In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about five things that a business needs to build the best omnichannel customer experience. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nirav Sheth.
Can you tell us about your backstory and how you grew up?
Historically, a lot of tech companies get started in a garage. You could say my situation was a bit different.
When I started my company, Anatta, back in 2008, it was just me. And my office was my 100-square-foot childhood bedroom at my parents’ house in Delaware. I can still see my old bedroom’s gaudy lime-green walls and its teal-blue carpet straight from the ‘80s—they clashed like you couldn’t believe!
While I was building Anatta out of my childhood bedroom, I was also commuting on the Amtrak to and from Washington D.C. so I could finish the last nine-credit hours of the Electrical Engineering program at GWU. This commute was 2 hours both ways.
And alongside building my business and finishing school, I had a big challenge in front of me. A challenge that seemed almost impossible.
I needed to figure out how to make $50,000 within 6 months of starting my business—in just 180 days—or go and get a “real” job. This was an agreement I made with my Indian-immigrant parents, who both would have preferred I find stable and decent-paying employment instead of taking on the myriad risks of entrepreneurship. Since I grew up in a lower-middle-class immigrant family, my parents also didn’t want to see me waste the Electrical Engineering degree I had earned from a top institution. And at the time, $50,000 was close to the annual salary of an entry-level engineer.
Well, after countless long nights, many monotonous commutes, and tons of invaluable lessons gained, I made that $50,000 in six months and then some. My business had reached its first milestone. And I didn’t need to get that “real” job. But, most important of all, I started a business that today employs around 100 people across the globe—all without a single dime of outside investment. My business has been bootstrapped from the very start.
Fast-forward 15 years later, and my team and I have had the incredible privilege of helping powerhouse DTC brands such as True Botanicals, Dollar Shave Club, Rothy’s, Mack Weldon, and Athletic Greens scale from one stage of growth to the next. Through our work, we’ve managed to both meaningfully grow businesses and build better consumer experiences for the online space of ecommerce.
What led you to this specific career path?
Working at a startup early in my career, I was often exposed to how agencies serviced the companies they worked for. And I wanted to be different. I hated watching brands have to “yell” to get their agency’s attention. I hated watching the best clients get the shit end of the stick. I hated seeing one person at the agency have to impossibly juggle 10+ projects without real care or thought for the project or the person. And I hated seeing how an agency would so often hide the work they were doing so that their partner brands thought they had some “magic sauce.” In reality, the “magic sauce” was a sheer lack of transparency about the work being done on their clients’ businesses.
When I saw what I felt were disservices to both business owners and an agency’s team members, I knew I wanted to build something different. Something that truly acted as a partner to founder-led businesses. Something that valued collaboration and care. Something that had a real commitment to both the businesses the agency serviced and those businesses’ customers.
Can you share the most exciting story that has happened to you since you began at your company?
One of the most exciting stories (and I have a lot) is seeing the birth and then, seven years later, the acquisition of a brand we worked with called Rothy’s. Rothy’s is a sustainable women’s footwear brand that started with our company pre-launch and partnered with us all the way leading up to its acquisition at the end of 2021.
We saw everything from their very early startup days all the way to them becoming an Enterprise brand. It was an incredible journey and a huge accomplishment for both Anatta and Rothy’s. We truly grew up as a company and as leaders working through all those stages of growth.
Some highlights of the Anatta and Rothy’s story:
- 4 product categories
- 72 product launches
- 8 Black Friday & Cyber Mondays
- 6 Site Redesigns
- 3 Rebrands
- 2 Replatforms
- 58 App & System Integrations
- 400+ Tests Launched
- Rothy’s scaled from $0 to $220M annual revenue in four years.
- Rothy’s was acquired for $1B in 2021.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
We’re currently working with industry-leading DTC brands that, if they’re not already, will be household names in the future. And they are all fantastic companies! A few to mention would be Athletic Greens, True Botanicals, Brunt Workwear, Thesis, and Mack Weldon.
These are all brands that are not only selling high-quality goods but have a true commitment to helping people as well. Each brand we’re working with is solving unique consumer and industry problems and doing so thoughtfully.
What are three traits about yourself that you feel helped fuel your success?
Integrity: I’m a firm believer that integrity not only matters but is the lifeblood of good business and good friendships. Due to my focus on integrity, I have friendships that have lasted more than 25 years and business relationships that have lasted over 15. My first-ever client is actually still with me to this day!
Growth-minded: I’m always wanting to grow and become better. That is why I’ve spent the last three years in psychotherapy. It’s helped me learn so much about myself and also taught me how to become a more effective leader.
Kindness: Kindness doesn’t just mean being nice—it means being fair. I’ve learned that you can’t only take care of the underachievers in your business. You have to take care of your overachievers at an equal or greater capacity. By doing that, our company has been able to keep both a very strong internal culture as well as a community of great talent for 10+ years.
What was your original vision for your ecommerce business? What pain point(s) were you trying to solve for your customers?
As an ecommerce agency, my original vision was to build a really great agency where we helped take customers to market. However, we quickly pivoted in the first few years to be more focused on helping ecommerce companies grow and become industry leaders. Today, the pain points we’re focused on solving is helping build really strong partnerships where brands can rely on partners like us to lead technology, user experience, and digital product.
How do you define a successful omnichannel customer experience?
A strong omnichannel customer experience allows a consumer to shop where they are the most comfortable and familiar. And when the customer is in that channel, they feel like they know your brand and what it represents.
