By Nicole Clark, General Manager
Bond Collective Greenpoint members, Shane and Ian, discuss their e-commerce performance consultancy, ECOY. Built on the principle that the unglamorous side of e-commerce is too often overlooked and underserved, these two founded an agency to meet the needs of online retailers and businesses with a distinctly human approach.
NC: How did y’all meet, and how did ECOY come together?
Ian: Shane and I met through a mutual friend, Michael. Michael actually grew up across the street from my wife, we’re all close friends from way back when. The seeds for ECOY were planted in January of 2020, when I was in between jobs. I had left my previous role as Director of E-Commerce at NJOY, before that I held the same title at Sony Music. I started my career in the music business and moved into ecommerce as a way to join Sony Music at an entry level. I knew I loved music and I found ecommerce as a path to the company I wanted to join, and in doing so I totally dove in and learned to love it. I studied the nuances, trends, the different ways it can perform, and I saw ways that it could change the world. This was years ago pre-Covid, pre-Shopify, pre-mobile shopping. So fast forward to January 2020, and Michael told me that I needed to meet this guy who worked in a talent agency with a music component. I was interested in networking and finding the next opportunity, so I connected with Shane in a sort of informal interview. Towards the end of that meeting Shane was really transparent and said he was on his way out of that company and was looking at starting an agency of his own, specifically meeting the ecom gap he has seen in the music industry. We were on the same page about the need for what I call the ‘under the hood’ less sexy work of helping the client realize the full reach and performance of their brand or product. I’ve spent most of my career filling the gaps in things like collecting taxes, efficient payment processing, shipping, warehousing, and global expansion– all underserved components of client’s businesses.
Shane: And I’m going to cut in here to give him a compliment. When I met Ian, I recognized him immediately as a hybrid. Hybrids recognize other hybrids. I saw in Ian, a hybrid that had all of these skills and this experience that can’t really come from any other agency for the most part. That was something that sparked a connection and I saw what he could bring to clients and how he can apply it in a consultancy agency.
Ian: Thank you, I appreciate it. And vice-versa to Shane on the marketing and positioning side. He has a great understanding of how brands resonate and connect with customers and the stories that they’re telling. I think we are able to cross navigate both that tactical, operational element as well as marketing and engagement. Effectively, a full service ecom option for brands that we believe in, that have a lot of growth potential, and who are ultimately great people. One of our ethos and trademarks when taking on a new client is that we don’t work for or with jerks anymore. We spent a long time in our careers working with, sometimes not the greatest people. We are intentionally flipping that narrative, and that resonates with our clients. We’re not here to come in, work with you for two months, and leave. We want to grow with our clients, with our brands, help them succeed, and empower them while we’re doing this work for them. This is one of the key drivers at ECOY, it also helps our employees grow and improve their skills in communicating with clients, learning new platforms and tools, and so called tricks of the trade.
NC: Right, that was one of the things that I noticed when reviewing ECOY’s online presence, there is a pretty candid approach to your messaging which I think resonates with people who are looking for more authenticity as the world moves further into ecom. What would you say your target client would be to partner with for this type of tactical approach?
Ian: We’ve tried to bring our personalities and our humanistic approach to the digital world, which can be very data and jargon heavy. We started focusing on small to medium sized businesses in ecom and retail that we felt had potential to build out a presence. We also launched two months before Covid hit, which supercharged our growth because we suddenly had clients who were scaling back on their brick and mortar and pivoting those budgets into ecom, but didn’t necessarily have the insight to run an ecom operation.
NC: That’s a great point, because for so many businesses, the pandemic created this rush of new challenges and one of those was how to carry their message to their now entirely remote audiences and clients. Do you feel like this was a key moment for ECOY to help businesses in this transition, to meet their markets in ways they may not have been able to without this type of consultancy?
