Erica Chan (Alibaba.com) - People and Behavior

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This is a podcast episode titled, Erica Chan (Alibaba.com) - People and Behavior. The summary for this episode is: <p>Vincent and Ajay chat with Erica Chan, Head of Strategy brand and insights at <a href="http://alibaba.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Alibaba.com</a>. She talks about the importance of understanding customers--everything from who you are talking to, to the customers' needs. Vincent shows off his custom jacket, and Ajay has natural good looks.</p>
New Yorkers, introducing Erica Chan
01:12 MIN
About Erica's role at Alibaba
04:01 MIN
How Erica got into marketing
01:19 MIN
Channel strategies Erica is using
02:40 MIN
Making the platform accessible to small businesses
05:02 MIN
How the pandemic affected Erica
03:53 MIN
Erica's favorite part of the job
01:15 MIN
Goal-setting and doing more with less
01:43 MIN
A societal obsession with productivity
01:46 MIN
Messages that annoy Erica on LinkedIn
01:07 MIN
What Erica does for fun
01:33 MIN

Speaker 1: Big data has gotten too big. Whether you're a B2B marketer or a consumer brand, your data needs to be viable, relevant, and accessible so that Stirista can help you retain customers, acquire customers, and make it personal.

Vin: Welcome to the Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you're going to put in your ear. I'm Vin, the Associate Producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges of the market. And we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, Vincent and AJ chat with Erica Chan, Head of Strategy, Brand and Insights at Alibaba. com. She talks about the importance of understanding customers, everything from who you are talking to, to the customers' needs. Vincent shows off his custom jacket, and AJ has natural good looks. Give it a listen.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Stirista's The Marketing Stir. I of course, am your happy host, Vincent Pietrafesa, the Vice President of B2B Products and Partnerships here at Stirista, calling in from my new digs, same office floor, new office space. My shoulders were so large, I needed to stretch out a little bit. That's not true. AJ will probably say my head is too big, that I couldn't fit in there, but I'll wait till we talk to him. But it's so good to see everyone and hear everyone. See everyone, I can't really see you, but see everyone at the conferences recently. Oh my goodness. I didn't realize we had so many fans, AJ. I appreciate people coming up to us and saying," I love the podcast. I listen to it when I work out" Or" I sleep..." Well, don't say that to me. That's not fun. But it's been great. And it's great that people are listening. Just let's pause a second. Who is Stirista? That's the only time we talk about Stirista. We are a marketing technology company. We own our own business data, our own consumer data. We help companies utilize that data to get new customers, who doesn't want new customers, through email marketing, our own DSP, AdStir. We could send to display, connected TV. Email me, Vincent @ stirista. com. That is how confident I am in our abilities. The other thing I'm confident in is this jacket I have on, and our co- host ladies and gentlemen, the CEO of Strista. Fresh off of his New York City trip, Mr. AJ Gupta. What's going on, AJ?

AJ Gupta: Hey, Vincent. Nice jacket.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Thank you.

AJ Gupta: Hello. Yeah. I don't really need a jacket because I'm naturally beautiful.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, I need all the help I can get. I have seven lights on me right now. My skincare routine is ridiculous, but hey, I'll be 44 in a month or two. I have to maintain. You don't even need a light. You're naturally lit.

AJ Gupta: Yeah, yeah. I'm not 40 yet.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Nope, you're not. You're not even 39 yet, I don't think. You just had a birthday. 38, ladies gentlemen, I just revealed his age.

AJ Gupta: Oh, no.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Right? Ow.

AJ Gupta: I try to go by 29, 29. I'm perpetually 29.

Vincent Pietrafesa: You're one of those. You're one of those, huh? But it is good to see you. You spent some time in New York, now you're back, but we might be getting together again soon. Right? We may replicate what we did in New York City, which is a nice little intimate event with our current clients, podcast guests. We also had some new potential clients there, and we might mimic that in San Francisco. Is that true?

AJ Gupta: That is true. Yeah. We're going to try to do another event. Hopefully COVID doesn't get in the way, but that is going to be our goal for July.

