For many B2B companies, the product journey and brand still feel separate. But in e-commerce, they’re inherently tied together.
For Angie Stocklin, co-founder of online eyeglass retailer One Click Ventures, this presents an assortment of opportunities and challenges. For example, when operating three different eyewear brands under the One Click umbrella, how do you create a unified, but distinct, customer experience for each brand? It all starts with implementing a strategy to understand your customers.
As Angie and her team began to implement new methods for learning customer behavior and developing a customer journey roadmap that aligned with each respective brand’s audience, things began to come into focus.
How did they do it? Listen in to hear the story of how an intrigue in e-commerce led to a successful new venture that put a different spin on product strategy.
Read the full transcript below.
Angie Stocklin: It is just, it's a different way to do business when you're leaning on the customer for feedback and you're making sure the customer is number one.
Anna Eaglin: Better Product, the only show that takes a behind the scenes look into how digital products are created.
Christian Beck: The businesses built around them and how you too can innovate better product. I'm Christian.
Anna Eaglin: I'm Anna.
Christian Beck: Welcome to today's show.
Anna Eaglin: Product comes in many forms. It can be tangible, it can be digital, it can be both. We typically work with digital products and the guests on our show are sharing their stories around how they have built, developed, improved and marketed these digital products. Today's guest offers a slightly different lens to the Better Product audience. Angie Stocklin is the co-founder of One Click Ventures, an online eyeglass retailer, in addition to sharing her founder and product knowledge as a mentor and investor for upcoming entrepreneurs. Before we get into the product, I want to go back to the beginning. How did she get started?
Angie Stocklin: My co-founder, Randy and I started out of our home in about 2005 and we were really just tinkering with ideas on businesses that we could build, so we started with a business that sold Santa letters. Essentially the parents would log onto the website, they would enter some information about their children, send in the information, and we would pass off the final part of the process. It was a perfect business to start with. The first season we made $2,000 and we thought we had really hit it big. It was amazing.
Christian Beck: This first taste of success inspired them to build an eCommerce business they could run year round.
Angie Stocklin: We started scouring the internet to see other businesses that we might be able to buy or start from scratch that could kind of fulfill that itch that we had created in ourselves. And we found a lot of businesses, but one that stuck out was a sunglasses business out of Canada and we thought, okay, sunglasses are small. They're pretty inexpensive, the margins are good. We could store these in our house, we could ship them pretty easily with the post office. I think this could be a really good business to start.
Anna Eaglin: Now, if you're an astute listener and I'll assume you are, since all of our listeners are very sophisticated, you may have picked up on the fact that eyeglasses are a tangible product.
Christian Beck: And yes, you'd be correct. But deciding on the specific product to sell was a big decision. After starting with nine accessory brands, Angie and Randy quickly realized the need to hone in on one specific type of product.
Angie Stocklin: Building nine separate brands with nine separate target markets seemed really overwhelming, so we had a big decision to make there. Should we become one accessories brand and just be really good at all accessories? And which are our competition then would change completely. Or should we pick a vertical and really dive in to that?
Anna Eaglin: Upon placing their focus on three eyewear brands instead of nine, the question became, is the customer journey different between each offering?
Angie Stocklin: We decided that our three customer facing brands do not have to have the same personality and the same characteristics as our One Click brand. That was one of the early decisions that we had to make. And then we had to sit down and think about, what are the personalities and characteristics of each of our different brands? And then diving into each of the brands separately to make sure, what's the purpose of the brand? How is it differentiated? Are we selling the right products?
Christian Beck: Okay, now that you have all that background, let's put it all back together. For a lot of the companies we talk to, the product journey and brand can feel separate. But in eCommerce, the brand and the product for the buyer are one and the same. And that's what I love about Angie's story. Instead of coating their product offering to life, they honed in on a tangible product and acquired brands to tie it all together.
Anna Eaglin: But what does that mean to tie brand and what you're referencing Christian, the customer journey together? Take a listen.
Anna Eaglin: I noticed too when you, the other aspect you've mentioned when you talked about solidifying these brands is the customer experience and you said early 2012 that's not something people were really talking about. Talk to me a little bit about how the customer experience became more important and how One Click addressed that.
