In this episode of The eCommerce Growth Series, we discuss eCommerce and how it’s revolutionizing traditional businesses with Evan Perkins from BigCommerce.
Some of the items we talked about include:
- How consumers, especially millennials, are changing how we shop online
- How consumer behavior is shifting for both B2C and B2B
- Integrating legacy systems
- What headless commerce means for the future
- How social media is changing traditional businesses
- Subscription fatigue and how to avoid it
- How personalization can help increase conversions
For any questions, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or to email@example.com. Thanks for listening!
Ronald: Welcome to the eCommerce Growth Series. My name is Ronald Dod, Chief Marketing Officer at Visiture. I’m here today with another episode about how consumer behavior online is changing traditional businesses. With me is Evan Perkins from BigCommerce. Fantastic podcast. I’m pretty tired [laughs]. We talked about 57 minutes and it was fantastic information. We bounced around a lot of different subjects, but everything really could be tied back to how consumer behavior is really changing traditional businesses and, you know, legacy businesses on eCommerce platforms.
If you’re really interested in just the title of how consumer behavior is changing, I would skip to about 12 minutes. We could talk all day about these different subject matters. We talked about jingles and pianos and classic jazz and Evan’s legendary voicemail greetings. We talked about how consumers, especially Millennials, are really changing how we shop online by using phones and more. And we’re going to talk about that consumer behavior and how it’s shifting–not only for B2C, but B2B brands as well. We discussed integrating with legacy systems and how to really evolve. We discussed Headless commerce for those out there interested in that and really kind of tied it back to consumer behavior. We discussed a lot of social media, how BigCommerce integrates with Facebook and more and how social media is really changing traditional businesses and how we shop online. And finally, we talked about subscription fatigue–how subscriptions help in essential businesses. And then we talked a lot about personalization, which Evan was really helpful with and had a lot of great information on. So, jam-packed episode–56 minutes. Hope you all enjoy.
Thank you for joining us, Evan. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
Evan: Yeah, thank you, Ron, for having me. This is exciting. Yeah so, my name’s Evan Perkins. I work for BigCommerce. I’m on the sales team there, part of the enterprise solutions team. I’m a native Texan. I’m from Houston originally and with the exception of four years in Denver, Colorado, I’ve lived my entire life in Texas. I have been in Austin for about a decade at this point. And my lovely wife Laura and I have been married about 13 years–I guess 13 years next month. We’ve got a couple of kiddos–6 and 3. So, you might hear some screaming in the background. Shout out to all you working from home parents. It’s kind of a lot to manage.
Ronald: Love it, love it. And something that’s more important than anything else we talk about today when it comes to eCommerce or anything is, I heard you have a fantastic jingle and you help friends record voicemails. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Evan: Oh yeah, so it’s not so much jingle as I taught myself chord piano. I learned with online resources. There’s this guy named Dwayne Chin in California and I ordered some DVDs, and a couple of years ago sat down to learn chord piano. I’m kind of a hack, but it gives you like a lot of range. You basically just sort of play shell chords of different songs. So, play everything from pop to Ray Charles to, you know, whatever you might want to. The voicemail greetings were something that I did just given the sort of movie phone voice. So, occasionally for folks around the office, you know, they’d ask me, “Hey, can you make a voice message for me? Voicemail greeting?” So, something like “Thank you for calling Ron Dod.” You know, you just sort of play off that. It’s pretty fun. I have not been able to monetize on that in any sort of meaningful way, but we’ll see what comes in the future.
Ronald: Yeah, I think my friends would pay me not to do their voicemails [laughs]. That’s great. Yeah, I actually played piano, too. I was in a jazz band for many years. So, I couldn’t play now to save my life, but it’s a good time back in the day.
Evan: It’s a fun hobby. I think being in tech, everything changes so much. Everything’s so fast. It’s nice to have a hobby where you can feel like you’re learning a skill that you can sort of start and stop. You have a quantifiable result like, “I can play a song now.” It’s a nice thing to have in a world where career-wise everything’s digital, everything is different every month. I think it’s sort of a healthy outlet for people in tech, especially.
Ronald: Yeah. Speaking of that, what’s it like working at one of the probably hottest tech companies in Austin for those out there who don’t work at BigCommerce?
Evan: Yeah, it’s fun. I mean, we’re in an interesting spot. I spent like a decade in the startup world, so, you know, 20-30 people wearing a ton of hats. That was fun. I transitioned though to BigCommerce purposefully. We’re more of a medium-sized company. There’s some maturity, right. We have HR for example, a board, processes to do things, SOPs, that kind of stuff. And it was really fun to make the move over because I feel like you’re not dealing with a lot of the sort of growing pains that a lot of startups are doing. We have a well-defined product, you know, well-defined leadership, mission. All that kind of stuff is set, so we just get to go really fast and it’s exciting. Yeah, it’s always fun to, you know, mention the name around Austin at least and obviously people sort of recognize it right away. So, definitely appreciative of getting to be at a place like BigCommerce and I’ve enjoyed it for the last three and a half years I’ve been here.
Ronald: Yeah, that’s great. I’ve always been jealous of office environments like you all and other tech companies have. We’re packed like sardines in our office [laughter].