Vincent Pietrafesa: That will be great. Hopefully people listening, if you want to attend, let me know. Now we can't let everybody in, we have a lot of listeners, but let me know if you are in the San Francisco area, and this episode comes out on time. I guess I just put pressure on our producers to get this out on time.

AJ Gupta: That's right.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yep. I did it. I did it. And yeah, thanks for noticing my jacket. Shout out to Custom Men here in New York. Go see my friend, VJ. He will take care of you. I have these ridiculously large shoulders, and like I said in a previous episode, this teeny tiny little waist. I'm kidding. I'm shaped like a rectangle. I have a weird body type, so I have to get custom. So shout out to Custom Men. But that is awesome, AJ. Let me tell you something about New York. Right? You know I love New York, and I particularly love when we get fellow New Yorkers on the podcast. I said it. I'm sorry for all those other people who've been on the podcast. I'm sorry, because I get the chance of potentially meeting you in person rather easily because you're also here in New York. And she is no exception, ladies and gentlemen. I am so excited for you to hear what she has to say. I'm also excited for you to hear about this company, Alibaba. com. You've heard of it before, but we're going to get really deep into Alibaba.com, as well as talking to our next guest. Please, a very warm welcome, Head of Strategy, Brand and Insights at Alibaba. com, Erica Chan. What's going on, Erica?

Erica Chan: Hi, Vincent. Hi, AJ. Thank you so much for having me.

Vincent Pietrafesa: We're happy to have you there. You and I hit it off as soon as we met, I feel that way. But then again, I always feel that way with people. And AJ's like," I don't think that person actually liked you." And I'm like," What? Who says that?" But you're a New Yorker, and I noticed that when I first talked to you. I noticed your background. It's Hudson Yards and it's great. We're going to meet in person hopefully soon.

Erica Chan: Yes.

Vincent Pietrafesa: And just a podcast episode, part two maybe. We're not going to record it, we're just going to have fun. But Erica, it's so great to see you. Thanks for joining myself, AJ, and The Marketing Stir community. I'd love to get right into it off the bat. Tell us a little bit... I love your role by the way, because it touches upon many things that we want to hear about here at The Marketing Stir. Tell us a little bit about your role as well as Alibaba. com, because a lot of people are familiar with Alibaba, but I'd love to learn more from you about that particular. com piece of it. Thank you.

Erica Chan: Yeah. I'd love to. Thank you for the opportunity, and nice to meet everyone, sort of audioly over the ether. So, let me tell you a little bit about Alibaba. com. So Alibaba. com is actually one of the many business units within Alibaba Group, and we are the global business- to- business e- commerce marketplace platform within Alibaba Group. It was actually the original business, that was founded by Jack Ma back in 1999. And when Jack Ma founded the company, he had a very simple mission that we continue to have today, which is," How can we make it easy for the world's small and medium- sized businesses to do business with one another?" And so with that, he basically founded an online platform that was essentially a listing directory, where manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors would list their contact information, their production capabilities, and that would be the destination where global business buyers, and we're talking about small businesses from all corners of the world, these are retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, or just businesses that need everything from component parts, OEM and ODM capabilities, or just needing to buy a lot of things in order to operate their business. And that was the business that Jack Ma founded back in 1999. Over time, we have evolved our business and our platform to make sure that we stay relevant and valuable to the small businesses from around the world today. And so, today we have sort of evolved to become an end- to- end marketplace platform. What that means is, in addition to just buyers and sellers being able to meet and find each other's contact information, they can now use the platform to communicate with one another, to place those orders, to transact with one another, and to also access a variety of services that are needed for that trade to happen, whether it's access to inspections and monitoring services, or access to shipping and logistics and whatnot. And I think what we're here to do, and especially in North America, is to help small businesses, those that participate in the global sort of B2B trade ecosystem, to help them digitize, help them operate more efficiently, and then more importantly, help them globalize and tap into the vastness of the world supply and demand. So within that, I'm part of our US operations. We are a small but mighty team, and I lead our Brand Strategy, our Customer Experience, and our Insights Team. And what that really means is our team are sort of on the front line, and our job is to listen to our customers, really understand what makes them tick, what are their key challenges when it comes to operating and growing their business, and then from there, how do we design products and services, how do we design our business roadmap and strategy in order to continue to meet those needs? But then in addition to that, it's how do we go to market? How do we actually help these businesses understand what it takes to really tap into what we keep quoting as the almost$ 24 trillion global B2B e- commerce opportunity. Right? And so, that involves a lot of content and education and advocacy work as well, to help small businesses in the US understand the opportunity that awaits them.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I love that. And thank you for that background, Erica. Let's take it back a little bit. We love asking this question, because it's one of our popular ones here at The Marketing Stir. How do you get into this business in the first place? How did you get into marketing?

