Knocking Out Knock-Offs: A Look at Crowdfunding and Copycats

By Mission

Taking a company from $1 million to $100 million is no easy feat — especially when you have competition and copy cats coming at you from all angles. But Peak Design has fought off all those knock-offs — including a pretty blatant rip-off from AmazonBasics — and it has done it with humor and panache, which has only endeared the company more to its loyal customer base. Those customers are what took Peak Design from a simple camera utility bag company and turned it into a popular everyday bag and accessories outfitter for photography enthusiasts. Peak Design leaned into the idea of having a close relationship with its customers from the very beginning, by letting their customers have a say in their product line by way of crowdfunding and Kickstarter campaigns. And that, according to Elish Patel, the VP of Growth and Digital at Peak Design, has made all the difference. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Elish explains how building that loyal customer base has helped the company stave off the blatant and more subtle competitors. And Elish talks about how Peak Design is using unique marketing and content strategies to take people from browsing to buying. Enjoy this episode! Main Takeaways:It Speaks For Itself: Although Peak Design went toe-to-toe with Amazon after it knocked off a Peak Design product, more often than not, Peak Design lets its products speak for themselves against the competition. If your products are truly superior in quality and the value they offer, consumers will recognize that and make the investment. And when they buy the better product and see its superiority, they become more loyal to that brand long-term.Products Over People?: Hiring good talent is important, but you don’t want to prioritize growing your headcount over maintaining a laser focus on creating a good product. When you scale up your headcount, it’s easy to be distracted by the new focus on managing a large team and therefore your product design and development process can suffer. By relying on third parties and vendors or partners to do work you could otherwise hire internally, you are left with a core team who can focus on the part of your business that is truly important.More Than An Impression: With your marketing and content, the goal should be to achieve more than an impression or a like. Especially with a smaller or niche brand, being a part of the conversation your consumers are having on places like Reddit and TikTok is worth more than getting an influencer to post a picture with one of your products.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at everyone to Up Next in Commerce. I'm your host, Stephanie Postles, CEO at Today on the show, we have Elish, Patel who currently serves as the VP of Digital and Growth Strategy at Peak Design. Elish, welcome.Elish:Thank you. Nice to be here.Stephanie:Yeah. I'm really excited to catch you before you journey into the redwoods to get some content for your company. I was hoping we can just dive right into Peak Design because your story is super fascinating. Right before this, you were talking about how when you came in, it was a sub $1 million company. Now it's at almost 100 million?Elish:We definitely had a positive in that we did somewhere around 70 last year and we're hoping to grow to that the hundred soon. So yeah, we're coming right up against it.Stephanie:Okay. I mean, that's an amazing story. That's why I was like, "We need to start there. I don't want to run out of time." Can you tell me a bit about what is Peak Design and how long have you been there, and a little bit about that journey?Elish:Yeah. I've been with Peak Design for about six and a half years. I met Peter Dering, our founder and CEO in a bar in Berkeley after a concert. We just sort of hit it off. So it was one of those-Stephanie:What concert?Elish:It was an Alt-J concert at the Berkeley Greek. It was one of those classic Silicon Valley chance meetings. I was doing marketing consulting in the Bay Area at the time and he needed a little bit of help on the digital side. A little bit about Peak design. Peter Dering had this idea of a camera accessory basically to hold your camera on the outside of your body, usually on a backpack shop or your belt while you're doing some more strenuous activities, whether you're hiking, biking, stuff like that, so you could get to your camera easily instead of it being tucked inside your bag and you would miss that shot, as we say.Elish:He got lucky, if you will, the universe aligned in that was the early days in 2010 of Kickstarter. He was just going to find someone to make it and try to get it into stores. But someone was like, "Hey, why don't you do a Kickstarter?" Put it on Kickstarter. Some people found it, wrote a story on it. I think it was in Gadget or something like that, and it blew up. He did 300-something thousand dollars on Kickstarter that year. It was something the third biggest Kickstarter. Again, early days of Kickstarter. There's now crazy ones.Elish:That was the birth of Peak Design. From there, it deepened into the Kickstarter and photography product world. We became one of the first companies to do a second Kickstarter. That's how we started just launching products on Kickstarter. What we found with that is Kickstarter just has this base who became our evangelists. We created this really one-on-one relationship with our customers and do have a say in the design of our products. They feel invested