From Underwear Models To Impersonators, How One Company is Using Creativity To Gain Market Share
What do underwear models, Frank Sinatra impersonators, and a partnership with Anheuser-Busch have to do with selling alcohol? For Saucey, it was about changing consumer behavior in an industry that hasn’t truly been disrupted since the 1930s. Chris Vaughn is the founder and CEO of Saucey, an alcohol delivery service. Since launching in LA in 2014, Saucey has broken into 20 metro areas and has continued to grow. Getting off the ground wasn’t easy, though, and on this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Chris takes us through the trials and tribulations of bringing Saucey into the market — from regulatory issues to investor and customer skepticism. Plus he explains how they pushed through the hardships and used edgy creativity to break into a market that was set on shutting them out. Key Takeaways: Bring On The Crazy Ideas: When working with smaller budgets, it’s critical to think outside the box with your marketing efforts. The money might not be there to do customer acquisition in traditional ways, so shifting to a scrappy mindset may be key. What partnerships can you form? What unique campaign can you launch that is outside of the traditional ones in your industry? Tune in to hear how Saucey generates new and noteworthy campaign and partnership ideas that generate results. Disrupting An Undisrupted Industry: The alcohol industry has remained relatively the same since prohibition ended in 1933, mostly because of harsh regulatory guidelines and big brands owning most of the market. But, as buying behavior has moved online, enterprising companies like Saucey have capitalized on new opportunities. Why your first customer matters: Landing your first “name brand” client can make every future sale that much easier. Many companies got their start by being able to point to a well known first client, and seeming larger than they actually were. 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 salesforce.com/commerce --- Transcript: Stephanie: Welcome to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles. And today on the show we have Chris Vaughn, the CEO and Founder at Saucey. Chris, welcome. Chris: Thank you for having me. Stephanie: Yeah, I'm excited to have you. It might be 9:00 AM here, but I'm trying to get into the beverage mindset right now. Thinking about my 5:00 PM drink. Chris: Yeah. Nice, good. I like that. Stephanie: Yeah, I know. So Saucey, tell me a little bit about what it is and how you started it, the whole backstory. I want to know it all. Chris: Sure. So we started Saucey in late 2013. We really had this hypothesis that... I guess even before it was a hypothesis, we have this idea that you could have basically anything you wanted delivered, but for some reason you couldn't have alcohol delivered. In some major cities like New York, The Bodegas would run it over to you and whatnot, but for the most part in a city like LA, where we're based, that really wasn't an option. Found that to be really interesting, particularly given that the buying behavior around alcohol seems to be such an impulse driven buy. I know I'm going to have dinner tonight. I know I'm going to buy groceries at some point this week or next week, and delivery for those categories, mirror that behavior. Chris: Grocery delivery is more about saving me the time of shopping the whole store. Food delivery is this convenience driven thing. I know I'm going to have dinner, but it's kind of, "What do I feel like having?" And alcohol is this heavily impulse driven by where maybe I have dinner and it gets to be eight, nine o'clock at night, I'm watching a show or Netflix or whatever it may be. And I feel like having, some wine or I feel like having a cocktail, or beer, or whatever it is, or some friends are going to come over and they text me, "Hey, you want to get together?" And then and then you need to buy something. And so given that the buying behavior was so again, I think a non-planned purchase occasion we found that delivery would be the perfect fit for that type of purchase. Chris: So we started to look into the industry a little bit, and I think that the things that really opened my eyes was there clearly have been very, very little innovation in the alcohol industry really since [prohibition 00:02:32]. Most of the innovation had taken place on the brand side, creating new brands, new brand categories, but very little to do with how alcohol gets distributed or purchased. It was also fascinating to see that the brick and mortar landscape had effectively been built out to mirror that type of impulse driven buying. There's more liquor stores in the United States than grocery stores or gas stations. And that mirrors this behavior of, "Oh, I feel like having something." Run out to the corner and go get it. Chris: Then lastly, I think we clearly identified that there was a huge brand loyalty when it came to the products. I'm a Bulleit Bourbon drinker, I'm a Tito's vodka drinker. I'm a Coors Light drinker, whatever it may be, but almost no loyalty when it came to retail. Yeah, I'm on my way home. We'll stop here. I'm on my way to my friend's house I'll stop there. With the exception of some major holidays. Major holidays, go to Costco, stock-up or some of that type of buying. We found that delivery would be the ideal use case where we could not only capture more of a customer's purchases than any of the traditional brick and mortar players, but obviously service and provide a solution to this need of this impulse driven buying, or this last minute buying. Chris: We actually came up with the idea where... or how we came up about Saucey was I had floated it by a very close friend of mine at the time we were working at another company, and my girlfriend at the time, now wife with three kids we were camping up in Yosemite and we went up on this big hike, and I just couldn't get it out of my head. And I was talking through it with her and she was like, "I think you should do this." I came back and shared it with my close friend, and another close friend of this company called Text Plus where we