Interview with Rich Gardner from Klaviyo


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Meet Rich Gardner, the SVP (Senior Vice President) of partnerships at Klaviyo. Gardner oversees Klaviyo's expansive network of agencies, app integrations, and platform partnerships. In this interview, I will ask about his opinion and experiences on sustainability, e-commerce growth and the future of high performing brands.

Rich Gardner


What does a normal day look like for Rich Gardner?

Rich: "Every day looks a little bit different. I live in Boston, which is where we are headquartered. I usually have a day full of Zoom meetings, and sometimes meetings in person which feels better. It's great to be able to see people in real life. 

I have a pretty big team now, globally. So, sometimes the first thing I do in the morning is talk to the European team. And one of the last things I do at night is to talk to the Sydney team, or the team in Singapore."

How do you manage all of your responsibilities?

Rich: "Most of my time is spent on the agency part of the business because it's the biggest part of my team. We see significant revenue from referrals from that part of our organization, so it gets a lot of my attention.

Second important thing is thinking about how we can work with platforms like Magento, WooCommerce, PrestaShop, Shopware, etc."

How would you describe the current state of the e-commerce market and its full potential?

Rich: "It's been a wild three years in e-commerce. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce grew faster in 90 days than it was projected to grow over the next 10 years.

We all had to fasten our seatbelts to adapt to where we are in e-commerce today. E-commerce continues to grow as a sector, though it has returned to its normal growth rate.

It was in 2020 and 2021 that everybody was readjusting to that reality. Therefore, it's important for everyone to implement strategies that are sustainable in the long term. Focusing on the short term isn't always the best approach, because times are changing continuously."

What are the biggest issues you’re currently seeing e-commerce companies experiencing?

Rich: "We hear about a few challenges from our customers:

One issue is that their customer data is scattered across various platforms. As a result, they can't create the kinds of marketing experiences that they want. They feel like they're constantly chasing down data across the various systems they use.

1. They have an online checkout platform that they use.

2. They have an email provider.

3. They have all these different systems.

Thus, the challenge lies in their highly fragmented tech stack.

Klaviyo aims to consolidate this tech stack for brands. This allows brands to centralize their data in one place, enabling them to create personalized experiences.

There is a second challenge. Everyone is trying to understand the evolving landscape of privacy regulations. It started in Europe with GDPR. Then there were Apple iOS changes. Acquiring customers on Facebook used to be cheaper and easier, but that's no longer the case.

Adapting strategies to win more customers has become a significant challenge. To ease this challenge, we've facilitated integration between Klaviyo and Facebook. You can create customer segments on Facebook and then reach out to them via email in a highly personalized manner."

What’s the number #1 thing that businesses should be focusing on in order to grow?

Rich: "In addition to what I mentioned before, I would add one thing: people. 

I return to businesses that give me the feeling of being understood, as if they know me personally, even though they don't. When I walk into a good restaurant, hotel, or shop online, it feels tailored to me, as if I have a relationship with them. Brands that put themselves in the shoes of their customers make them feel as though they have a personal relationship with the company. That's the magic. 

And that's bigger than Klaviyo. It's a mindset. How do you stand in the shoes of your customer as a brand? Understand them so well, and think, “What's going to make them feel a connection to my business?”

Even interactions with the helpdesk or IT support are part of their experience with your company."

What role does sustainability play in e-commerce? And how can brands potentially incorporate these practices?

Rich: "It's a scary time from a global climate and global warming perspective. We see the changes in the weather, and it's very concerning. How e-commerce brands think about sustainability covers a spectrum of things. On one end, they could source materials in places that do the right thing for workers and the environment.

And then there's leveraging supply chains like transportation logistics. Are they using carbon-neutral options or carbon offsets? That's one end of the spectrum.

And then, all the way down to the other end, can a customer tick a box and say, 'I want to pay an extra 78 cents to make my order carbon-neutral'

I don't know if there's a right or wrong in those examples. But I do know that trust and transparency matter a lot. If you are a company and you say you're going to do one thing, don't do another. You will lose the trust of your customers."

Have you heard any stories or know of any companies that are doing a really good job?

Rich: "Patagonia has a great reputation for what they do as a company to protect the environment. When you hear their name, you think of the environment because it’s ingrained in their brand, and it makes sense for an outdoor brand.

But then there are interesting software companies. There are apps that provide a checkout widget companies can add to their checkout experience. It's a checkout widget that a company can add, making a $1 checkbox visible for carbon-neutral orders.

For some of your customers who care a lot about that, it's going to help with conversion. restaurant more than once, I go back. It's because I feel some sense of trust in those businesses."

What kind of advice would you give to e-commerce brands striving to stand out and succeed in the coming years?

Rich: "Brands need to be authentic if they want to establish long-term relationships with their customers. It's essential for people to believe what the brand says and understand what the brand stands for.

Brands should consider – what do we represent as a brand? What are our values? State your values on your website, and then live by those values. Customers want to feel like they can trust the company.

When I buy clothes or go to a restaurant more than once, it's because I return due to a sense of trust in those businesses."

What are the things that brands should really be focusing on to differentiate themselves?

Rich: "I think about what Rory Sutherland said during Experimentation Elite this summer: do weird things every once in a while and be willing to experiment."

He also mentioned that when five people are required to make a decision, you will end up with a 'maybe/okay' decision, but not a great one. It results in an 'okay' outcome, but not a great outcome.

So, if everyone is doing the same thing, then there's some room to experiment.

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