Erica Chan: Yeah. I think I got into marketing because I'm just curious about sort of people and behavior and how you make behavioral change happen. My first job at marketing was after I graduated from graduate school in Urban Planning, actually. And I moved to Southeast Asia, where I was helping launch and scale a social marketing program. And this was back, I won't date myself, but this was many years ago, and social marketing actually took on a very different meaning than social marketing today. And what we did was really trying to apply commercial traditional marketing techniques to get communities and people to adopt healthy and socially responsible behavior. So that was part of a big effort to help reduce HIV AIDS, and improve maternal and child health in that part of the world. And it was a lot of fun. We had to be very creative, just given the market context and the materials we were working with. But I started off helping people understand how to make better choices and act smarter and more responsibly for the good of public health.

AJ Gupta: Okay. Let's dive into the marketing aspect of things, since we're in The Marketing Stir. Can you tell us a little bit about what are some of the channels and strategies that you're using for your marketing, and what's working and what's not?

Erica Chan: Yeah, I'd love to. So I think with everything we do here at Alibaba. com, including marketing, right, it's customer first. And so, everything really starts from really understanding the customer, like who are we talking to? What are their needs? And so, for us, it's really understanding small and medium- sized businesses, understanding what makes them tick when it comes to operating their business. What are their pain points, especially when it comes to selling and also sourcing, because that's the part of the value chain that we play in. And so, from there, it's figuring out what can be relevant and useful to them, and where and how do we meet them where they are? So on that point, to your channel question, right, it's really a combination of online and offline channels. It's trying to meet our customers where they are, and that includes social and digital media, which we can't live without these days, but also a fair amount of offline activities and work. A lot of our customers still go to trade shows, and conferences are back, as Vincent and you talked about earlier. And so, we try to sort of meet our customers in person as well, where possible. I think what's working is really in our communications and in our marketing materials, sharing and showcasing our customers. At the end of the day, we are part of this small and medium- sized business community, both in the US and globally. And I think business owners, entrepreneurs, get very inspired by their peers. And so, I think our best content is really content that showcases the journeys, the success, the case studies of our customers, and sort of their stories, because those things tend to resonate. I think things that tend to not resonate is when we try to hard sell something. I think for us and for any marketer, to be successful is really understanding again, what are those things that resonate with our audiences? And for us, very often, is having our customers be able to see themselves in the marketing materials and in the content that we create and deliver.

AJ Gupta: And in particular, since small business is a key demographic for you, what do you do to make the platform more accessible and relevant to them?

