Guillaume: Hello everyone. Guillaume Le Tual here, host of the Ecommerce Wizards Podcast where I feature leaders in e-commerce and business. Today’s guest is Anna Taylor Head of Marketing and E-commerce at Supply America which is a national distributor all across the United States. We’ll be talking about her testimonial, how it was to implement Adobe Commerce formerly known as Magento Enterprise. It is total free speech, the good, the bad, the ugly. So you can hear firsthand from the merchant, what it’s like and why the platform was chosen. We’ll be talking ‘shop’ quite a lot about all kinds of details about running an e-commerce store for such a large company. Before we get started, here’s our sponsorship message:
This episode is brought to you by MageMontreal, if a business wants a powerful e-commerce online store that will increase their sales or to move piled up inventory to free up cash reserves or to automate business processes to reduce human processing errors, our company MageMontreal can do that. We’ve been helping e-commerce stores for over a decade. Here’s the catch. We’re specialized and only work on the Adobe Magento e-commerce platform, also known as Adobe Commerce. We’re among only a handful of certified companies in Canada, we do everything Magento-related. If you know someone who needs design, support, training, maintenance, or a new e-commerce website, email our team at [email protected], or go to magemontreal.com.
Alright, Anna, thank you for being here today.
Anna: Absolutely my pleasure. I think I need to hire you for some of my promotions.
Guillaume: I would love to. So Anna, can you give us a short one minute background about who you are, your career in marketing and e-commerce?
Anna: Yes, absolutely. It was nearly 15-20 years ago when I was with a sporting goods company. The CEO was the one who really put it in my head that digital was going to be driving commerce in the years ahead. He really suggested that that’s where I try to move my career and I absolutely did. So I did some certifications in web design and e-commerce. I landed a job with a company based out of San Diego that had distribution in several states to stand up e-commerce to really take hold of their digital marketing. I stood up a couple of new different websites. Eventually that company was acquired by the largest vertical, which is Trademark USA. I then took the position to be the head of the marketing in e-commerce nationally, the company did sales of around 2 billion. We had multiple platforms and a very significant large back-end system. So it was a tremendous effort in that digital space with that company.
In COVID I stepped away from that company. An affiliate company of that is Supply America, they had the need for implementing an e-commerce platform and so it was a real seamless opportunity for me to be able to move there and that’s what I’ve been working on since about 2020 and Magento was the platform. It’s a bit of a name game right now, so you have what was Magento Community is now Magento Open Source. Then what was Magento Enterprise and Magento 2 Commerce is all wrapped up now into Adobe Commerce as well as the Adobe Commerce Cloud. So I’m happy to talk about my experience with that because I’ve been living and breathing it now for over a decade.
Guillaume: Awesome. Well, let’s get started then. The first step obviously, for any rebuild like this you were evaluating multiple platforms. In your case you made the decision to go with Adobe Commerce formerly known as Magento Enterprise. So which platform were you considering and what made you choose Adobe Commerce?
Anna: There’s a lot in the decision making when it comes to e-commerce. There’s some real basic fundamentals. The number one thing is, is it going to support the company’s growth playbook? Whether that’s sales engagement subscriptions, lead generation, licensing software, reorders, B2B functionality, that’s going to be critical at the top level. Then it’s performance, and it’s going to be the speed of page rendering, a mobile first framework, the reliability, or maximum uptime. You also need to know that you can optimize features and functions, the ability to customize usability, the information architecture, navigation and search. Security is critical as a fundamental, the versioning, having access controls backup, disaster recovery, scalability, being able to upgrade, and also future proofing for the requirements of emerging customer demands, as well as kind of seamless third party integrations. Really effective data design is huge, cost effective and that it’s going to have minimal maintenance requirements. So in a way just a baseline of the decision making, those are the key factors I’m going to look at.