Angie Stocklin: We knew, when we started to re-look at all of our brands and really focus on eyewear, that the customer was very important. We just, we weren't exactly sure how to tackle that. I think it was 2012 or 2013 we created a position that was focused just on the customer because we weren't really sure where that person, we didn't want that person to live in customer service because I think a lot of times in eCom, all of the customer information comes from customer service. But to be honest, they're really just focused on servicing the customer. And usually customers that have issues or need to place an order so they don't have their hands on every, every customer. They don't often get to talk to the happy ones, which is really important information to have.
Angie Stocklin: And so we created a position where customer surveys, MPS feedback, product reviews would all flow through this one person and this person would own the customer throughout the organization. That isn't how it's structured today. But that's kind of how we started. And that's the first time that we really looked at customer journey mapping and tried to break down how the customer was viewing the website from start to finish.
Anna Eaglin: What did you learn that was surprising or that you had no idea about?
Angie Stocklin: I think what we learned, and it seems so obvious now, is not all of our customers shop the same way. Our reading glasses target market is 45 and up because you need to wear reading glasses typically to shop for reading glasses, unless you're buying them for your parents, your grandparent. And so we were potentially giving some of those customers too much credit in terms of their knowledge of the internet. And what made sense for us or what was trendy in design, we would want to apply to readers.com when in reality those customers weren't ready for those trends yet. And so we had to back off what we thought looked good and what we wanted to do with the site and really make it usable for them. And that came through user testing and survey groups and focus groups. We learned that they weren't really following our logic all of the time. If that makes sense.
Anna Eaglin: What's an example of that? An example of where you did something that was more trendy and it just didn't work with this audience?
Angie Stocklin: One of the things that I remember distinctly is the little hamburger at the top, where you click on it and it makes total sense now. We rolled that out to our readers.com brand way too early. And luckily we were looking at the conversion rate and so we could tell what the conversion rate was dropping. We AB tested it of course. But that is something that they were not ready for. They still may not be ready for that, but it's pretty typical on websites all over now. But this was probably four or five years ago. And just because other really cool, trendy websites we're doing it, doesn't mean that we needed to do that.
Anna Eaglin: Yeah, that's a good point. It makes sense that they would need readers to buy the readers too. That's a, it seems obvious.
Angie Stocklin: That's actually something else we found out is, that our font was too small.
Christian Beck: You went from that high volume number of brand world down to just two and then up to three. How do you determine when to add another brand?
Angie Stocklin: We've talked about it a lot and I don't know what's on the roadmap at this point in time, but it got a little challenging, which I think you can understand, running nine brands and making sure you understood each of the brands from top to bottom. I think if one of the, if we launched another brand, it would be an eyewear brand. And so you kind of take that question mark out. Make it, make it in the eyewear space. Something that we already know and hopefully it would match a target market that we already understand because we own and operate and each brand stand on its own. You have to have a content plan, you have to have advertising plan. Each one has to have an AdWords account and an Amazon account and it's just a lot to manage. And so when we had the nine brands, it was always a question mark of, should we create tiny teams for each brand? Or should we hire subject matter experts that could work on all brands? And when you only have the three brands, it's much less of a question mark than when you have nine.
Christian Beck: It's been how many years since you've been shifting to more of the customer experience focused path?
Angie Stocklin: We started that journey in 2012. I think we, it's never really complete, but I would say we completed that transition in 2014 and since then, it is just, it's a different way to do business when you're leaning on the customer for feedback and you're making sure the customer is number one, but it's changed completely how our organization runs. And when we put up our annual goals, there's always a revenue goal, there's a profit goal and there's always a customer goal as well.
Anna Eaglin: It sounds like customer journey and brand, kind of the focus on brand seemed to kind of happen at the same time. Talk to me a little bit about that process of the customer journey and the brand touchpoints and how those have overlapped and how you guys thought about those when they overlapped.
Angie Stocklin: When we were looking at the brand purpose or promise for each of our different brands, the One Click mission is to be the world's most people focused eyewear company. And so right away we define that as customers, team members and community. And so while our three eCommerce brands are distinct and stand on their own, we really wanted them to have a people focus and customer makes a lot of sense since they're customer facing brands. And so we made sure that in the mission statement of each of the three different brands, the customer played a part. For our Sunglass Warehouse brand, it's all about saving money on sunglasses so you can spend money on experiences. Get out and enjoy life. Save more, experience more, and whatever it is that we're focusing on for the day. The customer has an integral part in that brand promise already. And so we kind of made sure that we tied them all together to make sure that they would always live together.