Erica Chan: Yeah. It's a constant journey I would say. Right? The world is constantly changing, so are small businesses and the environments in which they operate. And so, because of that, Alibaba. com, we're continually learning and evolving to meet those needs. So, as I mentioned, when Alibaba. com was first founded in 1999, it was essentially an online yellow pages. It was a digital phone book, and that was how the business was for the first almost 20 years. But then we realized, just having a phone book did not necessarily meet the changing needs and expectations of small businesses in the 21st century. And so, our company, we started transforming ourselves back in around 2017, and it really started with, what else do these small businesses need? Right? What else do you need apart from just finding the contact information of a supplier who could potentially make what you need them to make? And we also saw that digitization, it's more than just having a website. And so, we really mapped out the entire customer journey and that trade journey, and trying to figure out what we could do to digitize every step of that journey. So, as I mentioned, sort of having that listing is step one. But from there, what are communication tools that you need to build in to help businesses from very different parts of the world communicate easily with one another? What are other things that we need to happen to make sure the transaction happens? And very often, for a transaction to happen it's not just having the mechanism of payment, but it's also, how do you build in that trust so that a seller knows that they will receive the money for the order, for the goods that they're shipping out? And how can we make sure that the buyers feel secure and at peace when they are making orders that are in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars? Again, because we're B2B. Right? Our average order value is in the thousands of dollars. And we're talking about pallets and containers full of stuff. And so, these decisions are big and major. And so, being able to make sure that we have those gates to maintain trust along the way has been super important. And so, yeah, our transformation that started in 2017 really looked at that entire customer and transaction journey, thinking through, what are all the services and features that we need to add to the platform in order to address sort of specific pain points? Trust is a big pain point. Having access to things like shipping and logistics again is another pain point. And then just from there, figuring out, what are other touch points that our customers use and frequent? And then from there, who are the key partners we should be partnering with in order to deliver sort of greater value and a better customer experience for our shared customer base? We've also seen, for example, that in the past couple of years, things change really fast. And in addition to launching more features and functionality on our own platform, we launched the Alibaba. com Grants Program last year, for example. Seeing that access to capital and cash flow was a more important need than ever with what has happened in the past two years and with all the disruptions. And so, in December of last year, we launched that program where we awarded 50,$10, 000 cash grants to US- based businesses who demonstrated sort of innovative product or go- to- market ideas. And we continue to follow those recipients and other applicants, to follow their journey. And then, in concert with the Grants Program, we also realize sometimes you can't just give people money and assume that they will succeed. Right? And we had alongside the Grants Program, also a Digitization Curriculum to really help small businesses understand again, in this day and age, how can they best leverage technology to digitize their business so that they can really go further in many sense of the word. How can they make their money go further? How can they reach suppliers and sellers from both near and far? And how can they sort of continue to innovate and grow their business during these very challenging times?

Vincent Pietrafesa: And we're going to talk about digital transformation in a moment, Erica. But let's stay on those challenging times. Right? Where hopefully getting out of it. But I just want to understand how the pandemic affected business operations for you.

Erica Chan: I think the pandemic has affected business operations for everyone. I think what's very interesting for us at least, we're in the business of helping companies digitize. I think Jack Ma had a famous saying that" Alibaba is not an e- commerce company, we're the company to help build and support the growth of other big e- commerce companies." And so, I think what the pandemic has shown us is that digitization is no longer just something that's good to have, it's actually critical. And so, it has actually accelerated the adoption of digital tools and of platforms. And so, we have been very excited to be part of that and to help small businesses pivot and digitize. We actually run an annual survey here at Alibaba. com in the US, an annual survey where we sort of look at B2B, sort of SMB, so these are both buyers and sellers in the B2B space, to understand both their sentiments, but their levels of digitization and also globalization. And what we found in the latest wave, which was in December of 2021, let me just make sure I have the numbers right. We saw that about two- thirds, so 60 +% of businesses that were either selling or sourcing using digital platforms and tools actually saw increases in sales in 2021, compared to just about a third of those who were not online. So being online actually helped a lot of these businesses weather the disruptions. We also saw that digitized businesses were more likely than their non- digitized counterparts to make more investments in 2022. And these investments include hiring full- time employees, and then also on their, own CapEx investments. And then, what's super interesting, is that digitization, it's also a gateway to globalization. We saw that digitized businesses, about 40% of them, were expecting to increase their volumes of exports in 2022 versus just about 13 of those who were offline. And so, we're seeing that the more digitized you are, the more likely you are, as a US- based business, to be exporting. So these are all very encouraging survey findings. And so, for us, if this is what's happening, how can we better position and better design again, our product and service roadmap to support small businesses on this journey. For us, from a marketing perspective, though, we also needed to pivot. Right? As I mentioned, we did a lot of trade shows and in- person events pre pandemic. And with the pandemic and things shutting down overnight, we also had to rethink our marketing strategies and our channels and touch points. And so, that included everything from how do we do more online, whether it's us hosting online trade shows and bringing or digitizing some of those in- person exchanges online? That was a big thing back in 2020. And we're also continuing to explore other channels. For example, audio podcasts was a thing that we sort of experimented with. And this is an example of how we're trying new channels.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Well, we're glad you're trying new channels with that. And Erica, I love that... You took the words right out of my mouth. One of the questions I was going to ask is, some of the benefits of a company going through digital transformation, and especially small businesses. I think you saw in the last few years that people needed to change, especially if they're still wanting to stay in business, they need some type of online presence. You're not going to," Oh, no, I'll be fine. People, word of mouth, they're going to walk by my restaurant." No they're not.