in our brand. We continue to do that. In fact, we've done 10 Kickstarters to this point. We've raised over $37 million on the platform, fully crowdfunded, which means we've never taken investors, and we get to make decisions like being a part of 1% for the Planet. We founded a climate neutral nonprofit to help companies to offset their carbon. We basically chart our own path and that allows us also to make the best things. We don't cut corners on any of our products.Stephanie:Yeah, that's amazing. We haven't had too many companies on the show that went the Kickstarter route. I think I can only think of one or two. What were some of the lessons maybe when you launched the first time to the second to the 20th time, that maybe things that you started adjusting over time?Elish:Some of the biggest things we adjusted were... they came with just the changes in the world of marketing, with the rise of social media in the last few campaigns, the influencer became so much more part of our campaign, especially the last two YouTube. There was Facebook, then there was Instagram and then YouTube has been around for a long time. But then we layered on YouTube specific influencers and that's it's whole other own community, especially in the photography world. And then relearning that YouTube in and of itself is a great search engine place where you can put evergreen content. There's one piece of influencer content that I have up on YouTube that I placed two years ago that still brings in five grand a month.Stephanie:Wow. Okay. What's this content?Elish:Well, we sponsored a video for basically someone who... and we were pretty adamant to make sure that if you're going to review our product, then you want to leave a positive review. We're not just forcing you to do that. We give them the product. They love it. They're like, "I love this. I want to talk about it." Usually for the bigger influencers, they're like, "Oh, I love this product. I want to put it up." It usually costs 30 grand. We did that and it got up on YouTube. I don't want to say the name just to blow up his spot or not. But put up there, did a great review of it, talked about the pluses and minuses, linked to the campaign below in the comment. That video, which because it did so well, they keep on their page and still draws traffic when you're... especially the campaign was for our Peak Design tripod, our travel tripod.Elish:When you type into YouTube "tripod" especially who people who are searching for like "how to use a tripod, this and that," it's one of the top things that comes up. People will go watch that video and like, "Oh, this is a cool tripod." They'll click the link and it still brings in a lot of traffic and a lot of revenue.Stephanie:That's really cool. Are you still using Kickstarter today?Elish:We just did our last Kickstarter in December. We did it for our new mobile line of products. We went from photography thinking that this iPhone is literally the best camera that everyone carries around on a daily basis. So we wanted to create a line of products for that. We did that in December and that was our last one. Are we going to continue to do Kickstarters? Probably, but we've done 10 of them and it's got to end someday, maybe. I don't know. We'll see.Stephanie:Why? That's what I'm wondering. I'm like, "Man, it sounds like it's going so well." I haven't heard of enough brands probably utilizing that, but it does feel like maybe that market is pretty saturated and it just seems like there's a lot on there when you go in and start looking through products that are launching and what you can find. It just feels like a lot more than maybe when you guys started out.Elish:Well, it's also, we were a part of this cohort that proved the model and then now it's easier than ever to go and make and design a product in China, Vietnam, wherever you're producing. In fact, there's full factory cities where you show up with an idea and they'll help you make it. That also feeds into the system. It's a problem with knockoffs in our brand as well. People are copying our stuff. You can just go there and that's the other part that saturated Kickstarter and Indiegogo, are these half thought out brandless products. It's easy to get lost in the fray there as well.Stephanie:Yeah. Let's talk a little bit about knockoff that you just mentioned, because right before the interview, I was watching a very fun video that you guys put together because of Amazon knocking off your bag, and I was hoping you can touch on the inspiration behind that and how you think to approach companies who are knocking off your products.Elish:Yeah. It's a funny story, obviously. The backstory is that we make this bag called the Everyday Sling. Literally that's the name. We have a TM on the term everyday sling, and we do sell on Amazon. Before the pandemic, we had a large amount of our direct revenue on Amazon. And the rumors are true that Amazon will see a successful product on their platform and say, "Oh, we can make some money on that and create an Amazon basic version of it." What they did in this case was copy our bags, stitch for stitch, it looks exactly the same, even down to the point a design element is just this little hyper lawn patch where we put our logo. They kept that patch the exact same shape and the exact same location on the bag and wrote Amazon instead of Peak Design on it.Elish:We've seen knockoffs before, but we were like, "This is egregious, this is crazy." I guess internally I'm lucky enough, we've never been