Anna Eaglin: How does that manifest in the product?
Angie Stocklin: When you're buying the sunglasses and you land on our website, you're going to see photos of people having experiences, whether they're at a festival or they're canoeing, they're at the pool, they're having a barbecue. We try to make all of our imaging very approachable so that if you're not someone who goes out and skis 50 days a year, you can still say, "Oh I want to spend money on experiences because I want to go to the Indy 500 or I want to go get ice cream with my friends and I need some cool sunglasses to do that.".
Angie Stocklin: You're going to see the website populated with images of people doing fun things and you're also going to see a variety of sunglasses that would let you go do fun things. From our category perspective, you can go on to festival sunglasses if you want to go to a music festival, is just one of the categories. You can see a trend section if you're kind of more interested in trends. And you'll see seasonality type things pop up as well. In winter you'll see people enjoying winter sports. In summer they'll be enjoying summer sports.
Christian Beck: You're categorizing things not just by the taxonomy of glasses, but it's also re-pivoting them on things that match the reason why they're there in the first place.
Angie Stocklin: Absolutely. Yeah. We'll categorize them based on potential experiences as well. And then we'll follow that up with social media posts that talk about experiences and try to carry that same theme through email marketing and social media marketing and et cetera.
Christian Beck: What does social media look like for these brands that have a lot of different use cases, experiences that they're meant to support?
Angie Stocklin: Well, we use it for advertising for sure. And then we also use it to help customers find information or we'll answer questions. We'll use it for customer service. I think all of our accounts have a dual purpose.
Christian Beck: It seems like, I would imagine in the last five years that the number of channels that you have to interact with customers has doubled, I don't even know. It's got to be a lot, right?
Angie Stocklin: It is. And we try to keep our presence, I don't want to say small, but we try to keep it narrow to make sure that the channels are going to fit. We tried Snapchat for awhile and it wasn't a channel that our customers were really interacting with. And so we were like, we'd rather do something really well than do a bunch of stuff just mediocre. And so let's focus more on Instagram for Sunglass Warehouse and we'll just drop the Snapchat channel.
Anna Eaglin: One Click was acquired correct me if I say that incorrectly. Congratulations. Now you are, I know you're mentoring, you're investing. How has your experience influenced kind of what you look for in companies or entrepreneurs that you'd like to work with?
Angie Stocklin: I think I'm very biased towards two people founding teams because I was a two person founding team and Randy and I had a lot of complimentary skills. And when I think back, I feel like if I had done this by myself or if he had done this by himself, I'm not sure we would've gotten this far. I probably have a bit of a bias towards two person founding teams.
Angie Stocklin: I also probably have a bias towards people focused companies. And that doesn't mean you have to have people in your mission statement or you have to be about servicing people, but I'm going to be much more likely to invest in a company that has a founder who is really interested in building a good culture. And that culture doesn't have to look the same every place, but they have to really care about their team members and be interested in building a culture where people are respected and want to come to work. The idea has to be good, of course. And I have to feel like it's scalable, but I also have to believe in them as a leader and a leader of people.
Anna Eaglin: People focused as in their culture. Is there a customer focus that you're looking for based on your experience?
Angie Stocklin: I think based on my experience, I would really love to mentor, get involved with companies that are in the eCommerce space. There's just not a lot of that happening in Indianapolis and I don't have the B2B experience that other angel investors do, so I could probably add more value in a retail based company or an eCommerce based company or even really a B to C company of any type.
Christian Beck: Why is culture important to you as an investor?
Angie Stocklin: Because I saw how important culture was at One Click. I don't think that Randy and I are the smartest people. I don't think that we had the best idea. I think that we worked really hard. We were very curious. We leaned on the community a lot for support. The network here is amazing and there are so many people in the community that helped us figure things out when we would get in a bind or really have a problem that we were looking over. But it's really the team that supported us and surrounded us that made the difference I think in One Click. It made the, it made all the difference in the world actually.
Anna Eaglin: What do you feel like you did right when it came to building a culture?
