Laura Santos from Envelopes.com – Podcast Transcript

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Shaun Ryan:  [0:12] Hi. I’m Shaun Ryan from SLI Systems and this is the eCommerce podcast. Today, I’m talking to Laura Santos, Marketing Manager from Envelopes.com. Welcome, Laura.

Laura Santos:  [0:21] Thank you, Shaun. Thanks for having me.

Shaun:  [0:24] Thanks for being on here. Traditional question to get us started. Can you remember, what was the first thing you ever bought online?

Laura:  [0:32] The first thing I ever purchased online had to be a college textbook. It was either from, I want to say, campuseye.com, or it could have been an eBay purchase.

Shaun:  [0:47] Very good. What were you studying?

Laura:  [0:51] I majored in Business Administration and as well as Fashion.

Shaun:  [0:56] OK, excellent. How about your most recent purchase, what was that?

Laura:  [1:03] My most recent purchase was a $400 vacuum from Williams and Sonoma.

Shaun:  [laughs] [1:09]

Laura:  [1:10] It wasn’t for myself. It was a gift for my sister‑in‑law, so I must like her very much.

Shaun:  [1:17] No, it’s a nice gift. Tell me, how was the buying process on Williams and Sonoma?

Laura:  [1:24] For me, it was pretty easy. I’m a pretty big fan and shopper of their store and site. It was pretty painless, and it made it pretty easy.

Shaun:  [1:39] Yeah, if you’re familiar with their site, it definitely helps with when you’re buying something on their site, doesn’t it? Can you give us a little bit of background about yourself? How did you get to be Marketing Manager at Envelopes.com?

Laura:  [laughs] [1:52] It was my dream job. It’s what I always wanted to do. [laughter]

Laura:  [1:59] Kidding all aside, like I said, I started off in college in South Florida, in the United States. I was a Fashion major, then I went on to pursue my Master’s in International Business. [2:12] From there, I got to experience different jobs, after my college experience. Anywhere, ranging from big‑box retailers to specialty stores, to wholesale accounts. I’ve been with brands such as Kmart, Steve & Barry’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Danskin, and Envelopes.com here.

Shaun:  [2:37] That sounds like a really interesting career. How long have you been with Envelopes.com now?

Laura:  [2:45] I’ve just been with Envelopes.com a year and a half, and it’s been going great so far. There’s been so many new initiatives that have been going on here, and I’m lucky to have been a part of that and help the growth here. [2:59] It’s a really exciting company. I know envelopes and paper sound pretty boring, but trust me, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Shaun:  [3:08] Tell us a little bit about the company. What do you know of its history and what do you guys do?

Laura:  [3:17] The company is actually 40 years old. We just had our 40th anniversary last July. So, you’re saying, “How can a .com be 40 years old?” We started the business… [3:28] It’s a small, family‑owned company, run by Sharon Newman, who’s the CEO, and her son Seth Newman, who’s the President. It was started by Sharon’s husband many years ago. He actually passed away about 20 years ago, so Sharon then took over the business from there. As well as, Seth grew up in the business. That’s how the company ran and began. It was a small, middleman, empty envelope printing business.

[4:00] About 1998, Seth took what was then Action Envelope and Printing Company, online, where we became ActionEnvelope.com. We’ve been online since 1998. We still have the two sites, ActionEnvelope.com and Envelopes.com.

[4:18] We’ve recently transitioned, in late 2010, to over to everything is now Envelopes.com, as far as branding and our marketing initiatives. It’s a small, privately owned company. We have about 50 employees and we’re growing every day.

Shaun:  [4:37] Envelopes.com is a pretty good domain name. Have you always had that, or was that fairly new?

Laura:  [4:45] There’s an interesting story behind that. It’s a fairly new purchase. I believe it was in 2009, 2010 that we actually acquired it and then launched it in late 2010 we were using it. We were offered the domain about 10, 11 years ago for what back then was a hefty amount of 10,000 US dollars.

Shaun:  [5:11] Oh.

