Brent Peterson is a serial entrepreneur and marketing professional with a passion for running. He co-founded Wagento and has a new adventure called ContentBasis. Brent is the host of the podcast Talk Commerce. He was born in Montana, and attended the University of Minnesota and Birmingham University without ever getting his degree.
Discover the place of video in eCommerce, some examples of content to create, and where Brent sees the technology going. Find out how to optimize the shopping cart on a website and the “headless” model that creates new ways to make purchases. Get tips on choosing the right eCommerce platform based on your needs, resources, and business size. Learn what digital store owners often overlook when it comes to choosing a platform. Uncover tips on getting a plan in place that considers the long-term impact and receiving support from an agency. Hear Brent’s marketing tips and the power of testing what works. Gain an understanding of how community gives you insight into the customer journey and provides an opportunity for honest feedback.
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What’s The Best eCommerce Solution For Your Business? With Brent Peterson
Our special guest is Brent Peterson, who is a serial entrepreneur and marketing professional with a passion for running. He cofounded Wagento. He has a new adventure called ContentBasis. Brent is the host of the podcast, Talk Commerce, which we highly recommend you check out if you are looking for other shows to listen to. He was born in Montana and attended the University of Minnesota and Birmingham University without ever getting his degree. We are looking forward to chatting to learning more about your background. Before we get into that, Nicolas has a quick update about eStreamly.
First of all, Brent, I’m so excited to have you. Can you describe where your background is?
I’m in Kona, Hawaii, and sitting on the lanai recording outside. I have been recording. Since I started my podcast, I have been trading between Kona and Minneapolis for my recording settings. Hopefully, the sun doesn’t come on my computer and lock it up like it did one time.
That’s a good problem to have. Let’s be honest. I am so excited to have you quick update on the eStreamly side. I’m super excited to announce that we have updated our homepage. Many of you have mentioned that sometime before that what we were doing was not clear and everything. I always felt that it was easy to do those things. Updating a home page should not be so much work and it is a lot of work from a load standpoint, from so many different things. I have learned so much from this process, so I’m super excited to announce that. If you want to check it out, it’s on eStreamly.com. It’s all new and has some nice colors and all that. I’m pretty excited about this.
Let’s move into this conversation. I’m so thrilled to have your brand. I found you through listening to one of your podcasts. First of all, congratulations on this podcast because it’s an awesome podcast for any eCommerce professional that wants to know more about the whole eCommerce and all the different things. You are highlighting not only your founder story but also strategies and things to do around eCommerce, which is great and I’m sure is bringing a lot of value to your readers.
Having gone through that journey and you being a marketer evilly involved in eCommerce, this show is about the notion that we were a junction between the video, the livestream strategy creator economy. If we were to get into the modern nitty-gritty of eCommerce itself, what do you think is the place of video with all the eCommerce professionals that you have talked to, and where do you think is that going in your perspective?
Video is going to be one of the most exciting things to happen coming up in eCommerce. We are going to see some of the eCommerce platforms playing a cart role in terms of video. We will see people selling through livestream platforms that allow you to a like QVC environment. It’s a platform for selling where maybe your actual cart isn’t even on your eCommerce set anymore.
At the end of the line, that’s where video is going. We are going to have the opportunity to go into a video marketplace where you can have a livestream of your particular thing. Backing up and putting it onto the actual eCommerce platform, video already plays such an important part. If you go and buy something from Amazon or your favorite eCommerce store, you want to see how that thing is being used.Video plays such an important part. If you go and buy something from Amazon or your favorite eCommerce store, you want to see how that thing is being used. Click To Tweet
As you are buying something, as that thing you are purchasing is more important to how you are using it, it’s more important to show how it’s being used. If you think about the DIY industry, if you are brewing beer or something like that, you would love to see a video on how that particular brew kit is going to get made. If you are making wine or if you are doing anything in that realm, you would like to see it demonstrated before you buy it to make sure it’s going to work for you.
