In this episode on The Radcast, host Ryan Alford talks with two guests Samrat Saran, Head of Client Solutions at Neuro-Insight, and the CEO and Co-Founder of 4th Avenue Market, Salim Holder. They discuss the growth, community, and neurological factors involved in creating the 4th Avenue Market e-commerce brand.
In this episode on The Radcast, host Ryan Alford talks with guests Samrat Saran, Head of Client Solutions at Neuro-Insight, and the CEO and Co-Founder of 4th Avenue Market, Salim Holder. They discuss the growth, community, and neurological factors involved in creating the 4th Avenue Market e-commerce brand.
These are the topics:
To learn more about 4th Avenue Market, visit their website here.
Keep up with neurology in marketing by following Neuro-Insights here.
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It has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?
Ryan Alford [00:00:08] Hey, guys, what's up? It's Ryan Alford, your host. And welcome to the latest edition of the Radcast. I am the founder and CEO of Radical Company here in Greenville, South Carolina, and if you didn't know, the host of the Radcast and it's great to be joined, I'm just going to say I might start calling Samrat a co-host here. He's become one of my favorite people in marketing and one of the smartest guys I know in the business. So I'm just going to keep having him on until he says Uncle, Samrat Saran, Head of Client Solutions at Neuro-Insight. What's up Samrat?
Samrat Saran [00:00:47] Good. How are you? And it's been a while.
Ryan Alford [00:00:49] Hey, I know it has, but we're also joined by Saleem Holder, who is the CEO and co-founder of Fourth Avenue Market. And good to have you as well, Salim.
Saleem Holder [00:01:01] It's good to be here. Appreciate it. Looking forward to the convo.
Ryan Alford [00:01:05] For sure. We wanted to get these two guys together. We're going to let you in on a little secret, they are old college buddies and we might get into a couple of college stories, maybe one or two. We want to keep it interesting and we want to keep it PG 13, slash R rated here on the Radcast. They went to school at the University of Rochester, the Simon School of Business, got their MBA, and they got together after, and became old college buddies. They are both doing timely marketing and business here in twenty twenty-one, with Salim running an Ecom business geared towards, very community-driven marketing to the black market. And we're going to talk more about that. And then, of course, Samrat, always in my head talking about the brain. But yeah, we're looking forward to the discussion, guys. And before we get started, do we have one or two good stories from back at the old University of Rochester?
Samrat Saran [00:02:03] Salim, myself and a couple of other folks, this is a few days before our first quarter-finals. And then Salem and I, we've sort of known each other, but one day we're in the library and I'm like, Hey, Salim, how are you doing on finance? And he's like, I just started studying and
Salim Holder [00:02:29] I don't know anything about this.
Samrat Saran [00:02:31] Yeah. I'm like, you know what the difference between a bond and a stock is? And he's like, well, I'm still trying to figure it out. All right. So then the plan was made for all our exams. So we had finance, accounting, economics, and statistics that we were going to study together through and through till the finals were over. And then for the next four days, I kid you not on sixteen Red Bulls a night, we went through them and that's what we call our boot camp and that's how our friendship started. I think we have always been together since.
Salim Holder [00:03:05] Samrat saved my MBA. I was sitting there like, I don't think I'm about to pass this class. I think about getting kicked out of school. So I was studying for my life and I was happy to have Samrat help me out with that.
Samra Saran [00:03:18] And Salim has been with me ever since on all our marketing programs. We've been together and he's one of the best guys I know.
Ryan Alford [00:03:27] I love it, man. A lot of times you go to school with people, you lose that connection. But it's awesome that you guys have grown through the marketing space together, obviously doing your different things, but kind of leveraging the knowledge of each other and helping each other along the way. And I can personally relate, as I just finished my energy drink before walking in here, to both the college and the now of the jitters of too many Red Bulls. And, you know, it gives you wings for sure. Exactly, the only thing bad about that is when, and I know this never happened, where, you get through what you have to get through and then you need to go to sleep and you're like, God damn it, I can't get to sleep.
Samrat Saran [00:04:18] So after all the finals were over, basically, the entire class was meeting up at a bar and four people were not at that bar and say, I didn't even know, we were passed out in the study room.
Salim holder [00:04:37] It's done.
Ryan Alford [00:04:38] Oh, man. Well, I do want to start, Samart and I've gotten into it. Everybody's starting to know what Samrat does and we're going to leverage that. Samrat and I want to just comment as a whole on e-commerce where neuro pulls in some of the trends and the things that are going on. But first let's give everybody some background Salim, your background of Fourth Avenue market bringing us up, starting from the beginning to now, and just give us some background.