Laura:  [5:12] Needless to say, we said, “Oh my goodness, we can’t afford it.” At the time the business had different needs, priorities. [5:23] After regretting it for many years, Seth and the gentleman who was selling the domain, were in contact all these years. The guy who owned it, owned a very large company. He ended up selling the company that owned that domain name, off into a separate entity.

[5:45] After much back and forth, with bargaining and all that, we were able to purchase it for a much larger amount. A mistake in the beginning, we definitely learned our lesson. Who knew, 10 years ago, what we knew in the most recent years of what a domain can do for us? Lesson learned, buy it upfront.

Shaun:  [6:09] How have things changed, since you’ve had that Enevelopes.com domain, and you’ve moved all your site over, and you’re branding over to that?

Laura:  [6:19] It’s definitely changed the company, as far as a presence and a culture shift. Obviously, online, being through organic traffic and paid searches. It’s more recognizable. It’s more credible, as any with named.com brand there would be. [6:37] For us, we really want to take the term itself and turn it into the brand. Which, I think, we successfully have done as well as, some of these other .coms. You’re like, “Is that a real company? Do they just have the name and put ‘.com’ behind it?”

[6:58] I think we’ve been able to really put a culture behind it. It’s something we’re very proud of. If, one of these days, you’re able to visit our offices here in New York, you’ll see that we take pride in our building and our office, which we just moved into last year. We call it “the living breathing website.” It’s all of our colors, with the silver, and the blue, and the white. We really live true to our brand.

Shaun:  [7:24] Your product is primarily envelopes, or is there a broader range of products than just envelopes?

Laura:  [7:30] We do carry a broader spectrum than just envelopes. Obviously, the majority is envelopes, but we do have note cards, flat and folded, as well as paper and card stock.

Shaun:  [7:46] How are you attracting customers to the site? You mentioned organic and paid. Are they the main ways you’re attracting customers, or what else are you using?

Laura:  [7:56] Who knows if this will change in the near future, but with us, as the majority of people, we get most of our traffic through paid search which, I think, is still true for mostly everybody. We do have our paid search ads, text ads, display ads. As far as remarketing or retargeting, we have those programs as well, in retention marketing, such as email marketing, things like that. [8:27] We also do have an affiliate channel, as well as outside channels such as Amazon, eBay stores, Etsy stores as well. There’s a couple of different channels that we go through to get members. We do have some smaller trade channels as well, that just goes to advertising specialists and such. We do have it very spread across channels that we get it through.

Shaun:  [8:56] Just to delve into one of those. I saw your remarketing efforts myself, because I was on your site, preparing to interview you. Then, I saw an ad for your site, when I was off on another site, and I was pretty sure that was the retargeting happening. How does that work for you, the remarketing? What services are you using?

Laura:  [9:18] For remarketing, internally, we do have abandonment, four levels of abandonment, that emails will get triggered through. On product level, category level, cart abandonment level, and checkout abandonment level. Those are the four levels that we track for retargeting. [9:38] As far as paid search remarketing goes to, that’s been doing very well for us. We have a few banner sizes, and we just started doing that within the last couple of months. We’re testing out a few different types of banner ads now.

[9:54] Who knew that display ads would actually work?

[laughter]

Laura:  [9:59] But apparently, it is successful. I was doubtful at first. Not a fan, myself. I don’t think I’ve ever actually, myself, clicked on a display ad, but if they say it works, let’s give it a whirl.

Shaun:  [10:13] The retargeting seems to be one form of display ads that seems to be very effective, from what I’m hearing from retailers. It’s interesting, because display ads, historically, have got such a bad rap.

Laura:  [10:26] Exactly.

Shaun:  [10:28] How about social media? Are you using social media, at all?

Laura:  [10:33] Yes, we do use social media here. We have our own blog. It’s called “A Cool Dry Place.” The story behind that is, every envelope carton that you receive, it always has the message on the outside, “Store in a cool dry place.” We think it will be cool. [laughter]

Laura:  [10:54] That’s the reason behind the name, there. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, as well as Pinterest, which is going to be the next hot commodity. [11:06] For us, I will admit that it was definitely a bit of a challenge, the social side. Being envelopes, and not necessarily what I’d call a sexy product, as another brand would be, say, like a Nike Apparel, per se. You can follow them or like them or become a fan or share things, not having owned or interacted with Nike ever before.