a brand that does the patent trolling thing or anything like that. We build our own moat as far as around our design process. It actually is extremely expensive to make our products because of how functional and quality they are. And that's part of our own moat as well, built into the brand. But because this looks so much like it, we were like, "This is insane." It's actually far cheaper, low quality product. Our bag one for $100, they put it on there for $20. And they called it the Amazon Basic's Everyday Sling. They didn't even change the name, which was insane. They called it [crosstalk].Stephanie:[crosstalk] already good name, might as well just [inaudible] that too.Elish:Exactly. I work with our marketing team, we're all jokes here. Adam Saraceno, our head of marketing has gotten really adept at writing our scripts or videos. He wrote the script for this video and just came up with the idea and we've got an in house video team and we were recording it and we had this plan, we're going to make that video, put it on YouTube, we'll send it on email. We put it up, we sent it out and it caught fire on some forums. It started making its rounds. Before we knew it, we had something like a half a million views. And then that took off even more. I think the video has over 4 million views at this point. But the idea was like, "Are we going to sue Amazon? We're a fly to them. What can we do? We can trust that our customers can laugh at this along with us, and we can poke a little fun at them. That's all we can do."Elish:That's what we did and point out. If you watched the video, we sort of point out that you have a choice when you buy stuff. You can buy our stuff where we're blue sign verified. We're now fair trade. We pay our factories workers far above the local wages in their local... we produce in Vietnam. We're very honest about that. We offset all of our carbon and we lifetime warranty everything. It's going to last you forever, if it doesn't, we'll replace it. Amazon, you get what you pay for. But that's our message. It's easy to get frustrated, but I think it's probably better for your brand just looking at the long-term. Just stick to your guns, trust your brand, trust your product.Stephanie:Yeah. I think that's what I loved about the video, because it was so masterfully done and it's always a good reminder of why, like you said, frustration, anger probably won't connect with many people because sometimes... I mean, I think anyways, people want to see funny stuff, happy stuff. And the video was perfect where it's like, "Oh, if you don't care about all the bells and whistles, all the stuff you just named [crosstalk]." It was just so well done, especially when they were drawing it out, drawing out the product and being like, "Oh, do we want something that's actually good quality, now take that out and take that out." It was just really well done, and I'm not surprised it took off. What else helps get it in front of people to really help spread it?Elish:I mean, it was mostly word of mouth. We definitely put a few advertising dollars behind it. When it took off, we amplified it, just cause it was resonating with so many people, and I think that's important. Especially in digital marketing, you're testing content all the time, you're like, "Is this working? Is that working?" This was obviously working. I didn't need to test it against anything else. Yeah, we put some ad dollars behind it on Facebook to get it out there as well. But after we had about a half a million views on it.Stephanie:I also saw you tagging Jeff Bezos and Amazon support team and all these other people. I'm like, "Oh, that's good." But also, once again, the way you were doing it was just funny. I can't remember the Twitter copy of what you guys were saying, but it was very funny.Elish:That was Joe Callander on our team and he was like... I remember him messaging Adam and I going like, "Hey, I'm writing these tweets back to these people. I'm putting this. It's a little edgy. Is that okay?" We're just like, "Dude, gloves off, man. Go for it." He really went for it and I think it turned out really well. I like a lot of the YouTube comments because there are definitely some people in there... YouTube has got the worst trolls, I think. YouTube, there's definitely a few people like, "Why am I going to spend 100. I'll just get this $20 one." And he would just write something like, "We'd love that for you."Stephanie:Oh, that's great.Elish:"Go for it."Stephanie:It kind of reminds me of morning Brew. I don't know if you've ever seen them respond to people. Or Wendy's Twitter channel where they reply to people and have it out with them. I'm like, "I love it because they stay so close to their brand and their voice and keep it funny." Hats off to your team for knowing how to keep it on brand and keep it engaging for people. When Amazon came out with the knockoff product, and I think you said you've had other companies as well knock off your product, what kind of result did you see on sale? Did you see a direct impact when they came out of like, "Oh shoot, our daily revenue just went down in half and now we need to figure out how to claw our way back in front of our customers."Elish:Luckily, the Amazon thing made buy our bag more. I'm sure it lifted their sales as well because we just got so much hoopla, and it got a lot of press attention. Pete, our CEO was doing the rounds on a bunch of the media channels. On the other ones, we really didn't notice. If anything, it riled up our customer