were all working. Daniel Leeb, and Andrew Zeck. Andrew Zeck was one of their head mobile engineers, and ran their whole iOS team. Daniel Leeb was effectively leading their product of those teams. Chris: I said, "Listen, I think there's a big opportunity in alcohol delivery. And I think that the margins are there to support the business. It's a little brutal in food and some of these other categories, I think we can do it and alcohol, and here's what I think it could look like." Immediately we started working together. Nights and weekends spending a lot of time on the weekends and late into the night, trying to put this thing together. Dan did all these initial mocks of what it would look like. We didn't have the name Saucey at the time. We were trying to think of different names. Andrew was starting to program what the prototype would be, and we were working on doing all the specs. Chris: And then I was out trying to find who our first liquor store partner was going to be working with legal counsel and then subsequently talking to the ABC and some of the regulatory committees, or the regulatory bodies on, "We would like to do this. How do we do it, not only in compliance, but what are some of the issues you guys have in this industry, and how, as we're thinking about it, how can we maybe solve some of that stuff?" Like underage drinking, and be more proactive about ID verification, or there's cash under the table transactions, have everything go through credit cards. It was a fascinating time, we started working on that, I want to say October, November 2013, we really got our heads down and we launched in May 2014. Chris: Our first ever delivery. So remember Andrew dispatched it, Dan and I drove it. Was a bottle of Johnny Walker black label, to a guy named Vincent Rella who we actually ended up hiring, not that long after. Stephanie: Oh, that's great. Go Vincent. Chris: Yeah, it was interesting times. Stephanie: How did Vincent find you? First customer, did he actually find your app, or how did he even stumble upon you guys? Chris: I think Vinnie had loosely known Andrew. We all posted on Facebook, and we did all these things, and he saw the post and just said, "Oh, I'll try that." And then we ran the order to him and he goes, "Yeah, I know that guy." And then it was exciting. And of course those early days, we got one order, two orders in a day. And we did all the deliveries ourselves, taking turns on a schedule throughout the week, having to rotate who is going to be dispatching, who was going to be out delivering. An internal irony to the story was we wanted the service. We wanted to be able to order a bottle of wine, or a case of beer or something to your house, and so we built it. But what we actually ended up doing is just all of our time, seven days a week was out delivering to everybody else, and then we could never use it ourselves. So it was interesting. Stephanie: How it works. When you guys were doing that, any funny stories that you remember from when you were personally delivering, or doing the pickups and drop offs? Chris: Yeah, I mean, there was a lot of interesting stuff. I think- Stephanie: Here we go. Chris: ... we did probably a thousand orders between us before we started really hiring any outside couriers. At the time alcohol delivery was also very new, which I think is interesting. When you think about delivery as a category, food delivery has been around for decades, grocery delivery has been around for decades in one form or another, used to be able to call it the corner grocery store or place a fax order, and have things brought to you from your local market. Alcohol delivery in most major metros started six or seven years ago with us and a few others. And so it was a very new behavior. I think all the customers in the early days, the first additional hurdle, everyone was just asking, "Is this legal?" Everybody. Investors, customers, et cetera. Chris: We had to do a lot of work, both in our email content, as well as in our investor materials to walk through conversations we had had with the regulatory bodies, what the law says, how we think about these different things. So those early were just like, "Is this legal? I don't know, I'll try it sounds cool." Stephanie: Like sneaking out behind their bush, like, "Okay, drop off the goods." Chris: Exactly. And we'd show up in 25, 30 minutes and they were blown away, but we definitely had a couple of customers open their door, just totally nude, and totally unfazed. And you had to do a double take, and then, "Can I see your ID?" They'd walk back, come back, still totally naked, hand you their ID, you'd scan it and then turn over their order. That definitely happened more than once. Stephanie: Odd. Chris: People with unusual animals or pets. There was one customer that had like a snake wrapped around her arm. I remember one of those delivered, and was trying to hand it to her, and the snake's on her arm. And we were like, "Wow, this is some interesting stuff." But also lots of just, fairly standard and normal deliveries for the most part, people just super excited to use the service, and check out what it was all about. Stephanie: Yeah. That's really fun. So what kind of challenges did you run into when you were starting this, and working with these agencies and whatnot? Chris: Yeah. Licensing and working with licensed retailers is a challenge. The regulatory environment of alcohol being different on the state by state basis. So you're effectively dealing with 50 countries in the US, as opposed to having the rules all be the same. You can't ship alcohol across state lines, spirits and other things. So there's just a lot of barriers and a lot of reasons as to why Ecommerce has not taken place historically in alcohol, while fashion, and consumer electronics, and even cars and all these other things have picked up. Big followings in the Ecommerce world, set up at East Coast warehouse, a West Coast distribution center, take online orders, ship them out to everybody, and then optimize more distribution centers, see a faster delivery times. Chris: In alcohol, there is a whole series of barriers. One, that you mentioned