Arlen Robinson ([00:02].475)
Welcome2 to the eCommerce Marketing Podcast, everyone. My name is Arlen and I am your host. And today we have a very special guest, Radhika Duggal, With over 20 years of brand and growth marketing experience across management consulting, startups, and Fortune 100 companies, I am a C-level marketer, transformational leader, and builder of high performing teams. I currently serve as the Chief Marketing Officer at, a technology company that provides innovative solutions for consumers and businesses.

My mission is to create and execute marketing strategies that drive brand awareness, customer acquisition, retention, and loyalty, while aligning with the company’s vision, values, and goals. I specialize in building and leading multidisciplinary teams that leverage research and insights to deliver positioning, messaging, and award-winning campaigns that resonate with diverse audiences and markets. I also cultivate a general manager mindset and P&L ownership to optimize marketing performance and ROI. Additionally, I share my knowledge and passion for marketing as an adjunct professor of consumer behavior at NYU Stern School of Business. Welcome to the Podcast, Radhika.

Radhika Duggal ([00:59].241)
Thank you so much for having me.

Arlen Robinson ([01:01].615)
Yes, thank you for joining me. Really excited to talk to you today. I think we’ve kind of got a hot topic in terms of marketing. I kind of say it’s almost a bedrock of marketing and certain things that almost a business can’t do without if you don’t have these proper things in place, which is really understanding and adopting design goals and personas, customer personas, and how you carry all that out.

through your different marketing channels and vehicles and back to their website. All of those things I think are critical these days.

Radhika Duggal ([01:39].429)
I 100% agree with you. And in fact, I’m so passionate about understanding consumer behavior because I really believe that the foundation of any business is understanding of consumers on met needs, figuring out how to grow and build a product and support service that meets those needs. And then marketing the hell out of that.

Arlen Robinson ([01:58].323)
Yeah, exactly, exactly. That’s the bottom line. But before we dig deep into that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your background and specifically how you got into what you’re doing today.

Radhika Duggal ([02:08].625)
Yeah, I’d be happy to. So from a professional career perspective, you walked through my background beautifully. And so as you mentioned, I’ve spent the last 20 years working in three different kinds of marketing functions for lack of a better way of putting it. Number one, I spent about a third of my career as a management consultant, going from called fortune 500 company to fortune 500 company, helping them understand. At that time, what do you do that newfangled thing called digital marketing, or how do I build an analytics organization to.

enable me to measure that digital marketing thing, or how do I build a brand from the ground up? Following that time period, I split my time between startups and Fortune 100 companies, JP Morgan, Chase and Pfizer. And what I’ve really had the opportunity to do in each of those different types of settings is actually do many of the different functions, both as an individual contributor and as a team leader of marketing. So I’ve

gotten the opportunity to work as a brand marketer. I’ve had the opportunity to drive revenue and drive consumer acquisition. I’ve had the opportunity to work as a PR and communications professional. And I’ve very purposefully done that because the facets that make up marketing are very disparate. And I feel very strongly that one can’t be a well-rounded leader without understanding the types of guidance that they’re giving their team. Some of that starts with that foundational knowledge of how do you do that job to begin with.

So I’ve tried to have that disparate marketing career. And you asked very specifically, well, why, you know, how did you find yourself in your current role? Well, I found that my, um, as I’ve become a parent, my personal life and experiences have impacted every facet of my life and my job and my career is no exception. So, uh, is a fintech and e-commerce company focused on helping consumers earn money, build, uh, build credit and save money. And I gotta tell you.

I remember seeing firsthand unequal access to credit, unequal access to income and how that impacts families and communities. And that is exactly the problem I joined to help to solve, which is essentially focused on helping people kind of get access to the things that you get when you start from equal footing to help them earn money, save money and build credit.

Arlen Robinson ([04:27].615)
Well, that’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that. And that’s, that’s definitely an honorable mission because, you know, earning money, building credit, and, you know, making sure your whole financial picture or financial persona is intact is, is really important these days. I mean, you know, you can’t, if all of that is not in place, I mean, there’s so many things you can’t do. You know, you can’t buy a house if that’s not in place. You can’t.

finance a car, you name it, the list goes on and on. And then a lot of times I know people that are in those types of situations almost, you know, almost can feel like you’re almost kind of an outsider to society because you can’t do those things. So yeah, it’s good to know that there’s companies and brands such as yourself that are, you know, kind of have that mission to kind of even the playing field, so to speak.

