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Voices: A Route Interview Series feat. Calvin Lammers
Calvin Lammers is currently the VP of ecommerce at Health-Ade. He is a nine-year ecommerce veteran who started his career on the retail side with Target. Calvin made his first foray into ecommerce with Quidsi, an Amazon subsidiary.
Since then, Calvin has moved over to the brand side, running ecommerce for a number of food and beverage disruptor brands such as KIND Snacks and Bai Brands. Prior to joining Health-Ade, Calvin was the Head of ecommerce at Spindrift where he built out the brand’s ecommerce channel from the ground up.
Q: Well, if you’re ready, we’ll jump right in. What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
A: I think the biggest thing is how large of a role operations plays in ecommerce. If I had known what I know now, I probably would have gone back and gotten an MBA in logistics and supply chain. I just know now how important that is to running a viable ecommerce channel, in particular in the beverage space. I’ve lost track of the amount of time I’ve spent thinking about package sizes, freight rates, and dunnage.
Q: What does the future of ecommerce look like in your mind?
A: I’d like to think I know what the future holds, but I’ve been surprised many times before.
In my mind, it’s about becoming more interconnected with how people are ordering. I think it’s about letting your consumers order their products, their favorite brands, their daily staples in any and every way they want.
Maybe you’re ordering via SMS, or maybe there’s a connected scale that is automatically reordering once you get down to a certain threshold, but it’s about removing barriers to purchase. This year has shown that people are ready, wanting, and comfortable buying their products online. Now we’ve got to make that even more convenient. That’s kind of where I see the future of ecommerce. How exactly that takes shape remains to be seen.
Even further out, Amazon’s already planning out a Dash Shelf. There used to be the Dash Button—they did away with that—and now they’re making the Dash Shelf where it’ll measure when the quantity is lapsed.
Now add predictive modeling with AI based on your purchase patterns. “If you were ordering this every three-and-a-half weeks, after 20 days we’re going to start the shipment.” So the consumer is not even managing it themselves, it’s automated for them. There’s a scariness to it: Do you want machines knowing your usage patterns? But there’s also a way where it turns out well.
Q: A little bit more personal question. What’s your best failure?
A: There’s obviously been quite a few of them, but the best failure was around an advertising tactic that we thought would be a good way to tap into a broader marketing campaign.
Back when I was at Bai, we ran a couple of Super Bowl campaigns with a whole IMDB front page takeover tied into the Super Bowl spot as well. It was great from a visibility standpoint, but at the end of the day, it was difficult to track the sales attribution and just did not end up having the impact or the return that we were expecting. And it was obviously a sizable investment for us.
But it was good learning that while some things might work in a broader brand perspective, brand awareness kind of play, you need to make sure that you’re really hitting home on the objectives for those campaigns. If you’re setting that up as a conversion campaign, it’s likely not going to be as effective as you hope.
Q: Bonus question. How have you pivoted strategy during the pandemic?
A: I think the biggest thing—again from the consumables and beverage space—has been making a focus on last-mile delivery. Shipt and Instacart were already major delivery and ordering platforms for consumers, but that’s completely blown up this year.
For brands like Health-Ade that were focused on retail and built their brand in traditional retail, those opportunities are suddenly gone. So, as consumers were changing their purchase behaviors, a lot of ordering for us has shifted to Instacart.
That’s been a very big shift. In the past, maybe we’d have treated that with less priority and focused minimal spend, but that’s really become a major focus and revenue driver for us and many other consumable brands.