is regulatory. You have to work with a licensed retailer, or get a license yourself. You're going to get a license yourself, and you don't previously have one that can be a very long and arduous process as to proving you are who you say you are, there's something in alcohol called the three tier system, which means you can only effectively be a manufacturer, a brand like Anheuser-Busch, a distributor like Southern & Wine Spirits, or Southern Glazer's, or a retailer. And if you're one, you can't be the other. So alcohol flows through about three to your system. There's some exceptions in wine, obviously, but it divides up the industry in many ways. Chris: There's many reasons why, I think even in like the private equity world there's been roll-ups of laundromats, there's been roll-ups of car washes. There's been roll-ups of grocery chains. There's been roll-ups basically any category you can think of. When it comes to alcohol, it can get pretty difficult because when you're trying to roll-up a bunch of liquor stores or roll-up a bunch of these licensed entities, these different regulatory bodies want to know every single person that has even a fractional amount of ownership. So you could have a PE firm, or a venture firm, all of a sudden being in a situation where they're having to go back to their LPs to get identification cards for people to list them on licenses. And so it's just a very challenging environment as to how people have been able to operate in this space. Chris: I think also because of the shipping regulations you had a lot of categories that were it's not as simple as setting it up and shipping. And then take that a step further when you think about fundraising, or capital, a lot of endowment funds, pension funds have carve-outs for things, like don't touch anything to do with alcohol, tobacco, firearms, pornography. So there's entire institutions, or very large venture funds, or funds of funds that have invested in all these different VCs that in those early days just wouldn't touch alcohol as a category. So when you think about building a service in an Ecommerce space where you can't ship all over the place, that's a challenge. Everywhere you go you have to deal with licenses and/or different regulatory guidelines on a state by state basis. That's a challenge. Chris: When you're looking to raise capital, large sums of capital to go and attack this big problem. And there's a whole swarms of buckets of capital that literally can't touch the category. That's an uphill battle. And so most, I think the capital injections into the industry have usually been families that have come in, or you've seen someone's creating a brand. They usually do these friends and family rounds. But again, very little going into like a big marketplace, or very little venture or private equity money pouring into the space over the years. Some of the big challenges that we had was in all of those buckets. We launched in LA, but then dealing with even expanding into other cities, looking at the regulatory environment as you go into other markets, thinking about licenses and protecting our partners' licenses, and ensuring ID verification, the way that payments worked, worked properly. Chris: You just have to be very careful on the regulatory side and on the capital raising side, you have to be very resourceful in thinking about who your partners are going to be, and who you'd be able to raise capital from. I think some of that's changed now, particularly during COVID and the acceleration of a lot of things online, you're seeing all sorts of barriers, and regulatory guidelines be changed or altered in some ways to adapt to this new normal, and that includes capital as well. But back then, it was very much a little bit of a taboo service, and taboo marketplace that we had to raise money for. Stephanie: Yeah. I was just going to say, with all of those things you have to think about, and then you also have to think about building local marketplaces to find the drivers, and find the retailers, and the customers, how did you figure out which steps needed to come first without getting overwhelmed? Because that whole list that you just gave me, I'm like, "Oh, I would have given up, that's like very intense and I don't even know where to start." So how did you unravel that, and figure out, "Here's things that we want to focus on first?" Like, did you focus on the product, or the regulatory aspect, or did you like divide and conquer? Chris: We divided and conquered I think the way as founders, we've been extremely fortunate that we just work really well together. We still hang out together. We're still very close friends today. That's not always the case with people who have been working together for over six years this closely. But we couldn't find a better group of people to work with and just have inherent trust in each other as we're building this thing. A lot of my role in those early days was the regulatory, and compliance and working with the different regulatory bodies, legal councils and whatnot, and that really was gating factor one. You don't do that correctly, as we saw with other services, you could be shut down tomorrow, or your ops could be turned off, and then you could also have that stigma against your business. So you got turned off, you were a little blahzay about how you were thinking about the rules in a regulated environment. We had to be just above reproach when it came to that. Chris: Two, Dan, and Andrew were really focused on the product and engineering. And then when we put those things together, it was a definitely collective effort, but that also fell heavily on my plate as it related to capital raising. So Dan and Andrew in many ways we're running and setting up a lot of the operations and business product, the design, the roadmap, and I was out there bringing in the dollars, and making sure that we don't all get arrested. It was very good in the early days to be able to work that closely together. And obviously that's permeated throughout our, our journey over the years. I think yeah, we knew early on that it's a big opportunity in the space and that you'd have to be willing