base because they would see it and be like, "This is just like my Peak Design bag and this is just like this." Their claws would come out and they'd go after it. That's definitely... I attribute that to our Kickstarter base and how we formed as a company of like we created this place where people thought they were part of the brand, and so they'll step out the defend it as well.Stephanie:Oftentimes I don't see brands maybe highlighting all their differences. That's why I loved your video when you're like, "Here's the five or six things that we do that you'll never find with an Amazon Basic." Did you guys maybe change your strategy or how you were messaging that? Because maybe before you weren't as upfront about like, "Here's why you should buy with us."Elish:I'm glad you brought that up. We definitely started steering away from it because early on in our brand, we certainly did that. When we started making camera straps, we were like, "This is how the other people work. This is how ours works." Then we were just like, "Maybe the product can just stand on its own." And it did because the functionality of our product was so different for so long. But again, that was a unique scenario where our product was absolutely different than the competitors. Now the competitor is copying our product. So now we're forced to be like, "They copied it, but not very well." It's almost like we need to inform our consumer of the pitfalls of trying to buy something that's similar to ours, but probably fails on quality and functionality. They're getting duped by getting these cheaper made knockoffs.Stephanie:Yep. Yeah. Yeah. That's definitely important to come back to the roots of... you have to defend your ground and you might lose sight of that for a bit, but it's interesting to hear how it comes full circle with like, "Okay, lean back into our differences."Stephanie:The one thing I wanted to circle back to was going through what it looked like when you joined the company, when it was sub 1 million and then where it's at now, close to 100, and talking about... I know we were just talking about earlier, how you're going to go into the redwood forest, you're going to be creating your own content and thinking through your marketing tech stack, and I want to hear what that evolution has looked like, because I think you mentioned the team didn't scale up with that revenue as much as maybe other companies would have done. I just want to hear it behind the scenes of what that looked like.Elish:Yeah. Credit to Pete, our CEO, and he's been extremely protective of our company culture. We're a pretty tight knit group of people, we're close, I think 38, maybe close to 40 people. When I joined, we were 10 people and it was just me and one other marketing person. As I mentioned, a lot of that was to keep culture tight, but also, we try to prioritize what we need to do and not do too much more than that. One of our mission value statements is to prioritize happiness over growth. When you start adding too many people, sometimes you end up literally looking for work for them to do, and then you're managing all those people. Then the business becomes about managing people, which is a part of a brand, but more or less so than the product.Elish:We are definitely a product focused company and it's about letting the marketing stand on the quality of the product. What we've done to enable that is rely on creating a really good network of third parties. Our shipping is third party, our warehouses are third party. We have some in-house customer service, but we have a little bit of outsourced customer service as well. For marketing, we really rely both on my strategy and executional knowledge, but we amplify that with an external digital agency. What that allows us to do is remain really nimble. During the pandemic, we didn't have to lay off anybody. We didn't make any pay cuts. We've been profitable since day one because we haven't had to push scaling because of not having investors as well that say, "We need you to make this much profit in the next five years."Elish:That's been really stressful for sure, in some instances of hyper growth because we have been growing really quickly, but again, what it came down to, it was like, "What's important in this moment? Okay, we're launching this new product, let's put all eyes there, let's make the right content, get it in the right place." I think we're going through another little phase of growing pains where we now have a very large assortment of skews and we're feeling the pinch of trying to maintain the attention on them across the board and then also making sure that we're supporting our retail and wholesale accounts. Half our business is from places like BNH and REI and we're distributed around the world. They need tons of content as well. They need our help on making sure the brand is represented correctly.Elish:It's becoming a lot of work. We've been scaling on our design and creative side, but there's starting to be a pinch on the more technical stuff. We're trying to think through, does that mean a bigger agency? Do I need to start hiring more internal people? I think it's going to be a combination of the both. I think it's going to be a skeleton crew internally that is really good at handling or wearing a lot of different hats, but then managing some external help as well to make sure that it amplifies our abilities.Stephanie:Yeah. What's the best way to structure it when you're working with agencies to make sure that you can