The other thing if I was to do a new implementation today, you have to see how much audience expectations are evolving. I would start by saying they’re not rapid movement. Part of it is, as I spoke earlier, kind of that page rendering and being able to navigate easily through a website, the search capability. But there’s a psychological factor too that you have to come into play, that’s what I call the signals and familiarity. Because what you’re aiming for for your audience is comfort, confidence, as well as ease. The best example I could give would be like a restaurant, when you go out to dinner and walk into the restaurant you’re comfortable, you’re at ease. And the reason is the familiarity of the environment. And you know when you come to the table there is the fork, the knife, the napkin, the glass, the waiter is going to come up and greet you and ask you for a drink order. That all gives a psychological confidence about being in that environment. And it’s really important that an e-commerce brand does the same thing.
I think too, what’s also becoming a very high level audience expectation is cross device, cross channel, cross browser. I have to be able to be watching a Hulu show on my smart TV, turn that off to go upstairs for the night, turn it back on on my tablet, pick it up where I left off while I’m brushing my floss and then I can finish watching the show on my smartphone as I’m going to sleep. So that’s become a high audience expectation. Personalizing the experience has become important as well as the fact that they want the experience to be relevant, they want it to be valuable, they’re looking for transparency, and that the messaging that the brand gives is very clear and concise. So as you’re both looking at what you need as your requirements for the e-commerce platform you also have to look at your particular audience and what those expectations are going to be.
If you think about the audience today you have to look at the differences in preferences and behaviors. We have so many generations now that are in this digital economy. So you have Baby Boomers through 1964, Gen X is through 1980, Millennials through 1996, Gen Z through 2010. And now we actually have Gen Alpha which was born in 2010 and after. And while people might think, I don’t need to worry about Gen Alpha quite yet, if you think about it, the ones born in 2010 are going to be teenagers in 2023. So they are literally within a year of being a teenager and they are going to start having some buying influence with their families and with themselves. And with that landscape there’s really clear differences based on, if you think about Gen X and the earlier Millennials, they’re referred to as the digital pioneers. Because technology was evolving as they were growing up. But then your later Millennials, your Gen Z, and of course, Gen alpha, they’re referred to as the digital natives. Because technology is fully within the digital economy through the time they were born and all the way up. So you have to recognize that the behaviors within the digital economy are going to be different, generational.
I think that companies really have to understand digital commerce and how and why they have an e-commerce platform. The investment that they’re going to want to make is fundamentally, if you look at today’s statistics, the most recent I saw in B2B sales in 2021 was 1.63 billion. It was a 17% increase over 2020. That’s a huge trajectory. Also, smartphone activities influenced Millennial purchases 84% of the time. That’s just phenomenal, all of their activity on that smartphone is having that level of an influence on what they’re purchasing. And then with regard to purchases overall, digital touch points are influencing over 50% of the purchases, whether that might be a website, a social channel, a video, a search engine, wherever that is digitally those touch points are impacting purchases.
So when it comes to, especially my decision in the way of Adobe Commerce, I look at it in the way of the fact that I’ve got to be able to scale and I’ve got to be able to future-proof my platform. And I have to be able to bring the intersection of so many complexities together and that may be the usability, the technical design, customer centric strategies, data driven strategies, kind of being able to bring all of these together for that user. Now picking between Open Source and Adobe Commerce, it bothers me and frustrates me when people talk about, well, Open Source is free.
Guillaume: The software is free but you’re going to have a pound of labor to put in.
Anna: I think it’s so important to recognize, yes, you can download and install the code for free. Now you got to look at the fact that you’re going to have to configure, you’re going to have to be able to consider certain modules that you’re going to have to bring in that will be used above the basic functionality of the Open Source platform, all of the development and design costs, the extensions that you might need to be able to use, the hosting, and so forth. One of the bigger weaknesses I see with the Open Source is the case of security and scalability. That’s very much where Adobe Commerce is so much stronger plus Adobe Commerce has the PCI compliance.
Guillaume: Right, and the PCI certification is on Adobe Commerce while on Open Source is only PCI compliant. So it’s not certified, it’s compliant Open Source and certified for the paid for commerce.
Anna: Exactly. So I think that’s a key piece. Adobe Commerce has a lot of out of the box functionality. And it’s got some B2B functionality where you can have account management, you can have multiple catalogs, price lists, order history, a wish list, product recommendations, lots of tools within Adobe Commerce. You’ve got a business intelligence dashboard, you’ve got customer segmentation, visual merchandising tools are available, advanced marketing tools are available, and customer loyalty with customer reviews. So lots of really great tools and lots of good extensions.
