Leverage Customer Experience Tools to Convert and Retain Your Audience – Caribou Coffee | EP. #80
On this 80th episode of The E-Comm Show, our host, and BlueTuskr CEO Andrew Maff is with Eric Caron of Caribou Coffee, an internationally known and enjoyed coffee brand that has solidified itself not only in 500 locations nationwide and in retailers across all states but also online through their e-commerce channel. Eric is the Sr. Director of Digital Experience at Caribou Coffee and speaks on his knowledge of the customer experience and how to successfully speak to customers the way they want to be spoken to at the time the right time.
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Leverage Customer Experience Tools to Convert and Retain Your Audience – Caribou Coffee
Andrew Maff and Eric Caron
Eric Caron is the Sr. Director of Digital Experience at Caribou Coffee, and before that was at Best Buy & a couple of startups. He’s a Minnesota native and firmly believes that any concept (from EBITDA to quantum mechanics) can be explained in 30 seconds. When he isn’t talking about customer engagement, digital marketing, mobile apps, websites, or personas, you’ll find him attempting to teach his three boys the difference between a French press, Aeropress & ChemEx.
E-commerce is changing, right? Everything was always What page did they hit? What link did they click? How long did they send to stay there? And the burden that Google had in switching from GA three to GA four was it's not about the pages anymore.
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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, I'm your host, Andrew Maff. And today I'm joined by Eric Caron, who is the senior director of digital experience over at Caribou Coffee got to be a great one Eric, great for a good show. I am thanks for having me today. Awesome, super excited to have you here. It's been a very, very long time since we've had someone of your caliber on the show that has this much experience around like overall just user experience and the CRO, the site, and just all this fun stuff. So, before we get into that, I always do the stereotypical boring side of things. And I allow you to just kind of open it up. Tell us a little bit more about yourself, obviously, more about caribou and we'll take it from there. Sure.
Yeah, my name is Eric Karen Bennett, Caribou Coffee for about seven years did a couple of years at BestBuy before that a decade in startups before that. And I keep learning that no matter the size of the business, we're all you know, tackling the same problems. At Caribou, we've got this
a legacy brand that we've been around for 30 years, we've got over 500 locations across the United States and everything from the corner, typical coffee shops, to corporate-specific campuses, malls, and airports, and then we've got CPG. So we're in retail across all 50 states, and then an E-commerce. E-commerce experience at WW dots Caribou Coffee.
And where my team comes into play is to make sure that wherever people interact with the brand, the experience is what they're expecting. And that creates this really fun combination, because you know, people landing on the website, there are four different mentalities that they have. And each one doesn't want to, you know, play Oh, am I supposed to click this, that, or the other thing? So our job is to know what the customer is looking for before they look for it.
Beautiful. So how do you go about knowing what the customer is looking for? Before they look for it? We asked them, that's the best part.
And one of my startups, we're in the HR space, and
the layers between what you were doing and the job seeker on the website were incredibly complicated were a lot of coordination, Craigslist ads. And carefully, we can just drive to any store, sit down and ask people.
And that really is so incredibly fun recharging. Normally, we fall out of the habit of it over COVID We definitely lost that muscle a little bit. So the last year has been learning what it's like to sit down with somebody and say, hey if I buy your next drink, can I ask you some questions? But it's so incredibly addicting to say, Hey, I think I'm going to do this and watching a customer because you're expecting if I'm going to give somebody or get somebody's opinion, they're going to make me pay for it. Right? You're going to I'm used to the user studies where you're behind the mirror and you're paid money for an hour of your time. So going into it, you're thinking okay, well, if I'm going to get this opinion on, where should the trivia be in our app, that you're going to have to go in through a deeper conversation, no people just sitting down talking with them. They love to give their opinions. I guess that shouldn't surprise me, you know, just sitting down and talking to you today and giving my opinion. But that is absolutely the best way. And we all have to remind ourselves of caribou. And at any trade show you go to that just sit down, talk to your customers find a way to make it easier for everybody. Share the learnings when you do it. And the more that you remember to do that. And the more that you know, it's kind of like the Henry Ford and you'll ask somebody if they would have given what's the quote, If you'd ask the customer what they want, they would have said a faster horse. So you got to take it with a grain of salt. But there are so many like amazing
Using things that you wouldn't have expected to look for that you gotta keep going out there and asking the customers and that was really what keeps us going every day. Yeah, are you using anything to track it live like as they're on the site, anything around like, you know, scroll tracking or heat maps or any of that fun stuff?
