Q&A with Curalate CEO and Co-Founder Apu Gupta
Apu Gupta is the CEO and co-founder of Curalate, a marketing technology company that provides online brands with the tools they need to help consumers discover their next purchase. Curalate’s Fanreel product, for example, enables online stores to pull images and videos from their customers’ social media feeds for display on eCommerce sites.
Gupta is already a wily veteran of the startup space, having previously founded internet security company TaoSecure. He also served as the COO and CMO of MedPlus Health Services, a company he helped grow to become the second-largest pharmacy chain in India.
We spoke with Gupta to mine him for advice on making eCommerce sites more browsable and getting your influencer strategy up and running. We also managed to get his take on the golden era of hip-hop. Read on!
TurnTo Networks: One weakness of many eCommerce sites is making browsability easier for consumers. How can online stores improve the ability of shoppers to discover new items?
Apu Gupta: With great content.
To date, marketers have tried to help customers find new products online with tools. Reviews help you determine if a product you’re actively considering is right for you. Recommendations attempt to surface products that you might enjoy, but they often do so in such a restrictive way that you’re often presented with more of the same.
Great content, though, can help people browse in the same way they experience social. We thumb through a feed of images and videos created by brands, influencers and our friends, occasionally stopping on something that catches our eye.
And, so, when we talk with brands about how to improve discovery online, we often frame the opportunity as a question. What if this thumb-stopping content existed in eCommerce environments?
We’ve seen from our customers, like Tuckernuck and Monsoon, that customers respond positively to these types of experiences, spending more time on site, converting at higher rates, and finding more products than they otherwise would.
TurnTo: It seems like Instagram is adding marketplace-like features on a near daily basis. What should brands and retailers be thinking about in terms of their Instagram strategy?
Gupta: One of the great misses by brands and retailers today is that Instagram is viewed as a traffic source. Given Instagram’s size, this makes sense. But for the 1,100-plus brands we work with, Instagram—paid and organic—accounts for less than 10 percent of eCommerce traffic.
So what, then, is Instagram’s value? The content.
The shift that brands need to be making when it comes to their Instagram strategy is moving from a focus on driving more engagement and more traffic from social to a focus that includes taking those highly engaging videos and images from social and reusing them to inspire consumers across any touchpoint.
TurnTo: Most, if not all, retailers are still trying to figure out what their influencer game plan is. What’s your advice?
Gupta: With the brands I talk to, there’s a realization that influencers are as valuable for their content as they are for their reach. With that in mind, I’d recommend you start to formulate your influencer game plan by first speaking with the frontline members of your social team.
I remember talking earlier this year with Liz White, the Chief Customer Officer of Fullbeauty Brands, about how her social team was a significant player in changing how their brands chose models. Those team members, she said, understood more than anyone else how Fullbeauty’s brands were being perceived—and received—by its customers.
Your social team will have the types of insights you need to determine which type of influencers you should be working with, why their aesthetics fit your customer base, and how that content can be reused across other touchpoints.
TurnTo: Your Twitter feed is littered with references to Drake, Love & Hip Hop, and Meek Mill. In your opinion, when was the golden era of hip-hop? (It was the 90s, right?)
Gupta: First, let me just say I’m not partial to a particular decade of hip hop. I love the evolution of it, from when I first got into it in the mid 80s to what we got now. I could talk about this in more length than I’ve got. But I will say, I feel most nostalgic about the days of scratching. I grew up around scratch DJs—turntabilists. What people did with vinyl and a needle was, and still is, mind-blowing.
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