StockX CMO Deena Bahri on the Next Gen Experience and How to Own It
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How to Own the Next Gen Experience
Today on The Future of Fandom, we deep dive into the next gen experience — and how to own it. on this episode we take a look at StockX and how it stays ahead of the curve, and even ahead of its partners, in this realm of consumer connection via their Chief Marketing Officer, Deena Bahri.
StockX is known for sneakers, streetwear, accessories, collectibles, and everything in between. It’s also been able to harness hype and build an ocean of fans drop by drop. Today, Deena chats about how they stay close to next gen consumers in the physical, digital, and “phygital” worlds.
We also talk about Own It, StockX’s next brand platform that they hope will layer another critical element of the next gen consumer into their own experience: the desire, and the need, to belong as an individual.
Deena’s been on the cutting edge for years, and over the next half hour, you’ll see why. So let’s collab for a little while and predict the future with StockX and Deena Bahri.
Connect with Deena Bahri on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deenabahri/
Read more about StockX: https://stockx.com/
Read more about Own It: https://stockx.com/lp/own-it-2022/
Full episode here:
FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW
Adam Conner (01:26):
Deena, how are you? Thank you so much for chatting with me.
Deena Bahri (01:29):
Hi, Adam. Good to be here. Thank you for having me.
Adam Conner (01:32):
And chatting with you again, by the way listeners. It’s not been on this podcast stream, but I have interviewed Deena before in a similar vein, specifically how to harness hype, which we will talk a little bit about today I think. I think that it is certainly relevant to this idea of fandom. And we’ll get to that. We’ll get to the other F word here, which is future. But the first thing that I want to do, I’m guessing most people who listen to this know what StockX is. If they don’t, where the hell have they been? What is StockX Deena?
Deena Bahri (02:01):
Hmm. I hope everybody knows, but just in case, StockX is the leading global platform for trading and consuming current culture. You may be saying to yourself, what is current culture? It’s everything from sneakers to apparel, to electronics, trading cards, collectables, art prints, Lego, anything that represents what the consumer is talking about, thinking about right now.
Adam Conner (02:29):
Now in terms of that current culture, of course ever changing, but the way in which it was interacted with digitally and in eCommerce has changed a lot, progressed, evolved, let’s say over the last several years from the first days of direct to consumer where people were starting to take advantage of their own relationships with brands that weren’t necessarily tied to a specific retailer, to the time when you began at StockX to today, to this interview. From that heyday, to your first day, to today, what have you seen change the most about the way that consumers engage digitally and what has stayed the same?
Deena Bahri (03:11):
I’m thinking of three things that have changed. The first I would say is the pace. Just things are going faster and faster. A symbol of the influence of technology, I guess, and the amount of conversion 15 years ago, when I started in direct to consumer, there were pretty much the early adopters in e-commerce. Maybe some people were converting from offline to online consumption, but it was a smaller more separate ven diagram. And I think it’s converging more, more and more. You have more consumers who maybe don’t fit the traditional eCommerce consumer profile becoming eCommerce consumers. And I would say that is also contributing to the change of pace. And then you have just so much convergence, right? There were, I think, brighter lines between it’s called, one example might be entertainment and fashion, or sport and music.
Deena Bahri (04:10):
These were more separate quadrants of culture I think that are now converging more and more and crossing over. I guess the last thing that has changed is just the nature of the dialogue between brands and consumers, which, going back in time was a one way dialogue. Obviously the advent of social channels has created faster, more frequent conversation. But I think in the very recent times, the emergence of newer platforms has allowed for true two way conversation. And I think that’s really, again, fundamentally changed the relationship between the consumer and a brand.
Adam Conner (04:50):
Completely new ways to interact, truly with this well new generation of people, a next generation of consumers, which requires a next gen experience. Now you’ve been at the forefront of that over the last several years with StockX. Thank you for telling me what’s changed over time. When it comes to the today, the most recent part of that last analysis, when decoding what that experience should look and feel like, from an elemental basis, from its foundation to its frills. Let’s just say, if I were to create a wardrobe on StockX from the shoes I got to wear everywhere, to the watch that I can wear maybe, what are those parts that are essential? And what’s the cherry on top right now, again, in your experience, for that next gen experience?
