from interns at the company. It really spans the entire group, which is really really fun.
Felix: Now these 30 people, are they actual employees of the business, or they almost an informal board of advisors that you guys use as a sounding board? What’s their relationship with you?
Eric: Sure, we have 30 full time employees in Green Point in Brooklyn and then we have a lot of partners when it comes to third party outsourced fulfillment. Some of co-packing and all that. But the team in New York is at 30, yeah.
Felix: Very cool. Now do you have a list of criteria or factors that you try to use as a filter for all of the new product ideas that you’d at least like to see they hit a few of these before you invest the time and a resource into a new product?
Eric: I think from a very broad initial standpoint, we try and follow something that’s macro interesting and or on trend. But it also has to be very interesting and on trend to ourselves. We’re not just gonna chase something because we think it will do well. We have to genuinely be interested in the subject matter. And then from there, we kind of have a system of checks internally and externally to make sure that the direction that we’re going with a product that we’re developing is something that hopefully will be successful.
And then we kind of keep an attitude that no matter how much time or energy we put into a project, if we realize that it might be a sunk cost, we just sort of move on to the next one. So for as many okay to great ideas we’ve had, there have been some that we’ve had to be humble about and kill, even if we get a little bit down the design and creation process. If it goes through the system that we’ve got and it seems to hit a wall or roadblock, often times we kind of let the idea either go to rest, or go to die.
Felix: And is it like a market demand wall that hits where you realize that it might not sell as well as you would think. What are some reason why you might essentially kill an idea that you’ve invested, that you’ve sunk … You mentioned sunk costs. That you’ve sunk these resources into.
Eric: Yeah, I think at the end of the day, where projects are really made or broken is in our final vetting process. So it inspires customers, pre screening the idea. And once it gets to a certain point with individuals and groups that we really care about that we think have a larger sense of the pulse of the market, there’s a whole bevy of those people, whether it’s influencers, large box retailers, Independent store owners, individual customers. We try and be really proactive about pre screening certain ideas and [inaudible 00:24:27] ideas by large group, and if it doesn’t seem like it’s resonating, we kind of go back to the drawing board.
Felix: Got it. What’s this pre screening process like? Do you have a prototype that you’re giving to them? What’s involved in testing the market before you blow this up and start sending this to manufacturers?
Eric: Well, if you take a look at our website, wandpdesign.com, you’ll see a broad range of products and projects. So books, consumable goods, and hard goods are all very very different. So that pre screening process can actually run the gamut of everything that you just mentioned. So everything from a hard prototyping sample that we may have 3D printed in our office, all the way up to just the simple idea that we’ve put down pen to paper and can sort of pass by a buyer or individuals. So it really does depend on the project because some are easier to sample than others. But it can kind of run everything from a very summary idea or thought, to almost a near finished good.
Felix: Now what kind of feedback are you usually looking for when you’re putting a potential in front of one of these members?
Eric: Yeah, I think it’s pretty easy when you’re talking about a good that someone would purchase or consume. So if it’s an adverse reaction, it’s pretty obvious. Kind of thumbs up or down, would you want this, would you not, do you think this would resonate with your customer, would it not.
Felix: Got it. And have you ever gone ahead with a product anyway, even though the feedback may have been lukewarm, but maybe you believed in it more than the people that you were talking to?
Eric: Sure, I’d say for a lot of our projects that may have been the case in certain fields because we are screening this by so many people or so many different groups of people that a super influential barista or bartender might not have the same opinion that a home buyer at a retail store might have. So you might get really lukewarm reception from one type of person in the very same field than another. You might just go ahead because you have a hunch.
Felix: Got it. Now once you’ve decided to invest the time in creating a product, how is this all planned out. Talk to us about the next step, essentially, after giving the green light on a new product.
Eric: Again, I don’t wanna give too broad of an answer, but because there’s such a range. It could be anything from designing to pricing out to sampling. When it comes to the food and beverage stuff that’s consumed, we have to make sure that it can be food safe. There’s consultations with food scientists. It really runs the gamut when it comes to the creative projects and printed materials, the books, it has to do with our [inaudible 00:27:20] viable author, a way to create the content. But every one of the projects we bring to life can range from a sort of, I don’t know, a birthing cycle of six months to a year or two. It really depends on the complexity of the project, or how we’re bringing it to market. But there have been ideas that we’ve been kicking around for up to a year or two, or as little as three to six months, that kind of see the light of day.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And because you have so much experience as a company in all these different types of products, what would you say has been the most challenging type of product to create and bring to market?
