Startup To Scale

93. How Liquid Death, Olipop, and Reishi Tea Manage E-Commerce

February 20, 2023 Season 1 Episode 93
93. How Liquid Death, Olipop, and Reishi Tea Manage E-Commerce
Startup To Scale
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Startup To Scale
93. How Liquid Death, Olipop, and Reishi Tea Manage E-Commerce
Feb 20, 2023 Season 1 Episode 93

Join me as I talk with Louis Condon from Pear Commerce about the e-commerce strategies of Liquid Death, Olipop, and Reishi Tea.

We also dive into Retail E-commerce, a new sub-channel of online sales that came around due to the pandemic. It’s comprised of retailers selling their groceries online for shipping, same-day delivery, and in-store pickup. Most brands in retail are underutilizing this sales channel as a way to drive sales at their retail partners.

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Show Notes Transcript

Join me as I talk with Louis Condon from Pear Commerce about the e-commerce strategies of Liquid Death, Olipop, and Reishi Tea.

We also dive into Retail E-commerce, a new sub-channel of online sales that came around due to the pandemic. It’s comprised of retailers selling their groceries online for shipping, same-day delivery, and in-store pickup. Most brands in retail are underutilizing this sales channel as a way to drive sales at their retail partners.

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Louis Condon

[00:00:00] Hey everyone. I'm excited for today's episode where we are talking about how brands are using D to C and e-commerce and different ways as we are experiencing a changing wave of, what it means to be an omnichannel brand. For this conversation, I've invited on Louis Condon who is the head of growth at Pear Commerce to talk about this welcome..

Thank you Jordan, for having me. I'm excited. So we were talking a little bit beforehand around how the e-commerce landscape is really changing right now. And I'd love to get your perspective just in general to start on how different companies are using e-commerce and how it fits into their sales portfolio.

Yeah, definitely Pair Commerce is a retail e-commerce platform. So I have a little bit of a bias towards that. But you know , what we believe firmly is that omnichannel brands need an omnichannel e-commerce [00:01:00] strategy. Traditionally e-commerce has meant, you know, a balance between D to C and pure play, but really since the pandemic retailer, e-commerce is kind of this emerging third pillar.

And just something else for another tool in the toolbox for brands to balance as they think of , their total e-commerce strategy. I love that. So as you think about it, right, I think. there's the brands who are selling D to C on their own website, there's brands who are doing Amazon sales or sales where Amazon's made join the fulfillment in the marketplace.

And then there's this idea of like the like even like and others who are like retailers who have a D to C arm. If you're selling in that retailer, is that. . Yeah, exactly. I mean, specifically on that retailer piece, how we think of how we define retail. E-commerce is kind of shopability plus closed loop marketing.

So building a path to purchase from your product to every that [00:02:00] you're on, every digital shelf you're on. and then getting data and signals in return to be able to run campaigns and optimize it. So kind of same as the D to C, what you can do, try to bring those same principles , to retail.

Yeah. So in looking at retail e-commerce, it's interesting. So talk about how. Retailers are managing things like inventory. Are they bringing in companies for a e-commerce only program, or are these brands who are selling in the physical locations of the retailers, but also are because they have the inventory, they're fulfilling those through their kinda e-commerce site too?

Yeah, that's part of like the birth of retail e-commerce. You know, we say there's two big match macro trends that birth this really during the pandemic. One is consumer adoption, where. . You know, what I say now is even my grandma has used Instacart at least once. And, you know, e-commerce used has dipped a little bit, but the adoption and kind of [00:03:00] understanding is there.

And also during that time, retailers really needed to improve their capabilities. So both inventory mapping, but then also, you know, focus options or, buy online, ship to store options. Target's drive up is still expanding. So that's kind of encouraging and pushing folks to this e-commerce first purchase, but then shipping to store.