Radhika Duggal ([05:13].917)
Yeah, it’s actually incredible when you think about the volume of consumers who feel that. So when we think of our target customer, we’re thinking of the average everyday American. And a statistic we may not just travel around with every day is the idea that the median income in the U.S. is roughly a little less than $75,000. Pre-pandemic, it was $68,000. That’s not as high as one might think, especially if you live like I do in Manhattan or…

Arlen Robinson ([05:34].357)
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Radhika Duggal ([05:41].817)
Like others in San Francisco, right? All of the tech companies trying to solve all these big problems. We don’t as often, and not everyone, and not always, but we don’t as often come face to face with some of the consumers we’re trying to help. It’s important to know how large of a group that is and how meaningful that work is.

Arlen Robinson ([05:41].863)
Right. Yeah, yeah, that’s so true.

Arlen Robinson ([05:59].995)
Yeah, for sure. For sure. Yeah. And I can definitely agree. I mean, you see, you hear those numbers and medium income, 75,000 and they go, you know, it’s a, it’s a good amount, but yeah, certain areas of the country is, it doesn’t go a long way. You know, I’m, I’m in Florida. I’m in Orlando area and historically Orlando has been pretty affordable, but it’s, I mean, our values, home values are shooting up. Everything is shooting up. And so even in places that have historically had

Um, where inflation wasn’t as high and the cost of living wasn’t as high. It’s, it’s, it’s creeping up all over.

Radhika Duggal ([06:33].993)
Yeah, and that’s the household income. So if you think about a household with two, three, four people in it, not a lot to go around a lot of people.

Arlen Robinson ([06:37].435)
Yeah. You can. Nah, it really, really isn’t. Well now speaking of, you know, we talked a little bit about our discussion. We’re going to be talking about kind of understanding consumer behavior. I wanted to see where we start off with. I wanted to see, how do you feel consumer behavior and understanding the consumer behavior? How has that evolved over the past, let’s say 20 years?

Radhika Duggal ([07:02].737)
It’s such an interesting question because in some ways, consumer behavior has not evolved. In some ways, it has. And as a professor, one of the biggest challenges I face every year when I teach my class is, geez, how do I make this thing that where some of the theories are from 1960s still relevant today, where you think that the context and the culture that we all live in has changed? So look.

Arlen Robinson ([07:09].34)
Mm. Right.

Radhika Duggal ([07:29].233)
A lot of consumer behavior has needs are still needs. Personality is still personality. Perception is still perception. And the psychological frameworks that underlie how we think about all of those things and how marketers interpret those things to understand consumer behavior, that’s all the same. Yes, things change around the margins, but the theory and the psychology, a lot of it still stands. But what has changed tremendously is number one, the context.

of the world that consumers make decisions in and the types of consumption decisions we as consumers are evaluating and then making. So here are a couple of examples to make what is a very high level theoretical discipline a little bit more concrete. So the first, think about how we as marketers might understand consumers. Our methodology for gathering information on consumers has changed dramatically. So as a marketer, I now have

access to more robust data sources, real-time information. As businesses, because of that, we can make more well-informed decisions. We can connect with consumers in a much more targeted way. There’s a double-edged sword of that on the privacy side, but my ability to gather information about my consumers is still the same. And then I can use those age-old consumer behavior theories and psychological philosophies to better understand the consumer and make better marketing decisions. Another example of something that I think is quite different.

is the context in which our consumers operate. So if you just think about COVID and the pandemic, you know, there’s a huge societal change in consumer behavior. And some of what has emerged from COVID in a post-pandemic world has changed consumer behavior, some for the better, some for the less positive. And so while the underlying principles of personality and needs hasn’t changed,

the outcome of a consumer’s decision in a post-pandemic world might be really different. And an example of that is consumer spending on experiences. So a McKinsey study from this year essentially said that out of home entertainment, so entertainment outside of your house in a post-pandemic world, it’s grown 7% year over year in real dollars, 7% growth. And if you think about that, it’s also amongst consumers of all income levels.