If you need additional capabilities like for example, I had customers where they had very specific budgets month to month. And so if it’s towards the end of the month the customer, let’s say it’s a chef, is not able to place the purchase if they’ve exhausted that month’s budget but they really want to be able to prepare products that they’re going to be purchasing when they hit the first of the next month. Well, instead of having to scribble that all down on paper we gave them the capability to save carts so that they could put an entire cart together, put that aside, save that, and as soon as they’re ready to make that purchase they can open that cart, process it through and that work is done. So that was one of the particular needs that I had with my customers.
The other thing that they needed to be able to do is be able to download and share categories within the catalog so that they could have an exchange and an interaction with a colleague about the available products with the contracted prices within specific categories.
Guillaume: So multiple employees in the same business that need to collaborate to build a cart, maybe one has the ability to add to the cart but does not have purchase authority so a supervisor comes and checks out for $100,000 or something?
Anna: As well as speaking to the distributors because oftentimes, you’re going to have products that are configurable so you need to be able to put those together. So instead of your standard ‘request a quote’ functionality you’ve got to be able to allow the customer to put items together in a cart that are configurable. And at that point then be able to send that off and request a quote for those configurable products from the cart versus just downloading an excel or word document with your list of items. So lots of different capabilities like that with the Adobe Commerce Cloud then you sort of add the more advanced infrastructure hosting.
You also want to consider the commerce cloud if you’re going to have multiple databases because that capability is very much advanced there as well as if you’re looking to do rapid deployment, that becomes really key. Because in all the ways that you want to be able to meet the user requirements, where we are today technology wise is really, I’m sure you’ve heard of the MACH architecture, it’s the microservices, API’s, cloud and headless. That’s sort of the foundation where now we’ve separated the front-end from back-end. So it really creates an agility to be able to meet your customer demands because you’re able to work on your front-end and do fast deployments without having to be held hostage with your back-end system. But we’ve gone further from that now, we’re at modular, so that you break out the services. So the API’s then allow for the messaging and the transactions to occur between services that can be operated independently. And that allows for even a higher level of customization for the e-commerce brand.
The third generation of that has become the composable. The composable looks at an e-commerce being able to have those controls end to end and be able to meet the business expectations at a very innovative and adaptive pace. Amazon was one of the first to look at microservices as the direction to go. I heard of a piece by the Amazon CTO and he spoke of two pizza teams. And what that is, is instead of having an infrastructure team you have these small teams working on the services individually to meet the needs of the customer. And the two Pizza teams meant that he wants the teams to be small enough that if you order two pizzas it’s going to feed the entire team. I love that because it really kind of gives you a visual of how you need to bring your teams down to really small groups to be able to work individually in the different services.
Gartner said, ‘Composability goes beyond technology’, for a company it’s more of a mindset, it’s more technology and operational capabilities. So I think that companies today who are saying, ‘We either need to replatform or we’ve got to advance our e-commerce or we’ve got to do a full new implementation’, those are the critical pieces to look at. You need to be in a tool like Adobe Commerce where you’ve got that capability to work within the different services in order to customize. I think the other thing that attracted me most about Adobe Commerce, I looked at Oracle Commerce, SAP Commerce, VTEX Commerce tools, all of these are excellent tools. They all should be part of the vetting that the business does.
Guillaume: Except Oracle now because it reached end-of-life and they discontinued it, just as a side note.
Anna: Fair enough. It was a while ago that I looked at that. Adobe also has really great development tools. They have a full implementation playbook, an operational playbook, configuration, installation, migration command tool, or command line tools or Cron Jobs management, search engine and cache settings, and deployment methods. There was never a point when working on the development that my development team couldn’t go to their resources for that support. We always had that capability. So they really do try to offer a lot of support when you sort of hit those obstacles and those walls. But that’s not to say you’re not going to hit obstacles and walls. You always will, and your customers are going to make it very clear with what they like about working and navigating your website and what they don’t like.