scale yourself? Like you said, you're one of the people who are... "here's the vision and go." How do you make sure that it scales in a way that is not totally going off course?Elish:Oh man. That's a really good question. And I can't honestly say I've figured it out. I'm really not sure. I got to be honest about that. I'm going through it right now, and I think... to be quite honest, I think I haven't been able to... there's only so many hours in a day [inaudible] that require attention and it's really hard to separate or to combine strategy, deep thinking and execution. You have to turn one off to do the other. I think that's been a hard lesson that I've learned over the last year and a half, which is I do need time to just sit and write and think while I'm not executing. I'm really thinking about making sure I separate those roles for sure.Stephanie:It's definitely a hard question and a good thing to figure out, but you have time, there's no rush.Elish:Yeah.Stephanie:What does new customer acquisition look like? How are you guys approaching finding new customers and maybe keeping your current ones?Elish:There's the classics, which we definitely continue to double down on, which is... it's funny PR is an age old thing, but it's still so important and making sure that you stay just in the conversation. For me, when I'm thinking about going for... we've been so getting into the gear reviews and top 10 lists, and I'll never trust the best 10 lists ever again after being in there initially, because it's not like-Stephanie:It's how much did you pay to get that spot.Elish:Oh, yeah. Or who do you know exactly. It's not like someone went looking for the best stuff and like, 'This is what I found." No, all that stuff was definitely put in there. But to me, it's about the conversations you're starting around your brand and industry as well. When it comes to our mobile product or trying to stir up the conversation of like, "What else do you do with your phone? How do you use it in your daily life? Is having just the skin on it that doesn't do anything useful?" Because we are using it elsewhere, in our car, on our desktop, we've made a function on our bike and how it works. Do you have to jus pound people with your product or can you talk to them about it and start the conversation?Elish:There's the whole... We started digital marketing in paper, Facebook, social media advertising, Instagram. TikTok obviously, Reddit, but man, that whole industry, I think, is going through an upheaval currently, obviously with the change in privacy data that Facebook and Google and everybody is facing, and is making everybody rethink about how they're stacking that in their marketing funnel. I think it's a good thing. I think people are starting to think about the intentions and nature of their message in their advertising again, as opposed to, "Oh, if we change this button to red instead of blue, that's going to..." what intention... is that excepted to drive conversion?Elish:I think people have been overthinking the data part for a really long time instead of trusting your marketing instincts/knowing that, or just not really paying attention to the marginal benefit of spending a week trying to figure out what color button needs to be... what else could you have done with that?Stephanie:What are you guys doing? Because, I mean, I think it's such a scary world for a lot of brands who have relied on that pixel tracking, and everything they've been used to, it feels you have to move quick, make decisions in an unknown world where you're like, "I don't really know how they should operate." How are you guys thinking about it moving forward?Elish:Well, you can still track the classics, which are engagement. Then layering in other strategies of making sure you're getting first party data: your email capture and the campaigns you're doing with that. Before we could track everything, we were still trusting things like how many people were seeing it impressions and the quality of someone's audience and so on, on an influencer campaign. But also again, being a part of the conversation in places like Reddit, TikTok and making sure that that is a constant stream of content as opposed to these big advertising things where people are just blind to them now. I don't remember the last ad... I definitely learn about people or a brand, and I'm like, "Oh, that's interesting," but it's pretty rare that I click, and we've seen that on Facebook's ROI and every number across the board has tanked over the last few years. You used to put an ad, it could have anything in it and you'd get a 10 X ROI. Now we struggle to get three.Stephanie:What channels and platforms are you trying out now? Because to me, TikTok sounds like the perfect area. I get so many photography tips on there. I don't know if you've seen all those videos.Elish:Absolutely.Stephanie:That seems like a perfect channel. If you can keep that content going though. But what are you guys betting on?Elish:Yeah. We're exploring TikTok. I don't know if we're betting big there, because our demographic is a little bit older. I do have a theory that there's a very active demographic in... we're in the 25 to 40 range. I think people 25 to 40 are still actually really active on TikTok. They're just not-Stephanie:I am. I'm flapped out in the middle. I'm on it.Elish:But they're consumers, they're not posters, they're not commenters, which is fine. I think that is going to be somewhere we'll probably spend a lot of energy. We're definitely doubling