Salim Holder [00:05:09] Fourth Ave Market started my experiences in Brand Management Markets after I got my MBA. I worked for a little over a decade with companies like Kimberly-Clark and managed brands like Coatex, Jameson, Irish whiskey, grooming brands, denture brands. And honestly, I was enjoying my experience and I was growing these businesses by millions of dollars. And, I kind of got to a point where I was like, if I can do it for them, I could probably do it for myself. And I think the other part that tugged at me was just the fact that as I'm working, and as much as I like what I was doing, I couldn't see how what I was doing had a positive impact on the communities that I was a part of. And so I stepped out on faith in January of twenty eighteen. I just said, you know, I'm going to step out on faith. I'm going to figure out what the next step is going to be in my life. But I knew it wasn't where I was at. And so as I did so, I stumbled into this opportunity where there was a sales broker whom I had known for years and she had started a company. She told me a year before I left, she started this website with ethnic hair care and multicultural beauty and personal care products. And so when I talk to her a year later and told her, I was leaving the corporate world and she tells me it's like, yo, honestly, Salim I had approached you with this other product opportunity that fits in and she's said I don't think you should worry about that, I think this is really where you should be and you should be focused on this. She just wants to retire. She's very successful and has many businesses. So she was like, I don't need this, but it's kind of like my baby and I want to give it to somebody who is going to take this and go, not give it, but I bought it from her. So me and my partner, also my co-founder, he has experience in technology, software engineering, 15 years, Silicon Valley, GitHub, et cetera. And so we got together, I said with my marketing experience and your tech experience, we can put our heads together and we could take this platform and we can grow it. And shortly after we bought it, we became the largest black-owned online hair and beauty retail platform in the US with over seven thousand products on there. And to be honest, we kind of started as a focus on creating greater awareness and distribution of products that are targeted in this community that is so often left out of the conversation or as you walk in a traditional retail store and you see that little four-foot section of the shelf called the ethnic set. But the reality is this category is a two billion dollar category, and that's just the sex. The portion that the black consumers are spending is two billion dollars and growing. The fastest-growing part of the entire hair care category is this textured hair care category. And so I couldn't understand how you have these consumers that are going into stores struggling to find stuff they need. But as I talk to my partner about it, we realize the opportunity and the challenge were even bigger than just thinking about the black community and black consumers. What we realize is that there were consumers that were out there, Seventy-four percent of consumers are saying, I want my dollars to be spent with companies that are aligned with my values. So naturally, for black consumers, they are saying they want to spend with companies who are investing in the black community, who are buying from businesses across the supply chain that are also from the black community or black brands. But then you also have women who want to support women-owned businesses or you have others that want to represent environmentally friendly businesses. And so I understood this idea about transparency at the point of purchase and how we can do a better job of driving that transparency, starting with consumers. One: It was personal to me. Two: It was top of mind for the entire country after everything that was happening then. And then just how fast this category was growing, making it a ripe opportunity for us to step in and focus on this community. And then the bigger part was seeing that dollar go back around and through the community. That was truly the impact of seeing that Eighty-five percent of sales of ethnic hair care products are done by black consumers, yet we own seven percent of the stores. And the implication is, as money is spent, that money is taken out of the community and not reinvested into it. We decided that we would create an approach starting with that community, then move to other communities where that dollar people are spending they can extract value from it. And what we're creating for that market is the community-centric marketplace that puts transparency at the forefront and allows consumers to know where their dollars are being spent with companies. And that's the essence of what that market is and how we've grown to where we are today.
Ran Alford [00:09:44] I love it. A lot of brilliance there. We have people on and they talk about certain things and they get down paths and you know they just fell into it and got lucky. And some people come on and they know what they're doing. And I love all my guests equally. But as a mark, the brilliance of everything you just digested right there for us makes my heart pound hard. And so anyway, let's break down a few things that I do want to talk about. You said you stepped into this at twenty-eighteen. What has been with some of the mechanics of that? Has it been as smooth as you just described? It was so eloquently delivered I'm like; were there any trials and tribulations there?