Josh: I think probably the carry on cocktail kit. So we launched this product about a year and a half, two years ago and it’s been probably our best seller to date. And it’s actually a kit that allows you to make two cocktails on a plane. And we were kind of tired of the normal drink offerings on a plane, which were really not that great. And we took it on as sort of a design challenge to make a kit that could make two cocktails on a plane. When we started out, we were very excited about it, but quickly realized that what we were trying to do was very difficult, because we were trying to design a very small package that had a lot of mixed materials in it. We had small metal tools, we had some linen napkins, some consumable products that had to be created and formulated and tested.
So the mixed materials of that product made it pretty challenging from a design and production standpoint. But at the same time, the challenges and the difficulty there resulted in a really rewarding product because we ended up with something that’s incredibly unique that didn’t exist in the market because, frankly, it’s really hard to make. And we now have something that is really fun and entertaining for people that love cocktails and love to travel.
Felix: Yeah, awesome. Because you guys are creating so many unique products, do you need to, or do you guys choose to patent or go down any of these ways to protect the products and ideas that you come up with?
Eric: Sure, yeah. We do. And we do for a number of products. We basically weigh each product and whether or not it’s patentable, if there is something out there that we can patent or copyright. But yeah, I think all of it’s generally worth it. We hold a couple of patents currently. We’ve got a bunch of patents pending. But yeah, that’s something that we’ve always done with the practice. In general, as a company, we have been copied or knocked off, imitated in the past and in general, as a company, we try and just stay positive, innovative, forward thinking. That’s just the way … We try not to get hung up on any of that stuff. I think with the mason jar cocktail shaker, it’s a product that we’ve got patented, but at the same time, there’s been multiple copies and while we’ve had to deal with those, we’ve also just taken a very positive track of placement and just moving forward and just thinking very positively about our company and our place in the food and beverage scene. So it’s kind of a complicated question, but we kind of go about it a number of different ways.
Felix: Yeah, I imagine that you’d rather use your energy on creating new products rather than chasing down any copycats. Now when you are creating a product, at what point does pricing come into it? What’s that process like? How do you decide how to price your product? Because again, you have so many different types of products that you sell on in your store, I do wonder how do you guys sit down and say “Okay, let’s put a price of X dollars on a product.”
Josh: I think it’s starts with, it always starts with a gut instinct and then rounds of feedback from our target consumers, our retailers, and the different stakeholders within the company. So generally we have a pretty good sense just from our knowledge of the industry and sort of our knowledge of the retail landscape or where a product should be priced. But we always second guess that. So we always test that against feedback from the target customer. Whether that’s a consumer or a buyer at a large retailer.
Eric: It’s always a balance between the target cost, or what you think it should be, or what a consumer will buy something at, and then not compromising on the quality of that product. Sometimes we’ve had to kill projects because we don’t think that we can get a certain idea or product to market at a price that one, is a business and two, makes sense for the customer. So it’s always a balance and a constant conversation. The last thing we wanna do is design and create this fantastic project or product that just is totally dissonant from what a customer would pay for it.
Felix: Yeah, and when you’re ready to bring that product to market, what’s the launch process like? How do you introduce this new product to the marketplace?
Eric: Sure, I mean, we generally launch it both from a B2C standpoint, from our business to retail customers on our website, on our Shopify site. And then we also launch it in similar timeline from a B2B perspective, so we’re launching it to the great retailers and shops across the country and world that support us and buy our products at wholesale and retail them in their individual stores.
Felix: Is it a challenge to line all of this up to make sure that it’s all on the … I’m sure that the answer is yes. So maybe I’ll move on to how do you manage all of this, to line all of shops up to release your products at the same time? You do have it available on your site. How do you manage all of this?
Eric: Sure, yeah, you sort of answered the question yourself. Yes, it is a little bit complicated, but we have a fantastic marketing, sales, and project management team that once the design is turned over, once that production processes are in place, the project management team, the marketing team and the sales team … There’s a very careful balance in creating all of the materials, putting everything together. But we’ve got a fantastic team in Green Point that are constantly working on that. And it is always a struggle and we’re still refining how to do that and we’re kind of batching things into seasons now, as opposed to a rolling fashion, at least that the idea. But yeah, it’s a constant balance and it’s a total group effort.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now for the direct consumer, the B2C business, where do you focus your marketing resources and efforts?
Josh: Yeah, we have great marketing team that works across a number of different channels and promotional areas. I think a major channel for us is Instagram and I think a lot of consumer brands of sort of our type have found success there. I think we have a very visual product offering and combined with the products that we make, we also produce a lot of content. So Instagram has been a phenomenal platform for us. Email marketing is also kind of like a tie for first place, I’d say. So those two. And we also engage with our customer base and followers as well. So we do a lot of influencer outreach and try to get samples of products in people’s hands that we know would appreciate it in a very organic way.
We’ve found a lot off success in getting the right people in the right people’s hands. And letting them decide if they want to share it, but making sure that we’re getting a good product to the right people.
