September 3, 2019
Joining us on the Marketing Mix Podcast is Rachel Tipograph, Founder & CEO of MikMak. Rachel discusses how she came to fill a senior global position at the Gap at the young age of 24, her decision to leave and start her own business in the social video shopping space, and how MikMak is fulfilling a scalable gap in the e-commerce ecosystem while improving the consumer journey. Explaining the expanding nature of content in e-commerce, Rachel discusses the importance of an omni-channel approach, the future of ad tech policy and its impact on marketers, and her top tips for creating effective e-commerce videos that convert.
Jeff Ragovin: You were already running Global Digital and Social Media Marketing at Gap from a young age. How did you become so senior so fast?
Rachel Tipograph: My boss, Seth Farbman, who was the CMO, took a big chance on me and hired me to run Global Digital and Social Media Marketing. Prior to Gap, Seth was a leader at Ogilvy. A colleague of mine, Jordan, had left the agency I was working at and went to work at Ogilvy to work for Seth. When Seth went on to become CMO of Gap, he asked Jordan who he should hire to run Global Digital and Social and Jordan said: “There’s only one person you should meet and it’s Rachel”. So, I met with Seth and when I went into his office, I basically pitched to him what I would do if I had his job at Gap. I literally presented him a year long marketing plan. Apparently, he thought that was very novel and the next thing I knew I was being introduced to the Global President of Gap, Pam Wallack. Seth told me to pitch my plan all over again to Pam. Afterward, they made me an offer, essentially on the spot.
Jeff Ragovin: So you were at Gap for a few years and accomplished amazing things. What was going through your mind when you left?
Rachel Tipograph: There were two things that caused me to leave my job. One of them was underlying ecosystem changes and the other was changes at Gap. The ecosystem changes included a few main things. One being that when I started working at Gap in 2011, the gap.com homepage was our most trafficked web-page and when I left 3 years later, our product detail pages were seeing 5x the amount of traffic. No one was entering the store anymore through the front door, everyone was using all these side doors that no one was paying attention to. I became pretty bullish on optimizing the product detail pages because I thought it was the most overlooked piece of real estate in the e-commerce ecosystem. The other major ecosystem change happening was that when I started working at Gap, 10% of our US search results occurred within Amazon, but 3 years later, it was close to 50% and Gap is still not available on Amazon. It was early signs to me that the majority of product searches were going to happen in major e-retailers. So those are the trends I saw and thought that someone was going to have to make distributed commerce scalable for all brands of retailers.
The second thing, which is important in all corporate America, was that when I started at Gap, I would report into the Global CMO and he reported into the Global President and there were 5 presidents in total all gunning for the CEO’s job. In many ways, it become political warfare. My boss left to become the CMO of Spotify and it felt like I was starting over and I did not want to do that.
Jeff Ragovin: So you left the Gap, then what did you do?
Rachel Tipograph: I felt a little burned out so I took time to recharge and went on a world trip by myself for 4 months. When I returned, I was ready to build MikMak, but the first thing that I did was call up 300 brands of retailers. What I wanted to understand was if so many people see the world the way I do, what was preventing them from from scaling within the ecosystem today. What I learned was that no matter the size of your business, everyone seemed to have the same 3 pain points which center around creative, which Social Native helps solve as well, user-experience, and attribution. These 3 pain points are more exacerbated with companies such as Campbells, Unilever, Mattel, L’oreal, Bose and Adidas. These really big brands where the majority of their e-commerce sales come from major e-retailers like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sephora, and more. After I validated these pain points and got these brands to say if I was to build this software to help solve it they would pay, I went to go build MikMak.
Jeff Ragovin: You stand out from a lot of the entrepreneurs I know, so I’m curious if you always knew you were an entrepreneur?
Rachel Tipograph: I’ve always known. I grew up with two working parents and they both run SMBs. My dad runs an accounting firm and my mom was in corporate marketing and left to start a business of her own. So I grew up in a household that worked 7 days a week, but you love it. Ownership over your work, pride over your work, and a strong work ethic are things my brother and I learned from my parents. I’ve also always sought to have financial independence, so I’ve been making money since I was 13 years old and I would come up with very creative ways to do so. That entrepreneurial energy has always been in my blood.
Jeff Ragovin: Tell me a little bit more about MikMak and what trends you see emerging in the e-commerce space?