On and off, we've tried the hot jar when we were, we tend to turn back on where we use Medallia for customer surveys, both when they want to leave us feedback and the intercepts when they're exiting the site. I'm now Google Analytics for certified
Warnings have been popping up for so long. I know it well, it's cuz it's the way e-commerce is changing, right? Everything was always What page did they hit? What link? Did they click? How long did they send, stay there? And the burden that Google had in switching from GA three to GA four was it's not about the pages anymore, everybody's gone to single-page web apps for one part of the system and mobile apps for another. So I don't envy the problem that they had to do. And they had to break that habit of people thinking, pay, the funnel is always which page they viewed and introducing the new mentality of thinking about what is an event. How do you track events? So I'm not going to force any my team to get that certification. But in thinking of how do you what real-time analytics are you tracking on the website in the mobile app? What can you get from third parties, and how you tie it together? It's, it can get really intimidating really quickly.
But when you're able to dial it back at a college professor, and he was teaching quantum physics, so keep that in mind. He said, If he can't explain anything in 30 seconds, odds are he doesn't understand it himself. So I tried to take that when thinking about how we're tracking what customers do on the website and measuring what our successes are. If if the way that I'm tracking, can't get boiled down in 30 seconds, odds are I don't actually understand what I'm tracking. Yeah. Are you getting frustrated with GA? Incredibly, I am still.
I don't know anyone who's like finally they did it. Right. Everyone's just like, Oh, they're making us change this? Yep. And it's collecting so much data. And you still keep reverting back to I've got another three months that Universal Analytics will still give me that data. I haven't mastered the reporting. And it's one of the pieces that I'm liking is it's forcing the decision on whether Should we keep using Google. There are so many great alternatives out there. Yes, you have to pay for it. But it's probably worth it.
Yeah, it's it's a tough decision. I don't have that answer today. But it's forcing that conversation. And if it wasn't for the forced migration to GA I don't think brands would be debating on it. Yeah, man. Do we what?
The conversation from here always goes into the cookie debate right? The cookies going away. So you have you know where I'm going with it, you could just take the
I like your expertise that you have on the episodes where you do the little 10-minute segment at the front.
I learned a lot about that, I think talking about it is a great way to make sure that the vendor is coming to us as brand leaders. And we know Oh, this isn't, this isn't actually a problem that's happening, or it's something to be a little bit aware of like CCPA is a great one, right?
Be aware of where your customer data is, and what are you doing with it when a customer says forget me have the tools to forget them. That's where those vendors coming to us have been incredibly beneficial to marketing teams to understand this is why it's important to be such good stewards of our data. But then another vendor coming to say, hey, cookies are dying, go have replaced this with the other thing, that the conversations that
you and I have been like yeah, we've said third-party cookies are going to go away since 2008. They're still here. There are some new security things that might come into place, but the death of the cookie is, is 30 years away from now. So don't panic Oh, shoot, we need a way that lives without cookies. Just be better with your data and understand where you're sharing it and why you're sharing up. Yeah, I think that like at the end of the day,
just like a lot of sellers. I think Amazon kind of sped this up but it was if you stop focusing so much on the little tiny, nitty-gritty things and you actually just take a step back and do everything you
Can provide the best experience possible for your customer, your customer, your business explodes every time. Do they want to be tracked? Great track them? Do they not want to be tracked? Don't track them? Do you want to run 500 ads to them after they visit your site? Go for it. If do they not want that then don't do it. All you have to do is listen to them and do that. And you'll be so successful. And yet everyone does this like, well, what if I put like this button here, and then I tweaked this and like, Oh, now I get like point oh 2% better conversion rate on like a site that isn't really going to make that big of a difference. But at the end of the day, like with the cookies, it's kind of like if they don't like being tracked, do not track them, because it's just hurting your brand you have so it makes sense how, even though it's security, you know, most people think like, oh, there's like some data warehouse. And there's some crazy like a hacker who works at Caribou Coffee, who's making sure that no one's getting, you know, looked at really it's you going I just want to make sure that they're happy outside of that. I'll get rid of it. It's fine. Yeah, it's, it's a fantastic and awful problem to have at the same time. Yeah, one of my favorite people to work with always says like, our job is to figure out what gets in the customers' way, and then figure out if that's there for a reason. And yeah, Cookie banners are a great example. Right? Yes, you've seen them all over. Why are they there? If there's legal reasons, apply them if they're not. And there are other customer reasons, like, yeah, if you're not needing to track the data, just don't track the data, then you don't even have to ask the customer.
The payment gateways are another great one. If you have a vendor that says, Oh, you can install this. And now you can accept the 17 different buttons on the website that people can pay however they want? Well, just because you can doesn't mean you should. So yeah, why did the exact cut for one get rid of the decisions that they're having to make? Like that's, that's really what our job is. Or even from like a checkout perspective, we'll talk to sellers all the time, who will be like, Oh, well, if they're putting their name, first name, their last name, their address, why don't we ask them 10 things about their family so that we can get more data around like no, the less you do, the better stop ruining the experience. Like when I'm shopping, I go, Okay, I want this, I immediately I want to be done. As soon as I can. Like, I don't want to sit there and fill out 500 things. Because you decided that you needed to know like, where I grew up and where I live now and why it's different. Like, you don't need to know that.