Salim Holder [00:10:38] Maybe one or two. The interesting part is when we bought the site and we were like let's put it live. The site hadn't been live for a while. We put it live. And of course, it didn't work. Orders weren't going through. This wasn't happening. I remember when we first went live, for whatever reason I can't remember what happened, but all the product names and descriptions disappeared on us so we had to figure that out. So it took us another seven months after we bought the site to revamp it. We got it up and running on February 19th and when we launched it didn't work and we scrapped it and then we relaunched it in November of twenty nineteen. So it was like by February to June it just wasn't working and people were coming to the site but they couldn't buy what they wanted to. So there was so much work we had to do with seven thousand products and we did it. We scrap the site, started over, and started in June and then we relaunched what you see now in November twenty nineteen, we relaunched that site. But that's just part of the struggles. We could probably spend another two hours on the other struggles.
Ryan Alford [00:11:48] That sounds more like the eCom journey that I know, especially with seven thousand products. We've got brands that we work with that have five products and they think they're struggling. And then we have brands with thousands and I'm like; you don't even know what a struggle is? You have to write descriptions and images and all that? What platform are you guys on? Just out of curiosity, like Ecom, what?
Salim Holder [00:12:14] We started on WordPress commerce, which was not the best setup. And then we moved over to Shopify, which made it much easier for at least some of the things I want to do in the short term.
Ryan Alford [00:12:27] I want to stop right there. If you're listening and you're moving into e-commerce, I don't care if you're big or small or indifferent, If you don't start with Shopify, you're making your life harder than it needs to be. Shopify is so much easier. Yes, you pay some fees. Yes, you do some stuff, but they have the integrations. They figured this out people, and it used to be half a thousand Skewes can't be on Shopify, wrong not anymore. And you got to come to me. We work mainly with Magento and Shopify depending on the brand. But unless it's just a really specific use case, we'd be pushing everybody to Shopify. So that sounds like a common journey.
Salim Holder [00:13:09] We try to take it from where it started but we had to move on.
Ryan Alford [00:13:14] Yeah, well one more question before I want to bring Samrat in to have a little discussion about eCom and neuro in general but at university. Talk about the way which maybe some of the specifics that you've developed your community with over the last couple of years. I see heavy blog writing and different things on the site, but I would love to understand how you guys have engaged the community more directly in building this brand.
Salim Holder [00:13:43] You know what we recognized? We recognize this insight that when it comes to communities, communities have a really interesting way of working. And every community has a different kind of ecosystem for how they get information. And this is like whatever community you're talking about, whether you're talking about athletes or you're talking about the black community or you're talking about whatever. And what we recognize specifically in the black community, is that what we have is what we like to call the points of trust. And these are like historical reasons why this has kind of evolved to be this way. But you have like the barbershop and the salon, you have the church or the mosque. You also have HVCU or black student unions. And you have these community organizations like Kappa Alpha PSI or Alpha Kappa Alpha or Jack and Jill. And the reality is in the black community, there's so much overlap with all these different organizations that you can connect with about 90 percent of the black community by authentically inserting yourselves and integrating yourselves within this community ecosystem. This is how products and services are found because if you think about it, there's not a lot of media that is talking specifically to the black community. I think less than one percent of all media dollars are spent in media that's specifically targeting the black community. And so as a result, over time, the communities had to find ways to figure out information and products or services. And so what we found is that we can integrate ourselves into this community. So forget about Instagram and everything else for a minute. But just simply having conversations with the leaders of these organizations, by having conversations with churches, by having conversations with barbershops and salons that; No. One, they're passionate about this mission of being able to put money back into their pocket that's being spent. But I think what's bigger than that is we're passionate about actually seeing and providing a financial incentive for them to do what they're already doing. So we've created a program which we call the assembly, which provides a financial incentive for barbers, stylists, for colleges, for HVCU for churches to be able to push for our products and to be able to recommend people come to our site and use our services, et cetera. And so we found that that has been a crazy, compelling way, especially given the climate of today that consumers are trying to figure out, like how do we support our communities? And again, I should say this. This is not just the black community that I speak about, although, you know, I've talked about that. But there are a lot of people who also want to support the black community. They want to buy black. And they realize that just because it's black-owned doesn't mean that's black only. And so what we've done is connected with this community and provided an incentive for them to operate the way that they're already operating. And that has worked well for us so far.
Ryan Alford [00:16:30] Yeah, a couple of things there. I love that at the end, not black only because I think no matter how much the media, in general, divides us sometimes, the news more than anything. I think people want to be closer and more inclusive. And I think there's been a struggle for people to know how to support different ethnic communities. There hasn't been a clear and transparent way to know how to do that. Like, hey, I don't want to be part of the problem, I want to be part of the solution. But I have no fucking idea how to be part of the solution.