down on content pieces on YouTube and places again, where we can talk directly to the population. Email's still a really big thing in customizing that consumer journey on how we reach them on that. So when they reach our website, where are they seeing? Where are they looking? Where are we sending them? Those are big. Then I'm obviously looking at Reddit. Reddit has had a pretty big limelight over the last few months, just with the game stuff. But otherwise I'm open to suggestions. So send them my way.Stephanie:I mean, I haven't heard too many people talk about Reddit. Are you just thinking about going after Reddit influencers in a way who are talking about what kind of bags to use, or how are you thinking about that?Elish:Yeah, I think we're going to look at it from the social media manager perspective. Someone who's going to go in there and just start conversing. We do have... especially with the gear focused product line, people are like, "Oh, what do you use for your Canon camera? What do you use for your Nikon camera?" Then just inserting ourselves on an organic level there. I don't know about Reddit influencers yet, but certainly something to consider. But I want to keep that as organic as possible to start out withStephanie:Yeah. It always seems hard to scale those efforts when you want to go about it in an organic way, but then thinking, "Okay, one person can only comment and keep up with so many threads and then if they also have to do Facebook and Instagram and everywhere else, it seems hard unless you continually to hire more people."Elish:Yeah. The scaling part is hard. I'll be interested to see if there's ever a good agency that can figure out how to represent your brand Well.Stephanie:Let me know, because we have not found it and we've tried many. I keep trying and trying, I'm like, "One day we're going to find something perfect."Elish:Same.Stephanie:I also think there's something to the frictionless way of shopping on a lot of these platforms. I even think about TikTok. I'm the quiet consumer who's looking through all the stuff, enjoying it, but then I will go and open up a Chrome browser to find that product. I'm the worst kind of consumer. You have no attribution on me. You don't even know where I came from. But I think there's something there where because that platform still feels like there's a little bit of friction from that video. Sometimes it flips so quickly, you don't have time to click. Is there even something to click? It seems like there's a lot of room for growth around making it easy for the customer to buy.Elish:There's been a movement to do the specific app to app based experience. Allbirds did a really good job of it. I just downloaded the Nike app, just being like, "Oh, I need a new pair of shoes," and I saw on their website. I was on my phone and then they were like, "Get the Nike app." I downloaded it and I was... this at the airport, and I bought a pair of sneakers right there because I was like, "Those are cool because they..." I mean, this definitely works with someone with a much larger skew count, but they served me a product that they thought I would like. I don't know how they figured that out. But they figured it out somehow. Maybe they just have really good products. I was like, "That's cool." They had everything built in Apple Pay, all that stuff, made it super easy. It was kind of scary, it was one of those situations where I hit buy, and before I knew it, it was paid for and was shipping to... I was like, "Wait, did I mean to do that?" And I-Stephanie:"My finger just went there and it just happened, and now I have shoes coming."Elish:Exactly. I thought that was a really cool and something... We've done a lot of work on our mobile experience, but we have a lot of work to do. I think people have... most websites they go to have a big thing to figure out for the mobile experience.Stephanie:That's something I've thought about for a while now, because previously at SaaS I worked before, many people talked about going to an app free world, and apps were a thing of the past. I even noticed that in my own history, it's like, you get a phone early on, you get a billion apps, you run out of storage, you chill out a bit and you're like, "I don't need all these apps anymore. I don't want to try everything." Then storage gets easier. So then you're like, "Well, maybe I'll try a few more." But now I'm back in the stage where I'm like, "I'm good with just a couple of things. I don't want everything there." How do you see it? I mean, I think you mentioned Allbirds did this too. What do you see that future looking like and how should brands maybe try it out there?Elish:I think, to your point, we're trying to figure it out again. I liked that app experience for a couple of reasons, which was, when you become a fanatic or just really into a brand, you're okay having that because what Nike and Allbirds are also doing well is serving up really good content on those apps. I'm inclined to go into the Nike app because they've got something cool to send me, put me in, even if I'm not buying something, I'll go look and read about it. That's a big play. Earlier as the experiences on the other platforms. Shopping in feed on Instagram and stuff, which is becoming a much better utilized thing. I think we probably need to utilize a bit better as well.Elish:There's features in there, especially in influencer campaigns when you're able to link your account to other people's Instagram accounts so that they can tag your product