Profile: Justin Odom, Director, E-Commerce, BIC
As director of e-commerce for Bic, Justin Odom leads all e-commerce activities for Bic’s omnichannel and direct-to-consumer e-commerce sales group, including marketing, merchandising, content development and all other components of the channel strategy. Odom brings more than 15 years of expertise to his role, including an early-career stint as an IT project manager at Lehigh Hanson and vice president of strategy and insights on the agency side at Interactive Liquid. He previously led digital transformation, global e-commerce and digital strategy at Crayola, serving as the center of excellence for all things digital at the company. Reflecting on his career, Odom says, “Staying agile and helping organizations navigate the immense pace of change is how I view my role in an organization.”
There’s been a lot of change in the e-commerce arena. What are your views on these overall industry developments?
ODOM: It’s a big question. Brands and manufacturers, especially in CPG, thrive on predictable, scalable models. E-commerce and technology have totally disrupted what a CPG manufacturer has been able to do and predict as far as gross profit margins and everything else over the past 30 years. Now I don’t have to go to your physical store. I can buy any time of day and get whatever selection I want in whatever color I want. Then I can have it shipped to my house whenever I want and however I want for a price of my choosing. That puts a lot of power back in consumers’ hands, and brands and suppliers are not quite sure how to deal with that because it turned their entire model inside out.
How does your organization promote digital innovation in this environment?
ODOM: We’ve made it an important strategic pillar. And we try to innovate through education, training and sharing with other groups globally. For example, Amazon is starting to enter the Australian market. So we’re taking our years of learning with Amazon U.S. to help our colleagues in Australia fast-track their learning curve and get them up to speed and success faster, so they’re not going through the painstaking process of understanding Amazon as a customer and what’s required of them as a supplier.
Is there a recent example of your e-commerce team’s work that stands out to you?
ODOM: One that’s small but demonstrates our willingness to change what is typical is our direct-to-consumer business. We sell lighters, and they’re not exactly e-commerce-friendly because they’re classified as hazmat products. But now we are shipping lighters safely and reliably to consumers on Amazon, Walmart and our own website. We’ve seen some excellent growth in the online lighter sales channel. But we’re also meeting a changing consumer need in a paradigm where most consumers purchase lighters in convenience stores.
How can brands take better advantage of the opportunities that e-commerce provides?
ODOM: At Bic, we’re locked into a certain category and shelf space at brick-and-mortar stores, but we have a global portfolio of products that’s really exciting. E-commerce gives us an opportunity to penetrate other segments that we can’t in a brick-and-mortar environment. For example, we have quite a large assortment of four-color ballpoint pens. They’re big in Europe, but a boutique product here. They’re tough to get on a shelf at Walmart but easy to get on a shelf at Amazon and online to get them in the hands of consumers. We can expand our portfolio a lot faster online than we can in-store.
Bic recently launched a line of “Star Wars” pens. Do you find it easier to reach niche audiences with products like that online?
ODOM: The promise and the beauty of e-commerce and digital is that I don’t have to find 100 million shoppers. I’ve just got to find the right shopper. And I can be more targeted. I can be more precise. I can appeal to a different side of a consumer that I’ve never been able to reach with just simple in-store signage and displays. E-commerce opens up a whole new way to engage with the consumer and make them aware of the products and programs we have. A “Star Wars” line might be light in distribution at some brick-and-mortar locations, but we can have a full assortment online available to all those “Star Wars” fans.
How do you expect shopping to change in the coming years?
ODOM: I think brick-and-mortar shopping will become more entertainment-based. As a shopper, I’ll just order things like toothpaste, paper towels, plates, pens and razors online and subscribe and save or have them on auto-ship. And then I’m going to use my shopping time for entertainment. I’ll get lunch and look for a new pair of boots and enjoy time with my friends and family. We value time more than having to go do chores. And in some cases, shopping is a chore. E-commerce can alleviate that and help you get back to doing the things you like to do, instead of wasting two hours on a Sunday buying the same thing you’ve bought every week for the past year.