Salim holder [00:17:05] That's exactly what we recognize, most people out there are good-hearted people that would want to support others in a community. They don't walk around saying, I don't want to support this community, etc. but they may not, to your point, know exactly how. It's like, all right, so is this brand black-owned? And if I spend money, how's it going? So that's what we said, we are not an exclusive platform where we only have products or we only talk to the black community. What we're saying is that the alternative is that we're an exclusive and inclusive platform, that we have brands and products for everyone, we got everything on. We have general products there. But what we're doing is prioritizing the needs of this consumer that's been deprioritized elsewhere. And by driving that transparency it allows other people who are like, I like this product and that is black-owned. Sure, absolutely. I want to buy this product. You know, they should be able to have that transparency to know how to do it. So it's not about black-owned or black specifically. It's about us rising, all tides together, realizing there's one that's been left behind, but all of us can actually come together and grow together. So that's been the focus for us.
Ryan Alford [00:18:11] Yeah. And one more thing I have worked with large brands as well in my career and, it was always a little bit of pandering that went on in an attempt to get everyone to engage the right way, but it was always like insert black guy here, insert Asian here. They're so token and they knew they were being taken. They were just trying to check the boxes. Some brands that I worked with literally didn't even know the best way to engage with the African-American community and so I have seen both sides of it.
Salim Holder [00:19:00] Part of the challenge that I had when I was in the corporate world is that so often I was the only black person at the table. And there weren't any racist reasons why they weren't hiring. That might have been the case or whatever. But as a result, if you can imagine it, take race out of it, and let us talk about gender for a second. If it was just a room and it was a meeting and all guys were in there talking about things that were related to women, of course, there are certain things that you're just not going to know. There are certain things you were going to assume wrong and that you're not going to understand. Having some people in the room can help give you a better understanding and a more holistic perspective. And I think a lot of these companies missed that by not having that talent there at the table, whether it's in their agencies or whether it's even going out and doing the research to understand a little bit more clearly. So as a result, they make assumptions and it is good intentions, but a lot of times those assumptions are wrong and they don't land as authentically as they could.
Ryan Alford [00:19:58] All I can tell you is owning an agency, it's difficult in Greenville South. Carolina, to find African-American candidates I reached out to girlfriends like a year ago when some of this was happening, it was forefront. And I continue to try and it's like we don't. I think we've had one applicant ever, you know, like and like we have these listings. And it's like it's not from a lack of trying, but it's kind of like it is. But it's like it's kind of like these things, you know, increase each other. They compound each other because it's like historically there hasn't been a huge African-American presence in the advertising world and thus it compounds. So it's like they aren't around people, so they don't grow up learning it. So it's like, I don't know how you start that engine, but it needs to happen. Samrat, let's get in here and talk a little bit about, the impact of community-driven brands like what Selim's doing and how the brain responds to this in making decisions at the shopping cart and otherwise.
Samrat Saran [00:21:08] I'd like to start with a question. When you see an ad, you see an image of a brand in the store or anything that has a visual attached to it, if you were to just see that with the image of the brand itself versus the image of the person, which one is more appealing to you? Question for you guys.
Ryan Alford [00:21:28] Always person
Samrat Saran [00:21:29] Why person?
Ryan Alford [00:21:31] Relatable, I guess or know.
Samrat Saran [00:21:34] Relatable is a part of your subconscious that gets triggered when it sees something that's relevant and people are relevant. We as a species like to see other people. We want to see other people because it gives us a sense that this may be useful to me if these other people like it and it gets conditioned as well. So which is why I think marketing is such a huge impact on society. What you show to people over time as what is relevant changes your perception of what's relevant. And what we have seen is over the years, there just hasn't been a good selling point, enough representation from other communities. But now that it is happening, it's starting to change. In the beginning, how this all started was to your point, token representation, let's just have one person from that community there and you know what? People call bullshit very quickly, yeah, it disengages. And to some people, they may be like; All right, fine there's inclusivity involved here, but for most people, it just doesn't work. But ads that go beyond race and show people for who they truly are and this is just our natural human values that are on display, create the most amount of engagement. And it doesn't matter what race you're from that's on the screen. We saw ads that we tested which were predominantly black actors, family stories, stories about, refreshments, multiple different kinds of stories that did equally well with audiences that were not African-American. And that has big implications because what that means is to stop stereotyping race, stop stereotyping gender, and just tell human stories. After all, that's all we want, to be engaged with other people and see their life and feel like, you know, that could be my life, too. It's when we start to go to extremes and we say, OK, this group can only look like this. They can only do things like this. They can only have professions like this. That's when everything goes down for society and for creativity.