Deena Bahri (05:43):
I think what’s essential for the NextGen consumer experience, I think truly an omnichannel experience. It’s a word we’ve talked about for a long time in e-commerce and in retail. And I think increasingly that is table stakes, right? A consumer who has an experience or an interaction with the brand online, wants to have a connected experience with your brand offline. I think the other piece of it is really being distributed with your brand presence in the channels where the consumer lives, and the marketing channels where the consumer lives. And that means really showing up well natively and consistently in social channels and in each social channel where your consumer is living and breathing and consuming content. We talked again for a long time about having a consistent brand presence in your touch points. But I think today more than ever, the consumer expects to be greeted where they are with a familiar voice and presence from you, the brand. And that’s something we’re certainly working on all the time.
Adam Conner (06:52):
Yeah. What are some of the recent ways in which you’ve leaned into that? Meet people where they are is certainly something I’ve heard about a lot, meeting the demands of the newest generation of consumers, for sure. They’re more demanding than most in terms of sounding and in terms of feeling like they want to belong, like they are of value, well, a valued customer and in turn that makes them a fan. Are there any specific examples recently that you’ve built up to meet that demand?
Deena Bahri (07:17):
Yeah. I think last time we spoke about discord, and that’s an example we go back to often because it is a channel that has emerged over the last 12, 18 months as a place that we as a brand must be, and a place that we can engage with our consumers in a very rich way. And I think launching that, continually testing our presence in that channel, expanding our presence in that channel with different content types and engagement platforms. I think also some of these emerging streaming platforms like Twitch, where again, a year ago or 18 months ago, we tested, we gingerly put our toes in the water. And then now, fast forward to today, we have a team of marketers and creatives in Amsterdam activating our brand at TwitchCon as part of our partnership. I think it’s about being on the right channels, but also being there in the right ways.
Adam Conner (08:11):
Yeah. I think that’s the first time I’ve heard. And it’s a nice moment for me just in my years of interviewing marketers, but learning about this world, it’s the first time a brand and you’ve done it now twice to say, “We need to get into Discord.” I really haven’t heard that and I can more readily understand activations with Twitch. I think live streaming has a long way to go, even though live commerce is sort of sputtering, at least in the US. That’s certainly something I can grasp.
Deena Bahri (08:37):
Adam Conner (08:38):
But the Discord thing, I’m going to remember that, when Discord, it becomes an essential brand channel maybe a couple years down the road in terms of the way that you interact, and then remember that you said it first and you said it twice before anybody, which was very notable.
Adam Conner (08:51):
Let’s talk about some ways in which you create magnetic experiences and maybe Discord eventually will be one of those where you feel really, really tightly tied to, as a consumer, to StockX. I’m reminded of other players out there right now, I think who are navigating this digital ecosystem really well.
Adam Conner (09:12):
The first one that comes to mind is Nike and sneakers, just because of the inherently shareable experiences that they allow people to publish as soon as they get, or don’t get a new drop of shoes. In fact, also on this show, a gentleman by the name of Rob Petrozzo. I don’t know if you’ve met him, but he co-founded a platform called Rally, and basically said that he borrowed a lot of those things for his platform because it was so inherently shareable. And because it was a great way to connect people. Now, marketplaces, I think in general, have an ability to do that more so than their brand counterparts. The people who would supply that marketplace. Nike sneakers, I think is a bit of an outlier, but I’m curious how you pull those brand partners along for the ride, because I’m guessing that they’re not thinking about it or are as connected to do it as you are. Do you know what I mean by that?
