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Slope Interview Series: JD Maresco, Batch

For people who don’t know you: talk about your background and previous work experience.

I’ve spent a large chunk of my career in tech and at startups. In the past five years I worked on Citizen, where I was co-founder, and then I started exploring the consumer product space through the lens of the mobile iOS ecosystem. I saw a huge opportunity to create magical, contextual shopping experiences that meet the complex needs of the modern consumer.

I’m interested in pushing the (often arbitrary) limits of what we’re allowed to do or allowed to know — whether that’s accessing data on police activity on your street, or creating opportunities to interact with your favorite brands from your home, work, or wherever you are. I really enjoy working at the intersection of compelling software and physical experiences.

What led you to start Batch?

We started Batch last fall. Mission-wise, Batch emerged from my concern for small businesses struggling to keep up with Amazon and big tech during the pandemic. I started thinking about different ways I wanted to interact with the products I enjoy. I found myself frustrated with the limitations of subscription models. Brands like them for their impact on financials, but that isn’t the way I, as a consumer, wanted to shop.

Many startup ideas start with the question: “Why can’t I do X?” For me, it was: “Why can’t I just tap my phone on this product and get more of it?” We shouldn’t have to go to a website and fill out multiple fields just to place a simple order.

I began exploring the possibilities of using our phones to create unique branded experiences rooted in a physical environment. I was also excited about Apple’s release of App Clips, which enhanced QR code-driven experiences for iOS devices.

Batch adds value to both e-commerce brands and their customers. Talk about the specific problem(s) that Batch solves and what inspired you to solve them.

We make it easy for customers to control when and how they replenish products from  wherever they physically are. Whereas subscriptions automate orders, Batch allows customers to engage with brands easily, consistently, and on their own terms. We want to make the  process of ordering or reordering a product as seamless as it can be.

Broadly-speaking, Batch creates a crucial touchpoint for brands inside of a physical environment. The most potent way to interact with customers is in the place where they use the product. If you make skincare products, the ability to create a brand touchpoint in your customer’s bathroom is incredibly powerful. That’s a huge value add for the brand, and it’s convenient for me as the consumer.

What were some of the biggest strategic challenges you encountered when defining Batch as a brand? How did you solve those challenges?

We’re a B2B2C company and we keep our brand more behind-the-scenes. When we work with a brand like Barcode, we help them determine how to put QR codes on their product — but it’s not about those being Batch-specific branded QR codes. We do want our customers to see how  elegant QR code-driven interactions can be, though, so in that sense we are defining a unique Batch experience.

As a brand, our focus is on creating a futuristic experience that resonates with brand marketers and predicts the needs of consumers.

Since launching, Batch has partnered with brands like Hydrant, Barcode, RISE Brewing, and more. What obstacles have you encountered when marketing Batch to e-commerce brands? How have you overcome them?

We’re working with DTC and e-commerce brands that are creative, open-minded, and excited about inventing new opportunities to engage with their customers. A lot of these brands embrace SMS marketing and they’re intent on building a direct line to their customers. They want to vary the channels through which they connect with their customers, and that’s where we can help. We put our partner brands front and center. At this point, we’re at a relational stage of our sales process: brands refer us to other brands, and it’s been a great, organic way for us to grow.

As the world becomes more shoppable, what do you see as the key(s) to success for tomorrow’s ecommerce brands?

First: your product’s packaging should prominently feature a way for customers to engage with you as a brand. The most important thing you can do for your customer is make it easy for them to get more of the product they love (i.e. your product!).

Content is important, but most brands overemphasize content and the nuances of their story while underemphasizing convenience and making things simple for customers. That’s a conversation we have with every brand we partner with.

Second: every marketing asset should present a way for customers to instantly buy your product — whether it’s an advertisement, a sticker, direct mail, etc. It’s crazy to drive awareness in a physical environment without providing an instant way to purchase. Two years from now, as QR codes continue to blow up, we’ll wonder how we ever ran magazine, direct mail, or out-of-home ads without them.

Right now Batch offers branded QR experiences on packaging—talk about other physical environments you’re exploring and why they’re exciting.

We’re invested in the moments at which people make important connections with a brand. Product replenishment is a big starting point for us. We’re also looking at ways we can work in the live events space to sell merchandise and other products.

Batch is creating new opportunities around experiences we cherish, like sharing a bottle of wine with a friend. These are the moments at which it’s easy for the customer to buy and for the brand to cultivate a new fan. Creating success for these brands comes down to finding new ways to acquire customers.

I believe we’re moving toward a world where AR will define how we interact with physical products — this is just the beginning of that.

Your recent seed round included some impressive investors, including Coatue and Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six—the future looks promising! What’s next for you and the team at Batch? What are you most looking forward to as the brand grows?

We’re guided by our belief that branding and marketing is moving strongly in this direction. We’re excited to be a part of that process with some amazing brands.

We’re continuing to partner with as many innovative brands as possible. Right now we’re iterating quickly and creating mechanisms for growth and customer acquisition, in addition to our core transaction use case. As someone who’s new to e-commerce, I’ve been so energized by the spirit of all of the founders and friends working in the consumer space. So many of them have been quick to jump on board with what we’re doing, build with us, and introduce us to their favorite brands. The future looks exciting!