As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Ekers.
Jordan Ekers is Co-founder and Chief Customer Officer of Nudge, a communications platform that empowers deskless workers to drive better business outcomes. He’s worked with many of North America’s leading retail, foodservice, and hospitality brands to design transformative approaches for executing the brand promise and empowering frontline teams. Jordan has been a speaker and conference chair at major industry events, such as NRF’s Big Show and the Future Stores series, as well as a guest on BNN Bloomberg.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was brought up in a family of entrepreneurs. So I saw what the passion and drive looks like when you discover a need and figure out how to solve it yourself. I saw the hustle it took to rally people around an idea and find the right people to back you when you find a cause that is meaningful.
Nudge is the fourth business I’ve started, realizing the need for connection to the frontline from a previous company that worked at the corporate level and focused on loyalty programs. In the loyalty world, we were really good about getting customers into the store but then found a disconnect once they were with the frontline employees. It didn’t matter how great the strategy we created on the back end was if there was no communication, follow-up, or follow-through with the in-store customer experience.
That’s where Nudge came from. The idea that there was a better way to reach the frontline employee, leveraging the technology they use every day to connect them with the larger brand strategy and empower them to transform every experience.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most impactful thing that has happened to me had to have been at the very beginning of my career. I started a business when I was in university focused on inspiring consumers to purchase environmentally friendly products through trade shows. It was at one of my trade shows that I met a man who would help me create my second business once I was out of school.
That moment showed me the power of relationships. Building and nurturing a great relationship, whether it means anything or not at the moment, can lead to big impacts later on in life.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
When Nudge was a young company, my co-founders and I were invited to the Toronto Stock Exchange. We were running late and as I hopped out of the cab I spilled coffee all down the front of my white button-up. In a panic, one of my co-founders ran into the nearest store and bought me the widest and most expensive tie I have ever worn, to this day. We ran to the exchange floor and, after a successful interview, I spent the rest of the day hiding the fact that I had coffee everywhere while feeling completely uncomfortable in this tie. Why we didn’t just get a new shirt, I’m still not sure.
You have to approach everything with humor. We’re meant to laugh and joke and enjoy all of these moments. Building a brand is not an easy process. When it comes to growing a team and being competitive, you have to have a sense of humility and be totally open to learning from every moment you’re in.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We feel fortunate to have started a business that is focused on the people at the heart of retail, food service, and hospitality. These industries have a desperate need for communicating with deskless workers. With everything that is going on in the world, we have a meaningful role to play in how we support the people behind the brands. As organizations navigate these challenging times, we’re proud to be a part of the solution, positively impacting the employee experience and empowering deskless workers.
We have the ability to nudge and engage these employees to make a positive impact on the world. We are constantly learning from and with these employees on how to support them — whether it’s their journey back to work, joining a new brand, or helping businesses survive in this trying time. We’re inspired by our calling to figure out what this new normal is and how we support them through engaging communications.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Pre-COVID-19, I was not the person to answer this question. Everything that has happened in the last eight months has given me pause, a moment of reflection. It’s easy to get addicted to work and find yourself stuck in the minutiae of the day-to-day. You have to stop and smell the roses occasionally.
I was always of the mentality that you can do more with less, all the time. I have realized that you have to take the time to analyze how you are allocating time. It is important to give yourself the time to devote to what is truly meaningful to you.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My co-founders at Nudge. When you start a business, it’s the people who are around you that support you, guide you, uplift you, and challenge you. Building an organization is not an easy endeavor. My two co-founders, Lindsey Goodchild and Dessy Daskalov, and I have gone through it all together — every emotion, complex situation, and trying and challenging times where sometimes we couldn’t see the solution.
The art of a team is surrounding yourself with people who have a similar passion and spirit but also those who can challenge you in different ways. Having the intellectual and emotional support of Lindsey and Dessy has been one the reasons why we’re successful today. How many relationships endure so much in such a short period of time? I haven’t gone through as many difficult situations with anyone else as I have with those two remarkable women.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I like to redefine success as experience; we all exist to work together, learn together, grow together. You learn so much from what you’re doing every single day. It’s our responsibility to push, challenge, and coach each other around the craft we’re pursuing.
At a macro-level, we’re designed to try to positively influence people. We get to do this within our own four walls and with the tens of thousands of people we reach every day. How do we support each other with all of the journeys we’re on? I love seeing our employees chase their own dreams and inspire others to do the same, within or out of Nudge.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?
Customer behavior has been completely changed in the last six to eight months. E-commerce is much bigger, but how durable is this change in consumer behavior? When we get to a world when it’s socially acceptable to be in stores again, I believe people will be excited to get back to social interaction.
- We used to joke that experience-driven brands will win, but as we continue to reopen safely, brands will have to provide excellent in-store experiences to give customers a reason to come back.
- Contactless delivery starts to remove the brand experience. Brands have to find the right way to create a branded experience for this as it becomes a part of our new normal. It will be interesting to see to what degree these customer journeys survive once we’re able to be back in-store.
- The labor model in retail will continue to shrink. We have to manage it so much closer than we did before. As brands continue to operate their physical locations, they’ll do so at a smaller scale. There will be fewer people on the floor and they need to be generalists, getting more done with less time. Brands must staff against the experience of the store while keeping their employees inspired.
- Inventory planning and management will become more agile to meet the uncertainty of the world we live in. The supply chain is no longer a predictable engine.
- There is a collision between customer experience providers and employee experience and communication solutions. There’s an acceleration in the strategy where CX practitioners start to leverage communication and activation systems as a vehicle to improve the customer experience on the frontline by more rapidly adjusting to customer feedback in a way that influences employee behaviors.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
How do you teach people to practice appreciation and gratitude more often? Finding ways to appreciate how lucky we are, and what we have even when going through hard times.
That’s why we started Nudge. The genesis was to design a program to help brands engage their employees, supporting frontline employees in a way that makes them feel inspired became very meaningful for Nudge. Eighty percent of the workforce is deskless, yet only 1% of venture investment has gone to this space. There’s a huge opportunity to drive a positive impact in the world within this subset.
How can our readers follow you on social media?