Deena Bahri (10:02):
Yeah. Yeah. It’s a topic that comes up a lot in our conversations, in our direct brand conversations, because they don’t understand this consumer. I’m generalizing of course, but…
Adam Conner (10:13):
Deena Bahri (10:14):
By and large, they don’t understand this consumer as well as we do. And they don’t understand how to reach them and how to be relevant to them. And I think they do recognize the need obviously to show up in the right channels, in the right ways, with the right product. But they are often struggling with the path. And I think it’s a place when we do develop these partnerships, it’s a great opportunity because we can bring that. They bring the product, we bring the connection with the consumer. And one of our strong desires every time we partner with a brand, or a personality, or an entity of any kind, we try to make it feel authentic and be fully integrated. Right? We don’t like to do these surface level partnerships, but we try to build multiple layers where there’s content integration. There’s hopefully some unique product involved. There’s a tailored or targeted marketing campaign. There maybe is an event. It becomes more of like an immersive 360 experience with that brand partner for the consumer.
Adam Conner (11:19):
List something that’s a branch of that. And I don’t want to tiptoe, but I want to make sure I ask the question carefully, which is that it seems obvious to me and to you, and thank you for noting that individual brands are behind when it comes to that consumer connection. Obviously they ultimately want to get there. Do you foresee a time in which they will ever get there to the extent that a traditional marketplace has it? Because if you are going to build genuine fans, my guess is that most people want to do it directly. That’s why DTC rose 15 years ago, as you said, when you were part of the first adoption of it. Do you see brands accelerating even towards you or do you think you’re accelerating away from them even as you grow?
Deena Bahri (11:58):
Maybe I’m biased.
Adam Conner (11:59):
Okay. Fair enough.
“I think we’re accelerating. I think it’s true what you’ve said about brands wanting to establish that direct connection with consumers. And I also think sometimes they do that with blinders on without really seeing what the consumer wants. And they’re perhaps not asking themselves the question of, “Does my consumer really want to have to create credentials and sign up for loyalty with me and the 10 other brands they interact with,” as an example, right? I think when you’re interacting with a marketplace is one of the great benefits is you can engage with lots of your brands, your beloved brands, and when you’re interacting directly with one of those brands, obviously there’s tons of value. But I think there is a cost to the consumer to have to give their data, develop that deep relationship in the way that serves the individual brand’s goals.”
— Deena Bahri (11:59)
Deena Bahri (12:50):
There is a trade off there. I think we are accelerating because we are today in line with the way the consumer wants to consume, right? Which is in this eclectic, hybridized fashion, right? We use the word multihyphenate a lot. And we use the word intersection a lot. I think people don’t want to look head to toe, one brand. They don’t have one single passion point. They are complex and their interests are complex. And at a place like StockX, they can serve that complexity in one single place.
Adam Conner (13:22):
Yeah, that makes sense to me. And that was my inkling as well. That marketplaces are generally going to continue to accelerate away. And that brands will always be a bit myopic in the way that they want to attract consumers because it’s consumers [inaudible 00:13:35], it’s consumers that consume my thing, right? Whereas on StockX, or on any marketplace that can consume a bunch of stuff. And the way that you connect with consumers is your, I don’t know about secret sauce, because it’s sauce that’s out there, and other people have their other ways. It reminds me, I had a conversation with Rakuten and Dana Marino, who’s their CMO, another person I should introduce you to, anyway. And they do it through rewards, but everybody’s got their thing. And regardless of what that thing is, yeah, I think they’re getting away from brands. We’ll see. But that’s what I…
“Well, I do want to add one thing though, because I think there is one element in which brands have been super successful at reaching the consumer, and it comes to life on our platform a lot. I think it’s worth talking about, and this is collaborations. I think this has been a trend with our consumer for quite some time now. And we see more acceleration with brands collaborating with, let’s say an incumbent luxury brand collaborating with a musician or an athlete, or with a brand that’s adjacent, but not in their direct space. We’re seeing this with Gucci North Face, or any number of the Crocs collaborations. And I think this is one of the smartest ways I’ve seen some of these brands reach outside of their comfort zone to connect with consumers. And I’d love to see more of that. I think it speaks to, again, being focused on the customer and the way they consume rather than being focused on the singular brand goals.”
