Thursday, July 9, 2015
Quarterly and Science Inc.: Making Sense of Influencer Marketing and Ecommerce
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Last week, two Los Angeles area technology companies--influencer subscription service Quarterly (www.quarterly.co), and technology studio Science Inc. (www.science-inc.com) inked a business deal together, including both investment and major collaboration. The two have a long history in the subscription area, so we though tit would be intersting to hear from Quarterly's CEO, Zach Frechette and Science's co-founder, Mike Jones to hear more about how the two are hoping to work together to expand the use of influencer marketing in e-commerce.
First off, for those who haven't visited Quarterly or used your services, what is the service all about?
Zach Frechette: Quarterly is the leading platform for online influencers to connect with their biggest fans and followers, through subscription boxes. How that works, is we work with a handful of cool and creative and interesting online influencers, people like Pharrell or Arianna Huffington, or Bill Nye, and put together various packages four times a year for their fans. If you are a fan, and follow them on Twitter, listen to their music, read their books, it's way for you to build a deeper connection with them, support what they are doing, and also get an understanding and insight into the cool products they use and like, and would recommend to you.
Can you give an example of what has been in those boxes?
Zach Frechette: Pharrell is a good one. He's a guy who has his finger on a lot of different areas, and is creative in a number of ways. His boxes have reflected that creative impulse. So, he might include a book with personal annotations he's written in the margins in his favorite parts and passages; he's included some original, unreleased music through some sheet music we've printed for him. He's done collaborations with other artists that he respects, such as a graphic artist where we created a backpack with a custom print, which was exclusive to Quarterly. It's really a wide range of things, and gives a way for our curators, as we call them, to represent themselves however they like, just as they do on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, but in our case, with actual, physical products.
Let's talk about the deal with Science - what are you two doing together?
Mike Jones: As you know, we spend a lot of time around the thesis of how do you work with influencers, and drive business relationships around them. That was one of our original theories around Hello Society and Famebit. The second piece that we spend time on, is understanding commerce. That's what really excited me about Quarterly. We believed that this was a unique way to continually connect influencers with their fans, through commerce, which is exactly how Quarterly is built. So, we entered into an agreement that allows us to work with them, and bring certain influencers into their world. We've been a fan of their different product offerings, and also have joined the board and invested in the business. This new relationship bridges the thesis of influencer relations with commerce, through Quarterly's products and services. I'm really excited about that.
How did you guys connect?
Mike Jones: One of Quarterly's investors ins a close friend of Science. As Quarterly started to scale, and starting showing activity within this early space, our friend introduced us and we started exploring ways to work together, which manifested itself in this partnership.
Both of you were early in the subscription business -- Science with a number of startups in the sector, Quarterly as one of the first out there. What have you learned about the subscription business over the last few years?
Zach Frechette: One of our big takeaways, is that having the right influencer component to the subscription really makes a big difference. Unlike so many of the other kinds of subscription businesses that exist, which are more focused on a good deal or value--which is important to us--there is an additional layer of finding a person who you admire, and want to be engaged with, and have a deeper engagement with. It's a really powerful tool for selling subscriptions in the first place, but more importantly, also get you to stick around and become part of the community.
What do you think is the key to succeeding in these kind of subscriptions?
Zach Frechette: One of the big things that most excites me about the deal with Science, is the surfacing and getting new relationships with new influencers. Science has such a deep roster there, and gives us lots of opportunity out of the gate to beef up the number of people we have on the platform, help us figure out how to reach those fans better, and communicate with them.
Is there an ideal influencer for your service?
Zach Frechette: The best ones are not the people who necessarily have the largest audience, but who have the most passionate and engaged audience. They are the influencers where people are obviously reading every blog post, every newsletter and every Twitter entry, and looking to that influencer for advice and recommendations on how to live their life. That tends to help a lot. Also, the more focused a curator is on a particular area--whether that's food or health, fitness or sports, is better in terms of setting up expectations for that subscription. We've worked with curators who have been broadly interesting, but without a clear and specific focus, it can be a challenge to make that work really good.
Mike, what have you learned about the subscription business?
Mike Jones: We certainly like subscription businesses, especially ones that are natural. Obviously, there are some natural ones, for example, replenishable products make lots of sense. The other interesting area are superfans, where superfans want direct connectivity to these influencers. So, we look at those two areas, both the super passionate fans and areas of natural replenishment.