So it's kind of everything where a retail sale originates from that, you know, ship to home, ship to store, buy online pickup and everything in. Now. So I think for any brands listening you like, you have to be selling and have a relationship with those retailers. But I think part of this idea as well is if you're selling in a retailer, a lot of times it's still on the brand.

Who's responsible for driving awareness and traffic to like your products in a store, right? Like you're doing mm-hmm. demos, you're running promos with the store, you're participating in their shopper marketing programs. And I think this is kind of moved [00:04:00] online as well, right? Like if you have inventory of a retailer, those retailers are still encouraging and almost relying on brands to help promote your products on there.

Is that right? . Yeah, exactly. I mean that's one piece of it. You know, driving sales velocity at important retailers. Hi highlighting launches, you know, do investing in that relationship both to show to the retailer, but then also, yeah, move the product that you need to. So everything from, you know, we see retail eCommerce with sales velocity and like Linkin bios or pre or paid.

Social launches on social training customer success teams. When people are like, well, I can't find you. We'll go to this store locator and let's figure it out. And then, you know, start bringing in some performance marketing and retargeting , type of ability around that to drive it even further and leverage modern ad network technology.

Yeah. And I think there's a lot of ways that, you know, consumers want to shop and then also for brands, how they view like digital marketing and its relationship to the [00:05:00] e-commerce portion and like where people can purchase their goods. I know there are a couple companies we're talking about before the show as well, and I'd love to kind of jump into how their use.

E-commerce and digital marketing has changed. And so maybe let's start with one company that people are really familiar with is Liquid Death and yeah. Share kinda what their view on digital marketing and e-commerce is and how that's gonna change. Yeah, it's fun. The three examples we talked about, you know, we're in all in the beverage days and I think that's probably a really good microcosm of retail e-commerce because of shipping costs and you know, A lot of reasons of why it's difficult to, to do D to C beverage.

You know, there was a big wave in q3, Q4 of beverage companies not of getting off D to C altogether. I think June Shine was one such example. Liquid Death did at the same time, but a little bit more quietly. So if you go to their product description pages, now you see an Amazon button and then you.

A dynamic retailer list of , where you can [00:06:00] find the product that links to that dynamically displays based on inventory. So they, you know, being water completely got rid of D to C altogether, it didn't make sense for their underlying business. And therefore, when you think of this balance of D two, Pure play and retail e-com, they're putting all of the chips in the, in the pure play in retail e-com buckets, kind of cutting out D to C altogether.

The second example, oh, go ahead. What's interesting about that too is that you think, you know, they're experts at digital marketing. I mean marketing in general, but digital marketing. You see liquid death everywhere. They have awesome ad campaigns and digital. I think for a lot of ear early founders, you think like, wow, they should be capturing all that data and capturing all the margin like on their own.

E-commerce site because you would think that would be where they captured the most margin. But I think what you, it's hard to see is there's a huge amount of operational complexity in running your own e-commerce site and D to C you have to deal with customer support and [00:07:00] broken shipments and like all these other things that come into play.

You know, frozen water when sent somewhere in the winter. Like all these other things that come into play when you're running your e-commerce business. And so it might not be worth the headache actually , to do. Yeah, I think I'll never forget Melanie Kahn from Poppi Lou said, fulfillment's a pain in the ass.

And I think that that's true. And liquid death. You know, as you think of data, they, they do a lot of merch sales and they do a lot of work to get folks on newsletters and things like that. Where they're still getting a source of data so they can kind of balance that out. But that certainly is part of the equation.

Yeah. And then Olipop would be another example. We talked about in staying in the beverage space, and that balance, you know, they're still D to C focused and still really. . They, rely and appreciate the subscription business that they have, and that's where most of their marketing goes as a result.

But they also know that about a third of their shoppers start at retail. You know, you try it once in retail, oh, this is good, let me move over. So, you know, you could start running retail e-commerce campaigns, at which means, at [00:08:00] retail e-commerce shoppers and moving them over to D to C and, you know, , so as you think of the bucket, you know, maybe D to C.

