From Search to Retention, How 3M Optimizes the Buyer Experience– | EP. #83
On this 83rd episode of The E-Comm Show, our host, and BlueTuskr CEO Andrew Maff is with Ryan Satre of 3M a Fortune 500, global powerhouse that has leveraged science, innovation, and technology to produce dependable products for houses, businesses, schools, hospitals, and more. Ryan Satre, the Senior Manager of E-Commerce and Digital Business at 3M, shares his experience on how to optimize the buyer experience by leveraging purchase pathways, deep market understanding, and identifying and activating useful integrations.
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From Search to Retention, How 3M Optimizes the Buyer Experience
Andrew Maff and Ryan Satre
CONNECT WITH OUR HOST: AndrewMaff.com | Twitter: @AndrewMaff | LinkedIn: @AndrewMaff
Business strategy and market development leader specializing in digital transformation. Driven by a passion for building world-class customer experiences that deepen lifetime customer value for market and revenue growth. "I don't make websites pretty; I make websites make money."
Our focus as marketers tends to be more of a kind of right to left, we pick a product, a new product, maybe a portfolio, something we've been assigned to grow, and we say I want to sell more of this product. And we generate our marketing activities and e-commerce activities and merchandising activities to draw attention to this product.
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Welcome to The E-Comm Show, presented by BlueTuskr, the number one place to hear the inside scoop from other e-commerce experts. They share their secrets on how they scaled their business and are now living the dream. Now, here's your host, Andrew Maff. Hello,
everyone, and welcome to another episode of The E-Comm. Show. I'm your host, Andrew Maff. And today I'm here with Ryan Satre who is the Senior Manager of E-commerce and digital business at one of the smallest companies in the world. 3M. Ryan, how are you doing buddy? Ready for a good show?
Absolutely. Andrew, excited to be here.
I'm super excited to have you on the show, I think I can always tell when we're going to have a good show when I basically like we get into, you know, this little podcast platform thing that we're using, and then we rant for, like 10 minutes before and we're like, oh, we got to do the show. Let's get into that. So, obviously, let's do that. So I'd like to do the usual I'll give you an opportunity here right at the beginning to tell us a little bit more about yourself your background, the role at three M and then I know we're gonna we're gonna hit the ground running from there.
Yeah. Well, thanks. Thanks again, Andrew. Thanks for having me on. So again, Brian Satre. I'm a senior manager of E-commerce strategy. I specialize really in the optimization of the buyer experience. So really a lot of aspects not just of E-commerce, but of the digital buyer journey, really from search to retention. I really help businesses really assess and understand their markets, and then help them to be able to identify not just critical purchasing channels, but purchase pathway channels and technologies to be integrated and activated. Certainly within three, unlike a lot of large companies, we have a core stack of technology products that we do utilize for our websites and management of our channel websites. But a lot of the work that we end up doing, as you know, for e-commerce is via our channel partners and marketplaces. And the platforms that do sell the products directly, are a pretty common pathway for manufacturers. And it does involve both what you would call b2b retail clients, and I'm sorry, being b2b industrial customers, and b2b retail clients. And of course, we're starting to see more and more a blend of that mix. So there is a fair amount of kind of external, if you will, component management that makes us pseudo-headless, if you will. It creates a lot of interesting opportunities to execute and learn and do some of those types of things. But, you know, it really gives us an opportunity and a perspective on a lot of different e-commerce needs and trends across those markets.
Beautiful. Appreciate that. Yeah. So let's get into
- No different every day. It's different for every business but it's fun. Yeah, always.
Nice. I am very excited to touch on everything that we were getting into right before we even started that so. So I know we were getting really deep in there into product catalog management, product content when to involve, you know, sales team, stuff like that like you got. That was fun. So now, unfortunately, I have to ask you to replicate that magic. So tell me I know you're super passionate about this. It's something you've been talking about a lot. Give me a little bit of insight into that whole process and what your current thoughts are on were obviously I know you mentioned three amaz looking into but also that other eCommerce sellers should be doing as well.
Yeah. And again, Andrew, obviously, really like talking about this. I feel pretty passionate about this. I love where I think he can take all of us as companies and e-commerce experts. Effectively kind of what happened last year was as we were looking at like all of us do So how do we continue to optimize and maintain our product content? Right, that that that that conversion point, one of the most important factors within e-commerce? Is that product content really being able to sell that product online? And when you
say that, are you referring to sorry to cut you off? I just wanna make sure so because content can be such broad, are you referring to like, all the imagery that's leveraged for the product? Or all the creativity, I should say? And then any is a copy, like, basically any aspect? But you know, kind of digital advertising for you? Yeah, yeah.