Ryan Alford [00:23:58] And I think what I would assume is the proliferation of video content is allowing us to potentially open these doors more. Because, you know, the struggle 10 years ago when I'm doing newspaper ads or magazine ads, you can have it in the words, but it was the image, there's the Asian guy. Here's the black guy. Here's the white girl, you know, and it was so static. But now with video being able to tell stories, it is the opportunity, but it also calls bullshit real quickly on those that are pandering versus those that are telling real stories or that have dug into the cultural insight. And in letting the story kind of tell that, I would think
Samrat Saran [00:24:46] and I think there's also been a moment of awakening within people that tried to be responsible citizens in corporate America but just didn't have access to it. Through social media and by being able to see so many different people's stories, they have sort of come to the conclusion or come to the realization of; One; What does that culture mean? And beyond the stereotypes that have been created, because you look at any segmentation that comes through Salim you probably saw this a lot in your world. Yeah, there was always the same image and it's always an index to the population that said 13 percent of the population, 140 indexes for our product. This is why it started, though. OK, what are their general preferences? They like music, hip hop. And this sort of nonsense that was built and you can still like I see those old slides and I cringe, those are going away now and it's starting to become more holistic, which is great, but which has now impacted, you know, all facets of life, including e-commerce, which started as this world where you sort of went and bought products that you knew exactly what you wanted. So you go into a store, you browse, you'd be like, all right, I like this product. Now let me see if I can get a cheaper Omnicom 100 percent.
Ryan Alford [00:26:15] Right, because that's what Amazon was. It started as purely the store where you discovered and then Amazon was just the storefront for you to buy and it was purely based on the buying experience and not necessarily the shopping experience.
Samrat Saran [00:26:38] And when you do that, what are you looking at? Does my page refresh as fast as it needs to, instant refreshes? If I'm on one of the searches; can that handle a thousand search items on one page? Can it do multiple sorting? Is my buy option always on screen? And these are great things to have now, but they're meant for only one specific action to take place. Now, rewind to the beginning of civilization when the first shopping mall was created back in Greece, and people used to take stone tablets and write down what they needed to buy. From that moment, the hawkers who would go down the streets and learn the skills of salesmanship to win department stores started. Immersive buying started becoming a bigger part of the experience. Doing grocery store scamming in every aspect of the shopping experience was studied. What does it feel like when you walk through those doors? Do my guards make noises that irritate people? How small should the wheels be when I'm pushing them? How do I dull the noise inside the store so people can still think? How do I avoid the sound of the killers from going across the aisles? How do I make it so it's not so cold, but it should be cold enough to keep people interested in the shopping experience versus being too warm and getting people out of there? What should the sounds in the store be like? That has been studied over decades and now you have Ecom that is coming for only one part of it. So today my challenge to you, both of you,do your grocery shopping online, pick up any retailer and try to do it for about 30, 40 items and tell me how many Advils you needed after that.
Ryan Alford [00:28:33] Well, I've got to tell a little Sigger. We talked about this pre-episode. I don't even have to do it. My wife did it on Sunday. It's two hours on Wal-Mart.com or whatever the app was. And between that and a bungled delivery, it's time we'll never get back.
Samrat Saran [00:28:51] And this is the thing. Every part of that journey has been optimized for the buy. And when you have ventures like what Salim's have for that and when you're a small business or a medium-sized business trying to create the econ landscape for yourself and you need an econ landscape, you have to think beyond the buying and think about the full shopper journey. And it has to start with how can I get a person to enjoy this experience rather than feel like they are here to only buy shampoo? And that's where you start to make it a story.
Ryan Alford [00:29:28] Everything now is so search-driven, like everything's driven by the search bar and not just natural discovery. And I think whether it's Shopify or whether it's our reach on whoever figures that out, the discovery, the Incap of online; I mean, think about when you go to a grocery store, it's the Incap and it is perfectly curated for what you might need at that time. I've got the popcorn, the peanuts and the I don't know, Eminem's, all perfect on the Incap, like Amazon's doing that a little bit, hey, you want this, you're going to have these things, but unless you searched your way into that one thing, the discovery process is not where it needs to be.