Though, do you have any tangible terms that you come across? And you're like, Okay, when I become the benevolent dictator of the world and get to rewrite the dictionary, here are the first words that I'm going to relabel like, I guess my list is probably in the 1000s. But one of the top 100 is progressive profiling.
It's a phrase that the marketer, it's, it's brilliant, it's what we should do, but the terminology itself, you say it, and it sounds like it's something that they'd say on the NCIS episode. So like, for anybody not familiar with the concept of progressive profiling, it's Yeah, Andrew came to the website that very first time, he told us his first name, last name, and email. Thank you, Andrew, that was very generous of him. Next time, he comes back to the website, you know what, I'm going to ask him if he prefers email newsletters, or if he prefers push notifications. And the more that he engages with the brand, you don't give him the like, 30 lists of here's different,
like, fill up this entire survey now, each time, one little bit more information, relevant both to what you've asked in the past, and what Andrews's profile is leading him to be. And like when you do that, that customer isn't annoyed because of those little extra bits of information, you're asking them for a reason to tailor to experience. And I think everybody would be doing this more intelligently if it didn't have such an awful phrase as progressive profiling.
I agree. That's interesting because it's funny because we actually just went through a study with that about doing
we were trying to get set up like automated birthday, you know, hate your birthday, here's a discount kind of thing. And we're going to end up same with anniversary and there was another something else we were doing and it was Oh was when they graduated because was someone who was doing like collegiate apparel stuff and so we're trying to get all this information so let's not ask them all in one shot. Let's ease into it. And so it became like this they wanted to ask him all in one shot. We were like, no, let's like schedule different pop-ups or maybe we'll like to incentivize them later on kind of thing. Like, don't hit him with 500 things. But yeah, I agree. That would be a good one for me. And I'll, I'll divert this a little bit because this has just turned into a ranting of Here's all the things I hate about marketing.
But to me, it's all the acronyms that drive me insane. Mainly because I come across people
They use acronyms and don't know what the acronym actually means. Then I come across people who just make up their own acronyms. That's my favorite, where I start Googling it. And then I sound like an idiot because I gotta be like, Hey, what is this? Real? You don't know what this means? Like, no, and neither does the entire Internet. Yep. But sign that you've got a culture at a company that needs a
a checkup is when you hire when you start. And you get the acronym cheat sheet. Like, yeah, the acronyms are no longer serving their purpose, if you have people have to give people cliff notes on what they mean.
But okay, I digress. One of the questions I know I wanted to ask you about was how you walk that fine line of taking people from the physical locations and getting them to visit the website, without it taking away from the physical, physical locations, and then potentially vice versa. Like how are you drawing that line besides physical and digital?
And if you're not, I could skip the question. Oh, it's, it's a fantastic question. And my response was going to be I'm not drawing the line. My
the Digital's responsibility isn't to get them on the website and keep them on the website or get them using the website and not going to the retailer down the street that has them on the shelf. That Digital's responsibility is wherever the heck they want to interact with caribou. We are happy to be there for them. The challenge is that I'm a coffee nerd, it's probably not much of a surprise given where I work. But there are times when you're okay, I got this new Ethiopia roast, what is the best way to enjoy it, there are some coffees that they're just absolutely at the genetic level meant to be cold brew, there's just not a better way to get the flavor profile out of them. While the bag that you get, you're not able to always like tell the whole story on it. We don't know the smart people that make the foil No, not to put a four pixel font on the back of it that gives the whole life story of the being and the best brew methods and the temperatures and the recommended grind type. So the website needs to say, okay, Eric, Bob, the new Ethiopia? How is he going to? You know, how should he brew it?
So the website has to be able to handle that kind of need the same, we've got a large number of customers that are snowbirds. If my camera was on a pivot, I'd show you all that snow that stall outside. But they are there in the summer, able to walk down the street to caribou in the winter, they want caribou to show up on their doorstep. So they just want to hit the website and buy it. Likewise, I had a let's say, I had a friend that Oh, I he did me a favor, I'm gonna have two pounds shipped to him as a thank you. So you've got all these different customers, both customer personas and customer journeys that you're trying to do. And the challenge is, how do you make sure that your SEO is designed so that when people are searching Caribou Coffee, gift delivery, they're getting the right site? Caribou Coffee, Ethiopia is that they're understanding? Like both? How do I buy it quickly? And how do I brew it? Right? So that's the constant challenge is we've got so many great stories that we want to tell, where do we say each story in the right place? And that's really what digital is, we're responsibility is the loyalty program is also a big part of our, experience with our customers, you go to a store, and they say, Hey, are you a member of Perks? And yeah, four to five people you listen to enroll, we're gonna say, yes. How do you pull that experience into the mobile app? How do you pull that experience into the website? Where when it's your first time interacting with the brand, like, whoa, whoa, we're not even dating yet? Yeah, like, I'm not gonna, I'm not ready to sign up for your loyalty program. But how do you bring that in at the right time so that the new people to the brand, know it exists? And then eventually learn why to do it? And then the people that have been with caribou longer than they've been with their spouse? Or like, of course, why haven't you asked me oil tea program yet? Like, we're besties. So that's, that's the UX challenge that we're always working through. And, you know, back to your question at the beginning.
