MarTech Interview with Apu Gupta, CEO, Curalate

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Apu Gupta, CEO, Curalate

“Social is evolving from being primarily about awareness and engagement to increasingly being about commerce as well.”

Tell us about your role and journey into Social Media Marketing/Social Commerce. What made you co-found Curalate?

I’m the CEO of Curalate. At Curalate, we’re making it dead simple to turn any image or video into a storefront. In the process, we’re helping brands and retailers generate hundreds of millions of dollars of e-commerce revenue using visual content from social channels. Essentially, if you invest in content and sell online, we can probably help you sell more.

We launched Curalate to solve e-commerce’s discovery problem. Today, e-commerce is optimized for intent — for people who know what they’re looking to buy. But shopping has never been only about intent. It’s also about inspiration — the joy of stumbling across a great find. Physical stores are great at inspiration. But the aisles of e-commerce? Not so much. As more people start shifting spend from stores to sites, it’s critical that e-commerce caters to both intent and inspiration to fully unlock the potential of selling online.

Our approach to bringing this inspiration layer to e-com is through social. Curalate has built a bridge between social and e-com, making it easy to inspire people on social and drive that traffic to your site while also leveraging content from social to inspire the people who visit your site directly.

How is Social Media Marketing today different from what it was a few years ago?

Social is evolving from being primarily about awareness and engagement to increasingly being about commerce as well. The major social platforms are encouraging this behavior. Today, it’s common to encounter content on social that’s tagged with products. That’s going to change what social marketing strategies, the measurement of social performance, and how marketing and commerce teams engage with each other.

What is the current state of Social Media Marketing? How does Curalate deliver on its ROI promises?

Social Media Marketing is still a relatively young discipline and one in which the success metrics wildly differ among different types of organizations. For some places, social is purely a branding function while at other places it’s a critical element of the customer acquisition funnel. This disparity means that you can’t approach the social marketer as a single persona with homogenous needs.

At Curalate, we’ve essentially made a long-term bet that as social budgets continue to grow that social teams will be held accountable to more than likes and follows. Given how measurable everything in digital marketing is, social teams will need to also start reporting on their revenue contribution to the organization. To meet this need, Curalate’s social commerce solution provides marketers the ability to not only publish content to social but to bring social content to commerce channels — websites, apps, email, ads, and more. In all of these channels, the content is “shoppable” and therefore, measurable. This is enabling social media marketers to have greater contributions to their organizations as a whole.

How do you choose, promote and sustain your markets for business development?

Ultimately, it all comes down to value creation. We pursue markets in which our solution can drive demonstrable value to the organizations we work with. Today, our strongest product-market fit comes from organizations that sell online.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies does Curalate use at the moment?

From a Marketing Automation standpoint, our core tools are Marketo and Drift. We’re also in the process of joining a beta program with HG Data to automate lead enrichment in Marketo.

From a Sales Automation standpoint, we use Salesforce and Outreach to route leads to the proper reps, automate processes and workflows, and scale our outbound efforts. We also use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to automate some aspects of our outbound prospecting efforts.

Is the recent consumer sentiment about Social Media Marketing a threat to it?

Brands and consumers like each other more than they hate each other. Sure, some brands are like the annoying guy at the party who won’t leave you alone. But when there’s a connection, there’s often a fair amount of mutual respect that comes with it. The most relevant marketers know how to earn this respect in a genuine way and they evolve their tactics to meet the changing expectations of their audience. Changing consumer sentiment isn’t a threat — it’s an opportunity to demonstrate that you can listen and change.

What startups in the Marketing Technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

Slack, Shopify, Drift, ApexDrop.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

We’re big believers in AI. In fact, we’ve been training a neural net to recognize products in images and also identify content that’s “on-brand” aesthetically. The results have been impressive and have made our client workflows significantly more efficient. While it’s still some time off, we think there are going to be remarkable consumer applications to the type of technologies we’ve developed and it’s why we’ve been consistently investing in R&D to support our advances in computer vision.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

It’s about helping our team understand the bigger picture. Fundamentally, we’re making the internet a more inspirational place. In 2018, the inspirational experiences we created were visited over 700 million times. But if we want to transform how you experience the web, 700 million is a drop in the bucket. So, everything our team is doing is about figuring out how to scale this up, massively.

One word that best describes how you work?


What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Spotify. Gmail.

What are you currently reading?

“Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Commitment is doing the thing you said you’d do long after the mood you said it in has left you.

If not your current job, what would have been your alternate career choice?

Running a pharmacy chain in India. In one of life’s random detours, I moved to India after business school and teamed up with a classmate of mine to build what became the second largest pharmacy chain in the country. I moved back to the US, but the company is still thriving and my appreciation for retail has not diminished in the least.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read?

Mark Roberge.

Thank you, Apu! Hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

CEO and Co-Founder at Curalate, Apu Gupta is a strategy, marketing, and operations professional with international experience and a demonstrated ability to build brands, scale businesses, lead teams, and drive profits.

Curalate logo

Curalate enables brands to use social content and social audiences to sell more effectively online. Over 1,000 brands and retailers including Urban Outfitters, Neiman Marcus, Sephora and J.Crew use Curalate to turn images and videos into shoppable content on their sites, social channels, ads, and emails. Curalate is home to nearly 100 employees across four offices: London, New York, Philadelphia, and Seattle.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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