Radhika Duggal ([09:54].505)
Well, there’s inflation happening. We’re talking about the prices of everything going up. We’re talking about the fact that consumer debt has reached an all time high in the US and yet spending on experiences is still continuing to rise. Why is that? Because something has materially changed in the context of the world the consumer lives in. Their needs are different. And so they make different spending decisions.

So as a marketer, really understanding not only the consumer as an individual, but the context of the environment that they live in becomes so incredible.

Arlen Robinson ([10:27].263)
Yeah. Very, very true. Yeah. That’s, I mean, that just really comes down to, you know, really identifying that ideal customer persona. And that goes down to where are they, where are they living? What types of things are they familiar with? Are they comfortable with? Are they used to in their certain locale or their region? And so you, the good thing is these days, all of this data and information is readily available, which, you know, I’m sure, you know, you mentioned

textbooks that you use in your class from the 60s back then. I mean, yeah, they had data, but I mean, nowhere near the amount of data that we have now. And so it does make a gift brands the ability to, to truly make informed marketing decisions where they’re trying to target those right customers.

Radhika Duggal ([11:13].425)
Yeah, and that psychological theory from the 60s, that remains. But the examples of how you might teach someone the context that a consumer lives in, that changes so frequently.

Arlen Robinson ([11:16].316)

Arlen Robinson ([11:26].739)
Yeah, very true. Now, speaking of personas, because that’s kind of the heart of this, what research methods have you seen that work best for developing user personas, what you guys do at

Radhika Duggal ([11:42].633)
Yeah, so I’ll say at, especially for a startup of our size, we punch way above our weight on the research side. Um, and we’ve used a fairly data-driven process to develop these personas. So first and foremost, we developed a design target. We use qualitative and quantitative market research to say, okay, of our hypothesis for who the design target was, which at the time was sort of a $75,000 household income or less.

who among that group is truly really going to be attracted to our product and services. We did quant research, we did qual research, we mapped out demographically, behaviorally, and psychographically who are these people. And we really wanted to understand what are their needs, what are their values. And once we understood that, we sized the market, we set up our design target, which became a smaller group than the overall survey group that we surveyed. We did a segmentation

that essentially looked at the traits, the needs, and the attributes of folks. But we focused on essentially defining five subsegments within that design target that was focused on understanding the value our product created for those folks. So subsegment one found X, Y, or Z value in the product. Subsegment two found a different value. And we also wanted to look at, because is a company that offers multiple products and services, how do we choose the subsegment to focus on?

where more of or most of our products meet the needs of the subsegment, where we have room to grow as a business as well, right, because we don’t want to saturate the subsegment and then there’s nobody left. And what’s interesting is we came away from that study with these five subsegments and we said, oh, there’s one where the consumers find most of our products appealing, a ton of room to grow still.

Arlen Robinson ([13:23].519)

Radhika Duggal ([13:37].201)
So we’re really focused on that one sub segment. And then from there, what we did is we took that sub segment and really brought it to life with various personas. And those personas are folks, examples of folks who might be part of that sub segment. They have a name, there’s a description of where they live, how they behave, how they feel, how our products impact their life. And importantly, again, the context of their life. Because, you know, right or wrong, consumers don’t make, first of all, they don’t make rational decisions and they don’t make decisions in the vacuum.

We all make decisions in the context of all of the things going on in our lives. And it’s really important as you create personas to be able to bring that to life for your team. Otherwise it’s just a flat piece of paper with a picture of a person with a name. It’s really about the context and the life that they live and how that impacts their purchase decision that you want to be able to share.

Arlen Robinson ([14:26].151)
Yeah, very true. Now you mentioned when you guys are going through your process where you’re getting a lot of this data and you’ve been doing a great job with the research portion of it and you talked about quantitative data and qualitative data, you know, the, the amount of data versus the quality. How do you mean, how do you really know how to what’s best? How do you kind of balance, um, these different data sets when you’re trying to create the persona?