60% and then pure play and retail e-com is, is 20% each or whatever as you think of , the right mix for your business. Yeah, no, I definitely love that. And then, yeah, I think that's another piece, just figuring out like how everything works together and finding that balance and an idea that it's gonna be different for every single brand, right?

Yep. Exactly. A super good example of this is Reishi Tea and Sparkling Botanicals, actually. So there are, you know, sparkling Botanicals is the, the canned botanical. Product under Reishi. It's a separate brand. They operate somewhat independently, but you know, they have a lot of the same shared services.

So Reishi Tea is a premium Looseleaf tea doesn't weigh a lot. Again, a high premium, high margin. They want to capture all of that and send all of that to their fulfillment , when possible versus. The sparkling [00:09:00] botanical, which is, you know, same company but canned beverages just can't operate in the same way.

So as you think of the balance between these three pillars, they need to start relying a lot more on retail, e-commerce and those relationships and partnerships cuz you can't sustain on shipping 12 packs of cans at scale. Yeah. Yeah, that totally makes sense. I even know one of, you know, my founder friends and I ran effin good snacks.

Damien Law, they like for their first launch, they did all their fulfillment themselves, but they didn't have their own like facility or warehouses set up. And so they had everything shipped to like, Someone's garage and then they're like hand packing, all the quarters . And things were just like delayed because of all the work they had to do.

And for their second launch, they ended up moving all their fulfillment to Amazon which isn't perfect. There were some other hiccups there, but at least like all the logistics they were able to take care of. Right. And so you think about. Where your expertise lies as a brand. Like whether you're strengths, if you're strong [00:10:00] in sales, branding, marketing, and you don't need to have this like logistical piece.

You know, it's easy to put that off to the experts, which sometimes is a an Amazon, sometimes the retailer, if you just wanna let them handle all the logistics so that you can really focus your business on where you're seeing the most growth. Cause I think that's the other thing, founders get pulled in so many different directions, mm-hmm.

that they, when they try to do it, Yeah, totally. And you know, especially. Digital trend, customer acquisitions getting more expensive. So I think brands particularly now are really thinking that balance of just distribution, let alone e-commerce distribution overall. You know, what does brick and mortar mean relative to D to C, relative to Amazon?

Should I be shipping, you know, cans or pallets to Amazon, and how much of the fulfillment do I let them handle versus me? And yeah. When you consider that , it's a complex. , how much do you think it matters in terms of like what category you're in and what categories are the best suited, do you think, for letting others [00:11:00] handle your distribution?

I know we talked about beverage being one cuz it's mostly shipping, you know, water or mostly water in the can bottle. Are there any other categories that that fits into?

Hmm. I think refrigerated and frozen, you know, as well. Anything that is perishable produce gets difficult. And then we also see it a lot with like snacks you know, chips and things that can get broken pretty easily. I'm sure there's a term in the industry that I'm not aware of for that, but yeah, that's where we see it.

Yeah, I can imagine some fragile things. I just recently talked to a brand who is doing mostly frozen, and they moved over , to doing. , just like relying on their retail partners. And it's interesting because you would think that like all snack brands would have an easy time doing D to C, but there's a large snack brand.

I was just talking with partake Foods and they're actually moving away from doing a lot of their like B2B wholesale and they're working through large distributors and retailers to do that because they like just the operational complexity of [00:12:00] having. A full-time person or someone to handle all those cases you know, you end up losing or spending a lot of money just to maintain a business that might not be profitable for you.

Yeah. Margins. You gotta look at all of the costs when you're calculating the margins and time and effort and overhead in new people, and, you know, There's a lot of cascading effects of that. So sometimes outsourcing it does just make sense. And in investing in those relationships and important retailers, making sure that, and I think that's a, mindset shift as well of retail, of brands starting to think about investing in marketing to send to. or to, which typically is not something that anyone's done cuz you don't know what's happening. You don't know is this what's working, what's not? You can't run retargeting campaigns or lookalike audiences or, you know, those things were all previously unavailable. So it, it's also this mentality and you know, you gotta get into budgets and things like that, that we're starting to see some shift.