I got so excited, I threw my mouse off the table.
Getting out and talking to the guest is the best way to learn if you're doing it right. Or if there are opportunities for improvement.
You know, I'm glad you brought up the loyalty program. So I was gonna ask you about that. And it was also going to kind of get into the subscription side of things because I know you have a subscription. That's a very similar issue, right? Where it's like, Hey, I don't know that. Excuse me. I don't know if I want to subscribe yet. I haven't even tried something yet. Or I've barely, you know, I've only given you my phone
The first name, I haven't gotten through all of your other survey questions, you're gonna have six weeks from that, like, I haven't gotten that far. So how are you? How are you pushing the subscription side? And what do you see the trends are there? Because I know had I asked you this question. I'm gonna say between three and five years ago, everyone and their mother had a subscription aspect, but it was really just, here's a product, please subscribe, I'll send it to you once a month, as opposed to the experience. So how are you kind of catering to that? Yeah, the intelligence of what a subscription program is, is definitely over the next three years going to set the companies apart where you drive down the street, you see six different packages on the front step, like to stand that front step, you have to walk that line between being the right product in the right place, and also the incredibly convenient way to get it so that when you're on vacation, you go for spring break, you don't come back and oh shoot, that package sat on the front step the entire week because I forgot that this was the week of the month of my subscription arrives.
the difference between I bought a dishwasher, please don't suggest that that should be a subscription service. I'm hoping it's lasting longer.
I bought detergent, that's the perfect thing for after that first purchase your systems waiting, the expected time that the average household will go through that product. And then just before I'm remembering I'm going to run out again, you say hey, I just remember you bought this, would you like to one-click add it and create a subscription out of it. So the best brands are post single purchases for the right products that make sense to subscription eyes. I guess I just don't think subscription is his word. But it is now but no, that's when we become dictators. As you said, that's the first word I'm putting out. We're using it everyone uses it subscription eyes.
When you subscribe as a product, though, that's the flexibility of it that it shouldn't always be the marketing team knows a, b, and c are the things that we're going to create subscriptions. You might have some that you're you're pushing forward. And they make the most sense for the brand or the easier, sticky point when you're looking for gifting ideas. It's all this might, my parents will absolutely like this product as a subscription. But your platform should be able to accommodate anything that makes sense to become a subscription. And then the martech communications that you have, should be putting the right message in the customer's hands to say, Do you want to convert this to a subscription? And where it gets really, really complicated? Is that line between saying, Hey, this is about to ship? Do you want to add an addition to it? Right, like the Dollar Shave Club was absolutely the best in the industry for giving that day and a half window to add some extra fun stuff to your shipment, but not give such a big padding between it that all of a sudden, I'm angry that that product should have been here on Monday. And now it's Friday because they were trying to upsell me and they delayed the product. So that's such an incredibly tight window between communicating it's about to arrive, do you need to pause it because you're on vacation? Do you want to add something else to it because it's at right time a year?
But there's so much opportunity still in the subscription product like we're currently doing it great. And if you're not using them, you're trying to find what else you could add to your portfolio that gives you that same level of functionality.
Eric, I have eaten up enough time of your day. But I greatly appreciate it. If you haven't been on the show. This is awesome. We're gonna do this one again because that was fun. Yeah, I had. And now I need a coffee. I know a company and I know someone to go to Yeah.
Eric, thank you so much for being on the show. I'd love to obviously give you an opportunity here to let everyone know where they can find out more about you and of course more about caribou. Sure.
I met Eric caron.com. I'm adding a section about the books that I'm reading the ones that I like
the ones waiting on whether or not the ones that don't like to go on the site to save people's time. But I've got enough now that here are the ones that I think people should read. Cariboucoffee.com is the best way to find a caribou near you. There's not one down the street to have it shipped to you. And I always say like if you're having a great time, tell your friends, and if you're not loving it tell me and we'll make it better.
Beautiful. Eric, thank you so much. Obviously, everyone who tuned in thanks you as well. Please make sure you do the whole usual thing rate review, subscribe, and all that fun stuff or head over to ecommshow.com and check out all our past episodes but per usual thank you all for joining us and we'll see you all next time.
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