Erica Chan: No one is walking.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. No one is walking, not in the last few years. So you touched upon some of the benefits, but how does a business understand whether the digital transformation is working at their organization?

Erica Chan: To me, it should be working if it just becomes integrated into part of your operations. To me, I always say, the distinction between e- commerce and commerce should not exist. E- commerce should just be commerce, because it's just part of how the world works these days. And so, to me it's just when it's fully integrated, you don't even think of it as a separate thing.

AJ Gupta: Erica, so tell us a little bit about what your competitive landscape looks like.

Erica Chan: Yeah. I think that's a great question, and I wish I had a very succinct answer. But actually, it's a bit more nuanced than that. Right? Because we are a B2B marketplace, we actually serve two different audiences, and we serve them in different ways. But one key audience that we serve are buyers. And as I mentioned, our focus is on small and medium- sized businesses. And so, the buyers that come to our platform, and we have over 40 million active buyers globally that come to Alibaba. com every year to source, these buyers are retailers, brands, wholesalers, and distributors, manufacturers, and businesses that need everything from core component parts to packaging, to the actual goods that they are reselling to someone, a factory, who can make you your own invention and your own product. And so, with those buyers, we're really competing with sort of their historical traditional ways of sourcing and doing business, whether that is through a sourcing agent or whether it's through physically going to visit factories and finding those suppliers on the ground. For our sellers, again, our focus is on the smaller sellers, companies with fewer than 500 employees, typically. For the sellers, these are again manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors from around the world. What we offer them is a way to reach more customers. And so, by digitizing their storefront, by having a way to sort of digitally market to and nurture their buyer relationships, we're hoping that they can sell more and sell further. And so, for our sellers, the alternatives are really having a sales team or getting lists to cold call folks attending and exhibiting at trade shows and what have you. And so, I think what we always say is that we don't really have a direct competitor, but it's more like the analog and more traditional ways of how B2B trade is being done. As part of our transformation in the past few years, we're also adding a layer of value- added services to the platform, so as I mentioned, things like access to shipping and logistics, building in tools that help customers with product research, for example, building in access to cash flow support. And so, the way we do that, actually, we don't see us as sort of competing with existing solutions and players out there. Our approach is very much we want to build an ecosystem, and we want to partner with already best- in- class providers in those spaces and see how we can collaborate, integrate with them, in order to create the best product, the best value proposition, and the best customer experience. So one example is when I say," Now on Alibaba. com, you can access shipping and logistic services." We don't actually provide the shipping and logistic services. How we do it is we partner with a company called Freightos to offer what we call Alibaba. com Freight. And Alibaba. com Freight is integrated into your Alibaba. com journey. But what Aliba. com Freight allows you to do is essentially, think of it as the Kayak experience or the Expedia experience, but for booking international freight shipments. And so, through our collaboration and partnership with Freightos, we're able to offer our collective shared customer base, sort of this best- in- class access to booking shipping arrangements, anytime, anywhere.

AJ Gupta: Erica, you seem very passionate about the work you do in Alibaba as well. It just shines through the podcast. So I would love to know what your favorite part of your job is.