— Deena Bahri (14:03)
Adam Conner (15:04):
I’m right there with you. I think that’s a great point. Borrowing fandoms is a subtopic that we’ve explored on this show and it hasn’t been with product to product. Actually it started with getting warranties on product. We had another interview here with a gentleman who runs a company called Extend that does extended warranties. Anyway, he described a flywheel of that where consumers will ultimately want, in his case, it was extended warranties from a singular source. But in your case is they love the idea of those collabs. They’re new, they’re fresh, they’re things that brands probably aren’t thinking about all day, but that somebody like you can and can demonstrate how successful that it is, gets the people going, gets them excited.
Adam Conner (15:41):
This is actually where I want to bleed into the last conversation that I have with you. Because as we talk about fandom, we talk about fans and turning consumers into fans. You got to talk about the hype that comes along with any new drop, any new collab, anything like that, especially since StockX has grown to be a platform for more than just one thing, one category. You can get a whole ton of stuff on StockX. Listeners, you should be going to StockX.com right now, while you’re listening to this, because you have your hands free, but given the volatile nature of some of these things and I’m talking mostly digital goods and collectibles over the last couple of months, let’s say, we’re doing this around the middle of 22. What can you, and what can brands take away from the hype cycles that dominated their growth to retain engagement from those hyped up consumers once some of those fads start to wane?
“Well, we talked about the pace of change, and I think brands that want to stay relevant need to stay on pace, right? Launching one really great product or collaboration today will sustain you for a little while. But to stay in the foreground for the consumer, you as a brand have to continue moving alongside them. And I think you really need a roadmap of continued drops, continued moments. It doesn’t have to be drops depending on what business you’re in, but continued moments to engage the consumer in an accelerating or crescendoing story, right? And it could be building on the original moment or it can be a rotating cadence of stories. But I think the consumer’s appetite for interaction and for consuming stories is large. And you have to be willing to try to satiate that with a strong cadence of content, moments and engagement.”
— Deena Bahri (16:35)
Deena Bahri (17:37):
I think focusing on passion points, for us, that’s been super successful, right? Really understanding our consumer. We talk often about how much we listen to the customer. We study the customer, we do a broad array of insights work, qualitative, quantitative to really understand our consumer. And then we use that to fuel our decisions. And I think the results are showing that the consumer appreciates being heard and being observed in that way.
Adam Conner (18:06):
Well, that ties back to what NextGen consumers want. They want to feel like they belong. They want to feel individually valued and they want that individuality to shine. They want to be empowered in that search for it and in that embodiment of it, once they do. How relevant and timely then it must be for your newest initiative, “Own It,” which is very aptly named, and successfully, I believe, tackles this search and this destination, that’s a very broad way to sell it. Could you please describe what “Own It” is for StockX and what you plan to do with?
Deena Bahri (18:45):
Yeah, absolutely. Just this week we launched “Own It” as our new brand platform, and if you’re watching, you’ll see it perhaps on a digital media channel on television, you’ll see it on [inaudible 00:19:00] home, at TwitchCon, we’re going to be activating it all over the world, then all over the customer journey in order to celebrate individuality, self-expression, and the confidence that comes with really knowing who you are and putting it out there for the world to see. We talk about as our purpose at StockX, our purpose is really to empower consumers everywhere to participate in culture through their passion points, and “Own It” is an ode to that.
Adam Conner (19:28):
I was just reading a couple days ago. In fact, listeners, you’re going to be listening to this probably on Monday the 18th, which means this is brand new. You’ll be able to see it for yourself and the way that you’ll be activating this “Own It” platform will be in a number of ways, including one which is described by a word that I first heard by an expert and a consultant in the Gen Z world. It’s a guy named Ziad Ahmed. I don’t know if you’ve ever met him, which is “phygital.” Let’s go back to Discord for a second. This is the way that you are embodying it. I’m curious, in your perspective, what are the ways in which the physical and the digital will continue to bleed together, especially in the lens of this next gen consumer connection and experience?