Radhika Duggal ([14:54].077)
Yeah, I’ll say actually there’s the three different data sets are really critical. One is the quant data, which is typically a study that is comprised of existing users, as well as external users that are in your design target or in your sub segment to, to your point is the fall data. And three is actually the data that you have internally, whether it’s transaction data or purchase data of some kind and making sure you use all three to really understand your persona is critical. But first and foremost,

That statistically significant quantitative data is really important to understand trends. What do people value? What are their unmet needs? What is their demographic profile? And making sure you have a large enough sample size to get that statistically significant read not with 90%, 95% confidence is incredibly important. Then layering on the qualitative data is important.

And for the qualitative data, it helps you understand the why behind certain trends. Why is something important? Why is that need unmet or the emotion and the feeling behind it? You know, what is the emotional toll of having this unmet need? What does it really feel like to be denied access to credit from the bank? What impact can or another company create by solving that problem? What is that moment of joy or that moment of relief or that moment of some feeling that we can create with our product?

So the qualitative data is really helpful for understanding the feelings, whereas the quantitative data and the purchase data is really important in understanding overall trends.

Arlen Robinson ([16:22].627)
Yeah, yeah, right. That’s very true. Now, because we’re like you said, we’re at a point where we’ve got all of this data, you can make all these fast decisions. A lot of times brands, because we’re getting such a kind of a glut of this data in such a quick amount of time, you can adapt to the changing trends a lot quicker than you could in the past. And so you may see over time that your ideal customer persona is maybe has changed a little bit. And that can be based on

You know, your sales, the areas you’re getting your sales and then just all this information that you’re getting based on the sales that you’re getting. Um, if you need to roll out a new persona based on this data for how do you effectively train your teams around these new personas, especially if you’ve got a large, really large organization.

Radhika Duggal ([17:13].917)
Yeah, I think that’s an interesting question. And it goes back to what problem are you solving? So whether it’s a new persona that you might wanna roll out or the existence of personas in general, I think those are actually two really different and interesting problems to tackle. When you think about how do you train a company to use personas in general, I’ve had the benefit of doing this in small companies and in kind of medium or larger size companies. In a big company or a large company, the problem you’re solving is very different.

The large company is generally accepted that the company serves one or more personas or one or more design targets or sub segments. And there the, the employees know it’s really critical to understand who are we serving, what are their needs and values, how they interact with our product. And they know because it’s generally accepted practice personas, add them flow and change and modify over time. So the problem you’re solving is less about convincing folks that this is important and more about.

doing the research, the market research, getting the existing customer data, doing the user research, documenting the persona, updating it, and then importantly, socializing it over time. So making sure it’s in all of the right meetings, making sure, you know, if you’re in person, you got the printout of the persona on every person’s desk in the office and people really understand who you’re, who you’re targeting. In a smaller company, the problem is actually really different. So my experience has been in a smaller company.

especially if it’s before the company has hit the growth stage or before they found product market fit, it’s actually about remembering that personas and targeting a specific type of customer is the foundation of the business. Because if it’s before you found product market fit, unless you have real conviction, you sort of don’t know if which channels work. And so the way you solve it is again, ensuring that smaller company has the ability to do that data-driven

quantitative and qualitative research. Those aren’t skills that every startup has or needs. Creating those artifacts, creating the document that details the design target, doing the segmentation study, which is a rather complex quantitative study, creating the personas, and then again, sharing them in every single meeting possible so that people really understand what it is you’re doing, and importantly, how and why it’s supposed to be used. I find that…

Arlen Robinson ([19:33].002)

Radhika Duggal ([19:34].461)
You know, at a larger company, the how and why makes a ton of sense and is well ingrained in the culture. At a smaller company, that’s actually the problem you’re solving and the work to be done.

Arlen Robinson ([19:42].619)
Yeah, yeah, I definitely hear that. It’s, um, I can see for a large organization, just the, the process of really kind of, um, disseminating that information to your teams. Um, you know, the training behind it, especially if they’re already accustomed to kind of, I guess you’d say selling a certain way to a certain type of customer. Yeah. Um, it seems like you can’t really just.

throw a new persona on them and tell them, you know, all right, this is a new type of customer. You’re going to have to switch the way you’re selling. It seems like you really, there has to be a fair amount of, I guess you could say formal or even semi-formal training that goes behind that. Namaste.