Rachel Tipograph: MikMak is an e-commerce platform for highly distributed brands. What we look to solve is that all the large e-retailer environments are black boxes for these really big brands. So no matter what they do in terms of digital and social media marketing, the moment they send someone to an Amazon detail page, they have lost that customer. We’ve built software that helps them control that product detail page experience, optimize their media, and own the customer. I’ve spent the last 4 years of my life really focusing on distributed commerce, whether it’s in social, programmatic media, or paid search.
When I first brought the software to the market, I was ahead of the curve. The world was not necessarily ready for social commerce and was very focused on this idea that everything had to be direct to consumer. What people started realizing is that once you hit 50 to 100 million dollars in direct to consumer revenue, you will plateau. Then, all of a sudden, you have to find new and inventive ways to drive consumer acquisition and what you realize is that all these major marketplaces and wholesalers are actually a place for brand awareness. So the shift in the market today is that you really need to be on all the channels. You cannot just be direct to consumer because you will never win that way.
What that means for future trends is that you can’t cannibalize your merchandizing strategy, so the products that are available on the main brand website, cannot be the products that are available at big retailers because the customers can be at conflict. So what you will start to see is a lot of product development that is retailer specific. In the last two years, we have been working with so many clients that are launching exclusive brands at Walmart, Target, and more. They get these one year deals with them, the licensing term expires, then they go wide with the products in other retail environments.
Another thing I have noticed, which Social Native plays into as well, is that the role of content within e-commerce and direct response marketing is very different than brand engagement. If you want to drive sales online, you have to do content that’s around key product benefit or how-to-tutorials. So if you are selling perfumes, you can’t have a commercial with a girl’s hair blowing in the wind when she’s driving a convertible. You need to put the perfume in your hand and talk about the three simple ingredients that live in that perfume. So the nature of content and the ecosystem behind e-commerce content and PR content needs to continue to expand, but brands are really struggling to do this at scale. I believe people are going to continue to see the ecosystem evolve in that model.
The other key thing is that the 2020 election can significantly change the internet and the ad-tech industry at large. The California Privacy Act and GDPR become widely adopted, you will not be able to chase people around the internet to close the sale. You will not be able to build out look-alike audiences so you can scale the people interested in your product. It will become a cookieless internet. In order to do the things we have all done within ad-tech, you will have to directly pay the platforms themselves a premium to do these things. So I work a lot with my clients right now on how to scale their consumer acquisition as fast as they can while the internet is still an open place.
Jeff Ragovin: Tell me more about the consumer journey and how MikMak plays a role in that.
Rachel Tipograph: A typical user flow of MikMak is as follows. You find yourself in an environment such as Instagram stories with a call-to-action swipe up to shop and a landing page appears. What you might not realize is that it is powered by my company. So if you ever find yourself with the option to choose if you want to add to cart at Amazon, Sephora, Ulta, etc., that is MikMak behind the scenes. So the customer decides, and let’s say they have Amazon Prime, they will add to cart on Amazon. So everything that happens from impression to add to cart is measured by MikMak. You can now optimize your media through add to cart events, you can add your pixels sitting within the MikMak experience. We are really capturing audiences, sending them to any ad manager or customer data platform and its labeled ‘Amazon shoppers’ or it can be an influencer, let’s say Kim Kardasian, and it’s now labeled ‘Kim Kardasian Amazon shoppers’. Now the brand owns that audience and can go use that in any future prospecting or targeting media.
Jeff Ragovin: From what you have seen, what truly makes a video great?
Rachel Tipograph: We have created the best practices at MikMak for every consumer product subcategory and a huge part of what we do is educate creative teams on how to do best in class creative.
A high level example is that for beauty, what you need to show the before and after transformation within the first 3 seconds. The subsequent 7-10 seconds have to show the how-to steps for how to achieve that transformation. For food, show the food porn shot in the first 3 seconds and the subsequent 7-12 seconds are how to achieve that creation. If it is not recipe content, then it is really about nutritional ingredient messaging and that’s where you really want to communicate the three simple ingredients.
If you are doing apparel and footwear, you want to show the product in a 360 degree view on models of different shapes and sizes. People want to be able to see themselves in the clothes. I can go on and on but the reality is there is a formula to this and I’m very analogous to the infomercial industry with that there is a method to the madness that you just repeat and repeat.
Jeff Ragovin: Thank you for joining the Marketing Mix Podcast.
Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes