In this podcast epsiode we discuss the future of the Internet & AI. Featured guest on the show is Jared Mintzlaff, CEO at niftybridge.io.
On the Show Today, You’ll Learn:
- How AI Is Reshaping E-commerce Accessibility and Competition
- Challenges and Advantages Introduced by AI for E-commerce Businesses
- Enhancing Storytelling and Brand Differentiation Through AI
- The Significance of Offering Customers a Stake in Your Brand via Digital Assets
- How Ownership Enhances the Customer-Brand Relationship for Long-Term Loyalty
- The Impact of Ownership-Based Loyalty on Customer Engagement and Advocacy
Links & Resources
Shopify App Store: https://apps.shopify.com/niftybridge
About Our Podcast Guest: Jared Mintzlaff
Jared has an impressive leadership background and was an early team lead at unicorns such as Hubspot and Klaviyo. He successfully started and scaled Nifty Bridge with top clients and partners such as Shopify, University of Michigan, Malbon Golf, Bettinardi, the band Weezer, and many more. Nifty Bridge launched Malbon Golf as a client and they did millions in revenue right out of the gate.
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Claus Lauter: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the e commerce coffee break podcast. Today, we want to talk about a big topic, the future of the internet and AI. Now we want to dive a little bit deeper into that as a set. So we want to look in how AI will change e commerce and what ownership of data means and how you can basically.
Get more customers taking sort of ownership of your business or being part of your business. How that works. Will Jared Mintzler, CEO of Nightbridge IO tell us, and I welcome them here. Jared has an impressive leadership background and was an early team lead as Unicorns, as HubSpot and Klaviyo. He successfully started and scaled Niftybridge with top clients and partners, such as Shopify, the University of Michigan.
Benetti Van Visa and many, many more. So that's welcome, Jared to Joe. Hi Jared. How are you today? Great.
Jared Mintzlaff: How are you doing Klaus?
Claus Lauter: I'm very well Jared, ai, big topic. If you're not under Rock for the last nine months you know that this is all over the place. There is new AI apps popping mark every day and a lot of people do not really know what to do with it.
, they're playing around obviously chat, G p T, but , bringing it into a business end. Making an e-commerce business work with AI is still a little bit of a dark area for a lot of merchants. What's your take on the new challenges and the new opportunities that AI brings for merchants?
Jared Mintzlaff: We'll start with where I see the challenges of ai, I guess their benefits and challenges right in a lot of these, but I think the biggest. Benefits slash challenges that e commerce becomes even more accessible. A kid who's just starting a company 10 years ago, right.
It was a little bit more difficult for them to stand up a website, stand up a storefront, find products to sell and market those products to build an audience today. It's as easy as. Setting up a storefront on your Instagram page and selling t shirts without needing to source any materials. So it's already very, very easy to start an e commerce company or to start a business.
What AI is going to do is make a lot of that differentiation that businesses have today even smaller. So when you think about e commerce companies, right, the ones that are successful, they have a strong voice. They have a strong product, and they have a brand, right, that they've built. It's not just, an Alibaba product.
It's a story behind it. And a lot of that story element is very difficult. That copywriting element is difficult for some people to replicate or to create. What AI does is it takes away, a lot of that competitive advantage where you can go on AI. have done this on chat GPT. And you can say, Hey, create me a company that's centered around sustainable.
Fabrics, right? And they'll generate the copy, they'll generate the social media, they'll generate the story. And that's really a lot of the differentiation is in the story you tell. So when AI is unlocking all of this, these different ways of storytelling, of creating great assets, right, of creating amazing images that look high quality.
A lot of those avenues where you were able to - compete or outcompete have become less and less. So as AI becomes more popular. It will just be harder and harder to differentiate in my opinion. On the flip side of that, the benefits of AI are. All those things I just mentioned.
I mean it's, you can create amazing visual assets. You can create amazing copy. You can manage your social media better, you can engage with clients better. You can automate your customer service, build more deep connections and personalization opportunities on site and in store. So there's a lot of benefits, but I think overall, in my opinion, I think it creates, It's a lot more competitive of an environment for businesses.
And I do think that the ones that recognize that they need to change and use AI to create even more separation are the ones that are going to be successful in the future. I
Claus Lauter: like the approach that you have there with storytelling. That's where people connect and that AI helps, but also levels the ground for everyone and it makes it more competitive.
Now, being competitive, we all know that you need to bring customers back to your store, to your business. It's much easier to convert them into more purchases than acquiring a new client. And I think at Niftybridge, you have a very unique angle on that approach on getting people. Into a, and this is in brackets and sort of ownership with your brand, with your story, how does that work?
Jared Mintzlaff: I 100%, I agree. I think acquiring customers, anybody who's been in e commerce recently, or in the past three years can tell you the. It's expensive. To have your voice heard now is more expensive than it ever was. So it's hard enough to get clients today to get customers to have them see what you're doing.
It's even harder to keep them. And so one of the biggest challenges that we found and I've found in my life the last six years of working in e commerce was I've got a great product. I've got a great brand, but how do I retain the customers that I have? How do I build a deeper connection and how do I keep them excited to come back?
And so I started nifty bridge from the background of like, how do you actually create loyalty? , and so our view on it is that loyalty is a two is a two way road. , you can't just expect customers to be loyal to you when you're not actually being loyal to them.
And you can't expect customers to give you lifetime value. If you have a company. As a company, aren't delivering company lifetime value to them. And so the idea of nifty bridge really is to create these ownership led loyalty programs where you actually give customers stake in your brand in the form of digital assets or tokens that represent a piece of your brand that they actually own and can carry with them.
And so as your brand succeeds, right, they succeed. So there's that sort of moving from more of a transactional relationship with your customer. to more of like, hey, invest in our company, we'll invest in you. And what we've seen is that sort of connection is really what keeps people coming back, what makes people want to wear their clothes and shout the company, their name at the top of their lungs.
It's really creating those sort of super customers and we power that through ownership. Um, using our platform, I like the approach
Claus Lauter: and I like what you said that, it's not a one way road. I think a lot of merchants get that wrong when it comes to any kind of affiliate or loyalty or whatsoever.
It's always do you as a customer should do. And I, as a merchant, wait for you to buy it from me. So great approach there. Give me a couple of examples. How can it look like taking ownership of a brand that you like?
Jared Mintzlaff: Yeah, absolutely. The first question we always get asked is, wait, am I giving stock to my customers?
The answer is no, it's not. It doesn't look like that. So I think the really any ownership program that we've worked with, the first aspect is creating some sort of Earn or like you earn your way or you could buy your way. So it looks a lot like a v i p or a membership program. So the idea is you can list this ownership as, let's say annual subscription, or you can have them buy in a one-time fee and they'll pay for this ownership.
It's. Basically a digital asset token, get through Shopify. So we work with Shopify. So it looks just like a regular product you'll buy into that ownership, , or you can earn your way in. But the idea is that there's an ownership program. , so you. Distribute that ownership, whether customers can earn it or whether they can buy their way in.
Once you create that community of owners, then it's about what benefits, what perks are you giving those owners? So that benefit could look like something as simple as a discount, right? But even more so, it could be early access to products. It could be access to unique collections that aren't for sale on the main storefront.
It could be early access to unique, designs that you'll become, your owners will become a test market for you guys. It could also be something as simple as meetups or events that businesses could run. And so we work with a lot of brands on. One creating that ownership program, but two attaching benefits and value.
And I think one of the biggest mistakes brands make today is thinking that your loyalty program, is something that sort of set it and forget it loyalty programs and ownership programs, which we create are very dynamic. So that means that every month, every two months. You're always being adaptable and changing to what your customers want.
So if they're saying, Hey, we really want, to have more partnership benefits we'd love to have you bring in some other companies that we can also get unique access to. Great. Like, you should be looking at adapting that program. 'cause as your business changes, right? So should your loyalty program.
Claus Lauter: We have an example of one of the companies that you work with just to give her some real life ideas on how that can look like.
Jared Mintzlaff: Yeah, absolutely. So we actually work with an amazing company called Melbourne golf. And we helped them create their buckets club, which is their ownership program.
And what buckets club is really a digital country club for lack of a better term, they've created this unique community of passionate golfers that love Melbourne, but also. Want more access to what Melvin is doing. And so they actually created a whole entire storefront just for the buckets club.
And you can actually check it out, but the idea is they list specific products just for their passionate ownership community. And then they also do golf events throughout the country. You can get benefits in their stores at their events and really they've created a unique. Community of passionate Melbourne golf fans, and they've harnessed that power of their passionate customers to drive even more growth.
And so now Buckets Club has become this sort of like really passionate golf community that, that people who aren't in it are like, how do I get, how do I get into this? It's really exclusive. It's fun. And it's just an amazing way to use your customers as actual sales reps for your brand, as opposed to just looking at your customers as like a by product of sales.
Claus Lauter: do I make my way into such a membership? Do I buy in, do I have to earn it? And then how do you manage it from
Jared Mintzlaff: the back end? Yeah. So the nifty bridge platform is where you can create all of your ownership assets and sell them on Shopify. So really there's two ways we typically see our customers.
creating ownership programs. One is buy your way in, which is what Melbourne is. So Melbourne, you can pay 300 a year and you'll get access to this buckets club program. But other brands, they may want to have kind of an earn your way in. So maybe they say, if you spend a thousand dollars in a year, you'll automatically get into our ownership program.
You can also do a combination of both. So maybe you want to incentivize new customers, but you want to reward your faithful ones. That's a great way to do it as well. The way you manage it, we help all of our customers on board their programs. But the way that it's managed is through our actual Shopify app where you can create these different ownership assets list them for sale.
And then we help you create all those benefits and discounts surrounding that program.
Claus Lauter: So if I don't have a program like that, do you help also with idea finding or looking at what I have as a story, as a brand, as a product to get some ideas on how I can create such a benefit for my customers?
Jared Mintzlaff: One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you launch a loyalty program is not to really be intentional about it. And it's not to. Build a loyalty program just for you, right? A lot of people turn on a loyalty program. It's like a point system, right? And it looks the same across every brand.
Customers see that and their brains are, it's already hard enough to reach customers. So you can't expect them to get excited about a loyalty program that looks like a hundred thousand other brands online. And so what we do is we sit down or all of our customers who want to, they say, Hey, I'm in Jared, we want to launch an ownership program.
The first thing we do is identify like. What is your story, right? What is your mission as a brand? Let's create the club or the ownership the ownership club around that idea. Let's make sure the assets tie in with the brand. Let's make sure that the benefits and the partnership ecosystem all resonate with your story, because then customers are going to notice, they're going to say, Hey, what.
You know, this is unique. What's this, buckets club. This is really cool. Like I want to be a part of it. It's a connection. It's a relationship. So a big part of that, yes, is us consulting with the customer. We have partners as well that can come in and just do everything for you.
But we believe like for our customers, it's very much kind of a conversation around. What is your vision? What is your story? How do we tell that in a way that connects deeply with customers and gets them to buy into what you're doing? Because ultimately an ownership program is just that, it's buying into a brand and it's saying, Hey, I believe in what you're doing and I want to get closer to you.
I want more access and more ownership into what you're doing. In
Claus Lauter: the beginning, you mentioned that you also offer NFTs as one way. How does that work?
Jared Mintzlaff: Yeah, so actually the underlying technology of what we've built, you won't be able to see it in any of our customers websites because it's on the back end but the underlying ownership is built on NFT and blockchain technology.
So when you actually buy into an ownership club or earn your way, you actually claim that asset, we use using your email, so we make it super seamless, there's no weird key phrases or you don't have to memorize 12 words and if you lose it, you're like, oh no, what happened, right? We've made it very easy, but the underlying technology, is blockchain.
And that's what enables us to give customers actual ownership. They can take that asset with them. They can connect it into other brands. That's one of the amazing things that we've done with our customers is we've actually connected them. So because their owners actually own these assets, they can go to another brand and if the other brand says, Hey, we're actually accepting we're giving discounts to owners at Melbourne.
Great. They can connect the same asset there and get discounts. So what's really cool about the technology is that it's using the same blockchain technology as an NFT in order to facilitate connections beyond your storefront. And what we think is going to happen at nifty bridge is it's going to open up doors for collaboration and partnership like you've never seen before.
And we believe that's really the future of e commerce and customer loyalty is creating as many benefits as you can for customers. And sometimes that might include. Attaching, right? Working with a shoe brand when you're in a pair apparel brand, right? Those sorts of connections will be possible with this new
Claus Lauter: technology.
I like the approach. I'm one of the people with you show me another loyalty points program. I'm usually not interested because as I said, everyone copies just what the others do. That's all the same. And then as a customer to manage all these different point programs, it's just a pain in the neck. So I think I'd like the approach there that you basically build up something and then.
It grows into other areas that you might be interested in a little bit on.
Jared Mintzlaff: I was just going to say too, I think one of the things we've noticed is people become loyal, loyal to the points and the redemption and not loyal to the brand. And what a missed opportunity when customers, the only reason that they're excited about your brand is because they have like 10, 000 unused points.
So they're like, well, I got to spend it somewhere. It's like, what we believe in is. Really creating true connection, not connection based on some earn to win mechanism, right? It's actually fostering real connection with your brand and people will want to go out and shot your name right to the rooftops, because that's really where you can explode as an e commerce brand is when you harness the power of your customers and you don't just look at them as and products from what you're doing.
Claus Lauter: Tell me a little bit about, you said it's a Shopify app. How's the installation process? How's the onboarding? How much time do I need to calculate to get started?
Jared Mintzlaff: Yeah, absolutely. So we've really made everything as easy as possible. It's all plug and play functionality. So you'll install our app onto your storefront.
, you'll create your first ownership collection and then you can list it for sale within the same, 10 minutes What we do recommend though is that obviously you're intentional about it So we always recommend spending some time thinking about what do you want the program to be called? What are the benefits that you want to unlock?
But as soon as you're ready to go, it's very simple to get started And then we actually build out gates throughout your website I can also follow up and if anybody's interested in seeing like, what does this look like in practice? but there's something called token gating that Shopify released.