Video puts the biggest impact on there. What we are seeing now in video is that video is becoming more interactive. We are having video, so you can make choices within that video. You can do calls to action within the video that is giving you so much more power over how you are demonstrating that product as a merchant, how you are demonstrating that product as your audience, and as the audience or as the client, you are able to see more and more about what that thing can do before you purchase it.
I love what you said about the cart because that’s not a topic we talk about much at a glance. I love the comment where you say, you are going to see maybe that the cart is no longer on your website. I’d love to extend on that because, at eStreamly, we have the cart directly on the video, so it’s no longer on your website.
One of the main challenges or points of friction we are having with brands at the moment is that people want to use their carts. They spend some time building and everything. Here you are, you are talking about this future where the cart is not so much to materialize, but in some way, maybe at a somewhere place. Can you extend a little bit on that vision? I’m biased. I have a similar vision as you, but I’d love for you to articulate it from your own words and your perspective as well.
There is going to be a form of a cart. Headless is such a buzzword. It’s been a buzzword for so many years. Your cart is disconnected from your front end and your channels are all flowing into one central place. If we think about your traditional model of buying something online, that cart is part of your monolith of a website.
You are going onto the website, you are clicking, you are looking for your product, you are buying it, you are going into your cart, you are checking out, and boom, you are done. The future is going to be called No UX commerce. You are going to go onto a video, you are going to go onto a chat room, and somebody’s going to either help you purchase it or you are going to get that product into your cart through a number of ways.
It’s not going to be the traditional click-the-button. There’s going to be an AI out there. They are going to say, “Would you like to buy this?” “Yes, I’d to buy that.” It would be either interactive through texting. It could be interactive through voice. It’s going to bring up all kinds of new ways to purchase it. As we come downstream, you are going to have multiple channels that you can choose as a merchant and as a client, you are going to have multiple options of how you are going to get there.
Maybe your cart is still in the same place in the back. At some point, you are going to have an ERP. That’s going to be able to deliver and fulfill that product. Maybe that ERP is the cart, or maybe you are going to use headless, something like Bigcommerce or Magento, or one of those headless backends that allow you to have multiple channels coming in. The idea is that we are not stuck on any one specific front end of how people are going to buy things. We want to all get it into the same back end and then fulfill it through one central place.
That notion that removing the friction sometimes is not about optimizing your cart, but it’s optimizing where that cart is and your cart cannot be optimized everywhere. Sometimes, on video, there are some specific needs that need to happen. Having a cart optimized for video sometimes provides more value than optimizing your cart and trying to put it onto video. I’m very much aligned with that. I didn’t know we were going that way so I’m glad that we have this conversation.
Speaking of technology, a number of our audience are more experimented. They are retailers, they are brands, they have eCommerce and they have been operating, hopefully, some of them, on eCommerce. We will soon have a public app on eCommerce. We are pretty excited about that. Some of the people that are reading are maybe considering having an all eCommerce altogether.
From that perspective, maybe they are creators or entrepreneurs and say, “I want to build a business online.” From your perspective, you have been interviewing a great number of people from the perspective of technology, the perspective of the brand itself, and the founders. What do you think is the thing that people should think about when they choose their platform and how do they go to market to make their eCommerce? I’d love for you to walk us through that. What are the things that people should think about and what do you think they need?
That’s the $10,000 question because everybody’s needs are different. If we start with that small entrepreneur solopreneur, something that’s going to get you out the door and up and running quickly, you mentioned Bigcommerce earlier. It’s a great example of $29 a month gets you your online store. You can be up and running in a day. It’s super easy. Everything is there. All those connection points are there.
If you are getting more complex, then you should be looking at something that can grow and be more complex. There’s control over your code. There are all kinds of different aspects that go into it. Make things quite simple or as simple as possible. If you have a complex business where you have a lot of customization, look and see where that customization has to happen, and then how is that going to grow over time? Are you going to go in? Is that customization something that can be delivered through some cloud app?