There’s lots of different ways to determine what that is. One is you can solicit feedback and you can hear what they have to say about being on your platform. The other is they’re going to tell you out of pure frustration. Another way is to heatmap. I find the heat map to be extremely insightful because you’re going to be able to see where the gaps are, you’re going to be able to see, what do they touch? Where they are clicking and where do their eyes go and how fast do they scroll down. And you’re going to know pretty fast what’s working and what’s not working.
The other thing I think brands today need to be doing which I never really had to think about five years ago and especially 10 years ago, are the emerging trends that are going to be very much a part of Millennials, the Gen Z, Gen Alpha. That’s going to be the augmented reality, virtual reality. Just for clarity, augmented reality, of course, is where you’re taking the environment that the customer is in and you’re adding digital elements to it. Whereas in virtual reality you’re bringing them into a virtual space and a different environment. And a lot of verticals today are starting to embrace that. I know that fashion is really speeding up their embrace of virtual reality, you see a lot of the national type brands starting to tap into it. Interior Design is taking advantage of it. But I think it depends a lot more on the industry as to whether virtual reality is a critical point.
Guillaume: It’s still glitchy, it’s still in the early days. What tends to work well right now is AR, the augmented reality is stuff like furniture. So you can just look through your phone and the phone’s camera is looking at your room and then on your phone you’ll see what the furniture would look like in your room, because it’s adding it on top as you look with your phone. So that’s what’s working well right now. Floor replacement and so on, works but it’s very glitchy around all the objects and so on.
Anna: It is.
Guillaume: So it’s the early days but it will keep getting better and eventually it will be impressive what you’ll be able to see as a complete room transformation. Even the person that did dress will be able to look through your phone and see the person dressed like that, eventually.
Anna: There’re a lot of companies that are pushing the fashion technology hard. But as you know and as I know, all these emerging technologies are always glitchy after they get launched.
Guillaume: Yeah. But there’s that replication in some cases because the furniture is just like a standalone thing that just adds on the top. So that’s why it works better than let’s say, floor replacement that has to clear off everything in the room. So there’s stuff like that. Another one that works well right now is called multi-phase by L’Oreal. So you can see previews of makeup and that’s working fairly well.
Anna: And also wearing glasses. A lot more companies are changing there as well.
Guillaume: Yeah. That’s the other one and you see that’s the general team, it’s like overlays. So you have a glass as a standalone object that overlays. So that works fairly well at this point.
Anna: No, I agree very much that augmented reality has become more sophisticated faster than virtual reality. And so I think we’re going to see that becoming more and more mainstream.
Guillaume: Yeah, there’s more commercial potential quicker on the AR side than the VR side.
Anna: But it’s also like crypto currency. You know, when I talked to people in my network and I asked them, are you getting ready to add it as a payment method? Are you thinking about crypto? There’s very few what you would call those first movers, the ones that are going to jump in and make crypto. What I hear from my network is they say, I want to wait till my customer demands it as a payment method. So they’re waiting for it to become mainstream. Sometimes when I look at cryptocurrency I think one of its biggest advantages is that the lack of central authority is also one of its greatest weaknesses when it comes to the digital economy. And that’s why I believe that we see so much of that volatility with cryptocurrency right now.
Guillaume: Yeah, that one is a more tricky subject. It is a question of do you want crypto as an asset on your balance sheet? That’s the first thing. Then there’s, how much do you trust it? Because yes, there’s a lot of great things but because it’s not regulated there’s also a lot of bad things. And you’ve seen one of the stable coins that just totally collapsed and was supposed to be pegged in the US but it totally collapsed. So there is stuff like that once in a while you have a super scam of, I don’t know what was that, connects exchange platform I forgot the name, you can find it on Google but there was that big scam. So once a while you have a big scam, once in a while you have something that crashes or it’s not supposed to crash. So it’s a question of do you want to get on it or not. We can get very fancy in a discussion like macroeconomics.