Erica Chan: It depends on the day, but I think the best part about my job is just having interesting, challenging, gnarly problems to solve on a daily basis. I think the task or the remit of transforming and globalizing a company as sort of big and well- known as Alibaba. com, it's quite daunting, but it's also very fun. Right? And I think that the best part is really sort of remembering who we're doing it for, and we're doing it for the small and medium- sized businesses from around the world. And so, really getting to know these businesses and understanding again, how they operate, what could really help and unlock value for them has been... I don't know. It's a very humbling experience, but it's also super fun. And I think that's what keeps me, but also everyone around the office going.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I love hearing that. And I think the small to medium- sized businesses are such important pieces of our world. I really do feel that way. I wanted to talk a little bit more about on the marketing side. Without revealing too much, Erica, halfway through the year, talk to us about some of your marketing goals, some objectives for the year. Talk to us about some of the tactics you're using, without giving that secret sauce away. And my listeners are like,"No, no, no. Give that secret sauce away." I'm like," No, no, no." But I'd love to hear more about that.

Erica Chan: I wish there was a secret sauce.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I know, right?

Erica Chan: I'm all ears. I think the challenge and also the goal is pretty consistent. It's how do we sort of do more with less, and how do we continually work smarter, and sort of improve that ROI? I think what is interesting is, or maybe it's commonly known, is working at a big organization doesn't necessarily mean bigger budgets, very often. But what it does mean is, it means more voices, more stakeholders, and more opinions and points of views. And then sometimes that can lead to somewhat disjointed outcomes, and at the end of the day, a disjointed customer experience. And so, for me and for us, a big goal this year is not just, how do we work smarter and get greater ROI out of our marketing dollars? But it's also, how do we do better internally to rally all the different stakeholders, to make sure we're coordinated in our different efforts, so that we're actually creating a more consistent customer experience? Because I think consistency is very key when it comes to marketing. And I think in a world of limited dollars and resources, your best bet is to be consistent in what you're saying.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. No, I agree. I like the work smarter. You didn't say this, but I always say this to my CEO on the line here. I'm like," Work smarter, not harder. That's my methodology."

Erica Chan: Yeah.

Vincent Pietrafesa: That's what I do. But so Erica, I wanted to talk a little bit about, you shared a lot of different things that make you successful and Alibaba. com successful. Share another one with me, a productivity hack that you've used in the past, anything out there. This is a new question for us, and it's a question of someone who asked me at a conference recently, they're like," Hey. Let's start asking your guests this." I was like," Oh, okay, sir. You're a listener. Let's put it in there." So I'd love to understand any advice you can give out there to our audience.

Erica Chan: Yeah. And I think there's this obsession with productivity, frankly, in our society. And I think one thing that might be counterintuitive. Right? I personally think to be very productive, you actually need to have downtime and have breathing room. Being productive doesn't mean you're working a lot. Sometimes you just need to take a break and stop in order to be productive. But having said that, I live by my calendar, and I color code my calendar. I don't know if that constitutes a hack, but I actually put everything on the calendar, and I color code it according to whether I'm spending time on sort of HR and personnel matters, team development matters, or by project area and what have you. But I also put down time in its own color, sort of time for myself and time to breathe and time to take a break or learn about something else that's actually not directly related to work, because I do think having those breathing spaces, it's helpful for your own health, for sort of having a fresh mind, and for productivity.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. I agree with you. I tried this one time. We tried this exercise where I was going to just chill and meditate for 10 minutes. I'm never really meditated. It's hard. It was even hard just to do that. I don't know if anyone would describe me as a chill person. I'm pretty much like," Ah!" all the time. But yeah, I think no, that's a hack. Color coding, that's definitely a hack. That's some good advice. Yeah. Over to you, AJ.

AJ Gupta: So the last one for me, it's one of our staple questions, Erica. So, I'm sure you get a lot of LinkedIn messages with your role and title, so I would love to know what's a message that gets a response from you, and what's one that really annoys you?

Erica Chan: That's a great question. I love LinkedIn as a platform, actually. And I think what I'm always impressed by is especially college students, folks who are sort of earlier on in their journey, who cold outreach. And to me, it takes a lot of maturity and also courage to just cold outreach to someone and be like," Hey, I'm really interested in what you're doing and would love to learn more." And to me, I love that initiative and I always respond and offer to talk. I think on the other hand, I feel like, I don't know if it's just me or if it happens to you as well, I feel like there are more and more fake accounts and bots that are just sending messages, and these profiles, I don't even know if they're real. And so, if I suspect that something's a bot, just chatting me up, I get a bit cagey.