Evan: Yeah, well, it’s funny–like the whole open office concept is the thing, right? So, everybody’s kind of packed in everywhere you go. I think where I stand in my office, probably, like a hundred people can see me at any one point. So, that’s like oddly draining when you can’t just close the door and sort of hide away, but that’s not really the role I’m involved in anyway.
Ronald: So, yeah, can’t escape.
Ronald: With that, for the people out there who aren’t not familiar with BigCommerce, can you tell us a little bit more about BigCommerce? Maybe just go through the history and who you all really work with?
Evan: Yeah, for sure. So, BigCommerce started in 2009. This will be our 11th year in business. We’re a best in breed SaaS eCommerce platform. So, what that means is that in terms of eCommerce platforms, you typically have either SaaS, right, where you know everything’s hosted. We’re taking care of PCI compliance and DDoS mitigation, you know, and a bunch of other tech. You get to focus on sales marketing, actually iterating on a website to sell stuff online versus you have the open-source folks of the world of Magento, etc., where you tend to have a lot more IT responsibility and burden.
BigCommerce–our mission is to serve every stage of merchant growth. So, when we started, we did focus on small business. We’ve moved up market since then and so our kind of main area of focus now is mid-market smaller enterprise merchants. But all that to say, we have folks that are clicking a couple of buttons selling t-shirts from the garage all the way up to some of the biggest companies on the planet– Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, Sony, Toyota–that are using BigCommerce.
And, as you can imagine, with the smaller merchants, we tend to sort of be the hub, right. So, we’re managing all of their eCommerce operations. With these, you know, super large merchants–some are doing into the nine figures, like hundreds of millions of dollars online through our platform–we tend to be more of a spoke. We’re the CMS and the eCommerce engine piece. But it’s interconnected to ERPs, PIMS and CRMs and there’s a much larger back office system, that makes eCommerce function. I think the thing that sets BigCommerce apart is the ability to do something like that.
The knock on SaaS for many years has been it’s too restrictive or it’s too prescriptive, right? I don’t want to pick from one of your few templates and be stuck. I want to have flexibility. BigCommerce takes an open SaaS approach. So, that means on the frontend you can build whatever site you want, whatever look, feel, user experience–totally open to you. All the front side code is completely open. And then on the backend, we have a really strong API layer so, both GraphQL for frontend, you know, headless or think any of that kind of stuff. On the backend, a two-way RESTful API.
So, all that to say, pushing or pulling data interact with no issue from our side. So, again, you need to connect to an ERP. You want your ERP to be the source of truth for order data, inventory product data that programmatically feed that into BigCommerce. You have no issue doing that whatsoever. So, we’re trying to give that best of both worlds approach. It’s SaaS. Again, we’re doing all the hosting, we’re handling all the IT security, etc. You don’t have to worry about versions or updates or, you know, replatforming to the latest whatever. We handle all that, but we give you all the flexibility to build the sites you want, how you want it and not prescribe to you how things all work.
Ronald: Thank you. That makes a lot of sense. I feel like every podcast I’ve done so far, I’ve talked to someone and we always joke about how back in the day it would require thousands and thousands of hours to do something–like state-level tax, right, or you know, an ESP or shipping management or order management. And now, it’s so funny because you have technologies like you all that are able to do all of these things that require thousands and thousands of hours of development time to integrate with sites with just one click of a button. And then these merchants can use that money they save for marketing channels and advertising to really help grow their business.
Evan: Yeah. Exactly. The number one thing I hear from people either who are on custom platforms or open-source platforms is, “You know, I want agility” or “I’m looking at SaaS alternatives because I’ve got a team of four” or “Our KPIs are revenue on the website. I don’t want to spend half my time just making sure the site doesn’t break or go down on Black Friday.” Or “We want to spin up some kind of loyalty program or connect to a new ESP.” Like, I don’t have the bandwidth to go reinvent the wheel every time. And kind of the way I talk about it is, if I wanted to like drive from Austin to San Francisco, my first inclination isn’t that I’m going to build a car. Other people have solved that problem. So, I think we’ve really seen a shift, especially in the last few years of people going, “I don’t want to build this myself. You know, DIY is not required. Let’s go find a great commercial solution.” And to your point, we can focus on sales, marketing, you know, building a great website instead of all the IT hassle that can come with managing that stuff internally.
Ronald: Yeah. With that, you all obviously work with a lot of merchants who are coming online, maybe never had been online or, you know, have had really bad legacy systems. What would you say are the biggest myths that you see from merchants who are moving to a new platform or just reinvigorating their online digital channel?
Evan: Yeah, that’s a really good question. The first one honestly is not spending money on the implementation or the site built. So, kind of more eloquently, like we talked about this in terms of businesses–especially traditional ones who are moving online for the first time–they need to think about kind of changing their investment model. So, I think years ago and you probably recognize this being in the space, there is this sort of, if you build it, they will come type idea. Like, let’s just get our website up. There are people who are going to use it. Everything was new. It was novel. These days, I think that’s not true whatsoever. It’s a crowded space. The internet, if you’ve been on it, lots of stuff going on, right?
So, some people have the luxury of having big development teams, you know, in-house. Many of the folks I work with do not. Or even if they do–opportunity costs–they need, you know, to focus energies elsewhere. I think hiring an agency or, you know, finding some kind of partnership to really build your website out the right way the first time vs. trying to DIY. So, in other words, just make the investment, right. I understand sometimes people don’t want to spend a lot. They don’t know “Is this going to be a successful channel for us? Can we make this shift?”