Crypto can be a huge game changer later but at this point for the developed countries it’s just an additional payment method. It’s like, do you want to offer PayPal, credit card, crypto, checks, the cash on delivery, whatever? It’s just one more option in the list and you choose if you want to offer it or not and if you want that kind of asset or not in your balance sheet. That’s in developed countries. Now if you have the developing countries, that’s a completely different world because in some countries PayPal is not accepted or it doesn’t work there. There are a few countries where even MasterCard doesn’t work. So it’s more in the developing countries where you could have an insane opportunity of adding crypto because it might unblock things in a way that there’s an avalanche of stuff happening after. But for us in developed countries at this point there’s very little impact from crypto from what I can see. Later it might change, of course, but that’s for now.
Anna: I think that we’ve definitely gone into a lot of crypto, the more significantly emerging. But if I were to be talking with an e-commerce brand today I think the thing that I would really impress upon them that I’ve simply learned through experience is, having the ability to scale and to future-proof. So that there you can bring the new services in, you can bring the new capabilities in without it costing a substantial amount of money or that you go two to three years with your platform and all of a sudden it’s antiquated, all of a sudden you’re in a position where it’s okay, now I have to replatform again or I have to do a whole or another implementation. I think the critical thing is, as I told you earlier, absolutely understand what your business’s growth playbook is. Then look at what you’re trying to achieve, whether it’s subscriptions, licenses, sales, engagement, lead generation, and then ensure that you’re future-proofing when you’re picking the right platform.
Guillaume: Great. That’s a lot to take in. It’s so many fields to consider on so many things, scalability and subscription, lead gen conversion, there’s just so much. So basically, fairly large companies have complex needs. If you need customization capabilities so that the platform doesn’t impose on you how to work, for example, Shopify. We have very simple companies in terms of what they sell like T-shirts, red, green, blue, small, medium, large. That kind of company could generate $100 million a year on a Shopify platform but then as soon as you have a lot of complex needs for customization or how the business processes should be customized to really fit how your company operates. That’s why on the other end of the spectrum we have Magento or Adobe Commerce, it’s a total opposite of Shopify, it’s a very opposite platform basically.
Anna: I am not a Shopify Plus fan. And there’s two reasons, one is yes, you could convince a company that all you do is sell T-shirts and so very simple. For me, Shopify is so cookie-cutter, it’s the same look and feel, it’s the exact same, open up to a ‘Products Page’, click ‘Add to Cart’, go through the cart process. I believe that there’s two negative components there. One is, I think that as these younger Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha come up they’re not going to be interested in your just standard look and feel. They really want experiences today. There’s two things that kind of stood out to me as I was really studying the buying behaviors with the younger generations. One is, they don’t want to just click, they want to interact, they want to have an experience. And the second is they don’t want to just consume content, they want to also contribute to content. And so I just would be concerned for any company, even if you say to yourself we’re a basic company we just sell these T-shirts. That’s really not future-proofing. That’s not really certain that you’re going to be meeting the desires, the preferences of your audience five years from now and 10 years from now.
The other factor with Shopify is the ability to know that there are all these emerging technologies going to be factored in. E-commerce really can’t just be a singular experience anymore because of so many channels. You’ve got to consider the social selling too, you know, kind of your social channels and so forth and you got to look at the other digital touch points. And now we have wearable digital and Internet of Things digital. Brands need to know that they have opportunities to attract their audience and bring an e-commerce transaction into fruition in a lot of different ways. So if you sort of settle for Shopify and you’re held to them as the vendor I would really be concerned that the brand isn’t looking outward.
Guillaume: Great. There’s one more concern like this one which was shared by another guest on our podcast. The big problem they had even though they are an authorized Nike distributor they got blacklisted and they had a whole legal thing going on. They cannot sell Nike on their own store which is annoying. I mean, they own their website, their dot com website but Shopify can impose things like this. So for sure with Adobe there’s a license to pay but it’s your own website, it’s your own software, you bought it you own it, you can do whatever you want with it. There’s a question of ownership here. So Shopify is not just about, ‘I’m paying a license for a software’, no, they can also impose stuff on your dot com which is not right by any standard.
Anna: They own you. One thing I would want Adobe to do is to rethink their pricing model.
Guillaume: Yeah, that’s good. We’ve talked a lot about choosing the platform, marketing and we went all over the place in the industry, which is fun. Now we can talk about the good and the bad. So let’s talk about the pricing model.
