For our forth JUMP interview, we had a chance to speak with Ryan O’Donnell, co-founder and CEO of Let’s Gift It. He will be leading a panel at JUMP in New York on the strategies and tactics in launching and maintaining a successful social commerce initiative.
We spoke to O’Donnell about the founding of Let’s Gift It, how to activate communities and social discovery, and the importance of data and disruptive technologies to all sizes of business.
What does your day-to-day job entail?
As CEO of a tech startup, the responsibilities are broad across business function, and decisions can have drastic impacts on the business. I spend my time divided between business development from prospecting to working with existing customers, product development, product marketing, contracts, reporting, analysis, recruiting, and watching the bottom line.
Time can shift between each function, and I work hard to make sure we have a great team in place to execute. I am a big believer in deferring to domain expertise, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have healthy debates along the way.
What gave you the idea for Let’s Gift it and why do you think it worked?
The idea for Let’s Gift It started late 2010 when I personally dealt with a few group gifts with friends and family. They were painful and took all the fun out of the gifting event. My co-founder built the initial web service and we quickly moved from a consumer app to focus on powering the service for online retailers
In early 2012, we got the first inclination after testing out a lean product development approach that our customers were really interested in video greetings and messaging. We built Sociagram to help retailers innovate on the standard text based video message by letting customers record a video message that they could send via social networks.
We launched at Internet Retailer in June and have been overwhelmed by the response, integrations, and early success. This is a killer service just in time for holiday.
How do you get in front of customers while they’re considering purchases?
This has been the most difficult part of running a company. When you have no brand and a few customers it’s difficult to get your voice heard. Over times, both factors should grow making it easier to grow the business in turn. Conferences, panels, advisors, introductions and a lot of hustle are key to success.
How important is data to you? How much does it inform your business approach? How much of it do you share with the retailers you work with?
We live and die by data. If you are not selling something, but rather assisting a sale or future sale, smart analytics are key. The data tells stories. We have to listen, learn, act, test, and refine.
Data is very important to our customers too. Throughout my career, I’ve learned that the most interesting value add or ROI do not come from the initial business assumptions of what they will be. It’s key to make sure there is good communication so everyone’s expectations are aligned.
What’s the importance of disruptive technologies in the marketplace?
Without disruptive technologies, we’d still only be ordering through catalogs. There are two types of disruption: incremental and innovation. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of incremental changes which is often the foundation to something game changing. Long term, we are working on one of those game changing innovations.
If you had a list of things marketers should do to get ahead, what would the top 3 be?
1) Test 2) Get out of the office 3) Be bold. Don’t be afraid of losing your job. Be afraid of keeping it for too long.