Angie Stocklin: I think we focused on kindness, which sounds really, I don't know, pie in the sky I think, but we had this unwritten rule of we don't hire jerks. Which really just meant that we weren't going to hire people that have big egos that were in it for themselves. Everybody has to be responsible for their own career. That's not what I'm saying. But we wanted people that would come in and work as a team. Not people that were going to be like, well, that was my idea. That was my idea. There's none of that at One Click. It's all, let's work together. We're on a mission to build the world's most people focused eyewear company. Everyone comes in everyday willing to do their part of the team to help us meet our mission.
Christian Beck: How do you develop a sense on whether somebody is kind when you're as an investor looking at somebody? On the one hand, when when you're in a company, it's easy day to day you can see it, but when you're an investor, you're listening to pitches and meeting people. How do you look for that kindness or that ability, capacity to build a strong culture?
Angie Stocklin: When you meet with somebody, especially if they don't have a team yet and they're pre-revenue, they're obviously gonna talk a lot about the product that they're building, or the product that they're going to sell. But I don't want to just hear about the X's and O's. I'm listening for other kind of clues along the way. People that take all of the credit, all of the time are probably not going to be people that are going to build a strong team of teamwork oriented people. That's a good question. I should probably think more about this. I should probably write it down.
Christian Beck: It seems like based on what you're saying, it's almost you want to hear about their product plans, but you almost, you also want to hear about maybe their plans for building a team and the vision for the company itself.
Angie Stocklin: Absolutely, and we learned early on too, One Click obviously started a little bit grassroots and we had some small, small office space early on and so I kind of liked watching people walk in the door to see how they treat people. It's just one of those things if somebody treats me differently than they treat the person who let them in the door, that's not the person that we want to work with. And so you pick up on those clues too when you're just meeting somebody for the first time. How does somebody treat the server if you're at a restaurant? Like how do they order the coffee? Are they holding the door for people when they come in and out? There's just little things that you pick up along the way.
Anna Eaglin: And so you mentioned in 2014, it was solidifying that the customer journey is important and putting that into place. I know that One Click has, obviously has had UX designers, product managers, how did that transition from that one person who is making journey maps to a more kind of user focus product team?
Angie Stocklin: We started with one person that owned the customer and we had no UX or UI person on the tech team at that point in time. We transitioned to a four person customer team that came from different areas of the business. And at some point in time, I think it was probably 2014 or 2015 we moved Lindsey to the tech team and made her responsible for product. And that kind of grew from there. But I don't remember the exact dates, but at this point in time at One Click, the executive team owns the customer. And what we've done is we've just made sure that every department leader has customer goals on their goals and objectives for every quarter and they have to follow through with that. It's making sure that every person in the company is working towards making the customer experience the best it can be.
Christian Beck: Do you have an example of what do you mean by a customer goal that would be on the, not just on the executive team but on the team leads?
Angie Stocklin: Yeah, the team lead. For example, the tech team has an uptime goal. It's their responsibility to make sure that our website is up and running and searchable at any point in time. The customer service team is a little bit easier. They've got customer satisfaction goals. The fulfillment team has customer goals in terms of making sure that the packages are out the door the same day that they're ordered so that the customer gets them in timely manner. And so we just make sure that every single department has customer focused goals to sure that the entire well rounded experience is going well.
Anna Eaglin: What does better product mean to you?
Angie Stocklin: To me, better product means a product that is more user friendly and functions as you think it should function. There's nothing worse than going to a really slick website that you can't figure out how to use. And so for me it's about usability and not necessarily about the coolest, slickest trendiest page out there.
Anna Eaglin: Angie talked about how, while running her companies, they noticed a shift around what she said, 2012, 2014ish, where customer experience became more important than price, let's say, because she, they couldn't compete with the bigger companies on price. They decided to really invest in their brand and the customer experience. And she really talks about those like they're one and the same. I'm curious your thoughts, you've been doing this for awhile.
Christian Beck: What is this?
Anna Eaglin: This product, this crazy product life.
Christian Beck: This product life. This crazy life we call product.
Anna Eaglin: Right.
Christian Beck: It's been awhile.
Anna Eaglin: And obviously UX is important, otherwise we wouldn't have jobs. But brand and UX together I think is something we're seeing more and more overlap. What are your thoughts kind of about what she talked about when it comes to brand and customer experience tied together?