feed. That's interesting to me and disseminating it in that way.Stephanie:Yeah, that's definitely an interesting world to think about. I also think if you bring in your tribe and a community and create an experience that you can't get elsewhere, then maybe I would open up the app. If it wasn't just product focused, like you said, if there's content there, if there's something that's going to draw me in and keep me engaged. But it does feel hard sometimes to keep me engaged on an app, unless I get that dopamine hit, open it up and get something new. That's a high bar to have, having something new every time.Elish:Definitely a high bar to have. Then I think Casper, I don't think they have an app, but I've been in the market for a mattress. Man, I sound like a real materialistic consumer these days, but-Stephanie:Probably get so many ads coming your way. They're going to hear you. They got the voice recognition and they're going to be [inaudible] you.Elish:I'm in the middle of trying to buy a mattress and they executed on the text game really well. We do text marketing and it works really well in getting people past the last decision point. They're like, "I don't know if I want this size or that size." I don't know if you've talked to a lot of people, but text is great. People are like, "I don't think people want to receive text messages." Surprise, surprise. They actually do. They don't care.Stephanie:If [inaudible] something they want. That's what I've heard, is texts can be great if you're not just pushing products all day. If it turns into a conversation and maybe giving them some kind of value, instead of just like, "10% off, 10% off, it's a sale happening." It needs to feel personal and give value.Elish:It does. But it's a balance. If you give them enough value and then when you need it, you can send that 10% off text. It still works and that's worked really swimmingly for us. But I think the stakes are the same, if not lower, maybe they're about the same of sending an email. Just like with anything, don't overdo any piece of marketing, you annoy people. But I don't think it's any less or more annoying than any other piece of marketing I get from people as long as it's not overdone. In Casper, if you go to their website, they just really did the text acquisition, the opt-in process really well. The 10% off if you sign up for the email and they figured out a good way to do it for text as well, "Oh, you want to get this coupon straight away?" Let us text you." I thought that was cool, a way of just activating someone very quickly.Stephanie:Yeah. Are there any other brands that you watch where you pulled some tricks from, and you're like, "I love watching Nike. I love watching Casper, and then actually trying that out within our own company?"Elish:Good question. I think I've listed the ones that I've noticed recently, and definitely Allbirds did a good job. I had a good post-purchase experience recently. I'll just give you the outline of what that was, where I needed to return something. Well, first of all, obviously, there's the way of tracking and making sure that you get in contact with what you bought and where it's coming and when it's coming. There's lots of good apps for that. We use one called Shipup. And then I needed to return something and, I'm forgetting the name of the service, but now they've set up places, you can just return something. Instead of shipping it back, you just drop off at the local location. It's usually a business. It's a win-win. You bring someone into your business, you can return it there. It was seamless. I remember in the store, the person... I think I was just in some random boutique dress store and I was returning a blender for Amazon.Stephanie:Oh, that's cool.Elish:I'm making those things up, but it was that sort of distinct, that sort of contrast of what I was doing. I remember then scanning the product and then I got a notification of my refund directly on my phone in that second. I was like, "That's awesome. Now I know when I buy from this person and I need to return, it's going to be seamless. I'm not going to worry about where my money is, where the product's going." It made me want to buy from them again. It was great.Stephanie:That's a good experience. I think that's such an important reminder too, about lifetime value of a customer. It's not always about those quick hits. Like you said, if I were to have an experience like that, I would buy many more things much more quickly, if I'm like, "Oh yeah, I can just go right next door and this boutique will take any of my returns for all my blenders that I buy."Elish:Yeah, exactly.Stephanie:That's awesome. What experimental things do you plan on doing over this next year or two that you're most excited about, but you don't know if it's going to work, or maybe that your team's even telling you like, "No, Elish, this is a bad idea."Elish:Really good question. I'd have to go into my notes. I ideate on this stuff for a while. But we tried some podcast stuff last year when money was a little bit more free flowing for us. We are a travel bag brand, so that's definitely taken a hit for us. And that was exciting at the time. We had a piece on Conan O'Brien show and I was like, "Oh, Brian said Peak Design. That was pretty cool." As far as I can tell, CPMs for podcasts are still relatively low compared to other things. I think that's great. I think there are some expansion in still are our email practices on how we're collecting emails and moving outside of