But what do we have to make sure that that customer understands, so that they can know that they're purchasing the right product with confidence, right, that's the conversion factor. So yes, certainly product content, images, copy, bullets, video, semantics, terminology, all of those types of things. You know, our generation, it starts from the inside. And because of that, I think, like a lot of companies, especially ones that make technical products, like click-through he do, you know, we have a tendency to start with lab speak, we have a portfolio manager who is, you know, implicitly familiar with the product. And an Application Engineer, which, you know, typically has a master's degree or a Ph.D., and is, you know, creating these highly functioning and highly valuable products, you know, because of what they can do. But we had this tendency, really to describe it in technical terms. And as we're releasing that content out into the wild, if you were it every once in a while, you know, we're seeing, hey, we're missing a little bit, something you're within conversion. And as we're going back and constantly optimizing, we're starting to see that and we realize that the, the, the fountain, if you will, for that type of information, was sales, there are right there in front of us the whole time. And what we started to do was revise our product content, upgrades, and now even generation to include our sales team. And it is so obvious, it makes it feel like magic. As we're having some of these discussions with the sales team, and then just doing an interview, they bring that knowledge of firsthand customer experience, right, firsthand customer touchpoints. And having those discussions with the customers, what we saw that they could do is not just describe the product that we were selling, but bring some additional value propositions once they could also say who they were selling it to, and who they were selling it against. And during the interview process, I mean, not only were we seeing opportunities to include and even revise our language, utilizing customer terminology, you know, some things that might be prevalent within competitors within our market space, or even just the way that our customers refer to something where, you know, that technical performance was written as technical. And, but in addition to that, there are times when we are seeing aspects of the value proposition, key aspects of the value proposition that convert customers, once they understand we're even at times missing from those products. And by utilizing those teams, and then also utilizing things like the questions and answers that we get from the websites of our distributor network, and also talking to our customer service teams, right? Who, soon as you have that conversation, you're like, what question do you get asked all the time, where if it was just written down, where somebody could see it when they were buying the product, it eliminates 50% of your calls, they can rattle those things off, you know, just like that. And that opportunity to add additional value proposition which, you know, I mean, it's not, it's not anything, where you have to revise content, sometimes you have to, you know, create new graphic images, specifically displaying that value, right? And then being able to convey that in simple terms. And always mobile first, always mobile first. It has led to increased conversions. And in some instances, we've even been able to reduce returns just because the customer knows what they're going to expect when they buy it. And you know, and just kind of have a better idea about what implementation will look like. It's really just been fantastic. And I really do believe that you know, it's not just a three-item opportunity, I think for all of us as e-commerce experts and people that build that content, any kind of content right to make sure that A product gets sold. Why not use the best resource? For who knows how to do that your sales team?
Exactly. I mean, if you think about it, it's, I'm really glad you brought this up. Because it really is one of those things that just seems to be overlooked all the time. Like, sometimes you have, you know, e-commerce sellers that have sales reps, and they're out there peddling the stuff, and it's b2b or anything, but even from a direct b2c side DDC side, you need to be listening to your customer to hear what they say, and we find this problem all the time, right? Like, let's say, if I go through our typical process, someone comes to us, you know, they need to create content for a new product, we'll go through do all the keyword research, customer research, etc. Okay, we like it, we launch it, but then the inventor or the owner really wants to make it like super technical and oh, and use all these massive words, where if my copy team was on here, they would slap me because they'd be like, no, no, you have to write for an eighth grader. I don't care who you're selling to dumb it down. And then after that, you've got to give it time and understand like, okay, what are the customers asking? So to hear that you're interviewing your customer success team and stuff like that makes so much sense. Because even if you look at a much, much smaller scale, let's say you're selling on Amazon, they've got all of those different questions and answers and stuff on there. And way too many times sellers just ignore that. And they'll answer their question there. But take that content, put it in your imagery, put it in your bullet point somewhere, answer their question, and you won't have those questions anymore, you're actually being not only are you probably converting better, but you're being more efficient and saving time from your customer service team have an answer the same questions over and over and over again. So it does make a lot of sense, you're going back and re-looking at these things.