But you can’t expect to get a lot out of something if you don’t put a decent amount of work into it, right. All that to say, I think there’s this feeling of, “You know, we just want to get online super-fast and easy.” It’s possible to do that. If you’re a sophisticated company, spend some money on it. Think about it in terms of–the website built ought to be considered a capital expense, right, and to amortize this over a longer period of time, maybe even years. And if you try to just kind of hack it yourself, you might save some, you know, initial money upfront, but long-term, you’re not going to get the finished product that you want. You’re going to have this suboptimal experience. And, you’re just not going to get the adoption that you can were you to make a decent investment upfront in building the type of experience you want to create.
Ronald: Yeah, so I love the word “adoption” because I’m a marketing nerd [laughter]. So, with that, what would you say your recommendations are for merchants out there? There’s so many that I talk to that blame other channels for not having customer adoption. What do you say the biggest reasons for not gaining that kind of adoption are or that traction with customers?
Evan: Yeah, I mean, I think back to this investment thing, right, if you’re building a lousy experience online, if it’s difficult for people. One example: I work with a lot of B2B companies, right–industrial or manufacturing. Traditionally it’s been call up the sales guy, place your order, you’re a customer of ours, you’re on account. That’s shifting online. People are opening up those channels online. But they treat it like, “Oh it’s B2B, so it can be super boring, it can be difficult to use, it can be clunky. They’ll put up with it.” And I think that’s again going away as a truth. Like people are looking for experiences like consumers. We all shop on Amazon or Best Buy in our personal lives where we have this sort of framework for how online shopping ought to work and building something that doesn’t sort of emulate that in a way means you’re not going to get a great adoption.
If you are a B2B merchant, you’ve got a client base and they’re sort of a captive audience. Maybe you can get away with it for a time. But eventually, that user experience is going to be something you’ve got to really invest in and focus on. And then internally, too, part of adoption is I need my customers to use it and part of the adoption is I need my internal team to do it right. Is my sales team threatened by a website? You’ve got to work that out. Is my marketing team able to use this thing and drive channel shift, drive revenue online? Are they equipped to do that? Can they use the systems? Projects that fail equal low adoption. Again, I think it’s back to not really making an initial investment to building the site or staffing the site in an appropriate way.
Ronald: Yeah, I think it’s really almost criminal nowadays, too. There’s so much technology that–you know, I consider you all one of kind of the big three platforms out there–you can use now, from retention, chat bots. I mean, you can hook up into Google Ads and do Smart Shopping. There are so many ways to acquire customers, retain customers, improve your site experience for $29.99 [laughter]. You know, some of these technologies, it’s just crazy. Take that loyalty program like I was talking about before. You take thousands and thousands of hours that you’re able to recreate for a minimal amount of fees.
Evan: Yeah. And I think the other miss is, and I kind of hinted at, the staffing piece, right. I was working with a guy who was really successful in real estate and he decided for sort of a second career. “I want to try an online store.” So, he bought a vape company. It was typically just distributing to retail vape shops. And then, “Yeah, I’m going to turn this online, go to direct-to-consumer.” And I remember him being at the BigCommerce offices and we were just sort of talking through what we could do for him. And I’m giving him a tour and it’s at that point where he goes, “Oh hey, Evan. By the way, do you know how hard it is to find a part-time person just to run the website for me?” And he was talking about, you know, projecting like a hundred million dollars within the first couple of years of business. And I’m thinking, you know, you’re completely underestimating the volume of work it is to run a hundred-million-dollar website. It’s not like going to find a part-time person on Craigslist to run that thing, right–set it and forget it type concept.
So, I think when people–especially those who are transitioning online for the first time–think through the questions on staffing, it’s who’s managing data, what is the marketing team able to do, did you choose a platform that a business user can actually, you know, create content pages or promotions on their own or are they going to have to go tap IT on the shoulder or hire out an agency to do those things. Think through what it really takes to run a website and obviously that’s something that, you know, getting an organization like a commerce like Visiture could sort of help with in the process of coming online to try to define those things. But definitely needs to be given some consideration.
Ronald: Yeah, it’s also so interesting and I feel like so many business owners and eCommerce leaders try to outsource too quickly. They try to give functions to businesses outside of their control that they don’t really understand–whether it’s, you know, shopping, SEO, retention, etc.
Evan: That’s a good point.
Ronald: Yeah, I think a lot of them think that the big companies have these gigantic staffs for their eCommerce brands and they’re outmatched–and that’s not the case. I mean, we worked on the Mitchell Gold Bob Williams account when they moved from one platform to the next and helped them with that process. Mitchell Gold Bob Williams, you know, is worth billions of dollars. Their marketing team, their eCommerce team–three people.
Evan: It’s not uncommon.
Ronald: eCommerce is such an interesting space, you know, and the teams are really not that large. But with that, I really want to switch to our main topic–what we were talking about pre-show because I think it’s super interesting which is, you know, consumer behavior and how it’s transitioning these traditional businesses to really sell online. I think you’re obviously a really good subject matter expert in that. So, how are you seeing consumers, you know–especially influenced by the Millennial–how are they switching their behavior to buying online and how is that affecting traditional businesses?