Christian Beck: It's a really good guest for the show because what she was doing was a lot different than what we typically see because she's dealing in eCommerce, where it's a pretty commoditized field. But there's a lot of lessons we can learn and apply to product. And we see this with a lot of clients that we work with where something that they're building is in a field where there's already a lot of competition or that it's been devalued in some way and there's opportunity to innovate in there. But the way that you are going to actually carve out a market is through a strong brand and user experience. I think you and I are both kind of uniquely positioned to talk about this because our background is in user experience, but we've been talking a lot about, well, user experience requires that you have users, which means that you've typically had somebody buy it, but in the eCommerce world, that doesn't mean that they're buyers. They could be customers searching and browsing.
Christian Beck: And for a lot of the products that we talk to, the user experience has to be tied to the brand that even got them to start using your product to begin with. I think what we're seeing these days in software and a lot of fields is they're all, I wouldn't say necessarily getting commoditized, but they're all saturated. I think almost every single field you design or build a product for has a precedent. There's a few fields where people are still using spreadsheets, but by and large, most, least office or B2B type markets have been digitized. Now when you want to make something, you have to actually have a value prop that's more than just digitizing something.
Anna Eaglin: When we were trained as UX designers, it's interesting, we are taught very interaction design focused principles and there was no place for brand or really brand touchpoints along that. And I think over the years those things have really merged together. And I agree with what you say, it's kind of goes back too to what Kyle Lacy was mentioning, where people like you, they want to do business with you. And I think that even extends into the the B to C world where if someone likes your brand and they feel a lot of loyalty to you, then they're going to buy your product. Whether you have the lowest price or not.
Christian Beck: It's not that design and all that isn't still important. But when you look at eCommerce, that's probably one of the oldest digitized industries that we have. You think of Amazon in the pre-2000s and even dotcom bubble was a lot of eCommerce stuff. That's been a field that's been around for a long time. While you can still see innovators like Warby Parker that are selling sunglasses, but to be an eCommerce provider, whether you're selling apparel or other physical objects or books, you have to differentiate with brand because it's been done and there's only so many ways you can optimize buying something in a shopping cart experience. You can't have a new product that enters the market and say, "Well what's your unique selling point?" "Oh, it's really well designed." Well everybody is now, so what's different? And to your point, it's kind of, about brand and what differentiates in that way.
Christian Beck: Anna, when we look at what Angie talked about in eCommerce, and I think a lot of our listeners is probably experienced eCommerce, but maybe they aren't building those types of products, what sort of lessons can we learn from that? When we think about B2B SaaS, if you're doing an application that's in a space where there are a lot of players, what does it mean to actually merge brand with the user experience? Do you have any good examples?
Anna Eaglin: I think I would tie back to what Kyle Lacy talked about a bit was with Lessonly and Lessonly, local Indianapolis company here. They go above and beyond to really put their brand into their product, into everything that goes around interacting with Lessonly. They talked about the Golden Llama awards. The llama is their mascot and they give those out to customers. I think their product is so heavily integrated too with their brand that it's a more pleasurable experience.
Christian Beck: Yeah. They've even extended it since we actually had Kyle Lacy on, because we talked to Kyle about their user conference, which was called Yellow Ship. Since then they released a book, their CEO Max Yoder released a book called Do Better Work. And it's been interesting watching that sort of unfurl, not just locally in Indy but doing book tours and just talking about doing better work. That whole theme that they brought out everywhere. And so to your point, I think the audience, the people who are buying Lessonly software are also seeing all the other content and the other brand touch points through the llama that they have around that. It just, it almost adds to it. But in the end, if you were to compare Lessonly to other systems just like theirs, there's probably not a big functional difference. I think that's what we see in pretty much every market now. There's just a difference in brand and I don't know, you just want to do business with somebody that you want to do business with. People that you like.
Anna Eaglin: A brand that's fun and that is interactive and makes you feel good about what you're doing with it. Because again, I think functionality wise, you can't compete on features these days. It really is, do people want to work with you? Do they like your brand? And does that brand make them feel aspirational in a way that really touches something?
Anna Eaglin: Thanks so much for listening to the show this week. If you haven't yet, be sure to subscribe, rate and review this podcast. Until then, visit innovatemap.com/podcast and subscribe to learn how you can take your product to the next level. As always, we're curious, what does better product mean to you? Hit is up on Twitter @innovatemap, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christian Beck: I'm Christian.
Anna Eaglin: And I'm Anna and you've been listening to Better Product.
Christian Beck: Better Product.