Samrat Saran [00:30:22] I’ll even take it one step further. Why do you assume that I am coming here for a mission bait shop? Why is the search bar the first thing I see? What if you changed it completely? What if you started with; I'm just looking. And yeah, and you go from there,
Salim Holder [00:30:43] The interesting thing about that is, we have been thinking about that a lot with Fourth Ave and the fact that we have over 7000 items and the shopper that's come in is more often than not somebody who's trying to figure out what's the right product that I use for my hair or skin anyway. So before I'm not coming in saying I want this particular product, sure. Maybe about 40 percent do, but still, about 60 percent are trying to discover. And so we're trying to do a better job of how do you lead that discovery? How do you make that experience something exciting? So they want to come back to something enjoyable because that's what you get when you go into the store. Actually, that's the alternative with a lot of these consumers, they don't get a good quality shopping experience in the store so they go online, but they're just shopping online and they don't know what's out there. So how do we help them discover it in that way? So that is a good point.
Ryan Alford [00:31:33]. One of the companies that I think, and I'm blanking on the brand, but the category you guys will know, I think they're getting at this a bit. Not that this is super exciting, but when you hit their site, you immediately get a four-question quiz and it's engaging and it's fun. And it's a mattress company now. It's simple because it's mattresses, but they do sell like 40 different types of mattresses. And you ask these four questions and then you get the discovery of the five or six things that match. And I'm not saying that's exciting, but at least it's directive into, self-selection after I've answered some questions and things like that. So I think that helps.
Salim Holder [00:32:19] We did that same thing in the form of a hair quiz. So you come on the site, you go through, you answer four or five questions, kind of interactive, and at the end, it tells you specifically here are the types of products that will work best for you at all that we have on the site. We've mapped it based on science and ingredients that work with certain hair types. So to that same point, it's like how do we start going down that path? It makes it enjoyable as a first step for us.
Samrat Saran [00:32:44] With what you just said, there are two points here, One: Take the pressure off the shopper of having to do the journey themselves. So what you suggest with the quizzes or just trying to limit the selection so people can process. That's one really strong way of doing it. The other way is if you go into the store just as you just do it yourself. I want to find something that I've never shopped in the category for. How do I do it? And when you start looking at that journey and you say, all right, my first Q was I was looking for the category as a whole. I was looking for Henniker. The second thing was, hey, I like products that have a certain look. They should look different. That's what I start getting attracted to. Once I get them, then I start to look at colors. Then they start to identify brands just until I get there. And then I start to decide on ingredients. Then I start to decide on the packaging. But what do we know? You type in any product you see on X brand shampoo. I'll get seventeen different options for the 12 pack. The three-pack, the two bags and that's the last thing I do.
Salim Holder [00:34:02] Yeah. Interesting. Yeah, that's true.
Samrat Saran [00:34:05] So these are things that you can change. Here's another one if you're buying shirts and right now apparel is coming back in a big way. What if I've already bought one shirt? Why are you suggesting seven more shirts to me? What's the first thing I do once you buy a shirt is; what sort of trousers does this match with? Do I have the right socks? Do I have the right accessories? Why aren't you saying, hey, why don't you bear with this shirt? This is the way that you would want to pair this and now you just sold a full outfit. And you've made the experience complete, these are small steps and what we are getting to is reducing cognitive load. So when you're on a website and you're trying to make decisions all the time, your brain is doing that same exam that Salim and I were doing when we had no idea what Finance was.
Ryan Alford [00:34:54] Well, hopefully not on 12 Red bulls but you might sell a lot of stuff.
Samrat Saran [00:35:01] And that’s what burns you out and after a few minutes, you're like, I'm done, man, I just can't anymore. That’s what ecom needs to solve first. And if all of the small and medium businesses do this, you're going to get the large ones to run for their money.
Ryan Alford [00:35:14] Salim, how have you guys focused as far as your brand goes? I know you come with a deep branding background and things like that, how have you guys, obviously very community-driven, which we've talked about, but are there any specific kinds of brand narratives or things like that? And maybe we start with that background of where Fourth Avenue comes through from in Birmingham and all those kinds of things. I love to just give a little perspective on that.
