#SocialCommerce: Jonty Kelt Interview Transcript

Business Insider hosted the Social Commerce Summit on Feb 7th, 2012 at Chelse Pier, during that event I had a chance to sit with Jonty Kelt, the CEO for Group Commerce. Here is a transcript from that interview with a general article to follow on Feb 19th at 5pm, right here on dbmei.com.

About the event:

Since the immersion of social media into digital commerce, incredible opportunities and options have opened for business owners. Socially marketing your products and services can come with its own challenges though, so the Social Commerce Summit, or SCS, has a focus on presenting some incredible tips and tricks along with the best practices common to businesses successful in this form of marketing.

The SCS will provide the platform for experts in their industries to share their own best practices and ideas that have been built upon cutting edge trends and technologies and are the products of incredibly successful Fortune 500 campaigns and strategies.

The Interview: (Recorded by Basil C. Puglisi, Transcription done by Joy Lynskey)

JK: Started the company 2 years ago with a vision for media companies that are publishers, that they should engage in ecommerce.  They have great brands, reach, authority over some topics with certain groups, engaged audiences. Those things we believed could be translated into an ecommerce business, alongside the traditional types of advertising businesses. We created group commerce with a mission to enable audience owners, to succeed in ecommerce. Being as broad as possible. This is anyone with an audience, website owners, newsletter businesses, TV, radio, print. The premises of what we are saying here is that the brands have to engage with intelligence and integrity, so that they add value to their relationship with their audience. This gives ad based or ad revenue fueled businesses, the opportunity to have an ecommerce business alongside of it. This can give traditional or ad based media companies more revenue stream, more engagement with their audience, attracts new audience members and for some solid media based businesses, it can give them more relevance   in a digital world.

We have only been live for about 15 months and currently have about 15 live  , all of them traditional media companies. [name companies] A lot of the brands mentioned began with one or two people managing which has now, a year later, turned into teams of 20 or more employees managing their ecommerce. Now that they have seen it can work, many are now aiming for 9 figure revenue businesses.

BP: So what group commerce is offering is the opportunity for them to survive in the digital era with obvious subscription services failing, people are less willing to pay for subscriptions but instead prefer to get content for free. So this is a way to kind of fill the gap ?

JK: In some cases that is true. Some of our customers were already digital, such as Daily Candy, and this is just tacked on. Other services do not have much of a digital business presence and this can be a way to augment their traditional business and help them to survive in a digital world.

BP: So what are some of the verticals that you guys are seeing, in ecommerce that’s targeting general vs specific.

JK: So very simplistically we have two target segments, vertical such as; thrillist.com for young men, dailycandy.com for young women,  active.com for endurance athletes, and then local media, which tends to be more horizontal,   the new york times for new york, boston.com for the boston area. The vertical ones are leveraging vertical authority, such as dailycandy is an expert on what young women want, that brings to bring great content and comments. Different than boston.com doesn’t have a specific audience. They have everyone, young and old, uptown and downtown. so they have to use their local authority to find the best merchandise and present it to the best audience.

BP: Do we see a higher conversion rate with vertical specific content versus the general content. We talked a bit about how Boston was able to generate something relevant to Boston being Boston based locations. I imagine some of the verticals when they’re talking about how to sell products outside of geographical limitations

JK: So local is normally services, nationally is normally product.  A local can offer local services, and even local product. National, we see more products since national cannot usually offer local service.

BP: Mike Wallace was a big speaker over at Boston.com, you guys had him join you, what does it mean to bring this type of person into your fold?

JK: Our company is about 100 people right now. In order to pull off what we are focused on we have to have really high-quality people with different disciplines, technology, merchandising strategy, sales, finance, hr, account management, and Mike Wallace was actually a customer of ours at Boston.com.  Mike is a born leader, he has executed on the vision extremely well at Boston.com, and we got on extremely well. He loved the vision we had. After about a year and a half of working with Mike, we had conversations with him on having him help us with our business. We wanted him to use his knowledge on how to actually build a program for boston.com in a group commerce setting.

BP: So his official title is..?

JK: Vice President of Publisher Sales which means finding new publishers who would like to participate in this. Finding new publisher partners is his main focus right now.

BP: So one of the things we are talking about when looking at ecommerce is that we have a lot of conversation about daily deals, selling locally, lot of conversation of the push vs pull. Push being here is an opportunity or offer, I may take advantage of it later. Vs the I am standing in the middle of boston right now. Push vs pull mentality, selling in advance, vs I’m standing here I am looking for something to do, where is the best deal or value for me? So have you guys seen the platform showing that push vs pull.

JK: We have been very focused on push. Our customers, Boston.com, New York times, they have very powerful media, they have a voice in many touch points, social media, email list, web page, printed editions, so they are leveraging that and the fact that they have ecommerce now and are offering great stuff. With respect to the on demand, I am in the middle of boston and looking for a great deal right now, that type of pull is not the type of commerce we are currently offering, because we have been more focused on the push.

Groupon and LivingSocial are two of the things that you are referring to with respect to standing in the middle of Boston and having thirty things available around you, is just not reality yet. That is something that we have not been focused on, specifically because we have been more focused on the push. I like to consider the word pull being that when the customer is aware that dailycandy now has stuff on their website to buy, they go there of their own volition, it’s pulling them there. Rather than them having to be interrupted with an email. And that is the holy grail really, for what we are trying to do. We are using a public outlet to push awareness of what are the deals in front of them, which creates buying behavior.

It takes time for our customers to educate their audiences, some of them have only been going now for a little over a year.

BP: There is this huge market now for content relating to the practice of marketing, social media, etc, how do you see you guys fitting in for the smaller publishers? How do you start to monetize platforms such as multi-blogger sites like this?

JK: We have an initiative in our engineering efforts to build a ladder of service solutions, which will enable smaller publishers, bloggers, small websites, etc to turn ecommerce on.

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