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Voices: A Route Interview Series Feat. Ben Knox
Poising Super Coffee as convenient and luxurious
The coronavirus pandemic has robbed a lot of things from a lot of people. Hobbies, jobs, lives—the list is one heartbreaking loss after another. Despite the tragedy of it all, the human spirit still thrived and even in uncertainty, optimism and ingenuity rose to the top.
Ben Knox is the Senior Vice President at Super Coffee and also happens to be one of those folks who found a way to persevere regardless of circumstances. Super Coffee is a great on-the-go caffeine boost, but what happens when the world simply stops going anywhere?
See how Ben Knox pivoted Super Coffee strategy to push at-home goods and create a product-bundling mindset to thrive in a shaky time (and how Super Coffee is the go-to luxury for your pandemic caffeine boosts).
Q: What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
A: I think the biggest learning that I’ve had in the last five years, especially being in the ecommerce and digital industry, is fostering relationships with peers at other companies. Especially other companies within the same category as me, which is consumer packaged goods.
Prior to that, I had feelings that everyone was competing with one another and was less interested in helping to work through things together.
What I’ve found in ecommerce, especially in consumer packaged goods, is that there’s a really strong community of professionals, founders, and business owners that are really interested in seeing everybody succeed. Among beverage companies that somebody might see as competitive, I have made a lot of close contacts and friends through. We connect and chat on a very regular basis and help think through problems together and that’s been tremendously successful.
Q: What does the future of ecommerce look like in your mind?
A: I think the future of ecommerce is all around conversational commerce and brand building. I think where a lot of things are going is having a one-to-one relationship with your customer through all touch points and, most likely, that’s occurring through text messages as opposed to emails, DMS, or Facebook messenger.
The brands that have the ability to respect texting and build a relationship with the customer feels very personal. Making personal connections through technology is going to be the way to build your brand by growing deeper in relationships, creating loyalists, and creating advocates. Communicating by word of mouth wasn’t always possible, it actually was somewhat impossible, and is now becoming more possible in recent years.
Q: What is your best failure?
A: About four years ago I founded a company, Quito farms, a low-carb snack company focused on the keto diet market. When we started that company, we made an error in assuming that our customers were like us. What turned out to be the Quito customer is a bit more mainstream.
Our failure was believing that everybody who is interested in following the keto diet, which was very new and growing at the time, was interested in solutions for the keto diet that we were. We thought the diet consisted of eating as clean and natural as possible.
We sometimes would sacrifice taste and indulgence and make it our way. We found through customer discovery, and going to conferences with our customers, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The consumers that were finding real success on the keto diet and ended up loving it also had a love for Doritos and Starbucks frappuccinos.
What they’re looking for is a healthier version of that stuff because they love eating it. Our products just weren’t serving them. From a health perspective, it took us time to learn that, but once we did, it fundamentally transformed how we approached the market. We reformulated all of our products, removed some products, and went into some new categories. Since then, everything’s been great.
Q: How have you pivoted strategy during the pandemic?
A: We’ve shifted our strategy in a couple of different ways during the pandemic. Super Coffee is interesting because it’s an on-the-go brand, kind of a convenience product that’s ready-to-drink.
Bottled coffee really is the majority of what we sell. It’s been all about comparing and sharing that product, even though you’re not leaving your home, as a convenience because it’s delicious, healthy and you don’t have to go to the coffee shop to get it. It saves time by not leaving the house and you can stay safe in the world of COVID.
It’s really been about glorifying the bulk and stock-up behaviors of buying multiple cases of our product at one time. Always having a stocked fridge and pantry and not really having to worry about things so you can focus on the other important things in life currently.
We communicated through creative strategies, advertising through our website, email marketing, and different promotions and incentives to drive stock behavior.