Radhika Duggal ([20:25].813)
Yeah, it’s just about education, right? In any scenario, it’s about helping people understand why and the impact that a switch like that can make. Switching anything on people, right? If you think about what change management is, switching anything on anyone is hard. And oftentimes it takes multiple times to communicate that. But I think instead of just communicating the what you’re doing, communicating why and how, oftentimes ends up being so much more.

Arlen Robinson ([20:34].58)

Arlen Robinson ([20:52].979)
Yeah, yeah, for sure, for sure. Well, as we prepare to wrap things up, I wanted to see how would you say you would turn a user persona into an effective marketing strategy, and if there’s any specific success story that you can share either with your dealings at or with any of the companies that you’ve been with.

Radhika Duggal ([21:15].241)
Yeah, I’m happy to talk about particularly because one of the best examples of this is the fact is the recent rename and rebrand we did. So as recently as last year, we were a company that operated under several different needs. We’re Snap Travel, Snap Commerce, Daily Steals, we are essentially a family of brands that operated a bit disparately. We had a different verbal and visual identity for each brand. And October of last year.

we renamed and rebranded under the sort of brand name with a new verbal and visual identity. And we did that again, based on a really clear understanding of who our customer was and how did we get there? Well, we identified that customer, the same process we talked about before, really create quantitative research and qualitative research, as well as existing customer data. We looked at that quant data and the existing customer data to understand the trends in consumer behavior and understand demographically.

who these customers are and behaviorally, what do they do? And then we try to understand the feeling and the emotion through the qual. We developed the company positioning, right? Like what does the company do? What does the company stand for? What is the messaging based on that data and develop the name based on that data as well as a number of different rounds of quantitative market research to really test the name. What do people feel or see when they think about

one name versus another, does it have high appeal? Does it have high polarity? And then we, once we had chosen a name, we developed, you know, what do we look like and what do we sound like a verbal and visual identity, we bought the URL and here we are. And, and I’ll say that we’re at the beginning of our journey. We know who our customer is, you know, who our persona is, but we’ve got a long way to go from both the product side and the marketing side to continue to serve that customer. I’m so proud of the headway that we’ve made so far, but

We’re excited to continue to use marketing and continue to use data-driven product experimentation to better serve that customer.

Arlen Robinson ([23:15].363)
Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s awesome. That’s, that’s good to hear. And you mentioned a couple of key things that I’m glad you said, um, even for a large organization such as yours, such as it’s you, even though you’ve done all of the work, you’ve done the research, you guys did the rebranding and you’ve established these personas. It’s they’re not set in stone and you guys are always just constantly looking at how to tweak it. Um, is the persona changing in any way?

certain demographics that we need to kind of.

orientate our marketing towards and our messaging. And so all of that, it seems like it’s just, it always just has to be a constant, constant iterative process. We’re always looking at it and making changes to it. And then I guess at the same time, because these things aren’t set in stone, having some type of system in place where you’re informing your team of these changes, because it’s good to, of course,

be on the top of these changes and make these changes, but then you have to, of course, inform your team. And so it seems like you do have to have a pretty smooth process in place in order for everyone to kind of keep up with all of these shifts.

Radhika Duggal ([24:31].473)
Yeah, we actually, we do a number of very intentional things to make sure everyone can keep up with those shifts. So number one, we have a, we call a mission aligned team and it’s a cross-functional team of marketing, product and operations. And this group of folks is responsible for making sure that we understand who is the design target and therefore the persona.

not only for as a whole, but for each of our products. So that this quarter, that team is actually looking at one of our newest products, Super Plus, which is a subscription product that gets you access to a number of earnings and savings and credit building opportunities. And they’re pulling the data, they’re looking at who the existing customer is and saying, okay, who’s really the persona for Super Plus? Is it different from the rest of the company? Would we modify or change that? And that work is incredibly critical.