Felix: Got it. So with Instagram, are you using paid ads, or is it the influencer marketing approach?
Josh: We don’t use paid ads. We only do sort of an organic program where we’re producing great content and hopefully our products speak for themselves and we get them in the right people’s hands and they share them.
Felix: Got it. Yeah, I’m sure everyone can check out the Instagram to see your approach. For listeners, what kind of content are you focused on producing for your page?
Josh: Yeah, definitely. You can check us out at @wandpdesign on Instagram. We do share a lot in a couple of different categories. So we share recipes across food and beverage. That’s obviously a really sweet spot for us, given the scope of what we’re doing in the company. [inaudible 00:36:43] that come out of the cookbooks that we’ve published, or just a simple cocktail recipe that’s great for that season. All those live on our Instagram. So you can check them out there. And then we also share more information about our products and how you can use them at home. So whether that’s the carry on cocktail kit that is being used on a plane in kind of a novel way, or our Peak Ice Trays that are changing the way you make ice at home. We’d wanna share that functionality and the backstories behind the products with our followers on Instagram.
Felix: Yeah, now I really see what you mean when I’m looking at your Instagram page about the organic approach because all the photos they don’t scream “Product photos” to me. They show lifestyle uses of your product in the wild, and not showing off your product in a way that comes off as salesy. Is that an intentional approach to demonstrate, to educate the consumer about how they can use your product?
Josh: Yeah, absolutely. I think we take more of a show rather than tell approach and really showing how you can use our products and how they can fit into your life, versus just telling you about them. And I think we try to do that across all of our social efforts.
Felix: Got it. And the photography, it’s beautiful for this too. Is that all done in house? How do you guys get the photos for Instagram?
Eric: I’d say pretty much we do almost all of it in house. Sometimes we’ll have partners post that influencers that will short of repost or share. But the vast majority of what you’ll see, especially on our constant living feed, is all in house photography.
Felix: Got it. Now are people coming to the Instagram page or seeing your posts and they’re clicking over to the site? Are you able to … Is that where that traffic is coming from? Instagram? Or are they typically coming from the influencers that you’re working with?
Josh: I think it’s a combination of both, but generally we try to get people to our Instagram so that they can see the broader breadth of what we’re doing in food and beverage, versus going directly from a one off product post. So we try to engage people so they can see the full scope, and then bring them over to the website, where they can hopefully shop and purchase some of our products.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now another thing that I see that you guys do well in terms of content are the product videos that I see on the website itself. How are these produced?
Josh: For the product pages?
Felix: Yeah. For the product pages. Even on your homepage, there’s like a video playing immediately for I believe the ice tray.
Josh: We do all of that content production in house. That’s very important to us to control that and make sure that we’re producing the best content possible. So we try to have, for most of our product lines, at least one product video that explains what the product is and how to use it. And then all of the product photography, both the product itself and then also the lifestyle photos are done in house.
Felix: Got it. Now what are some key factors for an effective product video? What are some things that you try to make sure are included, or are demonstrated in each of your videos?
Josh: Yeah, the videos that we have show the use of a product. So you wanna show the core use of it in a very concise, visually stimulating, impactful way. So that means not too long. Keep it short. Keep it sweet. Hit really the highlights and people’s attention span shrinking by the day, it’s super important to make sure that you can get your point across very quickly. And in addition, with subtitles and text overlays and things like that, that can help really hammer home the point of how to use a product.
Felix: Got it. Yeah, I’ve been hear the statistic grow more and more where a lot of people are just watching videos without sound, which I think is very important for you to not just demonstrate the video in a way that doesn’t require sound, but then always include things, like you’re mentioning some kind of caption or text so people can follow along without having to hear necessarily.
Do you use the videos anywhere else, other than on the site? Or are you using them for ads, or distributed anywhere else outside of your website?
Josh: Yeah, absolutely. I think what we try to do is create great content and then distribute it across a number of different channels. So those videos live on our website, they will be distributed to some of our retail partners. They’ll be used on social media accounts and shared with other influencers that requested would like to use them. So we definitely expand the reach from just the product page.
Felix: Yeah, I like that you get a lot of mileage out of this content. I think that’s one of the benefits of investing heavily in quality content, is that you’re going to be able to use it in more places. You can imagine that a retailer or even an influencer might not want to share your video if it’s not high quality. Maybe you would, but maybe the influencer wouldn’t if you didn’t invest the time and money and resource into creating a piece of content that they wanna put their name behind or alongside of.
Now I’m imagining products that you’re selling are going to kill it during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, during that time of year. How do you guys prepare for that season?