I think the other thing that we probably don't know. But we definitely can estimate what I'm just we're talking about that. That's the service team, right? And one of my divisions, in particular, we're having that conversation. And that it, it really comes down to how many people actually take the time to pick up the phone and call, right and say, Hey, I have this question. I'm thinking about buying this, I'm looking at it on the website, I took the time when I couldn't figure it out, I took the time to call and find out pre-purchase, versus the write the ratio to people that they don't call you, they just go back and start looking for a product that has the information that they're looking for. That detail is in there. So it's not just conversion and optimization of, you know, our business process like we were discussing, you know, I think the impact that can come in there. You know, it does it really refocuses on us on the customer experience. And you know, what is happening out in the market?
Now, at 3 am, specifically, your product line is not very small. So how do you go about doing this at scale? Are you? Is it just a matter of like, Alright, start chipping away at one and two at a time? Or are you starting like, Hey, these are our top sellers, and start here? Like, how are you tackling this for the massive product line that you have?
Yeah, um, that's a great question. And I think it is fair to say right now, we're maybe just kind of coming out of the discovery phase. You know, a lot, obviously, like a lot of smiles. And also, a lot of why did we not think of that before. But I do think that so much of it really is right now as just sort of understanding. Okay, what is that? So we're concentrating a lot of those types of revisions. Starting at a portfolio level, we are, again, figuring out the right way to identify the right sales team, right, because you're asking them to spend time not out in the field, we definitely have to validate that this work is valuable, right, and has an appropriate level of ROI, because it is an investment. The other piece of its kind of to that learning is as we look at kind of rebuilding that process. Of course, one of the things we have to do is how does that work fit into our workflow? And then how do we get that all the way out to be able to make some of the technical distinctions within our pen, right? Is this local, right? How does this apply to the product? And I think that right now, kind of where we're at probably living in the blurry lines right now of what do we do with this? I think it really comes down to continuing to see instances where we'll find something about our product. And a lot of what we're doing right now is saying that same thing applies then here, here, here, here in here, maybe not even in the portfolio, even other products, but then of course, sometimes to other markets. When we look at things like semantics, and You know, sometimes when we get value propositions that come out of kind of competitive positioning, right now, kind of what we're doing is trying to figure out, okay, like, if you have an item, right, that's a value. How do we downstream it? I think that that's good. And I'm encouraging us to, you know, really kind of continue to work in those blurry lines, because it kind of gets us to that end state in mind. And I think your question is fantastic. Andrew, the short answer is, you know, we are trying to figure that out. From the systematized process, if we look at a global portfolio of 69,000 products, you know, obviously figuring out how we systematize that into not just into the systems, but quite frankly, into our culture. I think it's a culture shift. And I think that we never want to say it's marketing versus sales. But I want to circle all the way back to one of the first points that you made, is, I think that I know for myself, probably for you, right, we came out of marketing. And we built marketing organizations. And I think as we look at what are some of the opportunities that we can gain, you know, diversity and inclusion, I think it really is almost sort of shifting that culture. And that's where I really want to, you know, continue to evangelize and promote, is making ourselves into more of that combined culture up at the front end, and let let let the process, you know, help to develop itself, I work for an engineering company. So, figuring out the process isn't usually something I have to spend a lot of time, you know, staying away, it doesn't necessarily keep me up at night, but that culture changes the aspect of it. You know, it really does. And if I can expand just a little further on that, I think, you know, we all we're probably seeing now, but you know, cyclical it seems like about every seven years, we see a continued reduction, and, you know, in market coverage in, in salespeople. And I think that you know, once we have that opportunity to shift and bring that talent and say, Hey, if you can identify signals, right, understand how to respond to customers, do those things that salespeople aren't gifted with? And we, I mean, we're three out and we have the best salespeople in the world again, I kicked myself for being like, why didn't we think of this before? But what do we do? I think that we have that opportunity really to change our view on not just what our website does, I think we want it to do the same things. But you know, utilizing and harnessing different skills, and perspectives. It's, for me, it's, it's one of the reasons why I'm so excited is I think it really is an opportunity for us to be able to match our culture to that future, which is here now. Right?