Shane: Absolutely, it was also an opportunity to take some power into the business landscape holistically, find out whose products are solid and create the space they needed to succeed. If we pour gasoline onto your business, is it going to blow up? Is it ignitable? If that’s the case, then let’s build their store smarter, let’s make it easier to use , let’s give customers more ways to interface with them, more ways of accessing it. We’re looking at the stories behind these products and ultimately the people and how invested they are in the development of the product. You can see that in the clients that we have.
NC: Along with a growing client base, I know you are also starting to grow your team. It’s an exciting time to be able to put together a team, that’s really when you’re able to see your company take shape and build your culture, what does that look like so far?
Ian: We currently have five full time employees. We have a CTO, John, who I have worked with for a long time. He’s been with ECOY from the beginning and is integral to building out the company from a development side. As we grew in the last year and half we brought on a Project Manager, Meredith, who is fantastic and has a lot of the hybrid chops that we look for. She’s great with clients, from starting her own agency in New Orleans, and executes from a holistic approach. We also have our Account Coordinator, Sarah, who has been a rock in keeping us organized. She makes sure everything gets done on time as we’re growing. We also have Mark in our product focused ecom role, he’s spent a lot of time in the Shopify world and has experience setting up campaigns and understanding webflow. And really, a lot of the work we have done has been powered by an incredible network of freelancers. We’re growing, and we’re a small company, so with certain projects that dictate certain needs it just makes sense to bring in someone who has expertise in SEO, email marketing, etc. Shane and I have networks that allow us to tap into great designers, great product people, so we can tailor projects to meet specific demands from our clients. The most important part of who we hire, both freelancing and full time, is that we have a team who can build trust with our clients. Trust almost comes before technical skillset because it’s crucial that we can trust them and that the client trusts them. It’s a major component of the culture we’re building because the best work is done with a team that can depend on each other to deliver. On the whole, our team is fun, smart, and energetic and can easily find comradery with one another.
NC: Having an equally strong rapport with your colleagues as you do with your clients is the goal. Have you found a benefit to officing in a shared work space like Bond Collective and the access you have to freelancers in your community? How else has membership benefited your consultancy?
Ian: Moving into our first office outside of our respective homes has been a great way to find ways to work that feel more intentional. I worked from home through most of the pandemic, and while I love my son to death it was hard to focus with a three year old at times. If Daddy’s home he’s ready to play all day! We looked around at a few places, but Bond Collective made the most sense–the location, the price and was more suited to our needs than some of the more standard options. Truly, it has been super beneficial to have Shane and I next to each other, and we’ve given our employees the option to work wherever they are most comfortable. We’re not forcing anyone to come in, but they do and when we’re all here together it’s great to have those big team meetings and keep momentum going. It’s crazy, we have hired and worked with people on our team who we had never met in person until recently when we all came to the office. We’re happy where we are, and Jeffrey is the best manager we’ve ever worked with. I’m guilty of working head down, non stop, and being here we’re trying to break that mold by stopping to engage with people.
NC: Those small opportunities to collaborate can be so impactful, it’s great to be able to meet others in the space where you don’t have to talk about work but you can. You know that you have a beer and a lounge, and each other, to ask the best question of all time which is “What do you do?”. I have seen these organic conversations translate quickly into fully realized collaborations, and your agency likely shares interest with nearly all businesses.
Shane: Exactly, and that has always been in our periphery to go into a space looking to meet people. At this point, everyone is somewhat tied to e-commerce in some way. They either have some relationship to business or they know someone who has a store, or is building a new brand. For us there is always both conversions in the immediate and conversations for the upcoming, and we love that. We’re in no rush, there are people at every stage of the pipeline, and we’re as interested in growing our networks as we are in connecting our networks to new ideas and projects. We’re able to really talk to people, combined with everyone having an interest or relationship with something touching e-commerce, means that our networking is just more natural and not a pitch.
NC: Thank you so much for your time, and we’re so happy to have you as members of Bond Collective Greenpoint! We’re looking forward to connecting with you both more, and watching ECOY continue to disrupt traditional approaches to e-commerce messaging and functionality.