Eric: I mean, it’s important for us to address it and make sure there’s a sale going and we’ve got great new content, but it’s also important for us to note that we’ve got a really wide audience and wide range of customers, including a lot of independent retailers that depend on us to be supporting them. So we kind of focus on them and our online retail presence, we always make sure there’s something new and interesting going on and that we’re paying attention to the full circle of our customers.
Felix: Got it. Now when you have so many retail clients and when it comes to Black Friday, do you have to … Or is there another level of management there to make sure that everything’s coordinated if they do want to discount one of your products and you have to make sure you match it on your site. What’s involved when you’re in that situation?
Eric: Yeah, it’s a pretty highly involved dialogue with everybody. So everybody’s on the same page because you wanna make sure that your products aren’t found discounted deeply, if you haven’t okayed it or anything like that. But fortunately we’re so small that it’s relatively easy to handle. But it’s something that we’re super conscious of and we’re always talking about.
Felix: Got it. And you mentioned email marketing is also one of the key drivers for traffic and sales for you. What’s your process for collecting emails? How are you able to build up a large enough email list to build a business and launch products to?
Eric: Yeah, every time our marketing department has been really adept at partnerships, partnered posts, giveaways. We’ve been building our email list for a few years now and I think it’s part of a bunch of different strategies. But some of the most effective ones have been partnered giveaways and posts that we’ve participated in with other like minded brands over the past couple of years.
Felix: How do the partnerships work? How do they help grow your email list?
Eric: Sure, it’s part of an organic outreach with those other brands. They’re reaching out to us and we all run sweeps campaigns, giveaways, things of that nature that kind of add to our list over time. Other than that it’s natural too. People will sign up to our list on the website, via our blog, things that are going on, things of that nature. So it’s kind of, they come from all sources.
Felix: Got it. So you partner with a brand or a company that has similar audience as you, and they are running a sweepstakes or giveaway and they’re promoting your product, promoting your brand and basically you’re reaching a whole new segment of the marketplace that you might not have had before?
Eric: Yeah, that’s exactly right.
Felix: Awesome. Now to run this business, you mentioned you have 30 employees. How do you guys … What kind of tools or applications, whether they be on Shopify or off of Shopify, do you rely on to help run the business?
Josh: Yeah, I think for a Shopify standpoint, I think over the first couple of years, one of our biggest tools was MailChimp, and that integration with Shopify. We had a lot of good luck with that. We’ve also had good luck with some cross selling apps, and I think that there’s a variety of those out in the market that all do similar things, but it’s so important when you have a collection of, especially sort of disparate items that all appeal to a similar consumer, to be cross selling products. So on the product page, having those suggested products shown to a customer when they’re looking at one product, has been super helpful for us. So both of those things are immensely helpful. For more of a business standpoint, I think we’ve had a lot of success with some of the enterprise technology like Slack or Dropbox and things like that.
Felix: Very cool. Now what’s next for the business? Where do you guys want to see the brand grow over the next year?
Eric: Sure, I think we wanna continue to build our catalog of interesting products. We’re steering towards really interesting giftable things, like the carry on kit, as well as addressing entire categories, like we have with Peak Ice Works. So innovation in two parts. As far as newness in the company, we’re expanding our titles, our books. And as far as the business from a macro standpoint, I think we wanna continue to build our social and email following, our retail customers that seem to be interested in what we’re doing. We wanna continue to foster our relationships with our Independent stores and accounts. They’re super important to us. They’re where we got our store. And then I think continue to do special and interesting collections with larger retailers.
We’re a company that’s grown one step at a time and I think we’re gonna keep on doing that. And with each year, we’ve been able to do more interesting things in food and beverage and to create more of an impact in the space. So whether that’s new and interesting consumable goods, or hard goods, or books and content, it’s all [inaudible 00:48:20], authors lined up for this fall. Some really great books that we’re coming out with. I think that early October, October third or something, is the pub date for a lot of things that are coming out. And I think continue to grow that catalog, to grow the bandwidth of our own team of categories that we can approach is really important to us.
Felix: Awesome. Thank you so much for your time, Eric and Josh. So wandpdesign.com, W-A-N-D-P-D-E-S-I-G-N dot com is the website. Thank you so much again for coming on.
Eric: Yeah, hey thanks for having us. We really appreciate it. We’re huge fans of Shopify. We’re huge fans of the podcast. A lot of us at the company listen to it and enjoy and we really appreciate you having us on.
Josh: Yeah, thanks a lot.
Felix: Awesome, thanks guys.
Here’s a sneak peek for what’s in store the next Shopify Masters episode.
Speaker 4: They’re not just buying it because they like it. It’s almost like a test.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters, the e-commerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit Shopify.com/masters to claim your extended 30 day free trial. Also for this episode’s show notes, head over to Shopify.com/blog.