[11:34] Whereas, Envelopes.com, you’re really not going to become a part of that community unless you’ve had some form of interaction, and maybe, possibly, a friend of yours had. You might think, “Oh, let me check out what they did.”

[11:46] For us, we find it a little bit of a challenge to have that as an acquisition type of channel. It’s more of a sort of branding, community building reinforcement channel. We’re working on that on a daily basis, and I think we’re getting better. But it’s always a work in progress.

Shaun:  [12:05] Yeah. So, tell us about Pinterest. Obviously, there’s a lot of buzz about that at the moment. What are you doing there? Are you seeing some referrals coming through, or is it more of that brand building value you’re getting from Pinterest?

Laura:  [12:19] We actually are seeing referrals coming from Pinterest. It’s been slowly growing, nothing tremendously significant, but it has been growing each day. So, we just create, obviously, interest boards. [12:37] We have a big wedding market, whether the brides themselves or the event planners that look to us, to use our materials to build their finished product. It’s definitely a good place for our products as an idea board, and for us to share that with everybody.

Shaun:  [12:54] Yeah, it’s amazing to see that the rise of a site like that. What are you guys working on? What’s the next big thing for you? You’ve obviously done this rebranding exercise, must have taken up a lot of resources recently. What’s the next thing?

Laura:  [13:10] We are currently, and have been working on for probably, at least six months now, and probably will be working on for another couple months. We are launching a new site on Envelopes.com. We are taking this online designer concept to the next level. [13:29] It’s currently, you come to our site, and you can print your address or a return address, any which way you like, but beyond uploading a logo, there’s really not much functionality built into what we would call our envelope designer or product designer.

[13:45] Unless you are a creative person or you have somebody working for you, then, we’re able to take your uploaded template and print, obviously, your beautiful work of art. So, our site is geared towards those creative people or the people who have hired freelancers and whatnot to go ahead and do that. But we want to open it up to everybody being able to design their products.

[14:13] So, hopefully, launching within the next couple months, we work on this every day. We’re launching this new online designer feature of our site, and that’s going to completely change the way we do business. People are going to be able to select from predesigned templates. Say you want a wedding invitation and it’s a fall theme. So, we might have a design that has a tree with the leaves falling off. You will then be able to select that, customize it, change the color, put a picture in, do all your necessary editing as well as buy your matching products to go with it.

[14:53] Obviously, we don’t want to forget about the envelopes. So, we will have all of our wonderful envelopes to go with it, as well as address them. Hopefully, get you out the door and on your way to come back again.

[15:05] It’s a huge, huge undertaking that we have in the works right now. It’s definitely going to change the business for us. We’ve got to back up this initiative. We have just purchased a lot of new equipment here to make this happen.

Shaun:  [15:23] Wow. So, that sounds really exciting. So, will people be able to upload their own designs as well as modify the existing ones?

Laura:  [15:31] Right. We definitely don’t want to scare away those customers who, they are the professional and know what they’re doing. We’re going to have a way to get them in and get them out and have their nice experience and be able to do that as well. We’ll have those routes. It’s almost like a B2B, B2C type of situation. But we have to satisfy them all. Essentially, our products can be used for anything from anybody from a business to an individual. Sometimes that becomes a challenge, where you don’t want to segment out customers in a particular fashion. We just want to give them the option of using the tool to make the best product that they can.

Shaun:  [16:13] Yeah. Now, that sounds really exciting. When’s this due to launch?

Laura:  [16:21] It’s going to launch before Q4. I don’t have an exact date yet. It’s always a moving target.

Shaun:  [16:28] Yeah. I’m very familiar with that. [laughs] So, you’re using internal resources to build this? Or are you using some outside help?

Laura:  [16:40] As well as internal resources that we’re using here, we work with an agency, Alexander Interactive, who’s based in New York City, who we’ve had a relationship with for many, many years, and who has built our existing sites at Envelopes and Envelopes.com. We’re continuing to work with them for this product.