Seeing it now. Exactly. Well, speaking of the future and where we are, I'm going to ask you this question, feel free to tell me like, I don't want to talk about it. Because at this point, I've asked this stuff so many times, and I'm even tired of talking about it. But once you gather that information, especially, especially for a company of your size, is there any aspect of leveraging any of these new AI tools to help you write some of these adjustments for any of these product descriptions? or bullet points, etc? Or even from an imagery side? Is that something that you or three of Amador are interested in playing with? Or is that one of those things where like, We're not touching that, which I probably wouldn't blame you
know, it is something we're interested in, and we are doing it? Yeah. So one of the things that we saw as always happy, obviously, was to talk about the utilization of the sales team within the development of the product content. But again, as I sort of introduce my job, really is to build out the buyer pathway. One of the things that we're seeing is that those sales conversations, right, are not just dialect driven. They're conversations, right? And again, our focus as marketers tends to be more of a and I'll use a Western focus technology here. But it's what I really like to call kind of right to left, right? We pick a product, a new product, maybe a portfolio, something we've been assigned to grow and we say I want to sell more of this product. And we generate our marketing activities E-commerce activities and merchandising activities to draw attention to this product. But as we look at cost Someone's trying to solve a little bit more complex problems, and then get to outcomes for which they are not technically trained, right in order to execute, that, that sales conversation is more left to right, start with the customer, help them to be able to get the information that they need to choose the right product might not be that one that you sell. But if that customer says, you know, let's let's utilize the case of, our 3 am separation and purification, where we have Filtrete in Aqua Pierre, write a lot of products for residential water filtration. Well, very much if we look at our personal persona, right, they have a problem that they would describe as stinky ice cubes, right? water tastes funny, or I just want to make sure that my water is healthy, the idea that they would know, okay, well, then you're looking for a point two-micron filter, in order to make sure that you can, you know, reduce lead, and pre assorted pre historic protozoan cysts that can cause giardia, and you know, the different VOCs and some of those types of things, the idea that somebody could put in that search term, and then you pop them with that one in a million product at that when they go into it, even if you brought sales in, it just doesn't meet their problem, they can't understand yet if it's meeting their specifications. And what we have been able to do is figure out ways to be able to utilize AI tools to be able to facilitate those types of conversations, where we start with the simple conversation and guess who I worked with, when I came up with these questions and streams. Sales, right, shocker, not a marketing lead, I should have known. So as we started to see that, we have been utilizing AI tools to start to be able to facilitate some of those conversations, which are pre-cataloged. And of course, the most critical, I saw a really interesting stat. And it's one that I bring up a lot. And it is now nine out of 10 customers say that a website or platform's ability for them to be able to simply sort select and purchase is their number one choice driver for both platform and the brand that they choose. So obviously, you know, it wasn't just me going, Hey, like, what about sales? Like looking at that and seeing? All right, how is that something that we go after we, for a company like Serena, it is critical, especially as we're trying to, you know, identify and help our channel partners to build, you know, more demand for our products, we need platform management and digital capabilities to be able to implement in selection guidance, you know, a better catalog organization and support, right, you can't throw 69,000 products at a person or within a portfolio, you know, again, if we looked at in water filtration, and in residential, it's about 220 220 products. And still, I think a lot of us from an E-commerce perspective, focus so much on products, but their experience on an on-site search result, right? It's just going to be right, here's here's just about the whole catalog. Let's click through each one. And see if the content is good enough for you to match it to your needs. See, test yourself, right? And see if you can take the little bit that you know, and match it to these technical terms. So, you know, that is absolutely something that we're doing. And I think it is really a big piece of the next part of the evolution of not just ecommerce that you know, kind of what we do as professionals. But I think the simplicity that AI tools are likely to be able to bring to those frustrations that we all have, right when we're not just when we're trying to set up the products, you know that we want to get sold. But in our own experiences, you know, when we're trying to go through Amazon, Walmart, jinqiao Tmall, and any marketplace, but then we're also starting to see this, you know, at traditional industrial distributors, traditional retail distributors, their catalog listings are not shrinking right as they open up more and more and more, and, you know, we're already seeing, you know, general customer sentiment, say, there, unless I'm fluent in the product. I just I have a really hard time. And but I think that what happens when we are able to utilize AI tools to augment things like semantics. It's a, I think, in my experience so far has been, but could be even more an opportunity really to sort of centralize semantics sentiment, gaps across manufacturer websites, channel websites, marketplaces, social YouTube is a social platform. Right. But, you know, obviously, you know, input on different media types and those types of things, I think, AI has some capabilities to be able to very rapidly consolidate some of that data and pull it in. I was chatting with PT every day.