AJ Gupta: Yeah. I don't know if it's bots trying to replicate human behavior or humans replicating bot behavior, but I know exactly what you mean.

Erica Chan: Yeah. Either way, those are annoying.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Mm- hmm. Yeah. No. I think you're one of the first, Erica, to ever say," I'm open and welcome to those sales development reps and BDR reps, those early on." That's good to hear. I'm sure that's encouraging for people to hear, because you're right. It's a tough job for people to kind of just reach out cold, and their job is appointment setting, so that is encouraging out there. But not everyone feels that way. I, of course, feel that way when someone reaches out to me, even if it's just a" No, I'm not interested." It's better than ghosting as the kids say, AJ, these days, that sort of thing. But yeah. No, that's awesome. So Erica, let's get to know you personally. Tell us a little bit about what you like to do. You're here in New York City with me. What do you like to do for fun? What are some of your hobbies? What are some new things you've taken up, some books you're reading? I'd love to know.

Erica Chan: Yeah. I feel like I've had a big stack of books that I aspire to read and I haven't read.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Same.

Erica Chan: But in the past two years, I think because with the pandemic and spending so much time at home, I've accumulated a lot of house plants. And I also started to try to grow my own vegetables in my little East Williamsburg apartment in Brooklyn. And I feel like for the past year, I've just been killing and reviving and then killing, the cycle of trying to grow vegetables in my own home, which hasn't quite worked out. And then, now that I feel like it's the summer and it's getting warmer out, it's exciting to be sort of out and about exploring different neighborhoods and the streets and the city again.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. I love that. I did the same, where I tried to do a little garden, if you will. And I feel like nothing grows except for mint. You get a mint plant, you're good. You have mint-

Erica Chan: Yes, mint.

Vincent Pietrafesa: ...for days, for months. And I'm like," How much ice tea can I..." Or I'll put it in a watermelon and feta salad, that's a little tip for those people listening there. But other than that, what are you doing with it? Yeah. I tried the same thing.

Erica Chan: You can try some mint- based skincare routines, back to the conversation we had.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Ah, look at that. That's a callback, AJ. Yeah. I don't have mint. I use a walnut paste in my skincare routine, which you see, I have this, I don't know. This goes back.

AJ Gupta: Maybe we need a separate podcast for this one since-

Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh, come on. I could do 15 episodes on my skincare routine. People are always asking me about my skincare routine. And people, I mean, just myself. But this is, yeah, that's good stuff. I love it. The books, there's always a stack of books that you have that I try to get around to. But that's awesome. Yeah. Explore the city. I love that. When you look at different neighborhoods and you're like," Wait. I never even..." It could be a neighborhood, because people, AJ, you don't realize this. I don't know if you're like this Erica, but I feel like I kind of stick to two neighborhoods, and I have to get out more. It's and then when you see these awesome neighborhoods, you're like," Oh, this is pretty cool." But that is awesome. Thank you so much for your time. This has been amazing. We appreciate you talking to us here. Ladies and gentlemen, check out Alibaba. com. That's Erica Chan, the Head of Strategy, Brand and Insights at Alibaba. com. That's AJ Gupta. I'm Vincent Pietrafesa. This is another episode of Stirista's The Marketing Stir. Thank you so much for listening. We'll talk to you soon.

Vin: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir podcast by Starista. Please like, rate, and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at themarketingstir@ stirista. com., and thanks for listening.

DESCRIPTION

Vincent and Ajay chat with Erica Chan, Head of Strategy brand and insights at Alibaba.com. She talks about the importance of understanding customers--everything from who you are talking to, to the customers' needs. Vincent shows off his custom jacket, and Ajay has natural good looks.

Today's Host

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Vincent Pietrafesa

|Vice President, B2B Products, Stirista
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Ajay Gupta

|Founder & CEO, Stirista

Today's Guests

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Erica Chan

|Head of Strategy, Brand, and insights at Alibaba.com
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