You are going to attach to Bigcommerce or Shopify, or would you like that customization to live within your code base? Something like Magento would work great for that type of customization. The other thing that people often overlook, especially at scale, is that each of those apps is web-based or cloud-based customizations cost money to put your volume through that.
As you are building your store and as you are thinking about what is your growth, how does your growth trajectory look, at some point, that Shopify store becomes way more expensive than running a self-hosted Magento store because you are running so much business through it. You are having to pay all those fees on your payments.
As you get bigger, there’s a lot more to take in and try to figure out what you are going to do. It’s easy at the low end if you have a couple of products and you’d like to sell them, any SaaS platform is going to be a great option. As you get bigger and more complex, there are a lot of options out there as well. We then have headless and non-headless and monolith. There are so many different options as we get bigger and bigger.
I’m sure some of the audience may have heard some of their eCommerce friends that started with a platform and said, “I need to put my eCommerce in order and I’m transitioning to another platform.” Every time I’m hearing that from my perspective, it sounds like it’s this huge work in front of you that needs to happen.
Do you feel that’s the case? What I’m trying to get at is how important is it to have the right solution from day zero. Do you think it doesn’t matter? At the end of the day, you want to get going. You don’t know what you need and you are going to learn that through experimenting. Is it if you had one advisor find the right platform from the get-go and then grow with it? I’d love to hear your perspective on that.
The biggest hurdle in moving from platform to platform is your past customer history. If you have a million transactions inside of Magento, moving to the next platform and getting those transactions into the next platform is going to be a huge hurdle no matter what you are migrating to. If that’s something that you care about, then certainly from day one, you should be thinking about where you are going to be.
I would say that no matter what you do, you should think, “How am I going to keep my customer history in some place where customers can see it and maybe have a plan?” In five years, the whole landscape is going to change, or my existing status platform may be outdated and there are going to be some great new things coming out.
There should be a plan in place over 3, 5, or 10 years that you, as a merchant, have to do what you would like to do. The best thing to do is always plan on being on the platform that you are going into. I would never go into a web store thinking, “This is going to be good for a year, then I’m going to go to the next thing.”
If you choose Bigcommerce right now, Bigcommerce is the fastest growth in the enterprise industry. From a big swing of things, it seems like it’s a great choice because you can go from zero and you can get to the point of a multinational on one on the same platform. I did an interview with Brent Bellm at ShopTalk and he talked about that very thing. If you are on the $29 version, you are on the same infrastructure as the person who’s spending $2,000 a month.BigCommerce has the fastest growth in the enterprise industry. It's a great choice because you can go from zero and get to the point of a multinational on the same platform. Click To Tweet
Looking at it that way, go into it thinking, “I’m going to be on this platform for a few years, how is that going to treat me?” As we discussed earlier, what are the customizations that I may need? Find somebody that can help you. There’s a choice that you need to make and to find your particular version or your particular situation, you need to find an expert who can help you walk through that. If you are going to an agency, that agency’s going to have its own bias. Check around. Check a Shopify or Magento agency. Check VTEX or other platforms out there.
I’d love to get down on the customization aspect and this. We will have some fun conversations with Whitney because I’m taking all the talk. I’m so excited about talking about those things. One of the things we see in the live shopping space is the notion that a lot of clients have a certain way. They are thinking about how should run and they want it to be exactly that way from day one. I wonder if that’s something you also experiment with from retailers moving to eCommerce or someone that has no eCommerce background and going to an eCommerce and having this idea of customization of exactly what are the different things they have.
The question I have to you is that because you say customization will cost you money. At some point, is it important to real to make all the customization you want or is it sometimes more efficient that you can’t translate your physical business into an eCommerce business in the same way? I’d love to have your perspective on that notion that you are doing something in the physical world and you want to translate it into the digital world, but can you make that actual one-to-one transaction, or are you always pushing back a little bit, and trying to educate the customer about maybe you don’t need that and maybe in the digital space, that doesn’t work out? I’d love your perspective there.