Evan: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think obviously if you’re in the health and beauty or consumer electronics space, those shoppers have been shopping online for quite some time. I listened to a webinar a couple of weeks ago. They made an interesting point around all the COVID stuff–really kind of having catapulted us into the future, right? So, companies think B2B Industrial–keep going back to that example. But again, I’ve heard from so many of these folks–manufacturing, etc.–who I think probably thought, “I got a few years you know before I have to make this sort of digital transformation” and they’re realizing now they’re behind. So, I’m talking with a bunch of people who are scrambling to try to figure this out quickly. I think the whole concept of the Millennial buyer is they’re aging into positions of authority within their companies, right. So, even if it’s, you know, quote-unquote like a boring industrial thing, you’ve got these folks who are aging into buying positions. They are digital natives. So, again, this concept of call up a salesperson or fax in your order is completely distasteful. There’s this hope you know that everything would shift online even in the spaces that might not be like the sexy health and beauty or CBD space or whatever the case is.
So, I think online shopping for a long time now it’s not just direct-to-consumer. It’s essential to get a lot of B2B companies where your buyers want to transact online. It’s easier. The website, unlike your offices, is open 24/7. We’re in a time now that I think selling online is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have and companies who don’t offer that experience are going to be losing out on customers and they’re going to be missing out on revenue. And one of the groups I was talking to last week brought up a good point. They’re like, “We’re paying our distributors commission to distribute our product. Why not create an online portal for our customers to buy directly from us and then we can kind of cut out that distribution piece?” And it won’t go away completely, but just opening up another channel and offering that experience I think is hugely important. In a sense because that, again, millennial group is getting older and it’s just going to become the expectation–probably already has.
Ronald: Yeah, especially what I’ve seen in the B2B space as well. You know, I think you have this older leadership in these companies and I remember talking to a company that sold heat exchangers maybe in 2012. They were not convinced that people would go on their phones to buy heat exchangers. And we actually found that a lot of consumers, you know these younger Millennials, are now working at the electrical plants. How are you going to find the exact heat exchanger part? You just go on your phone and go find it and see it and then order it directly. So, it’s really funny to see how consumer behavior for B2B is changing. And is B2B a big focus for you all? Do you see a lot of that shift as well going online?
Evan: Yeah, it’s a huge focus for us. So, we have 65,000 active merchants using BigCommerce. About 4,000 of those we’d bucket as enterprise merchants of people doing in the millions. Of that subset, 50 percent have some kind of a B2B component and 25 percent of that is our pure-play B2B. So, they’re coming to me going, “I don’t care about SEO. I don’t care about marketing. I need to create a portal where my customers could go. They have pre-negotiated pricing. So, we need to personalize when they log in, they need to have their own catalog, their own price list, price books all configured in there and just go ahead and order online and, again, not have to go call up a sales group.” So, it’s a really big segment of our business and I think given recent events, sort of this accelerated timeline into the future with people, sort of changing models and staying at home and everything, it’s a really important piece of our business for sure.
Ronald: Yeah. Do you all do variable pricing, too, so you could have different groups getting different pricing based on discount codes and whatever?
Evan: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, native to BigCommerce, kind of the backbone of our B2B capability, is that it is two-part. There are customer groups and there are price lists. So, with customer groups you can essentially bucket customers. You can determine what catalog items they see. So, you could run a direct-to-consumer and a B2B experience on the same BigCommerce website, which is pretty unique. Most of our competitive peers bifurcate that into different platforms. You can do it all for one side on BigCommerce. Customer groups drive a lot of that. So, you could think I’ve got my direct consumer and all my products are up. But when Ron logs in as one of our wholesale buyers, the catalog completely changes. And then on the priceless side you can drive the pricing–things like bulk pricing, quantity discounts, different down to the variant level. Like whatever pre-negotiated pricing we had with Ron, he’s going to see that when he logs in. You can layer in, you know, coupons or promotions if you’re doing those types of things for your B2B merchants. But you’ve really got a powerful option with BigCommerce to personalize the experience for a B2B buyer.
Last thing I’ll say is people that I talk to go, “Well, I do all that with my ERP. I don’t want to have to go duplicate that in an eCommerce platform.” With BigCommerce, you don’t have to do that. That API layer that I talked about? You can feed in pricing data from your ERP programmatically so you’re not having to go duplicate data entry in two different systems. The majority of my customers will have an ERP. They’ll have other back office systems that ultimately are the source of truth for order data. It’s how products get fulfilled, it’s where inventory lives and all of that just gets injected into BigCommerce–essentially in real time as people are shopping on the site.
Ronald: Yeah, I’m glad you brought up ERP because that’s one thing that I think merchants have a really hard time with, whether it’s B2B and especially well-established B2C businesses that are very traditional, have really done catalog and TV as their main ways to sell products as they have a lot of legacy systems with fulfillment. What would you do and recommend for merchants who have these really outdated legacy systems that want to upgrade and be able to really adopt online?
