Al Lalani, Co-Founder of Annex Cloud talks with Dilip Keshu, CEO of BORN about how these unprecedented times have impacted companies and how they transition to a digital-first company to help support their customers.
Welcome to the next series of Annex Cloud Market Movers. This series is focused on industry influencers, partners and luminaries on what brands, manufacturers and retailers need to do to reignite growth in this very special period that we are in. With me today is Dilip Keshu. He is the founder and CEO of Born. Born is an amazing partner, and the Dilip himself has a wealth of knowledge that he can impart on us. Welcome, Dilip. Great to have you here.
Thanks, AL. Happy to be here.
Awesome. You know, we we have been hit by by the train. All of us are now a little bit in a shock mode. But what I have seen in the last week is some of us are starting to get out of the shock mode and say and confront our new reality, whatever that definition of reality for us will be. That remains to be seen. You know, broadly defined. I mean, you've seen this a few times in your career in different places.
You know, according to you, are there any learning's we can take away from back in 2008 and 2001? Granted, there are very different situations who've never been hit by a pandemic like this, so different, but yet at the same time, something similar. You know, any thoughts on on what we can learn from the past and maybe apply specifically if you in the shoes of a customer of ours, like a brand or a retailer or manufacturing.
Ya, It's an often discussed topic. As you can tell, everyone is asking, well, what do we do now? What's the future? Have we seen something like this? What can be learned from the past? My advice to the folks who spoke to me that. Never underestimate the elasticity of the human spirit. In 2001, I was an entrepreneur. But 9/11, And we thought it was a terrorist act of all out, but it don't out to be a blueprint devastated and expected.
And many years to recover. It changed a lot of behavior. Now we. You've been to the airport for travelling. You and I are businessman, travel a lot. That's true. We had to adjust. We've seen these things before. This is, of course, a different sort of. I think it affects many things. Was it affecting me? you know, I'm broken it down both structures.
So as I was saying, we've seen crises like this before and we've dealt with them on advice to companies is really to break the problem down and to how that change might affect us. The first is methods, how we work. You've seen how social distancing has been implemented. We don't like that oxymoron. You know social means, Be friendly and distancing means the opposite. So we don't like to use that. We call it non-physical linking. We we want people to be in touch, but we want them to be not physical, physically together. So that's suddenly going to change. We think that the tools that are going to be implemented to facilitate this change is going to change dramatically. And you play a part in that. We think that if restaurants are empty, they can probably do pick up services. So they have to go online, that will change. I think we will also look at behavioral changes. Not everyone deals with a crisis the same way. So it's the way you lead, it's the way you follow. It's the way you interact. That changes quite dramatically. Then the consumption patterns change. You know, businesses see people consuming their brand differently on different channels. One thing I can tell you is that in retail, we've seen that empty out.
So people will still engage with the brand if the medium is to broadcast. If the medium is to second screen, if the medium is something that is not physical, you can still do business. But the consumption of the band has changed, and that's where the business has to change. Then we've seen government and regulations change. You know, there are visa regulations so people can't travel to certain countries. So that's going to have a huge effect on some companies.
Then you have finance change. A lot of companies, that have to take government loans and they have to consider whether they keep their stuff furlough their stuff, lay off their stuff. What do they do with that contingent labor that might be actually cheaper? But there's the model issue of would you keep it or do you let go? And the last and the most important is how do you take care of yourself? Know it's all it's everything is fine. But ultimately, you have to boil all of this down. we call this the Magnificent Seven. Seven points have made two. What does it mean to you and how has it changed your life? How do you buy? How do you sell? And how do you cope with this? So that's really a feedback to people that you have to make it personal and make it something. But we believe that we'll overcome this easily.
It's only a matter of time and we both agree that we will overcome. If people haven't read Dilip's wall post on why post on the Magnificent Seven? I highly recommend that people go and do that on LinkedIn and find it. And by the way, If you don't follow Dilip on LinkedIn. That's the first thing I would do is his post are amazing. And, you know, by the way, just on the sidebar, the fun side, always there is a one of his cat, which I always look for.
And so the cat's missing from the video, but very excited, have you Dilip. And this is great. I think I wrote a little bit about this behavioral change as well. And in my mind, that was an open letter to emerging brands, which was, you know what we talked about all the doom and gloom to many of our favorite brands. There are some emerging brands out there that are seeing some positives from this impact, these maybe brands that some of the grocery chains. One example is a soup brand that is selling significantly because Campbell's soup is out of distribution and there's distribution suffered through this process. And for some brands, this is an amazing, amazing opportunity, while for many others it's a very big challenge. And my letter was to go to brands that are, you know, on the positive side, which no one talks about. Not many people talk about that may not be through, but they're still seeing a significant upsurge that they will feel this drop off when people's distributions get better and what they can also focus on.
You know, while they're working on the challenging aspects as to how to keep up that demand, once this is all done, once this is all done and distribution gets back to normal, can they keep those customers around that they have got? Because of this challenge and in some of these brands don't have the digital techniques in place to keep and stay in touch with those customers because they weren't the only selling to retailers, maybe, or they were one level away from that customer.