to take on a certain amount of brain damage if you were going to build something great here, and that's a bit of a moat. Chris: We've seen a lot of people dip their toe in alcohol, realize there's all these compliance things or whatnot, and just give up. We've I think over the years have developed a little bit of a specialty or become known as entrepreneurs as the guys that are willing to go through just crazy amounts of complexities and brain damage when other entrepreneurs maybe wouldn't take on those challenges, and love it or hate it, that's become our specialty to some degree. Stephanie: That's great. Tell me a little bit about some of your early marketing efforts. They looked pretty unique, and I was hoping you could touch on that and talk about how you acquired some of your early customers? Chris: Sure. The early days you had very small budgets. When we first launched, we were effectively bootstrapped and very shortly after launching had raised a small amount of money from an angel who was a terrific early believer in the company and maintained support throughout the years. But I mean, how do you make as much noise as possible with very small budgets? And we just had this approach of we're in the alcohol space. I think, our first thing we looked at was retail alcohol does marketing very poorly, or in a very boring way. If you look at how customers are adopting any type of brand or brand category or marketplace, usually there's a little bit of brand identity, or something you're trying to communicate to them. Chris: Retail alcohol's literally just, "Hey, we have Smirnoff, it's on sale. Come to me. Hey, I have SKYY vodka, it's on sale. Come to me." There's almost nothing... even if you look at the brand names and logos of most of the major alcohol retailers throughout the country, they're just like gimmicky whatever. We knew that we wanted to take more of the marketing style that takes place in the on-premise world — bars, restaurants, hospitality, leisure, et cetera — that I think translate some of these alcohol brands' vision to the customer very well, which is not, "Hey, come to our bar restaurant, hotel, whatever, because we have alcohol here." It's come here because it's a good time. And you'll be here with friends, and all these things that alcohol subtly sits in the background. Chris: We wanted to mere that type of approach over to the off premise world where it wasn't, "Hey, come here cause we have alcohol." Or, "Hey, we're alcohol delivery." Or, "Hey, get beer delivered." Or whatever maybe. It was trying to communicate fun and interesting messages, plans for people, different things they could do in their city. Wild and crazy activations that just got them excited, and just falling in love with the brand. And then subtly, by the way we deliver beer, wine, spirits, mixers, snacks, ice cream, all this type of stuff. So our activations really mirrored that philosophy of saying, "How are we going to deliver plans to people, or excitement to people?" Chris: One of our first big stunty activations, we partnered with a terrific company, LA company called MeUndies, which is the world's most comfortable underwear, and we just said, how do get a bunch of attention together, and do something that customers would love? And we came up with MeUndies underwear models, delivering sleepover packs that were pajamas and underwear, and a bottle of tequila, a bottle of wine or whatever it may be. It was male and female underwear pairs. Underwear models going out, and delivering. So anybody who ordered- Stephanie: Were they just in their underwear? Chris: They were just in their underwear, so you have anybody who ordered to have this female and male underwear model would come and show up at their house and deliver their sleepover pack. And we structured a great partnership together, rolled it out and we got just shy of a hundred million press impressions inside of a week, basically for free. Chris: We also did on Frank Sinatra's birthday in December, we partnered with the Sinatra family, Jack Daniels, and I believe it was Universal Music and anybody who ordered Jack Daniels, it would be delivered by a Sinatra impersonator. And they'd give you an LP and sing songs to you and do all this type of stuff. We did a handful of other really stunty activations. We took a page out of Uber's book. We delivered cuddly puppies, and donated proceeds to different animal charities and all sorts of stuff like that. Then we backed those types of campaigns with other things that we could afford at the time, which was we did a lot of door hanger campaigns. We did a lot of early stage for direct mail to 21 plus mailing lists. Chris: We did a lot of Facebook ads, Facebook native ads at the time. In the early days of any marketplace, you can acquire tons of customers on Facebook, relatively cheaply, and then your CAC start going up. So it's always a challenge to figure out as you saturate a channel, or saturate a market, how to change either how you're running the ads, or new ways to acquire customers or not be so dependent on one channel. But in the early days it was bracketed as deliver wild and crazy activations that get people talking about us. And then let's backfill that with a little bit more direct response media that maybe they heard about us from a friend because we did this crazy thing, and then they saw some Facebook, and then they saw us on their door. The combination of those things hitting people multiple times really drove a lot of that early adoption. Stephanie: Yeah. That's really, really fun. I love that story, is such a good idea and a good reminder to be creative in the early days and get the most bang for your buck. So what does your customer acquisition look like today, and how are you measuring that? Chris: It's a little different today running across a lot more channels, but I would say that a core tenent of our marketing has always been our referral program. We think that that's the best way that anybody's going to adopt a new service or product is hearing about it from a friend. And so we always push our referral program. It's always been our highest performing and fastest conversion