Evan: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think, honestly, in a way it’s kind of outside my area of focus. Not trying to dodge the question. BigCommerce is trying to build the best eCommerce engine in the world. At our core, all we care about is that piece. We’re not going to build an ERP module, in other words. Other people have solved that problem and they do it really well. We just want to focus on eCommerce and, again, create a really open platform that can play well with other systems. So, it’s not uncommon, especially in this B2B space. I talked to a group earlier this week. They have 12 different companies. They’re doing a billion and a half online across their portfolio. And each one of these companies–it’s sort of a typical, you know, through M&A strategy–has acquired these various companies. So, each one has disparate technology stacks and so there’s 12 companies and they literally have 12 different ERPs. I think the important thing to note is you don’t necessarily have to go and update those. A lot of these B2B, you know, maybe they’re industry-specific–or some guy named Gary wrote it for the company back in the ’80s and he’s since left or retired and nobody wants to touch it because you God only knows what’s going to happen when we start messing with it.
So, you don’t have to go and change. I think, again, with a platform like BigCommerce, we’re going to play well with those systems and there’s various ways to exchange data with different legacy systems. But to the extent that you’ve got an ERP or some back-office system that begins to limit other pieces of technology, for example, there’s just no way to get data in or out of our ERP. Well, that’s problematic. I don’t really hear that very often. There’s always some kind of way to do it. But if you’re running into those situations, then making investments in newer technology and then having to like throttle those back because your legacy systems can’t keep up or can’t communicate with those or just can’t be managed alongside those, that’s when we might say, “Hey, could make sense, too, while you’re exploring an eCommerce platform to explore and upgrade to a more modern ERP.”
Ronald: Yeah, it makes perfect sense. And it’s so funny you mentioned a guy named “Gary.” There is an account that we worked on for many years and you might actually be talking about this Gary. It’s for a really iconic sporting goods brand. And, literally, we went to their factory and warehouse and a guy named Gary is their CIO and hand-coded the fulfillment process of their ERP system and we’re trying to figure out how they integrate that. So, it’s just a funny flashback I just had [laughs].
Evan: Yeah, it’s wild. You find these systems where, literally, it’s just a black box and it works and they know this. It is referred to as “Technical Death.” They know they’ve got it, but until it gets so painful that they have to do something, they’re not going to make a switch. So, they just sort of layer in additional technologies to kind of modernize in every way that they can. But, obviously, eventually you’re probably going to have to make some kind of move or go find Gary in the Poconos and get him to come back and update things.
Ronald: So, there’s something we talked a lot about pre-show and I feel like we have a lot of conversations about. It’s around Headless and that buzzword and PWAs. Can you tell everyone what Headless is and is it Apple gold to everyone?
Evan: Yeah, good question. It’s a real buzzword, buzz idea out there. Just trying to break it down: If you think about eCommerce in two major parts, you’ve got the frontend. Sometimes this is called the presentation layer, the website, the glass. A lot of people use different words for it. Just think about the website piece. That’s one side. Actually, Headless should be like faceless commerce, but I didn’t get to name it. So, you’ve got that one part.
The second part of the equation is the eCommerce engine. So, think like catalog database, customer database, order information, the engines that drive cart checkout, promotional efforts, things like that–all the data stuff. So, Headless Commerce refers to the separation of the frontend–the presentation layer–with the backend–the eCommerce engine.
So, with Big Commerce, for example, we’re a complete store building eCommerce tools. We’ve got a fully big CMS and you can build whatever website you want. And then again, obviously, we have all the back-office stuff like cart checkout to support an eCommerce store. But, as a merchant, if there’s a really strong desire to use a third-party CMS like WordPress, Bloomreach, Adobe Experience Manager or even a custom CMS or a custom website that you build out of React or something, you can do that. You can use a third-party CMS and then still plug-in BigCommerce on the backend to run the commerce engine of the site. Why would somebody want to do that? We run into a few things.
I guess the first thing I’ll say is, this is not applicable to everybody. I think we’re getting there, like we’re heading that direction, but right now I’ll run into this specifically with larger companies. They call me up and go, “We want to go Headless.” And I ask, “Why is that? Like, what’s the purpose there?” And they just sort of look around the room at each other and like well, you know, somebody read a blog post about Headless and that it’s the wave of the future. It’s considered kind of bleeding edge, right. Again, I think it’s certainly the direction things are headed. But it’s not our first recommendation for how to architect a site. Even if it does represent like some of the most advanced ways to do things or PWAs, you’ve got to ask yourself if it’s right for you or if it’s right for your website, for your brand, for your requirements. And I think it just boils down to trying to avoid unnecessary complexity.
Let’s take WordPress, for example. We’ve got a really easy, native integration into WordPress. So, you can have a WordPress site and BigCommerce can power the cart checkout, product data feeds, all that kind of stuff. If you go that route, BigCommerce is SaaS, so the cart checkout will be likely hosted by us. There are a few ways to architect it, but you’ve got to go host your WordPress site. You’ve got to find a provider, host it yourself, whatever the case may be.
So, if there’s not like a strong business rule or requirements that it would necessitate going with an outside CMS, I think you’re just taking on additional complexity, additional cost expense that maybe you don’t have to. But in some cases, we do have merchants with extremely robust content needs or omnichannel needs. And I’m not just talking about selling on eBay and Amazon and Facebook. There are people who are building experiences for kiosks or mobile applications or shopping from your Tesla or whatever the case may be. Headless absolutely might be the way to go, but, again, I don’t think we’re quite there yet culturally that everybody needs to jump to that, and it’s not the first place we start when we make a recommendation for how to architect a site.