We've been talking about this digital acceleration for a good twenty five years and every year it's more important. But now this topic is coming up even more often is how you get in touch directly with your customer, especially when you a brand. How do you accelerate digital? Dilip, What are your thoughts for those brands that either are suffering because they now got shut down and digital was not a channel for them or they are doing great by digital? The channel didn't invest in what they want to keep their customers going forward. Any advice for those brands that are not digitally needed?
You know, they don't have a choice, right? Every crisis society adjusts to normal. And those are brands that have focused largely on scores and banks. You can call centers elsewhere. They'll have to make a team. There's all the call centers outsource it, working from home, And in order for them to survive the act, it isn't an option.You have to at some stage find the money. The issue is really this is not mine. sales have gone down, so they don't have the money to go digital. But you don't have the money and you're in a bind at this stage. So it would take a I would say, you know, a full couple of quarters for these brands to bounce back. And of course, the challenge brands that have gone natively digital will see a huge uptick because they're going to have they're going to grab market share. At least, still, the other brands catch up. And that's why, you know, some someone like you play a big part, because at the end of the day, when you have a crisis, it's the one thing that gets them bad is the ability to discover a new brand. You know, if you're on a certain channel and you're looking out for a new brand, you know, you will find those that are digitally native. But if you have a brand that's already on, let's hit the Web, you would generally stick with your the ones that you know, because you have an experience with them. So loyalty plays a very big part. And a lot of companies have implemented custom solutions for that. And, you know, if they.
Have a solution that can change rapidly because of the changing new normal, which is what a system like yours can do. I think it will help. But really, the they don't have a choice. I mean, I think people will have to adjust to this new thing.
But I think that, you know, you brought up a topic that's near and dear to our heart, which is, you know, in a recessionary downturn environment. You know, the first thing you think about is how do I keep my customers? How do I return my customers? One of the things I was telling my wife is, you know, I've suddenly realized I don't need another pair of jeans anymore because I don't wear them and I'm not going to try and other brand that I have not bought before.
If I need one, I will go back to the brand I probably have. And if that brand is in touch with me, I think that will be much better for retention is that is the new norm and it's something that will really stay and become an important part of the marketing initiative. That trust building initiative that is important. You brought up an important point that a lot of brands have, you know, invested in maybe home grown solutions, something they may have something there, but they haven't really engineered a true retention solution. One of the things that we believe is retention, you know, is needs to be truly engineered. You have to work at it. You have to work at it across all channels. One more story I can tell you even now is we've got retailers that have all their stores closed and suddenly become digital only or digital first. And in that case, what they've done is done cross-channel promotions to get all their store customers to buy online and using that loyalty umbrella.
They've been able to effectively do that and stay in business. So all of those factors are what we are seeing. You know, as you think of the mix of retention and growth. You know, how how do you advice, you know, potential customers to think about when they are thinking about coming out of this downturn and focusing back on growth? What channels do we know? Retentions one, but are royalty's one. But what channels do you think will work from a marketing perspective that you feel that customers should continue investing in in this new norm?
They've been able to effectively do that and stay in business. So all of those factors are what we are seeing. You know, as you think of the mix of retention and growth. You know, how how do you advice, you know, potential customers to think about when they are thinking about coming out of this downturn and focusing back on growth? What channels do we know? Retentions one, but are royalty's one. But what channels do you think will work from a marketing perspective that you feel that customers should continue investing in in this new norm?And I think. I don't have the answers yet, but I think we've seen these things that are somewhat safer. One is digital. That's obvious. People are spending more time on the web. Second is emails. Do look at e-mails. And then the third is broadcast's, you know, people do watch TV in that channel had it sort of decreased to a great extent, but not everything is suitable for broadcast ads, even if it's second screen. I don't mean just, but it's also on the second screen social channels. So I think these are the three big channels that I think we see is also gaming. But, you know, that's a specialized. But more than the channels, you know, I think loyalty is a function of for experience. You know, people always think self. I don't think it's as strongly. Was that loyalty an outcome of experiences that are sort. The first experiences they are getting from Discovery. If you like a brand during the process of looking for something, that's the discovery process, you get attached to it, some things you will have something related to.
The second experience is the experience of interaction where you have discovered a brand. You start to interact with it. And if it's not personalize, they're using imagery that doesn't even look remotely close to what you're interested in. It won't work. So mass personalization of content is the interaction piece, and that's very important. The next pieces, after you have the attraction and the interaction, you have the transaction, you have to buy something right. That has to be a very smooth, frictionless path to purchase. And you have to be clear on your return policy. You have to be clear whether you're going to give them a discount. Is this a premium product? All of this plays in a very smooth. That's the transact piece. And the last piece is actually what we call the react piece. So I try. I was attracted to the Brand, Interacted with the branded transactor of the brand. Now I want to react because the experience was not good. And so that is actually the loop. If you get all four of these anchors correct, then only if someone willing to amplify and an advocate and become an advocate. Right. So that's the fundamentals of loyalty.