Me too. Yeah, I think that there, it's big, it's, what's the best way to put this, it's such a the, the market of AI tools has just exploded to the point where there's an AI for everything at this point. And I have a feeling that, you know, that's natural for any new industry, eventually, it's going to consolidate into like three or four big behemoths that do everything. And then that'll be pretty much it. But to your point of leveraging it to improve the customer experience, especially from like an on-site, like search opportunity, when stuff is complicated to find, and the AI can actually teach itself and adjust instead of you having to go in and put in all the different semantics and stuff. I mean, I can absolutely see how this can definitely be a very beneficial way to be able to improve the content on the site over time.
Yeah, if I was going to make a controversial statement, do it, you know, it might be that one of the things that could be very hard is to ensure that there is adoption, and the ability to be able to build that AI as middleware, or accessible APIs on some of these platforms. Because they're very, very much focused on ad revenue. And, you know, without naming any names, we can see, there is a significant increase in ad revenue. And it was very much the focus of a lot of platforms. And I'm really, I would be able to, you know, make a list from a range of channel types, right, some of the marketplaces are somewhat obvious, but sometimes some of our, you know, channel platforms are doing the same thing. They're going, they're seeing those platforms, their websites as an opportunity to monetize. And I don't hold that against them. But I do think sometimes improvements in customer experience would effectively reduce ad revenue, there has been some dependency on your way to being able to cut through that mess, right, is to bid on your own product and IDs, right? bid on your own brand, do some of those types of things, and there has been a significant flex in revenue, and ad revenue from those things. And if AI provided a way to be able to cut through that mess, faster. We may see some reactions, you know, and, and, you know, and some responses from those platforms. I, I kind of agree with what you said about you know,, the adoption, and that a few platforms or providers might kind of monopolize it. One of the things that I do wonder, and again, just sort of always future looking, if you apply that type of AI capability, as a packet, deliver, retrieve, and, and withdraw in a web three type of environment. I wonder if as we continue to see these types of monopolies and some of that frustration though, could that be one of the drivers that usher in that this is mine, right? You can, you can read and use this right while I'm on your site. But when I leave, I'm you know, I'm taking it back again, which is my attempt at simply describing web three functionality. But I think if you started to expand that from a person to say, a buying group, in a b2b environment, right, then that ability to really sort of maintain purchasing contracts and some of those types of things would shift that advance switch back over to the customer. But we'll see. We'll see. But for right now, yeah, AI, and its capability to facilitate really highly, highly effective sales conversations on platforms. It doesn't replace sales. Right. I hope I've made my case. Everybody should know, I'm not saying you can eliminate sales. They're the most valuable people in E-commerce starting today. But I do think the ability to be able to extend that, and in particular, offer it to customers where that's their preference. Again, maybe one out of 100 That's probably a low-end, very conservative, right, are willing to pick up the phone. Right? Yeah. And it's still always funny when you do that. And you know, that recording that you get before the phone tree, and it says, Did you know you can check our website? And you're
I could find it, I figure it out on your website. I wouldn't be calling would
have done that. Yeah, yeah, it's gonna be, it's definitely gonna be an interesting year too with to see what AI does and what happens with it. But anyway, Brian, thank you so much for being on the show. I don't want to take up too much of your time. I can tell we're gonna have to have you on the show again soon. Because we, we could do this for a while. But really appreciate you having me on the show. I'd love to give you an opportunity here. Let everyone know where they can find out more about yourself.
Yeah. Well, thanks so much for having me on Andrew, and for the audience. Call that salesperson that you know, who always calls you and says hey, I can't find this on the website. They want to help you try it out, test it out. Just do that interview and have them look at a product or a product group and they will tell you what's missing. Make sure that you have I don't know some roses or maybe a nice bottle of scotch or something to deliver as a thank you because you will want to do it. Have a great day.
Exactly. All right, Ryan, thank you so much for being on the show everyone else who tuned in of course thank you as well. Please make sure you do the usual rate review and subscribe to all that fun stuff on whichever platform you want or however, theecommshow.com Check out all of our past episodes. But as I always say thank you all for joining us and we will see you all next time.
Thank you for tuning in to The E-Comm Show head over to ecommshow.com to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or on the BlueTuskr YouTube channel. The E-Comm show is brought to you by BlueTuskr, a full-service digital marketing company specifically for E-commerce sellers looking to accelerate their growth. Go to bluetuskr.com Now for more information. Make sure to tune in next week for another amazing episode of The E-Comm Show.
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