Ronald: Something we’re doing, too, is we’re actually building PWAs right now on a few sites, but that’s for really advanced eCommerce merchants who want to get the next level from a site speed and user experience perspective. I couldn’t agree more. I think right now it probably doesn’t make sense to go Headless unless you have really good business use cases to do so. I think so many people just want to kind of chase the shiny ball and, a lot of times, that’s probably not best for them. And it’s funny because, you know, we were talking earlier about that it’s so easy to go online now and easy to gain things such as technology from SaaS-related solutions. Going Headless almost kind of seems like we’re going backwards. Like we’re going back in the kind of dark ages of technical SEO–do we have the canonical tags on? Do we have, you know, these things that we need to do? And so, it’s funny now that we’re moving towards more very complex experiences, with more development team time and team members needed to build these complex systems and architect out more complex solutions.
Evan: Yeah, I agree. I work with a few different agencies that are completely Headless-focused. They will not engage clients unless they want to take that approach, but these tend to be agencies that are working with Fortune 500 brands with a lot of resources. And again, some kind of a driver: we need a website, we need it to work with the kiosk in our retail locations and we want to layer in some sort of voice shopping component. Like okay, I can see the need there. But by and away for most merchants, especially people who are trying to get online for the first time, again, not the first recommendation.
One kind of a plug I guess with BigCommerce is we do have quite a few connectors. There are third-party connectors with various CMS. So, I mentioned WordPress. You can hook up BigCommerce to Blue Ridge, Site Core, Joomla. Again, you could always start from scratch, but in terms of going Headless, you don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel with BigCommerce. There are commercial connectors that have done a good amount of the work so far. So, it doesn’t have to be the most complicated thing, but, again, you just want to try to suss out is this really necessary in terms of the initial architecture of the site?
Ronald: Yeah. Absolutely. Something that I thought was really interesting that I saw on a Facebook Live with Mark Zuckerberg is your guys’ logo was on there for any branding of Facebook. And, you know, that really kind of ties back in what we’re talking about. What do you think of that?
Evan: Yeah, so I think that was probably the Facebook Shops announcement. BigCommerce has been integrated with Facebook and Instagram for many years now. I think we were the first platform to integrate with Instagram Shopping when they took that capability live years ago, whenever it was. Today, we’re a premium badge partner with Facebook marketing partners for commerce, so that was a group launched in May 2019. So, basically, we kind of get early access to some features or, by virtue of our merchants, get early access to some features. But really, we’ve got a legacy in terms of this sort of omnichannel approach. And what that means is a merchant on BigCommerce can pretty much toggle a switch on, taking advantage of the native integrations that we have and start selling their products on social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest–even other marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. Essentially, you’ve got a website, direct website, products you’re selling, products on your site. You can then just push those into different channels and conduct sales there. In the case of Facebook, you can configure it such that if Ron is on Facebook and he sees the cool products I’m selling, you can actually check out right there on Facebook and never have to leave and go back to my direct site. I can force that as the eCommerce site owner if I wanted to, if I want to bring you back to my site to complete the transaction. But again, you can really give people freedom to shop where they are and not have to contact switch and, you know, go from one platform to another.
So, it’s pretty cool. I think Facebook Shop is again a new feature that they’ve turned on that they’re just sort of revamping their commerce experience. And my understanding is that they’re trying to allow the users of their platform to showcase and sell products more effectively from, you know, their business page. So, it basically just makes it easier for shoppers to go browse through and discover products. I think you’ve got quite a bit more capability in branding–in merchandising from Facebook in the way that you want to. But again, with BigCommerce, we’ve been connected to Facebook for a long time. I think it’s great and I’m honestly pretty surprised, especially in sort of the mid-market segment, how many people aren’t taking advantage of this type of thing. Because to your point, it’s not like it takes thousands of hours of code to go create this integration and turn it on. It’s just there. You’ve got to have somebody obviously manage that piece of the business. But it’s not too tough to turn on and test and learn and figure out whether this is something worth doing and can I drive revenue from these different channels?
Ronald: Yeah, it’s so interesting. Everyone who knows me knows I’m not on Facebook. I’m on TikTok so you won’t find me there.
Evan: [Laughter] Different age.
Ronald: How old are your kids?
Evan: 6 and 3. So, they don’t have their own devices quite yet.
Ronald: Yeah, well, 10 years from now when they hit that age, they’ll be on a completely different platform. That’s funny. Yeah, it’s so funny, too, I feel like social selling for the longest time, like everyone, you read those articles every year, “Social selling–this is the new big thing in eCommerce.” And at least with merchants, it’s not really that big of a part of their sales, but social is. It’s like advertising Instagram influencers. And it’ll be interesting to see in the next coming year if Facebook is able to shift that behavior from not only an eCommerce store, you go there to buy, you click on the Facebook link to buy, but you actually buy on your actual Facebook or Instagram account and it stores your information and makes it easy to buy. And I wonder how much debt we’re going to have from that, too, because I can go on a spending spree on Instagram seeing dog products. That’s my kind of, you know, downfall.