“Yeah, I think it’s a fun word. And we started using the word phygital, actually when we launched our digital trading platform in January for basically tokens of physical products. And we said, this is a phygital item, meaning you own a physical item, but you have a digital token that you can trade to represent your ownership. And I think that is a great way to explain phygital. It’s the crossover between something that you interact with digitally and something you interact with physically. In our marketing world that might mean you engage with our brand campaign online, and then you happen to be at TwitchCon and you interact with the brand there in person, or you participate in an “Own It” themed panel on Discord, and then you go to one of our retail locations to pick up a piece of merchandise that ties back to the campaign. It’s again, that crossover between the digital and the physical, which goes back to a theme we talked about earlier, which is showing up in a consistent omnichannel way for the consumer.”
— Deena Bahri (20:14)
Adam Conner (21:22):
Right. Yeah, I can’t wait to see how that manifests, especially at TwitchCon and I’m not going to be in Amsterdam, but I’ll read about it plenty. Because I do follow that world, especially in the world of livestream, in a real world Discord experience. Never seen it. Can I use the word hype? Yeah. I’m pretty hyped to see actually how it’s going to roll out.
Adam Conner (21:40):
Okay. Let me touch on the other F word we like to talk about here, which is future as we close, and excuse the multiple word plays here. I’d like to know what you’re putting stock into next or what your “X” factor is for the future. I want to know what is next for you, for StockX? Maybe this is even what is nobody thinking about yet that they should, when it comes to this, again, we could say consumer connection experience, this broad stuff that we’ve been talking about over the last 20 minutes. I’m just curious. Is there some crazy, wacky, wild idea that is just the roots are there, but hasn’t proliferated. You seem to be on the cutting edge of pretty much every other way that consumers have connected over the last couple years. You might as well be able to tell me about the next ones.
Deena Bahri (22:25):
I wish I had that crystal ball.
Adam Conner (22:26):
Yeah, me too.
“There are a few things that we believe are going to be really strong themes for the future. And some of them are themes you might have heard from me last time we spoke Adam, alt investing, something we talk about a lot, the idea of digital or phygital assets. Having a lot of value, being highly valued by our consumer, and being a viable investment vehicle. And that’s something we’re going to continue to spend time on.”
— Deena Bahri (22:27)
Deena Bahri (22:52):
We talked about convergence and used collaborations as one example, collaborations between say luxury and street brands, for example. I think that’s going to continue to happen and this hybridization of themes coming together. I think we’re going to see that happen more and more. And then, maybe as my last prediction here, something that we’re starting to think about a lot. And certainly personally I’m thinking about a lot is the value of experiences, and how I think this consumer and this time in life, as we’re hopefully coming out of a pandemic, there’s a high premium on experience. And we’re thinking a lot about how do we help the consumer engage in that?
Adam Conner (23:41):
Yeah, that’s an area where I’m specifically super interested just because it’s been a few years since people have either been comfortable for it, and thus, a couple years, and since it’s been heavily invested in, and what’s old will be new again, almost in that way, but of course the tech will have evolved in a great way and a great deal since.
Adam Conner (23:59):
Thank you for telling me all of this. This has been a wonderfully enlightening, again, and listeners obviously now you know what StockX is. You should go over there and see what they are doing. Check out this “Own It” thing and just follow along. Because if the last few years of experience have taught me anything, it’s that these folks will continue to be at the cutting edge which means that you should be too.
Adam Conner (24:23):
Deena, thank you so much for joining me on the show, for peering into the future with me. We’ll keep looking for that crystal ball, but for now I’m very appreciative.
Deena Bahri (24:29):
Adam Conner (24:33):
Thanks again to Deena Bahri from StockX for joining us. Calling it now, as I did on the show, Discord will be a place more brands flock to in the coming years, maybe sooner. And thanks to you, the listener of course, for exploring the Future of Fandom with us. I’d encourage you to stay connected so here’s what you do: go to livelike.com/podcast and subscribe to the Future of Fandom wherever you listen. We are also on social @LiveLike on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @LiveLikeInc. Adam Conner (25:08): I look forward to predicting the future again with you real soon. And until then, I’m Adam Conner saying so long and thanks for being a fan.
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