Salim Holder [00:35:48] You know, the idea of, when we were talking about how do we see this dialogue go back around the community, we thought about it and we said, this isn't a new idea or some new concept. And as we did research, I say we do, and that's me and my co-founder, we did a little research and he's looking through, where throughout time do you see examples of the dollar going around the community and helping to improve an overall community? And we talked specifically about the black community. We thought about black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that some people have heard of. But those who have heard of it know that that was like an economic powerhouse in that area, that the community of black people owned the churches and schools, the barbershops, the malls, et cetera. But that wasn't the only place in the US where there was such a strong powerhouse of economic foundation that was black run or black-owned. There was Birmingham, Alabama's Fourth Avenue District, there was Little Haiti located in Durham, North Carolina. And so as we thought about Birmingham, we thought about that as well. Fourth Avenue District there was one transparency. You knew who you were buying from, where that dollar was going. You knew that it was going towards helping in improving the overall community. The second part that I thought was interesting about that is that that was the center or was really like ground zero of the civil rights movement. If you've seen the iconic footage where the kids are getting laid out with the fire hoses or attacked with the dogs, that was in the center of Fourth Ave District or where those little girls were killed, they were bombed in the church, that church bombing, 16th Street Baptist Church, that was also in the center of Fourth Ave District. So there was so much heritage and history to this story and so many lines to that story, from the transparency to the community aspects and elements of it, to just see the power of the black community, of being able to see that dollar go around and be able to support and develop their own, that we brought that in and said, you know what? We can take those same values and principles and make them apply to the twenty-first century today as a Fourth of the twenty-first century Fourth Avenue District. So that's really where the name came from. Because what I understood is that people will remember stories a lot more than they remember facts. And what this story is about, as much as it, again, is centered on this story around the black community, it's a much bigger story that is really about transparency. And it's about us as Americans, as an American community, helping each other and seeing the dollar go around and supporting each other's communities and be more conscious when you're consuming things about how that dollar you spend has a broader impact throughout other communities. So that's the mission. And as we work with people, I'm a big proponent of just the idea that you don't have to, purpose and profits can exist. They don't know that they're not mutually exclusive ideas. So we brought this together and that's the brand that we're building, one that's really about we're going to make a lot of money. But at the same time, we also have a very valid purpose for building up communities in general. That's the vision.
Ryan Alford [00:38:51] I love it. And I mean, you guys are curating products. It'd be interesting. I'll lay this out for both you and Samrat. You know the challenge in curated sites, whether it's, Fourth Avenue market or Amazon at the highest level or even in between is how specific brands that you carry stand out within those curated experiences. I would open that up to both of you for like, what that balance is and how you guys go about it?
Salim Holder[00:39:24] Yeah, I mean, I can say a lot of what Samrat’s been talking about are stuff that I think is amazing. We were having these conversations. A couple of months ago we were just talking about it. And I think with his thoughts they are cutting edge and will push brands of the business forward, thinking about that experience and a discovery process and putting the consumer at the center to discover what's best for them. My platform, what I'm doing today is in one way trying to do a better job, make sure consumers can navigate the site and find what they want and what meets their needs. But another sense is being able to help people discover new brands and other brands and having spotlights on certain brands and given opportunities for brands to even pay to get a higher placement on a site as you do on Amazon. So that part is like the traditional retail play of working with brands and allowing them to find it and pay to get extra space. But then I think the longer and more sustainable play is what Samrat was talking about, of creating this compelling experience, that enables discovery and then having the right brands there and that keeps them accountable for saying, well, if you're not being discovered, maybe you need to change some things about your brand versus maybe you need to change where your brand is.
Samrat Saran [00:40:39] And what Salim is saying is spot on, because what happens right now is the Dataplan model. I'll pay you, give me the top shelf and that's how I'll get the most sales. But with search and as I'm getting stronger and stronger, brands need to pay an equal amount of attention to their PD or their product display, because the problem is that most of them just basically write whatever they feel like in terms of basic description, basic fact, and that's it. It's not enough. If you want to make this journey massive, every part of the eCom experience has to be right, not just the first page is what Salim is talking about. So brands themselves need to start thinking about this. The other issue is people don't understand the difference between marketing and sales. Marketing is what you do on TV. It's what you do on the radio. It's what you're doing when you're trying to get people to become aware. At the point of purchase, the state of mind of a shopper is very different. That same person now is here to make decisions, don't waste my time with fuzzy stuff. And that part of the message also has to be optimized. So think about the things that are important to the people, like the quiz that you've created Salim. What kind of hair do you have and what are you trying to look for? And then giving them and making sure that the PDPs were built to be able to solve that and also everything happening at the back end from an engine perspective. So these are small tactics that can pay big dividends with the kind of imagery that you use on your website from a product perspective. You have to think about it as if I were to be picking up a product in-store and looking at it. Those are pretty much the same angles I would need when I'm on a website. It's not just front and back, but you think about all the things that happen in that one moment when you hold a product, you're understanding not just the basic dimensions, but wait, how big is it? Where will it fit? How will it fit? Does this fit in? If it is shampoo will it fit in my bathroom? Is it going to be too big? All these things are questions that are getting answered very implicitly in the shopping journey. Now, you have to think about how you're going to do that online.