that. What you mentioned just now, what we talked about, the being able to shop our product in social posts that aren't even our own, there are some technologies, video technologies out there where you're shopping in video when it's placed on someone else's website. I think that's really cool.Elish:Then partnering with our distributors more on how they're representing our brand and getting that more up-to-date message out quicker with them. Reddit, we mentioned. Forums.Stephanie:Well, I think it'll be interesting with all the pent up demand of people wanting to travel and get there.Elish:I hope so.Stephanie:It'll be fun to probably see a very different peak than maybe what you've seen over the past year or so, and you all just have to be ready for it, I guess.Elish:Yeah, exactly.Stephanie:Cool. All right. Well, let's jump over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I ask a question and you have a minute or less to answer.Elish:Okay.Stephanie:Are you read?Elish:I'm ready.Stephanie:You're adjusting your seat like, "Ooh, I got to get ready for this."Elish:Yeah. Ready.Stephanie:All right. First up, a few people know that I like to...Elish:Few people know that I like to play poker.Stephanie:Are you good at it?Elish:I was a professional for a year. Right after grad school, I was looking for a job and I played live poker for a year.Stephanie:Awesome. What one thing do you not understand that you wish you did?Elish:Oh, man. So many things. Probably... sorry, I have a minute or less. Is that right?Stephanie:Yeah.Elish:Give me a bell if I... Just topic of the times right now is definitely the Bitcoin market and different types and where, give me a glass ball of where that's going because I want in. Every time I think I've figured it out, I learn something new and I don't. Yeah, I'd love to understand the future of the economics of how that's going to work.Stephanie:If you were in the Austin area, I would tell you to come to our little crypto dinner that we do, where we go deep into futures and investing in that. It's a very interesting space. It's around here.Elish:Okay. I'll come visit it sometime, for sure.Stephanie:Yeah, that sounds good. A time when I made a powerful choice was when what?Elish:Oh man. I've quit a lot of jobs and taking that chance on myself. I did that when my last corporate job, if you will, I worked for American Express and I said, "I'm just going to go figure it out," and I've never looked back. I know that's a common story, especially in our worlds, but that was the most freeing choice I've ever made, is just I will never work for a large corporation where I can't be in control of my destiny.Stephanie:I love that and I agree. I think it's still always a good reminder though, because it's easy to get pulled in. A good reminder to be able to have that freedom to do what you want. If you were to have a podcast, what would it be about and who would your first guest be?Elish:I think it would be something about just the hilarity of the world, how it intersects... just how we all take ourselves so seriously, but then trying to basically pull back the layers of the onion on that, and then looking at how it's affected us as people when it comes to our depression, our nutrition, and how we live our lives. It's basically all of the loose things that you could think about for the millennial generation and make fun of it, but in a serious enough way to be like, "It's going to be okay, man." I think we all get so caught up in like, "How am I changing the world? What are we doing?" I think the message I'd like to tell most people is like, "This is..." the message of the movie Soul. Did you see Soul?Stephanie:Yeah. So good.Elish:It's like, "Oh man, I'm trying to do something big." "Actually you're doing the big thing. This is it."Stephanie:I like that. Who would your guests be then?Elish:I would get a combination of some... I think, going back to Conan O'Brien, I love Conan. He is one of the funniest people out there. I think he went through this crazy arc where he was supposed to take Jay Leno's spot and then they took it away from him. He got pretty angry about it and now he's still doing his own thing, and I'd love to talk to him about... people have talked to him about that, but where he thought he saw yourself going and now where he is now and if he's okay with it, and just what perspective that it gives him.Stephanie:Yeah. Well, I love that. That's a good one. All right. And the last one, what one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?Elish:The climate and how we think about people and consumption. Fast fashion is going out of fashion. Absolutely. I hope anyway. But I actually don't know that because I don't know if I'm just in a bubble or I'm just in a bubble of people that care.Stephanie:No, I think I agree with that. There's such a big shift now to sustainability and how companies are creating things and paying their employees and all that. Yeah, I agree. That was a good forcing function this past year, too, to think differently about all that. Elish, it's been such a fun interview. Thanks for coming on the show. Where can people find out more about you and Peak I just had a contact button up, but you can go to and email me if you have any questions.Stephanie:Amazing. Well, thanks so much for joining us. It's been a blast.Elish:Thank you.

Listen to Knocking Out Knock-Offs: A Look at Crowdfunding and Copycats now.

Listen to Knocking Out Knock-Offs: A Look at Crowdfunding and Copycats in full in the Spotify app