customer acquisition channel that we do run ads across tons of different paid media channels. Obviously, the social, podcasts, radio, out-of-home, less so out of home right now for obvious reasons, and then we do a lot of partnerships with the big alcohol brands to drive awareness through some of their channels. We work with different influencers and then have started exploring some things like streaming, and whatnot. Chris: I think the most fascinating things that have happened on all these channels during COVID is obviously about 50% of somebody's alcohol purchases. It's usually fairly split between on premise and off premise. Bars, restaurants, stadiums, hotels, et cetera, over here. Grocery stores, alcohol delivery services, Ecommerce whatever over there, and half of those purchased venues effectively got turned off. So you had this influx of 50% of somebody's buying jump over to the other side, the off-premise buying behavior. And then you had people not wanting to go wait in lines and all this type of stuff. And so the search traffic went through the roof, time to first conversion shortened at rates that we had never seen before. We had higher intent, customers coming in, and just looking for alcohol delivery, "Is this even possible? Is it possible in my city?" Chris: We've been fortunate enough to have a great ops team that we've expanded dramatically, our footprint. We've launched dozens and dozens of new markets and cities over the past few months, been acquiring customers in all those new markets and cities. Partnering with terrific brands to help drive awareness and let people know that they can use the service. Then acquiring people at very different numbers than we've seen historically, an example would be when COVID really started to kick off, our Facebook customer acquisition costs dropped to about a 10th of what it's been for roughly six years. Time to first conversion, which share is usually around 14 days, someone downloads the app and they're waiting for that first use case. Chris: "Oh I feel like having that bottle of wine. Oh, I'm watching a show, I'll try ordering six pack of beer." Or whatever it is, dropped down to effectively a day. People were just searching for the service, found it, used it. And then second purchase happened before that 14 day mark as well. So you went from having time to first conversion be 14 to 20 days, and then it's all about getting to that second and third purchase. You had purchase one, purchase two, basically happening inside of that first purchase period of time. The customer acquisition costs on a lot of major channels dropped to a 10th of what they normally have been. Then we saw other people willing to spend a lot more media dollars. And then obviously when you think about marketing as well, so much of it is just how you cut through the noise. Chris: If you go back there's a lot of terrific documentaries on Netflix about history ad agencies and all this stuff, but there wasn't tons of marketing being thrown at people the way it is today, back in the fifties and sixties. And so a creative ad, like the Volkswagen think small, or something like that could just cut through everything and take over a nation. Today, it's very difficult. How do you come up with campaigns that cut through the noise that feel genuine that people respond well to? But when you had entire industries been negatively impacted by this pandemic and pull back, a lot of their marketing spend, a lot of that "marketing noise" had died down. And so if you were a service that was still operating the ability to just make sure the customers knew about you was in a heightened state than it had been in. Chris: So there's been a lot of changes over the past couple of months, both in terms of how we do marketing operations, and work with our customers. But yeah, we've obviously been very blessed by sheer dumb luck in this sense on being in a category that has been positively impacted as opposed to negatively impacted. Stephanie: Yeah. That's amazing. Very cool to hear about the time to first conversion and all that. How would you guide someone to create a marketing campaign that does stand out among the noise? Like even outside of a pandemic, and how to make sure it's authentic, but also unique. How do you guys even think about that when building your campaigns? Chris: Yeah, I mean, it sounds cliche. It's just put yourself in the customer's shoes. Be a customer for a day, go on to social media, take a drive around, look at the billboards, look at the signs. Look at the ads that are being served up to you. What's attractive? What do you like? What stands out? What feels cool? Having a barometer for just what I think really impacts somebody is important. And then translating that into your own campaigns is key. We've done most all of our stuff over the years in house. In terms of ad copy, and ad creative, and CRM, creative and copy, and all that type of stuff. But it's just putting yourself in the customer's shoes, what feels genuine, find brands that you really like what they're doing, and they feel honest and interesting and original, and they create interesting templates and guidelines. Chris: There is a creative agency called Gin Lane, which has since pivoted into creating their own products that built these templates for a whole bunch of companies, one being Hims & Hers, and a handful of other very well known brands today. But yeah, I mean, it's just what feels honest, what stands out, and do things that get people talking. It's fairly simple, but I think our barometer's just always been if you do what gets people talking, and is cool and genuine, then people will talk about it, and they will share with their friends. If you do something boring, or off-putting, who cares? Stephanie: Yeah. You'll be like everyone else. I love that. So with all the changes that have been happening, what updates did you have to make to your website, if any? Is there anything that you completely changed to try and... website or app either one, or like, this is a new user that's coming in, or now we have this new group that we need to focus on retaining who has never been here before. Any