Anna: I don’t like the sliding scale for the gross sales revenue. Unless it has changed recently I’ll just go off the numbers I know. So if you make under a million then I think annually you’re looking at 22,000. Then at the other end of the scale if you are 25 million or higher it’s 125,000 annually. Well, if you look at that the under a million is 2.2% of their gross revenue, whereas for the over 25 million it’s 0.5% of their gross revenue. So why impede upon a smaller company with 2.2% versus the much larger enterprise at 0.5%? I just think it needs to be like 1.5%. That’s going to be the fees. So it just allows for a more fair playing field.
Guillaume: Playing field, I see what you mean. It’s an interesting point of view. I guess they have like a baseline that they want to ensure, like this much fees at least per customer with the support, the hosting, and everything. So of course, for someone with a lower yearly gross volume that makes a higher percentage but I totally see your point there.
Anna: Yeah, that’s one of the factors I’d like to see. Then I’d like them to consider some of their pricing of the extensions, they’re having a little bit too much fun kind of pricing prices on the extensions that you need to bring in. The third would be and I’m really speaking kind of across several platforms, we’ve got to get search, onsite search not Google. We’ve got to do a better job with that. I spend so much time having to teach my search platform how to be better at giving the right results to my customer through synonyms, through natural language terms, through misspellings and misspellings is a fun one. We are at a place with AI and machine learning today and now I know that there is the Adobe Sensei.
Guillaume: Sensei. Well, pronunciation I don’t know if I’m right too. Yeah, Adobe Sensei, the artificial intelligence module for the search.
Anna: I know that the word is Japanese for master and I know that it integrates with their product recommendations, it integrates with the experience cloud, the Adobe Experience Cloud.
Guillaume: Yeah, it integrates with all Adobe’s products, everything, including commerce.
Anna: But it also works with the live search. But still the problem is that every industry search terms are unique to the vertical. For example, you can have a waste container, trash can, and garbage container, all three mean the exact same thing but people are going to search for it in different verbiage. So I just think all e-commerce have to put more attention to allowing for search to be a smarter tool. I mean, if Google can do it, I mean, come on guys.
Guillaume: Well, that’s not 100% fair, that’s like a trillion dollar company. You know Google has the whole internet in their RAM memory of their servers, which is completely insane if you think about it. So it’s not even David and Goliath, it’s the end of the giant. But I agree with you that the search on e-commerce websites and Magento Adobe Commerce is one of the weak points, I totally agree with you. There was a regular search then they came up with the Elastic Search which was way faster. If you had a million products, you could search a million products and have no timeout, have quick results but relevance was not better. And now they have come up with this new live search which is the AI from Adobe Sensei. I don’t have extensive research at this point on how much better it is and so on. But they know that it needs to be improved and that’s why they recently released this new Adobe Sensei thing which is called Live Search to keep improving this. I hope they will keep improving it more. Search is actually a very difficult problem to solve, it’s surprisingly difficult but it is a much smaller scope of work for Google. So here, they need to just keep investing in it. For all platforms and especially Adobe Commerce, they need to make this better but it’s a lot of work to make it work.
Anna: But they’ve done a very good job with what I call the site admin, meaning the back-end of the platform where I can work on my user interface experiences. They need for there to be a very user-friendly capability for me to pull my logs up of the searches that took place on my website on any given day or any given week, look at the number of searches, look at the terms that people actually search by, what those results were and allow me to very quickly add synonyms, add misspellings, add redirects to particular products, and so forth. I need to be given an interface where I can just regularly optimize based specifically on what my customers actually searched, not what I’m guessing that they’re going to search but the real searches that take place.
One of the struggles that I had too, is I would have a particular product number of an item and it would be in this category here but I would also place that same product in a different category because it was actually relevant to both. Well, the problem is I would have search results and it would be duplicated, I would have that same product coming up. So I had to do some custom coding so they would only show the product once. I also had a challenge that sort of went head to head between product hierarchy and the most relevant product results. So we had to tell the code which took priority, would it be that we had a particular selling strategy so that we wanted to create a hierarchy for the product or we want the customer to get the most relevant product based on the search that they did to meet that query. That really became a business decision.
