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MouthLogoHRNew e-commerce brands aren’t exactly news. But Mouth Foods rates a brand story. Just out of its beta testing period, Mouth is a Brooklyn-based foodie site of the highest order. It sells high-end food by subscription, gift packages and brands itself by the simple manifesto “We love food. We love handmade and small-batch. We love food made by people not companies. We love indie food.” Indie-food is fair trade, edgy-packaging and things you won’t find on the normal shelf, like Carrot Cake Jam ($10). The detail that makes Mouth most interesting is its founder. Craig Kanarick is best known as Co-Founder and Chief Strategic Officer of Razorfish. There he pioneered Razorfish’s media and entertainment division, where he helped create books, films, TV shows, albums and websites. He then co-founded Studio Red at Rockwell Group and served as digital strategy advisor to firms like Samsung, Blockbuster, Apple and RecordSetter.com. Now he’s putting his money where his Mouth is. We caught up to him for a Brand Innovators Q&A.

How did you decide on this category?

The inspiration for Mouth came when visiting a small indie butcher specialty food store in Brooklyn. The owner wasn’t doing e-commerce and when we asked why not, he looked out from behind the counter, apron bloody, holding a cleaver, and said “Look at me, you think I’m going to build a website?” Not only was he focused on what he did best, he also didn’t have the resources to deal with shipping or to scale. It was clear that indie food was the most interesting thing happening in the world of food today ­ we jumped on it.

The design and sense of selection is incredible. Can you talk about that strategy?

The food stores we love and the food markets we visit every weekend share something in common ­ they offer sample products, often handed out by the food maker directly. Obviously sampling isn’t possible online, so we tried to replicate the experience of opening a jar, peering in, taking a taste. Our pictures show the food itself, rather than just the packaging. We work hard to make the photographs visceral and mouthwatering, so that we mirror the experience of tasting at a market and getting hungry.

We had a presentation at one of our recent Brand Innovators events in which the speaker talked about the rise of discovery based e-commerce. Agreed?

There are hundreds of new food products being introduced every day, so we know we need to be discriminating. We’re editors. We only pick what we love best after a rigorous selection process, and this makes shopping easier for our customers because they know they can trust our curation. Having not seen the presentation, I don’t know whether I agree with what the author was proposing, but it is true that discovery-based shopping is on the rise online.

Let’s face it, lots of people like to find new things and try them. Mouth.com is adding new indie food products all the time and most are new discoveries for our customers. In fact, we’re highly focused on finding indie foods that are relatively new to the market, and then helping other people discover them. However, the majority of people have a need. They are motivated. They know what they are looking for already, and just want to be able to go to a site and get it. Commerce in the real world reflects this balance. Sometimes, people go shopping and browse ­ for the fun of it. They may make a purchase, they may not. Other times, people know exactly what they need and go to the store to get it. We need both experiences online as well.

How is Mouth marketed? Is it all digital? All word of mouth? (pardon the pun)

Word of Mouth has certainly proved to be important! But we also use direct email marketing, social media, display advertising, food events and some traditional PR outreach. It’s all in the mix.

Can you talk about how the new Mouth.com site changed during beta. What can you share about that 14 months of beta life?

The process was a natural evolution. We worked constantly to improve the customer experience and to refine the branding until the tone and messaging were clearly unique and our own. The biggest change to the site when coming out of beta was the change of the URL from newyorkmouth.com to mouth.com. We now no longer are asked when we’re going to open a California version of New York Mouth!

Social media: What is the strategy and goal for different platforms?

The strategy is to constantly remain on brand and to be relevant. There is so much noise on the social channels, it is easy to get lost and equally easy to be, let’s face it, annoying. We hope we can avoid both ends of that spectrum.

Keys to user experience on the site?

Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Keep it visually engaging. Every click should lead to something the user wants, something worthwhile. Pay attention every detail, even the smallest.

 Data: How does Mouth capture customer information? How does it follow up with customers?

Since we are an e-commerce company we get names, email addresses and billing addresses for all of our purchasing customers. We typically send an email blast once or twice a week to all customers who agree to be on our mailing list. We put a tremendous amount of thought and care into turning these communications into pieces the customer actually finds interesting, amusing and looks forward to (rather than an instant delete!). The open and click rates we’ve achieved all year long seem to validate our effort.

 

 

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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