It's not just it's not an experience in itself. It's an outcome. So if you don't get these first four pieces. Correct. You won't have a loyal customer. In my opinion, and then a lot of people will make mistakes and one of these four, because they don't have the feedback mechanism. They don't care about reviews and ratings, then why bother? Well, you know, if I go to a hotel and I don't have a good experience, I'm going to go to TripAdvisor and say something about it, you know.
And so most people, because we've become publishers, that an epic scale, thanks to social media, they tend to they tend to expect they are entitled to a good experience. So they really react when you have a bad experience. So people are not so motivated to put a good comment when they get a good service because they expect a good service. They will only put a comment when it's an extraordinary service. But if you get a service that slightly, just slightly below, below the norm, they will put it to you that they were detract on social media.
So there is a disproportionality between the positive and the negative, the negative being more massively amplified. So these are the things that I would suggest, you know, these bands look at when they build a loyalty program.
Absolutely. And this is why I mentioned the engineering of the loyalty program comes into play. You cannot change the experience per say, but you can, you know, create the right incentives or the right needs for those audiences that are happy, which a majority of your audiences are happy to be able to vocalize those happiness pieces. I'll give you an example from, you know, many of our customers. You know, if you are not giving a or engineering a reason for those happy customers to top, you're absolutely right.
There was a brand that that who whose average reviews were two point three that was 2.3 on five scale. Now, this is a very happy brand with a fairly good NPF score. But reviews where we're showing something the opposite, that the reason was, as you exactly said, the happy customers weren't saying anything because that was their expectation. You know, that were the norm. And so engineering that on the other side took them from two point three to four point six on that scale.
And that's where you can kind of change that, the curve, so to speak, as we all talk about it in the next three, twelve, you know. Thirty six months, if you're a CEO of one of these brands that is affected either positively or in most cases negatively. You know what? What is your advice in the short term? Three months. Maybe stabilize. Maybe do certain things. What would that advice be now in a nine month horizon or 12 month horizon?
I would say like mid term. And then what would that advice be for the next thirty six months? And how is business changing? How do I categorize would laugh on quickly. What do I sort of bridge it around in a mid-term basis and what should I build for the long term to cover, you know, and then bring me back into into where it was.
You know, in the short term, it's about survival, driving, keeping your workforce intact and your products company, in fact, it's really about survival.
Once we've understood the new normal and how we've chosen to react to this, we'll have a business model that will look for, you know, for models of the same because everyone's situations. I think in the medium term and the long term, I'm a firm believer that if you want to succeed, the product has to be good. A lot of people focus on discounts and they think that that's a measure of loyalty, not to get it up. you discount a product and you think people will buy.
And, you know, when this happens, a team when the customer expects to be rewarded. you're training the customer to expect something from you. Redemption points need some benefits. But really, if you look at a truly loyal customer in a really good brand, the focus is only one customer lost the next best thing. They want a product that's absolutely the best. And as Mr. Bookless somewhere and the message is lost.
My advice to all the brands is go back to your core offerings. And look at the six months, because you've got time now. We all have a bank. I'm getting a large pinch on different business, had different packages.
This is the time to sit back and lose this. Why? I hope when I come back, how will I create a product that market will want? I think if people focus on that, all the rest is an outcome of watching this. Right. So I look at the demand and supply chain and stocks. What do you all sing? One thing all the rest can. Just one thing that really does put off the market is.
Perfect. Great advice, short term, survive mid-term, start figuring I'd go back in the core and scale it long term drive. Great advice coming from from Dilip here. If people want to reach out to you for advice, if people want to reach out to born for help, how do they reach born? How did they reach you?
So I'm on LinkedIn. They can reach me on LinkedIn. They can also come to our website. It's a borngroup.com. And a lot of people think that. And, of course, they can write to our partner manager whose contacts are on the website.
Dilip Thank you so much. This was a pleasure speaking with you again from the Annex Cloud. Thank you, everyone, for joining us on this series. We invite industry luminaries like Dilip to help us navigate this crisis. If you want to follow us on these Market Movers series, you can go to https://www.annexcloud.com/market-movers, where you will see a lot of these videos as we add to this list. I appreciate everyone's time.
Thank you again.
Thank you AL. Thank you so much.
Co-Founder, Annex Cloud
Since 2010, Annex Cloud has provided industry leading loyalty solutions to more than 250 leading brands and retailers, including Jenni Kayne, Hewlett-Packard, Bed Bath & Beyond, e.l.f. Cosmetics, Olympus, Sugarfina, Mizuno, MacKenzie-Childs, VF Corp., with the ability to engage tens of millions of their customers one-to-one at scale.
The Annex Cloud platform provides fully integrated Customer Loyalty, Referral Marketing, and User Generated Content (UGC) solutions that seamlessly work together to optimize the customer journey and deliver a unified customer experience that is designed to accelerate revenue growth, retain valuable customers, increase average order values (AOV) and drive repeat order frequency.
Born is an award-winning global digital agency with a core focus on creative, content and commerce. We Provide a holistic suite of market-leading services, from large-scale image production to bespoke content experiences and innovative ecommerce solutions. Our evolution over 25 years represents our passion for delivering fully integrated creative work to our global clients experiences.