strategic updates or changes that you've made to your mobile or desktop presence that have really positively impacted like conversions and revenue and whatnot? Chris: Yeah. I mean, some of the initial stuff was very simple. It was just categories. So obviously coming into the app in those early days, people were looking for anything from wine, but also PPE equipment, and masks, and gloves, and hand sanitizer, and things like that. A lot of our stores and markets carried those things, toilet paper, paper towels, et cetera. Canned soup, frozen pizzas. So we've had that stuff for years, though a lot of people don't necessarily know it, but it was just making sure that that was very prominent in both our content marketing, as well as in the app and the website. So when people showed up they knew that that was available and they could use it. Then operationally, it was obviously it was getting out in front of a lot more people, so rapid expansion of our delivery footprint and neighborhood coverage throughout the country, so that more and more people could use us. Chris: Then obviously all the communication and work that went into little things operationally, like in certain States that require signature capture at the time of delivery, not just ID capture, but signature capture as well. Working with different people to get those signature capture requires lifted. So you could have more of a contactless delivery, it's not the same as delivering a sandwich where it can just be left at your door. You do have to see the person. You do have to visually identify them and scan their ID. But that can still happen in a contactless manner, where they just hold out their ID, you scan with the phone, and nobody's swapping goods or anything like that. So yeah, there's little things around COVID protection, primarily around contactless delivery, and ensuring a signature capture was waived in certain States. Chris: Showing more prominently categories of products that people were looking for, but particularly around stocking up or staying safe at home, or staying safe with PPE gear, putting up protocols to all of our retail partners on how they need to be picking and packing products and operating at retail. In some cases helping them source their own protective gear. Then yeah, on the site and in the communication email... I was recently speaking to somebody else about this, but we just had to basically torch all of our content marketing that was planned, where March was all March madness. We had tons of ad campaigns and things lined up for that going into different sports seasons, sports openers. All of that media and content pretty much could be very tone deaf if you just went as is. Chris: So all of our planned content marketing and even some of our campaigns and video shoots or photography, all those things, were basically just nixed it all and had to start from scratch on the marketing side. But the team there did a fantastic job. Stephanie: Yeah. It seems like there's so many things that were changing and you guys were able to act really quickly to pivot, and showcase the products that were already there and personalize it in a different way. Yeah, that's really awesome. What metrics are you looking at to measure success for your business? Chris: For us, alcohol's a little bit different than food. Food you eat every day, or dog walking was a big category. People that I remember early days, some of these venture guys, I don't think quite understood the category, not speaking about our investors, speaking about other people that we would pitch, and they ask things like, "Well, we saw this dog walking app and the retention is... they get used like nine times a month." Are people going to use your service nine times a month?" And it was like, well, I'd say, "Well, that dog is alive every day of the week, no? So if the dog is alive, it needs to be walked every day. Right? And if people are working then yeah, they need a service to walk the talk every day of the week that they're at work." Stephanie: Why are you comparing us? Chris: Yeah. Or even food you need to have food, and am I going to cook? Am I going to buy something at the store? Am I going to have it delivered? But when it came to alcohol, it's a little bit, I'd say roughly 15 to 20% of your customer base and in alcohol is really the people that drink a little bit more frequently, or several times a month. It's not as exaggerated as like sports betting or gambling where some instances we've seen platforms where 0.3% of the customer base is driving 70% of the revenue. And it's all about maintaining that 0.3%. In alcohol it's finding the people that enjoy the category, maybe have a wine in the evenings, or a couple of times a month or whatever it may be, and nailing that customer use case. Chris: Then we have other customer use cases where people just use for gifting, or people use us as their office for gifting all their employees, or having office happy hours, or having business orders. So it's really segmenting and cohorting all the different types of use cases, and customers that relate to this product. It's obviously a big space over a hundred... these are pre COVID numbers, but alcohol is roughly a little over $200 billion a year in sales, in the US. Roughly 55% off premise, 45% on premise. It's a big space, and it's all about finding obviously the people that use your category. I think as we think about just our marketing may change, or customer acquisition may change, or who the customer is, it's always just identifying those use cases. And some of those use cases have obviously changed right now. Where we're supporting more of that on-premise behavior. Zoom happy hours, people socially drink it with their friends, but from home. It's been interesting. Stephanie: Yeah. I really liked the idea of putting the users into cohorts based on why they're using the product. That's a really good point. The other big topic I wanted to talk about that could be probably a whole entire episode is all around partnerships. I want to hear what it's like partnering with these companies, like the industry that maybe hasn't really been online, the alcohol