It's basically allows you to gate different parts of your website using a token or a digital asset. And so we'll actually build these gates into your website. So an example is, let's say you want to release a product just to your loyal fans first, right? Your ownership community, you can actually gate that product.
So when regular person comes on the store, they'll see that it's gated and we'll see, Hey, this is ownership only. And they'll say, Hmm, what is that? They'll try to get into it. They can't that gating mechanism is something we can build into everyone's storefront. What it does innately from a psychological perspective is it creates this sense of like exclusivity to the program where people are like, Hey, wait, what is this?
Like, how do I get in? I. This seems really cool. Like I get access to different things first. It's so much in my opinion more unique and thoughtful than just like sending out your sales email first and being like, Hey, go get your products. It's like, no, like these are products specifically for the community.
And what we've seen is that it creates that sort of exclusive element where people get really passionate about becoming a part of it.
Claus Lauter: Do you see any specific industries or verticals where this works very well?
Jared Mintzlaff: Yes, absolutely. So if you're a brand that doesn't necessarily have a community that's excited about what you're doing we can still help with that.
I think an ownership program can help inspire that sort of connection to the brand. But what we've seen is brands that have. customers that love what they do, but they haven't really found a way to harness them. Those are the ones that are going to see the biggest lift right away because what we've seen is a lot of brands out there have passionate customers but they don't know who they are.
One and two is they don't know how to. Unlock that value from them. They don't know how to make them feel even more special. Right. And so what this can do is an immediate unlock of saying, Hey, all of our customers that love what we're doing, here's another way you can engage with us and you can become a part of our community and you can start to own what we're doing.
And they immediately can start to build that closer attachment. So I always say anybody can benefit from an ownership program, but the ones that are going to benefit the most. Our cost companies and that have an actual loyal fan base and passionate following
Claus Lauter: makes total sense. Tell me a little bit about your pricing structure.
How does that work?
Jared Mintzlaff: Yeah. So we typically just take a percentage of revenue from all of your ownership sales. So most of the customers we have will sell Like annual or sometimes lifetime ownership passes. So we take a percentage of that and then we have a annual, sorry, we have an annual subscription charge as well.
Claus Lauter: Excellent. Before we come to the end of our coffee break today, is there one question that I should have asked and then haven't,
Jared Mintzlaff: one thing that I think we didn't touch on is just when you're talking about a I think take this a I trend and you spell yourself out 10 years in the future.
What does that look like when it comes to brand and customer engagement? That's something I do want to touch on today because I think it's really important. As a I becomes more and more powerful and more and more used. I think what you're going to start seeing is this AI layer that starts to live on the internet where everything that's put on the internet is filtered through it and everything that's Received is filtered through it.
And so what you'll see, imagine you're sending an email to someone and that email gets read by an AI, and then the AI spits it to you in a way that's like super condensed, right? That's a very simple way of looking at it. But when it comes to right. Customer to brand engagement, it's going to look very similar.
You're going to have everything being AI and. What we believe and what I personally believe will happen is it's going to be harder and harder to reach customers to develop connection, right? I won't go down the whole like AI existential crisis here, but I do think that what AI does is it sort of strips that human connection away.
And when you think about a brand, that human connection is what you rely on, that storytelling, that sort of that thing that makes people say, Hey, I am, I love Nike, you know, I want to wear it. It's who I am. I do think that AI creates. a separation between customers and brands, and I think that will only continue.
And so we believe programs like what we're doing at Nifty Bridge and what Malvin Golf is doing is going to help keep that connection going. giving them something where they can actually own a piece of your brand, giving them more stake in what you're doing is, is ultimately going to foster real connection and not just the fake connection , that I -think we'll see a lot in the future , when AI becomes even more prevalent.
Claus Lauter: agree with you. I'm not agreeing on the 10 years in the future. I think it will go much, much faster. Probably three. I would agree on that one, but we will definitely see that trend. Jared, where can people find out more about you guys?
Jared Mintzlaff: Yeah, so you can head over to our website niftybridge. com to learn more.
You can reach out to me if you're just curious about, you know, I love talking about loyalty in general, customer engagement. I have a massive background in e commerce, so I live it every day. So feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. You can find me there. Those are. Probably the two best ways is through our website or through LinkedIn.
But we're always excited to talk to brands, whether they want to start an ownership program or whether they just want to understand, Hey, what can they be doing better? So that's what I would say as far as getting in touch with us. We'd love to chat. Excellent.
Claus Lauter: will put the links in the show notes for our listeners.
Then you just want to click away, Jared. Thanks so much for giving us an overview of what's happening in AI and what the future will hold. And hopefully we will meet again and discuss then what has happened.
Jared Mintzlaff: Absolutely. Thanks class. Have
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