Guillaume: Yeah, it’s a tough one is like, do you love the algorithm decide or do we as humans decide? And is what we’ve decided relevant in all cases? And what about synonyms? How far can we go? Is it the human decision that overrides the AI or the AI should override human decision? So it can become tough. But you’re totally right with search, they need to keep improving it but it’s a lot of work to make it work. Okay, we want this to be a balanced testimonial, not that Adobe Commerce is the best thing ever, it has a lot of amazing strengths and that’s why it’s the platform we sell but let’s keep digging, what else is the weakness of this platform?
Anna: I think that the handling of data is still an evolving process for any sort of e-commerce platform especially when you’re talking about multiple catalogs across multiple accounts where you’re going to have different users logging into the account needing to have different experiences, maintaining their own favorites lists, maintaining their own saved carts, the manipulation of data. Because what you have to think about is that sometimes a product becomes ‘no longer available’, it’s been discontinued or the inventory has run out. Well, what happens if I have that product in a saved cart? Because until that cart opens and that data becomes active, how do we ensure that the customer doesn’t think that that product is still available? Because that’s been put into a particular compartment.
Guillaume: It’s supposed to have a validation, it could be a bug if it doesn’t do it. Because it’s supposed to validate at each customer visit if there’s still inventory or not, because maybe yesterday there was stock and maybe today there’s no stock.
Anna: Right. It’s not a problem within the live cart. Our struggle was in the saved cart because it’s not dynamic in the saved cart. Once you update your database and the dynamic data updates, you’re fine. But where the struggle came for us was within the saved carts.
Guillaume: So it has to be checked. It’s a good point. It should have a dynamic update and if it doesn’t then it would have to be coded. Okay, I’m not sure about this, I will have to double-check.
Anna: There were a lot of complexities that we needed to meet for the demands that the customer had, being able to access multiple accounts but we didn’t want them having to log in and out. So we had to create a landing page that they would come to, but then coming into the landing page they needed to be able to go in and out and not be working off of one shopping cart or one wish list or one order history. So the structure was definitely something we had to do a lot of work on. But Adobe met the needs, we were able to get there.
Guillaume: Yeah, it sounds like a very complex need regardless of the platform. Only these super flexible platforms could ever accommodate this.
Guillaume: They’re very flexible. Okay, anything else top of mind about the downside or weakness or struggles while implementing the platform or using it day-to-day?
Anna: The implementation and the launch went very well and, you know, anytime you launch there’s always going to be a few glitches or issues that you got to contend with. But of the implementations that I’ve done for many years now, I took a deep breath because it went well and we were able to kind of meet those needs. I think the biggest thing was that for the interface it became clear there was some messaging that we needed to provide for our customers in particular instances. But really nothing in the way of the functionality.
Guillaume: Yeah, even companies like Apple or Microsoft do new version releases. They have an army of testers but there’s still a few bugs that slip by, that’s just to set expectations. There’s always some bugs. What’s important is how fast and efficiently your supplier fixes those bugs.
Anna: Ideally you want four environments, you want to have your development, your QA, staging, and production.
Guillaume: Yeah, that is the ultimate setup, like if you go all the way to four that is ultimate. Three is also very professional and four is the top setup. Okay, you like to have the best setup, that’s awesome. I agree with that, it’s pretty cool. And how long was the build phase to create this platform or this product?
Anna: It was about nine to 12 months. We had the interface done after about six. But then we really had to work on the back-end, the setup of the databases, we had data coming in from different distributors, we had to figure out how we were going to have that come back into the back-end system, go back up onto the Magento platform, there was a lot of pieces. Because then we had EDIs that were passing the data back out to the distributors and so forth. So there were complexities there that we had to work through. But we kept the cadence moving. I think we took a conservative approach at the end where also the audience or the customers had been on a platform that they had been utilizing for a long time. So we really took almost a 30 to 60 day window of my doing just back to back demos and trainings because we had a wide group of different customers. So they would bring the users together and I would then hold those trainings and walk through all the capabilities that they now were going to have because they were going to have a number of new capabilities that they didn’t have on the prior platform.
So we definitely took kind of that cautious approach of, ‘don’t just say okay we’re done and so launch’, we wanted to give people the time to understand what it is that we’re going to do when they come up to that Monday morning when we go live so that they’re not freaked out.