Evan: That’s your jam. I get it. Yeah, they’re like no friction checkout. I’ll click a button. I mean in a way it’s abstracted from sort of our normal buying behavior. And to your point like, “Oops, I spent how many thousands of dollars on dog accessories” or whatever your jam is, it’s kind of funny. I could, yeah, definitely see myself going down the same path.
Ronald: Yeah and there’s a technology I saw the other day, where all you had to do was comment on a post and it would autoship you out their product and charge your credit card over it. It’s pretty crazy. Is Facebook going to copy, too, down the road? I mean, like what’s the next thing for Facebook and Instagram when it comes to social selling to make it so frictionless, which is also dangerous because you could buy products with just a comment or like this post and it ships you their product and charges your credit card. So, it’ll be interesting in the next couple of years for sure.
Evan: Yeah, I think too you layer in all the different payment options now. So, with more expensive products, things like Affirm and different tools essentially split payments over a period of time. Like, I don’t want to spend $500 now, I want 10 payments of $50. That’s becoming really popular. I see that popping up especially again for luxury brands or lifestyle brands. And I think that’s just like one more barrier removed for the consumer to go, “Hey, it’s not wise to spend all this right now, but oh I could totally spend a smaller amount over 10 months.” Again, you’re just kind of removing barriers and making it easier to buy. So, yeah, I guess good and bad for the consumer depending on how responsible you are.
Ronald: Yeah, it’s something that I think too is changing, Evan, outside just social selling is subscriptions. Do you see that as a big area of change in consumer behavior with people wanting to use subscriptions?
Evan: Yeah, it’s an interesting one. I read a blog post. It was–I can’t remember now–a couple of months ago and they actually commented on subscription fatigue, like you think about all these box companies that were, okay, pay my fee and I get this box of, you know, stuff for my lotions or like cool gadgets or whatever the case may be. And that was a really exciting thing a couple of years ago. I think people are getting fatigued because it feels like everything in life is some sort of a monthly fee now. So, that’s sort of one segment that I don’t know how much–like I’m not going to go launch like a box site personally–but I think framing it is like a reduced friction thing. I have one subscription product in my life today and it’s my air filters for my HVAC at home. I never remember to change them out until things start to feel like it’s not cooling down in the same way and then my air filter is like super dirty. So, I use that. My air filters show up once every six weeks or whatever it is. And it’s like a good reminder for me to go and change that out in my house. And I think to the degree that subscription makes my life easier, I’ll utilize it. I think that’s probably true for many of us.
So, if you sell a product online that is something that is consumed at a regular frequency–think dog food, medicine supplements, like those types of things–you absolutely should be exploring options to offer people a subscription. It’s way easier to, you know, get a customer base. It’s predictable revenue for you as a company if you know I have X number of subscription customers. I know the first of every month I get to just automatically ship out that number. I think it creates some predictability that’s helpful for a merchant. And then again on the consumer side, if it’s something that people are ordering with some sort of a frequency, definitely make the offering. A lot of tools out there get the subscription thing right and, you know, a lot of different options to go explore. But certainly, something worth the exploration.
Ronald: I never thought of that–essential businesses needing to do subscriptions. That’s really interesting. I mean, I’d love for my water filter in my fridge to show up every six months, that’s for sure.
Evan: Yeah, exactly like again and, in some ways, it’s just those types of components. Like in your house, it’s my reminder to go change the filter. It just shows up at my house. It makes my life easier, so I’m going to do it. So, definitely something to consider and that’ll be a subscription in like B2B Industrial. I don’t know–maybe not as much of a use case. But certainly, something worth considering as a merchant online.
Ronald: So, something I ask everyone–What do you view is the future of eCommerce?
Evan: The future of eCommerce. Yes, I’d be curious to listen to what other people have said here. We could probably have an entire podcast on this topic because it’s a big question. I’ll lay out a few things just in terms of, again, I’ve been with BigCommerce three and a half years. I’ve talked with literally thousands of merchants in various stages, various size companies. So, I think one thing is enterprise companies are really no longer defaulting to these giant legacy platforms–so, the IBMs and the Oracles of the world. I think in years past that was sort of the default solution. If you were a giant company, you thought, “I’ve got to have these giant enterprise pieces of software.” They tend to be these monolithic sorts of jacks-of-all-trades, but masters of none type of platform. So, what we’re seeing is again engaging somebody like a Procter & Gamble or SC Johnson that have chosen BigCommerce to run their direct-to-consumer efforts online. It’s the shift from that big monolithic tech application that can do it all, but it doesn’t really do anything all that well to a best in breed approach.
So, giving people the freedom to go pick the eCommerce platform that suits you best. Go pick the ESP that suits you best. Go pick the ERP, right. Go and pick these different components and then it’s, you know, plug them all together versus again trying to go through one big application. So, I think that’s the best in breed shift, that’s kind of a boring one to mention, but it’s definitely a theme that I see. Even four or five years ago, BigCommerce probably was not considering that we’re going to have Fortune 1000 companies using our platform in just a few years. But the tolerance for these companies to go and spend, you, know a million dollars in 18 months to spin up a test and learn direct-to-consumer site, it’s just not there. People want to go fast. They need the lower TCO. They need the agility and that’s something that, you know, BigCommerce can provide, I think, in a unique way for these giant legacy systems. But again, that’s kind of one of the boring things to point out.