That team is also responsible for planning a whole company, what we call dog fooding exercise, where essentially we either deep dive and try to understand the context of the consumer’s life of that persona. So what does it like to be?

as someone who is a parent in a household with income of $50,000 and no credit score. What is it like to have access to traditional banking services? What is it like to buy your groceries and cash? Whatever the challenges that our customer might feel. Or the other part of dog fooding, which we also do as a whole company, is think about what is it like to use our products?

you know, when they’re positive and they help you save money, like what is the emotion that feels like? And when you have a negative experience, which you do with every product sometimes in every company, what does that feel like? And having this group whose job it is to really understand the end-to-end customer experience, make sure we all as a company understand what our customers’ lives are like, I think is just invaluable.

Arlen Robinson ([26:23].259)
Yeah, yeah, really, really true. And it’s something that I think not a lot of rents do well. We really truly understanding kind of putting this, putting themselves in the shoes of that customer. Um, but when it comes down to it, you really can’t service them correctly unless you do, you know, yeah, I think it’s just something you have, you have to do. Um, of course it takes. Yeah, exactly. That’s what I was about to say. It takes time, takes effort, takes resources.

Radhika Duggal ([26:45].117)
And it just takes time. Like that’s the challenge.

Radhika Duggal ([26:51].508)
That’s right.

Arlen Robinson ([26:51].879)
money, but yeah, I think if it’s done right, you can, you can definitely be successful. Well, well, Roddy, this was an awesome conversation. I’ve, I’ve learned a ton on, I know our listeners and viewers have as well. But we always like to shift gears, just so our audience and viewers can get to know you a little bit better. If you don’t mind sharing one closing fun fact about yourself that you think we’d be interested to know.

Radhika Duggal ([27:15].869)
Yeah, I’d say, closing fun fact, I sort of started with it too. I started by saying how I grew up influenced and the people I was around as a child influenced where I choose to work today. And now I’m the parent of a toddler.

And I’m very cognizant of the fact that she’s going to grow up and is growing up in a place that is diametrically opposite to the place I grew up in, the circumstances in which I grew up in. And I think, you know, something that I’ve learned as a marketer who cares about the consumer is finding work where you feel passionately about solving the problem because of something that is personal to you has helped make work feel

like less of a job and more of a mission. And I, you know, I’d give that advice to anybody who asks that if you can find the mission that you’re passionate about spending, you know, 10, 12 more hours a day doing, do that, don’t do the job.

Arlen Robinson ([28:17].275)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very true, very well said. I think that’s something that can carry people a long way because like you said, if it’s more of a mission and what you’re doing is there’s a mission that you’re passionate behind or about, then yeah, it’s like, it doesn’t seem like work. Of course, you know, sort of responsibilities, there’s time, there’s effort. I’m sure there’s always times where, you know, there’s frustration, you get tired, but that comes with anything.

I think what would be able to. Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Radhika Duggal ([28:46].493)
think it’s more that like a job is a job fine. But like, if you feel that you’re solving a real problem that you care about, you’ll have more resilience in doing it because building any business in a massive company like JP Morgan Chase or a smaller company like it’s hard. And if you feel connected to it, it’ll get you through the harder times.

Arlen Robinson ([29:06].825)
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. For sure. Very, very well said. Well, thank you for sharing that. We really appreciate that. Uh, lastly, before we do let you go, why don’t you let us know how our listeners and viewers can reach out to you, contact you and pick your brain anymore about customer, some customer personas, customer behavior and how do they craft a proper one for their business?

Radhika Duggal ([29:33].885)
Yeah, absolutely. Just feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’m relatively fast in responding and excited to hear from folks.

Arlen Robinson ([29:41].531)
Okay, awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. We’ll definitely have that info in the link for your company’s website and our show notes so people can check you guys out, see what you can do and if you can help them out as well. And we really appreciate having you on the e-commerce marketing podcast.

Radhika Duggal ([29:59].261)
Thank you so much for having me.

Arlen Robinson ([30:01].087)
Thank you.

Podcast Guest Info

Radhika Duggal
Chief Marketing Officer at