What role do technology and automation play in reducing ecommerce logistics costs, and what specific tools or solutions have you found most effective in achieving this?
They both play a large role in reducing ecommerce costs. Tools that can help with order processing, order management (i.e., emails, texts), fraud detection, and fulfillment are all great solutions that reduce manual overhead. There are a ton of third-party software solutions out there depending on the size of your business, but at Anatta, we don’t believe there is a one-size fits all solution.
What role do social media and other emerging technologies play in your omnichannel customer experience strategy, and how do you stay current with the latest trends and innovations in this area?
Social media and emerging technologies allow you to stay front and center with a customer wherever they go. Strong omnichannel strategies keep a touchpoint across the most popular platforms while maintaining a strong brand presence. The best way to stay current is by actively participating on social media and immersing yourself in emerging technologies. You can’t win the trend and innovation game without actually playing.
How do you ensure that all your customer touchpoints (e.g., website, mobile app, physical stores) are seamlessly integrated and consistent?
The best way to ensure all touchpoints are seamlessly integrated is by leveraging partners like Anatta to build a strong consumer experience that embodies your brand in each place, along with ensuring a tech stack that, from a backend, integrates all of your data accurately. At every touchpoint, consumers should feel like they know your brand and that you are meeting their expectations.
How do you train and empower your customer service teams to deliver a high-quality, omnichannel customer experience?
You deliver high-quality customer experiences by having a brand manifesto that your brand stands for and that no one goes against. This sets an expectation that the founder abides by all the way down to your customer service team. When customer service teams have a strong leader to follow, they become empowered and motivated to do more. Because, at the end of the day, omnichannel experiences are not just about profits or bottom-line revenue. High-quality omnichannel experiences prioritize delightful, engaging customer interactions.
How do you ensure that your omnichannel customer experience is consistent across different geographies and cultures, and what specific strategies have you found to be most effective in achieving this?
The best way to ensure your omnichannel experience is consistent is by leveraging in-country translators to properly translate your brand messaging and positioning to the geographies you market to. The worst thing you can do for different locales is use either automated or word-for-word translations. The in-country translators and marketing teams know what will work for their country’s audience way more than you will. And direct or auto-generated translations of your marketing copy and content leave a lot of potential room for mistranslations or missed context.
Can you please share five things a business needs to build the best omnichannel customer experience?
1. Consistent brand messaging: Be it online or in the store, wherever you buy from the beauty brand, True Botanicals, you’re going to see the same words and messaging being used (i.e., clean, clinically proven, anti-aging). A consistent brand message not only communicates your brand’s values to customers but also builds the consumer language around your product offering. That means consumers, and especially first-time buyers, already know what kind of experience they can expect from your products and brand.
2. Consistent brand design: Whenever you buy from Dollar Shave Club, whether that’s online or at a CVS, you’ll see the blue and orange brand design and immediately know it’s DSC. This level of recognition in a consumer’s mind is powerful in both hyper-competitive ecommerce and retail shopping worlds. Today, consumers have more choices between brands than ever, so your business should aim to own some familiarity with a consumer. And a consistent, recognizable brand design is one surefire way to accomplish that.
3. Easy to buy anywhere: Ecommerce brands, like Vimergy, allow consumers to buy both from their own online storefront or on Amazon. Opting for both channels allows a brand to meet its customers wherever they like to shop most while also creating the opportunity for a customer to eventually transition over to your brand’s preferred channel.
4. Buy online and pick up in-store: When you finally order an item you’ve been wanting for a really long time, how much longer are you willing to wait for it to ship to you? Sometimes, you just want that product in your hands a little faster. It’s the same for everyone! A BOPIS system, like the one used by Aventon eBikes, lets customers head over to their local Best Buy or bike shop and get their purchase that much faster—allowing customers to buy items available in stores nearby via their online storefront.
5. Amazing customer service: Mack Weldon’s team does such a great job from retail to online customer service that you know the customer service teams work together. MW’s customer service is so impactful that it feels like they even know you personally. Whenever possible, a brand should aim to provide a personalized touch to its customer service interactions, regardless of channel. That human touch is absolutely essential to an excellent customer experience.
Looking ahead, what are the biggest opportunities and challenges in building the best omnichannel customer experience, and how do you plan to address them in the coming years?
The biggest opportunity in omnichannel customer experience is the ability to customize the experience for individual consumers. When a brand knows a lot about your needs and wants and then shares that knowledge with various channels—customers will feel more heard and seen, so the quality of the customer experience will take off!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most good to the most people, what would that be?
I would want to start a movement around being of service to others, no matter who they are or what they have done. That’s how I run Anatta, and I think that when we drop our egos, we all become more serving people.
What "next big thing" tactic or strategy should leaders in ecommerce be digging into?
True optimization programs vs. traditional conversion rate optimization (CRO) programs (real optimization begins with your customer experience).
What is everyone wrong about in ecommerce?
That traditional CRO and tactics are going to move the needle. They almost always won’t.
What are you reading right now?
The Song of Significance: A New Manifesto for Teams, by Seth Godin. (I love his perspective!)
What product, tool, or service do you wish existed?
A benchmarking tool that lets you compare your brand’s KPIs to others.
What product are you obsessively using right now?
Caldera Lab—a men’s skincare line. I highly recommend it to any of the guys reading!
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