Shaun:  [17:03] Excellent. It’s obviously taking up a lot of your time and you’re gearing up to have it ready in time for the holiday season, is yours a seasonal business? Is the holiday season a big business for you?

Laura:  [17:16] It definitely is a holiday business for us. You have to think with our, with the holidays and Christmas and everything else going around the year. [17:26] I group envelopes and all your stationery needs with, when are you starting to decorate the outside of your house? That’s the time you should be ordering your products. Our biggest bump is November. I propose to last minute shoppers in December, because if you don’t have your items or your party invitations out, I think you’re in trouble. Maybe you’ll be spending, we’re sorry, no. So, maybe we’ll get that in January.

[17:53] But we definitely have a huge season gearing up starting all the way in August all the way through November. It’s still extremely busy, December, but not as busy as November. And then, for us, March, we call that our wedding month here. For some reason, even though people really say there’s not really any wedding month any more. For our business, March is really stellar for all those brides frantic for their summer weddings, or even fall, if they’re ahead of schedule.

Shaun:  [18:28] Right. So, it’s a busy month for you now.

Laura:  [18:31] Yes. [laughs]

Shaun:  [18:32] Great. You mentioned you use Alexander Interactive. What other technologies do you use, technologies or outside help do you use on your site?

Laura:  [18:43] We use Alexander Interactive, who has, obviously, built our site to what it has been today through an Apache elect.biz program which is open for business and it’s open source program. [18:56] We have integrated that internally as sort of order fulfillment and inventory needs with NetSuite. We use that for our customer management system in inventory and fulfillment. We, obviously, use SLI for onsite search solutions. For email marketing, we used Bronto. For our team search initiatives, we worked with an agency, the Rimm‑Kaufman group.

[19:26] Let’s see, who else? We have a Google team, as well. We have a five person Google team, mainly focused on our paid search initiatives as well. So, obviously, that’s a huge undertaking there, as well. Those are the big hitters, there.

Shaun:  [19:42] Cool. How about reviews? Do you have those on the site? Do people review envelopes?

Laura:  [19:46] We do have reviews on the site, and that actually has been built internally. It’s been doing great. That’s probably my number one recommendation to anybody who’s looking to improve their site, is you’ve got to have reviews. It’s definitely a game changer.

Shaun:  [20:04] Yeah. That’s great. Now, there’s obviously a lot happening in ecommerce. How do you keep up with all the trends?

Laura:  [20:13] We subscribe to a lot of email newsletters. No. [laughs] [20:17] We try to, actually, that’s something that I hold very near and dear to me, is keeping up with industry and the trends and sharing that with my team. With my team, on a daily basis, every morning we have a daily huddle. We go over metrics, whatever areas we’re reporting on, victories that happened the previous day prior to this day, as well as including anything interesting or necessary we need to know that’s going on in the industry.

[20:49] I put that on myself and my team members to always be learning. We definitely are big into going to industry events and dinners and networking and conferences. Obviously, reading up on all the teams and cons. In this industry, you have to be up on what’s going on outside your business.

Shaun:  [21:12] What are some of those networking events and conferences that you would recommend to the listeners?

Laura:  [21:19] One of my favorite conferences is actually NRF online retail version, which Shop.org. I’m a big fan of that. Anything Internet Retailer does or says is obviously golden. So, those are big initiatives, as well. [21:35] Depending on what channels you’re looking into, I think it’s very important to have good relationships with your paid search, whether it’s Google directly or your agency as well. We do attend conferences for each of our vendors. So, whether it be affiliate marketing or email marketing, it’s always important to head those up, as well.

Shaun:  [21:56] Excellent. Well, Laura, I want to thank you very much for your time today. It’s been great hearing your story and that of Envelopes.com. I’m looking forward to seeing the new site when it’s live in the next quarter or two.

Laura:  [22:10] Great.

Shaun:  [22:11] So, thank you very much. That wraps up another Ecommerce Podcast. I’m Shaun Ryan from SLI systems, tune in next time.