Posted on: June 17, 2020 | 5 min read

Designing Meaningful Products and Improving Digital Channels During Crisis

Summary and transcript of interview with Chris Laping of Bagel Brands and Dan Rodriguez of CCG

Organizations across the globe are being thrust into analyzing data from an entirely new perspective. Knowing who your customers are and how to keep them is more imperative than ever. Chris Laping, Chief Innovation Officer at Bagel Brands, and Best Selling Author of People Before Things, recently participated in a webinar forum with Dan Rodriguez, Chief Product & Strategy Officer of CCG, touching on how to utilize Customer Intelligence and customer insights to make swift data-driven decisions.

The complete recording of that interview can be found here, which we’ve transcribed segments of below:

Dan Rodriguez: [01:54:45] Chris Laping Chief Innovation Officer at Bagel Brands, and best-selling author of People Before Things, tell me a little about Bagel Brands, and what Innovation Officer means?

Chris Laping: [01:54:58] We’re four brands. One of the brands is a national brand, Einstein Brothers Bagels. We have a regional brand in California called Noah's Bagels and then we have a super-regional brand in the Northeast called Brueggers. Finally, we have a brand called Manhattan Bagels. So, we're basically everything fresh-baked bagels. As Chief Innovation Officer, I would say in essence my focus is experience of the future. The core part of my job is just answering the question “what does this company look like five or ten years from now” and of course with COVID that has been greatly accelerated in two months.

Dan Rodriguez: [01:56:20] You’ve also wrote a book titled People Before Things, so I thought it might be interesting if you could discuss the concept of that book and why you think it applies to your career?

Chris Laping: [01:56:50] I wrote the book because at that point I had been in the IT space for 25 years, and what I came to learn during that time is that it really wasn't the technology that was getting in the way of my teams and their success. It was a product of change leadership.

I really wanted to provide something to IT leaders that was coming from someone who was working with them in the industry. Everything I had been reading up until that point had been from people that were studying us. Every time I read a book; I had a hard time finding my story in those stories. I wanted it to get to the essence of the work we have to do day-to-day as IT leaders.

Dan Rodriguez: [01:59:05] You have a great story around how you've been able to utilize customer information, buying behaviors, direct feedback, and general intelligence around your customer base to effectively innovate and develop an entirely new channel in a short amount of time. Could you tell us more about that?

Chris Laping: [01:59:58] We actually had some good luck; we had been doing work with CCG back in September and I can't imagine where we would be right now had we not been doing that. We had started to really take inventory of all of the great isolated islands of information we had in the organization and what would it be like if we could bring those things together. We were also thinking about experience of the future and our digital agenda. We were trying to figure out where we should be to catch up with the market and how do we anticipate where things are going in the future and build something that's compelling.

We had an agenda for this year to really do a lot of that work and what happened in this crisis was we had to accelerate a year's worth of work into three or four weeks. Our goal and focus with digital was “how do you roll out the minimally viable product.”

We knew that if we got it done in the year and 5% of our total sales came through the digital channel then we were winning. What happened was we got it done in three to four weeks and it's been as high as 25% of our total sales.

Dan Rodriguez: [02:03:02] A part of having customer intelligence is understanding behaviors of your customers but I know you also blended in actual feedback directly from the customers. What did you learn from your customer base early on in the crisis?

Chris Laping: [02:03:24] We learned all kinds of amazing insights. One thing I've learned in the restaurant industry is that the business is all about simple, but simple is really hard.

One of the things that we picked up pretty early from guest feedback, is that people in general weren't scared to walk into a restaurant.  They were concerned about the actual handling and preparation of the food. Taking that insight, we had to process quickly “how do we create a concept of more of a meal-kit where people can take something that's partially done and take it home and prepare at the rest of the way to help create safety?”

The other nuance that was going on was meal planning. People weren't just thinking about one meal it was “how do I take care of breakfast for the week?”

We rolled out a cookie kit and people could buy this cookie dough and go home and easily bake cookies. We made pizza bagels and so people with kids were buying the pizza bagels, the kids could put all of the ingredients on the on the bagel and then they could bake it like a pizza.

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Dan Rodriguez: [02:06:43] The first part of innovation was figuring out what you want to do within the digital channel and then very rapidly executing against it. You mentioned the next piece of being able to manage performance against that. Could you talk about that? Were you using traditional dashboards before to manage performance or was this a new view into the business?

Chris Laping: [02:08:40] It probably took us three days to realize that a lot of the key metrics that we were looking at in the business we're just not appropriate for this environment. In this environment we had to look at this week compared to last week. Are we showing growth and progress? How do we measure the success of these meal kits? On a normal day we might just look at the number of units sold, and the percentage of that product being sold compared to all the other products. We had to be prepared to measure other dimensions of this. We had to be prepared to start identifying the things that matter the most to our guests such as digital accuracy, timeliness and accuracy. Then you layer on top of that a contact list component, people wanted to touch as few things as possible when they're in the store. So, with all of the questions that we had to work through we could not carry the mindset that the traditional metrics were going to help us pick up those signals. In fact, we're going to create a bunch of noise.

Dan Rodriguez: [02:16:11] There's so many incredible things that you've learned and executed on through this crisis, do you have any advice for the audience?

Chris Laping: [02:17:29] I think the piece of advice I would give myself would be just jump in. The small things matter. Start building these conversations with teams around information that matters and information that doesn't and just start building stuff. Making those incremental improvements along the way could make a huge difference later.

[end of transcript]

Learn more about how Bagel Brands launched a digital transformation in just 6 weeks that generated a 200% increase from projected sales for a single revenue source by clicking here, or contacting a CCG consultant here.

If you want to learn more about leveraging analytics to save your business or the importance of analytics during a crisis contact an analytics consultant here  to get started.

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