industry previously, what does that look like behind the scenes? How are you going about partnering with these companies right now? Chris: Yeah. Partnerships is a huge part of our business, both on the marketing side, as well as just how we operate as a company. We're a marketplace for the most part. We partner with existing retail locations where we'll partner with a store in a geographic area and then funnel all the volume and requests effectually to that store or a handful of stores in that area. So partnering with liquor stores and retail stores all throughout the country. And then we partner obviously with the Diageos, and Bacardis, and AB InBevs, and those guys of the world. When we first got started, the first ever brand partnership that we did was with Anheuser-Busch, and they actually reached out to us. It was this is this $200 billion market cap company. And I think they had just started their first digital team, which was less than half a dozen people up in a garage in Palo Alto. They called the beer garage. Chris: A guy by the name of Mike Raspatello reached out to me on LinkedIn and said, "Hey, I'm from Anheuser-Busch. We saw..." I think probably because of the MeUndie's campaign, "We saw what you guys are doing, and we want to have a conversation about how do we work together? We're trying to take on digital for the first time, and we're part of this beer garage." It get morphed into what later became ZX Ventures, which became like a venture team of theirs. And then is this big team now of hundreds of people over at Anheuser-Busch, back then it was mostly, I think Mike and a handful of people up in Palo Alto. He reached out, and he's like, "Yeah, we're talking to Instacart, we're talking to you guys, talking to one or two others." And we did a campaign where we promoted certain products in the category. [inaudible 00:39:47], and Stella Artois, and a handful of their portfolio products, and saw could you increase by featuring different brands? Could you increase their share of category? Chris: For them it was, "Our historical share of beer category is X at retail, in this new online world, how do we make sure that it is more than X?" And every brand has approached it that way. We are X percent of our categories in retail, how do we make sure in online we are more than X? We ran the campaign and did extremely well. Mike was absolutely instrumental in that, and terrific at Anheuser-Busch. He'd probably hate me for saying that, he's a hilarious guy who's in Chicago now and catch up with him. He's one of my favorite people, but yeah, we ran this campaign and they came back to us afterwards and they were like, "Man, you guys just worked so seamlessly with us. It went so smoothly it didn't go as smoothly with some other people. How big is your company? You guys got like four or 500 people?" And I think it was just Dan, Andrew and I at the time. I was like, yeah, totally. Totally we have 500 people. Stephanie: Huge backend helping us here. Chris: Exactly. I was hesitant to let them know, but I was like, "No, it's three of us right now, and a handful of couriers." And they were like, "What?" It was interesting in those early days, it was a little bit of fake it till you make it, in making us feel much bigger than we were in year one. That helped us get some of those very early partnerships. And then obviously as we started doing more and more creative stuff a lot of brands came knocking at our door. In many ways, outside of just promoting people in categories, or integrating them into our content, we did some big activations and made a lot of noise with different people. Like you saw with the Jack Daniels, and Sinatra impersonators and stuff like that. Chris: In many ways I think people started to treat us a little bit like a creative agency, they'd come to us to say, of course, we're going to do paid placement, but what else do crazy people come up with? We'd come up with all sorts of cool stuff for these brands. And in many ways we became like an outsourced agency that would help them with that stuff, or even help them with some of their Facebook spending. "Hey, we're currently with agency X running Facebook ads, they're telling me a customer acquisition cost of 137 bucks is fantastic. Is it fantastic?" We don't know, it sounds great to me. They have all these slides and whatnot, and we're like, "No, that's atrocious. That was absolutely terrible." Stephanie: Yeah. Oh man. Chris: "Let us help you figure this stuff out." So in the early days it was again, just being extremely helpful, but then sometimes that's not always scalable being very handholding and helpful with each brand. You can't translate that at our team size to every brand. And so it was coming up with a lot of templates and guidelines. Finding out what's effective. How do we translate what's effective to each brand? Today, our team on that front does a terrific job of still being able to come up with really creative and interesting campaigns with companies and execute on them. I think the biggest change that I've seen is in those early days, a lot of these... they're like institutions. These brands, or portfolio holdings are just huge, had very rigid brand guidelines. Chris: I remember working with a big very famous champagne brand, and effectively the model was they have a brand authenticity team that is just protecting everything related to that brand. And they spend months specking out what a campaign looks like for billboards, TV, all this stuff. And we were effectively just another channel to put that campaign into. And that just didn't work. We speak to our customers in a very unique way, and you take this billboard and then just put it in Saucey, and it looked very foreign. People recognize it as a foreign object, and don't respond well. And so the brands that earlier were able to say, "You guys know your customers better than we do. So we're going to give you relatively all the creative freedom to speak to them, with some approvals." Those were the people that performed the best, and those are the people that have continued to perform the best. Chris: I think the biggest change that I've seen is you've