The more exciting stuff? I think we’re going to see a greater bifurcation between–I guess maybe you could call it chore shopping and experiential shopping. Chore shopping is paper towels, water filters, air filters, like those types of things. I think the trend is going to continue to be [and we brought this up earlier] reduce friction, make it super easy to buy those things, have them on a subscription for example–like that’s one good thing. So, I don’t want to have to click around a bunch of times to get hand soap. I just want that to be delivered. I want to be able to hop online, like the app you mentioned where I can comment and it just auto-charges me. That is really cool. I think we’re going to see an increase in that for this sort of chore shopping or necessity shopping. Experiential shopping–like new clothes, new gadgets–those are the types of things that it’s more about the discovery, product recommendations, personalization, design, really focused on user experience. Good copy. I see a lot of room for improvement in just the copy that’s on websites. Like, “Here’s this jacket.” Okay, well, I’m not a real stylish guy. When will I wear this jacket? What’s a good appropriate occasion for this and when is it not a good fit? Like those types of things really creating an ability to go discover in fun ways online for that experience with shopping. I think we’re going to kind of see those two splits between those two categories.
Kind of on that note, I think personalization is a big one. Obviously, again, kind of like Headless, personalization is a big buzzword. It’s been going on a long time, but I think we’re going to see it at a more granular scale. So, very specific product recommendations based on consumer traits, shopping habits, histories, geography that will be more opportunity for real-time merchandising on a website. So, maybe it gets to the point where, you know, I go to a site and I don’t see any product there that I’m not likely to purchase based on my sort of individual customer profile. I think we’re going to see more granularity there.
What I’m interested in and I’m curious about your thoughts, is the juice worth the squeeze for that type of thing? That’s a big investment to get kind of a one-to-one personalization for shoppers. And I’m curious if brands long-term are going to be willing to make and maintain that investment. Does it truly affect the KPIs that matter, like revenue, conversion, those types of things? For again, is it kind of like, well, that’s neat, I can merchandise things up, but it’s not necessarily changing consumer behavior? I’m curious your thoughts.
Ronald: Yeah, it’s super interesting. I say yes. I think in probably 10 years we will all be so heavily invested in the data and being data experts. I can see many courses and, you know, certifications when it comes to being able to use the data. If you go to the Visiture website right now, on the top left you’ll see our little logo plus favicon equals graph going up emoji [laughs]. What we’re able to do is pull IP addresses based on a company called Clearbit. And we pull all IP addresses. So, if you’re an office–a BigCommerce office–it will pull the favicon from BigCommerce. It will pull the company name into different variables, and all we do is put a layer on top. And that’s really easy to do. And I think these merchants, they’re going to figure out like, “I can track people based on IP addresses with email addresses, etc. I can deliver a much more personalized experience.” So, if you go back to, you know, XYZ.com to purchase your wine online or something and they’re like, “Hey Evan, welcome back. Enter this code and get 10 percent off because we haven’t seen here in six months.” I think those things are going to be very, very common and I think technology is really being developed to meet that demand and a personalized experience more and personalized email marketing, paid advertising, etc. So, yeah, I think that’s going to shift. I think it’s going to shift because consumers want that. And I think we’re able to see business cases around that like, “Hey, the people are more likely convert if you personalize email messages or you personalize web experiences.” So, it’ll be fascinating for sure.
Evan: Yeah, I think it bleeds into another future trend or whatever. I think Headless is there to sort of counter to maybe some of the themes earlier in the podcast. I think that is the direction things will head in. And not just PWAs, but related to voice or experiential. I remember reading an article where, doorbell rings, the parents have a four-year-old open the door and there’s like this giant dollhouse sitting on the porch. And this little kid had taken advantage of having Amazon Alexa at home and it told Alexa to go order a giant dollhouse somehow by the way the parents set that up [laughs].
Not many of us have that turned on in our houses. I think at this point a lot of people have Amazon Alexa, Google Home, those types of devices. I certainly do. I think we’re seeing a shift where I open the fridge and realize the water filter’s there and just telling Google to go buy me a new one. That exists today. I don’t know that it’s normative behavior, but I definitely think we’re going to get there. Then blowing that out, right, like I’m driving down the street and I tell my car to order me a burger because I know I’m three minutes from the drive-thru and it can do stuff like that. I’ve got my Apple watch on, walking down the block and that my watch knows I’m five minutes away from some store that I like so it’s going to recommend a new product and I can just hit the button on my phone and go pick it up curbside because it just knows that sort of geo proximity thing.
So, I think we’re going to see that, all to see a shift where commerce opportunities really start to appear in all areas of life. And the activation of those opportunities is super easy with, you know, voice, one click. Maybe my fridge just magically knows that my milk is running low, so it’s going to place an order for 2%–that type of thing.
Ronald: That’s a great idea.
Evan: I don’t know, we’ll wait or something. We’ll see.
Ronald: Well, Evan, thanks for joining the show.
Evan: Yeah, Ron. Thank you, man.
Ronald: All right, everyone, thank you for joining us for this episode of the eCommerce Growth Series. And thank you to Evan Perkins who joined us today from BigCommerce. If you have any questions, please follow up with us. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can reach Evan at Evan.Perkins@Bigcommerce.com. Thank you and we’ll see you again.