Guillaume: Right, and with the ‘Go Live’ process, do you remember a little bit in detail when you put the landing page or site and sort of, how long was it down until the new ones were launched?
Anna: Yeah, it was a Friday through Monday. So it was a process where the IT team put the page up, so there was no more ordering for the 48-hour window, making the changes, moving off of staging, and bringing everything into production. Then we just did it while testing for an entire 24 hours to ensure that everything was working properly and then we were live.
Guillaume: Cool, it was a smooth process. It was 48 hours so it was a long process. It’s a smooth process when you give yourself the time to do the work right and to take your time and go live smoothly.
Guillaume: That’s pretty good. So we’ve talked about the selection of platforms, a little bit of everything, about the marketing industry and so on. And we’ve talked a lot of good about Adobe Commerce, flexibility, the power of scalability, composable commerce which is a new thing, and everything that is headless, separation of complex back-end. Yeah, exactly. So we’ve covered a lot of stuff here today. Anything else top of mind that you’d like to cover?
Anna: I would say that the most important thing is that you really want to enjoy the process and ensure that the team is ready to pivot when you hit the obstacle, when you hit that spot, you come together as a team and collaborate when there needs to be that decision-making of a particular function, or how you’re going to feature something, or how the customer is going to interact with that. It’s good to have some customers that you could turn to, to be able to get their feedback even while you’re in development so that you can bounce that off of them. And every once in a while people give you perspective and it’s just not in your own wheelhouse. So you kind of open yourself up to be able to hear from other people and hear from your developers and hear from your designers. I think that if I look at implementations I did 10 years ago, it was just more of a checklist for me and I was just like, okay, I need to have this as part of the interface and I need to have this as part of the functionality and this is how the data is going to transmit and so forth.
Whereas now, you’ve got to be in a space where you’re very flexible and you’ve got to be able to hear a lot of different input in order to make those right decisions. But be prepared to iterate and be prepared to test the direction that you go in. You can create a feature function but test it and make sure it’s designed so that it’s intuitive for the customer and that it really does meet their particular needs and their preferences. Because again like I said, the nice thing with digital is your going to be able to tell, you’re going to know that a landing page is successful because you’ll see that they click, you’ll see how much time they spend on the page, you’ll be able to see if they convert, but when you get it wrong your customers tell you.
Guillaume: Just have humility and say, okay, we messed up and that’s not selling at all. But it’s the fun thing with digital because you have full traceability of everything which you didn’t have back in the paper days. There’s a famous quote out there about some billionaire saying, ‘I know that 50% of my advertising works, I just don’t know which 50%’. So that was back in the paper days. They wouldn’t know exactly what works or doesn’t work.
Anna: I like the 10 years ago because I used to think I was just so awesome at what I do but today the audience humbles me.
Guillaume: Yeah, we can say this is awesome or my work is awesome but then you’re going to have real numbers to back it up or to say the opposite that this needs a total remake and that this was a hypothesis and you’ve now tested it in a scientific way, does it convert? Do people like messaging? Do they buy? And so on.
Anna: And that’s why you have to be agile and you have to do what’s called hypo tempo testing where you test and it’s okay. It’s a fail fast mentality. So, okay, this landing page didn’t work, boom, we move over and we create a new one.
Guillaume: And it’s always a process. You have new ideas, you test them out how they work, they don’t work and just keep going all the time. I like one of your other suggestions before, the test with a few customers. We call this a private launch so that when it’s ready to go live you can test with two or three clients that you have a great relationship with and they’re willing to use a site for real with some of their users and place some real orders because they’re regular customers or something like that. And then you can have real customer feedback before the public launch.
Anna: Absolutely. Yeah, very valuable.
Guillaume: All right. Well, thank you very much Anna for being here today. You’ve shared lots of knowledge and insights. You know your stuff.
Anna: Thank you.
Guillaume: So if people want to get in touch with you what’s the best way?
Anna: Either on the website, artofdigitalcommerce.com and a blog which is my name, annaktaylor.com.
Guillaume: Awesome. Thank you Anna.
Anna: Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.