had a lot of these huge alcohol companies go from having zero person digital teams to having fully built out futures in digital teams. Then the biggest next step was those teams doing a fantastic job of working with senior leadership at those organizations to get them out of the more rigid guidelines around brand identity and being much more flexible in how they both think about campaigns, creative talking to people, et cetera. And that's been a huge shift for them. Stephanie: Yeah. I love that story, especially about Anheuser-Busch. And it's just a good story that highlights the importance of finding that first partner and really giving them, like you said, like a frictionless experience where they walk away like, "Wow, that was easy. I didn't really have to do anything. And the team just took care of it for me." Even if it semi kills you to begin with, like that doesn't have to be a for everything, but maybe first big fish, [inaudible] like, "Here's our partner." Is what can bring all the other partnerships your way. So yeah, such a great reminder. All right. I want to move into a lightning round, I know we don't have that much time left. So lightning round brought to you by our friends at Salesforce Commerce Cloud is where I will ask a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Chris, are you ready? Chris: I'm ready. Stephanie: All right. What is your drink of choice? Chris: I like Michter's Rye neat. Stephanie: On the rocks, or how do you make it? Chris: Just neat, Michter's Rye neat, is my favorite. Second favorite probably be Tito's Martini. After that probably jumping into beer or wine. Stephanie: All right. What's up next on your Netflix queue? Chris: I'm big into murder mysteries and prison documentaries and things like that. So probably something about international drug trade, or world's toughest prisons in Russia or something along those lines. Drives my wife absolutely crazy. Stephanie: Oh, man, that sounds very interesting. Also, our producer, Hilary said, "Neat means no ice, Steph." Got it. Thank you, Hilary. I apparently do not know alcohol, so that's on me. If you were to have a podcast, what would it be about, and who would your first guests be? Chris: I've thought about this a little bit. I think that I personally, when I was first starting working on businesses or trying to build a career, you see the end result of all these people, and you miss a lot of the details that got them to where they're at, or got them to how they think about the world and where they're at. Guy Raz, obviously, with How I Built This does a fantastic job of telling the idea of a company from start to finish. I'd love to even know the backstory before that of a lot of entrepreneurs. How did you get to the place where you wanted to jump off a cliff and start the company? You can have a little bit on the company, but really how did you shape what ultimately became this person that's willing to take risks, and do all these different things? Chris: I think to be totally honest, my first interview would probably be my co-founder, Dan Leeb. He has an unbelievably interesting story. I've that all sorts of twists and turns in life. He's one of the smartest people I've ever met. I would start a hundred businesses with that guy, and it would be an interesting one to listen to. Stephanie: Cool. That sounds good. I would definitely listen. And I love the story or founders stay together and stay friends because you always hear that not always being the case. So it's really fun hearing that. Yeah, you guys continue to be good friends to this day. That's awesome. The last one, what is your favorite piece of tech, or an app that's making you the most efficient right now with work? Chris: Just my phone. My phone, and these ear buds it's 90% of what's happening. Stephanie: All right. Chris: But yeah, I'm on the phone, most of the day, working with teams, video conferencing so these AirPods, or AirPod Pros with the noise canceling, that's a game changer. I got three little kids running around working from home, so we got a noisy household. So you got to be mobile and be able to communicate with everybody. Stephanie: Yup. I can relate with you there. And I almost forgot the hardest question that I need to ask you. What one thing will have the biggest impact on Ecommerce in the next year. How could I forget that one? Chris: I mean, outside of what's already happening with COVID, I think the biggest changes will be regulatory. We'll see what happens, but things like telehealth, or telemedicine, or even grocery, or even alcohol where you're seeing a lot of the legislation and regulations that have been sitting on the books for decades or 70, 80 years in many ways are all being revisited right now to adjust to this new normal. People have been trying to push for those legislative changes for years and years and years. And it's just been under the stack of papers, because, "Why is this so important?" Sort of, "Who cares, we'll get to it eventually." But you're seeing a lot of that accelerate right now. And I think a few big changes depending on what industry you're in, could really unlock an entirely new world for certain Ecommerce categories. Chris: So I think legislation driven by change of life, change of pandemic, I think will be very interesting to watch. And I think you'll see not only new categories come online, but the dramatic acceleration of some of the existing categories. Stephanie: Well, I love that. That's a great answer. I'm glad I remembered to ask that question. Well, Chris, this has been such a fun interview. Where can people learn more about you, and Saucey? Chris: You learn anything you need about Saucey at saucey.com. If you want to learn about me, I guess you'd listened to this podcast, go from there. I don't have a huge online presence, stay relatively private. But I think that, you want to learn more about Saucey, go saucey.com. Stephanie: Cool. Well, I like being exclusive source, so for all things, Chris Vaughn, you're welcome everyone. All right. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. It's been great. Chris: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.