[00:13:00] Yeah. So what does that look like from promoting some of these third party retail partner, you know, the retail partners? Were there kind of the best tips and strategies around doing so? So that's effective? Yeah, we always say, you know, there's always things you could do for free, right? Any free social, paid social, you should have.

You should be tracking links and building audiences, building pixels on all of your ad networks that are specific to retail e-commerce shoppers. When you're doing product launches, you should be tracking all of that and firing pixel events off of it so you could retarget them later on. At, you know, LinkedIn bio.

LinkedIn bio or link trees for important retailers or tier your store locator as well. And you, the best store locators out there will, will allow you to fire pixels and track data and understand kind of on a product, but on a level, on a ad platform copy, creative basis. What's, what's driving sh consumer behavior?

, and we talked about it a little bit already, but like customer experience, you [00:14:00] know, re responses of where to find this and, you know, tracking that, being able to retarget those types of people. That's kind of the low hanging fruit, you know, any product launch, any retailer launch is gonna be kind of ripe for this.

 And then what are some of the paved options that you see , as successful? Are you doing seeing brands do things across like paved advertising and anyone doing stuff with like influencer marketing or what's that look like? Yeah, we see a lot of influ. I mean really any, any other paid strategy for D to C works for retail too these days.

So we see. Facebook ads, Instagram ad TikTok ads that are driving to landing pages that are just kind of retailer focused. So kind of dynamically displaying retailers based on geography, so where someone's located. And then there's also inventory checking as well. So, you know, you can avoid sending people to out of stocks, but if you think of anything that's hyper linkable can go to a page like that, whether that's free or paid.

You know, on an influencer level you could start sending them to store locators and then [00:15:00] understanding. how people are adding to cart or who's adding to cart or selecting retailers. And you can start getting, measuring the effectiveness of influencers based on, by sending folks to retail. And then is the data dropping off from there or can you measure who's actually purchasing?

So you can measure the things like conversion rates. , no one out there , is able to provide like p i i of exactly who's purchasing. You know, the retailers are never gonna give that up, but there are platforms, pair commerce where I work included that will provide data, so up to purchase for specific retailers but otherwise add to cart for many others.

And so yeah, , that's both kind of the data of how's it, what is actual middle and bottom of funnel activity, but then also firing pixel events to build audiences and of people who actually purchased or actually added the cart. . Yeah, it's interesting. One thing that I learned just in running my brand is that while I would love if everyone just bought directly from like my website and I can capture all the margin, everyone has their [00:16:00] own buying preferences, their favorite stores where they currently shop.

And it's not about you the brand, it's more about your consumer, where they want to get your product, whereas what's part of their shopping routine so that you can be incorporated in all the work that they do and you know, even on some other, you know, sites where I've purchased from, and they actually will write, like, save your previous carts.

And so maybe if someone's doing their normal grocery shopping and they bought through a site, they have their grocery shipping saved, and so then it can become part of their normal purchase behavior instead of just being a one-off purchase from your website. . Totally. And we see brands doing, we define share of wallet as awareness trial and repeat purchase.

And all of your e-commerce strategies should focus on all of those. You know, they should know about you, they should try you, they should buy you multiple times. And to your point, as you said, like today, omnichannel means being where your shoppers wanna buy. And if [00:17:00] that's at retail, then you should have the strategy set up , to do that.

So Totally. Yeah. And there's a lot of cool things that brands are doing to drive each one of those. Awesome. Well, Louis, last thing I wanna end on as well. If anyone has any questions on pear commerce or how they can get into the space of retail e-commerce, how can they reach you? Just shoot me an email at my name, louis@

Or just fill out a form on the site , and I'll respond. Awesome. Thanks so much being beyond today and sharing your insights. Jordan, thanks for having me. Appreciate it. It was fun.