Ryan Alford [00:43:07] It's so fascinating because, you know, the sales versus the marketing aspect are so spot on and what's happened is it was easy to separate sales and marketing when marketing teetered up and then the store was the sale because we had that clear divide. And now with everything, you certainly have ads and things that run the marketing. But marketing is now expected with eCom to be judge, jury, executioner, you know, like do use the analogy like you've got to tee them up. You've got to serve them well on the site and then you've got to close them. And I think there almost needs to be you either have to be well rounded as a marketer and believably we've had this performance marketing on, this is essentially saying, oh, it's sales and marketing. I almost think you need this delineation of marketing still and sales optimization within e-commerce. And certainly, the bigger brands are doing that with the dollars they have. But there's a big difference between attention and driving people to the store and then optimization to get them to buy and everything that we've been talking about.
Salim Holder [00:44:24] That was the biggest thing that we saw when we first launched. And I was like, what are we going to test for this? So we put an ad out there and we got traffic. We got a lot of traffic, but nobody was buying. So we were like, oh, that was great to get people there. But then we had to go back and look through the journey, to see what was stopping them from buying. Is this page loading too slow or they can't find this? There's no search here. They can't. And that was to your point about closing the sale and to optimize for navigation. The marketing side got them in there like, oh, I thought that was amazing. And they get to the site. And so that's where we had to optimize that second part, which is so critical and lowering your cost of acquisition, making it so I can keep marketing, and anyway, it's a great point.
Samrat Saran [00:45:11] And it's a science. So everything from; do you create engagement as soon as people get on the website or do you create more ads or does it feel like a place I want to be in or does this feel like an exam that I'm going to have to do?
Salim Holder [00:45:27] Right. Right.
Samrat Saran [00:45:29] And then from there, how do you keep those moments of connection going? And to your point, it's not sales or marketing. There's this world of shopper marketing that you have to study. And I think for ecom, the science that needs to be studied is how do I talk to shoppers at the moment to be able to explain all their questions out to them and get ahead of them and be able to deliver on what the product expectations are. Marketing is meant to give you an idea of a brand that will solve your problem. Sale is the experience of how you close. But that middle ground of shopper marketing, It's where Ryan and Salim assessed it and concluded that you need to focus on those messages and test and learn what's working best.
Ryan Alford [00:46:22] Well, I know we could talk all day about this topic and I'm going to reserve the right if you guys are open to it for further discussion because it's right in the wheelhouse for me. And I love just learning about the entrepreneurial journey. And Salim, really I appreciate you coming on, why don't you tell our audience where they can keep up with you and all things Fourth Avenue market.
Salim Saran [00:46:48] So you can find us on Fourth Ave Market, at 4thavemarket. You can also find us on Instagram, find us on Facebook and, find me on LinkedIn. We just kicked off a crowdfunding campaign. We've funded to allow the community to have ownership. So check us out on wefund4thavemarket. I appreciate the opportunity to be on the podcast
Ryan Alford [00:47:18] I appreciate it. And Samrat, Hey, man, you keep coming on and I'm going to let you plug anything you want. So where can we keep up with all things, neuro insight, and everything Samrat?
Samrat Saran [00:47:30] You can find us at Neuro-Insight.com , visit our website or if you want to follow me on LinkedIn, SamratSaran. What I will leave you guys with is remember this creativity is what will get you success. But creativity is not about breaking boundaries for boundaries' sake. Creativity is the art of human understanding married with the science of execution, you need people.
Ryan Alford [00:47:57] I love it. If I had an amen hallelujah, I would push the button. I appreciate Salim Holder today, you know where to find him, he just told you. Samrat will be a regular as long as he keeps coming on here from neuro insight and you know where to find us at the.rad.cast on Instagram. I am Ryan Alford on Instagram and everywhere across the Web. And please find us at the new and improved radcast.com, where you can search for any of the topics we cover and find all of the content, all the highlights, all of the bad. That is Salim and Samrat today. You know where to find us and we'll see you next time on the Radcast.