A lot of clients want exactly what they want and maybe they are willing to spend the money, but they don’t think about what that long-term impact is, especially on customization. The biggest impact could be performance. Something super complex in your eCommerce store is going to affect some performance. If something meets 80% to 90% of your needs and it saves you 90% of the money, isn’t that a better option than spending 100% of that to get 100% of whatever requirement that is? I always try to frame it for clients to say, “Is what’s existing going to meet what you need?”
Plugins are $50 or whatever that thing is. I interviewed the CEO of VTEX, Mariano de Faria who said there was a partner who was pushing some customization. The customization existed on VTEX, and all you had to do was plug it in and it was something like $300 a month. The partner was promoting this customization for $500,000 for the client. The client wanted to do it. He had to explain. I know that I’m being extreme here, but is that difference in price worth the 90% or 80% functionality difference that you are going to get? If it covers 80 to 90% of your functionality, is that 10% worth whatever that price is?
That’s the first thing to look at. Is there something existing and does that existing cover you to get to the point in which the ROI on the difference in price is never going to end up? What a lot of merchants get caught into is they want what they want and they don’t care. They want it right now. What a lot of agencies do is they say, “Yes, we will do that,” because they don’t want to push back or whatever that reason is. If you are advising as an agency or as a consultant, there has to be some of that middle ground to help the agency or the merchant understand over time, it’s going to cost you this much money and it’s going to be this much impact on your business.
I will add one more thing. Over time, you are accumulating that tech debt if you have spent X amount on some feature. Then the next new thing comes out and you have to redo that feature in the next new thing. You are going to spend that much money or more on the next time around. We saw that all the time when people were moving from Magento 1 to Magento 2 or Shopify. “We have had our site for over ten years. We have spent$500,000. I don’t want to spend that much money on my next site, but I want all the same functionality.” That’s the conundrum, isn’t it?
It’s interesting because as technology evolves, that customization may not evolve with you. Now you have to think through that and how do you do that? It made me almost think, when you think about tech stack, technology, and solutions, technology itself is evolving as well. The technology you have now won’t be what you need tomorrow with their evolution.
There are a lot of questions that now can come with it. It’s a fascinating topic. I didn’t know we were going to go through that. I’d love to change the topic altogether. In many of the conversations you have on your podcast, you are talking about community and since you have been to ShopTalk, I didn’t realize you were at ShopTalk.
At ShopTalk, they did a conversation and she was talking about this notion of community commerce, which is the next evolution of what’s going on in China after live shopping. In Asia, in China, particularly, email is not so much a thing. People are engaging through WeChat and some of these other social media communications, and stuff. She was talking about that as an area of excitement for her because she was looking at an investment. She was thinking that the future is around building community and commerce together.
Based on that, you also have built your community and you know how hard it is. Building a community from gun zero, it’s super difficult. From your perspective, when you think about community and commerce, how do you think is the conversation you are having with all those entrepreneurs evolving? Is that a topic you think is coming up quite often? Do you think that people are starting to pay attention to that?
Certainly, from the platform standpoint, there’s always been a community wrapped around that, but what you are talking about is more on the consumer side. Is there a community being built around that? Is that community helping to drive traffic or purchase things? It may not even be on any one brand. That community could be vertical.
It could be a community for runners, and that running community then is now a big influencer. Those people are all going to go buy Adidas shoes or whatever it is. Community is something that is going to be more prevalent from the consumer side. It’s harder to put your finger on any one thing to see how well it’s performing and/or how well as a community, that community is pushing a product or brand, or how it’s getting purchased.
That’s the hard part. It’s easy from the tech side or the backend side because, in terms of eCommerce, there’s always a community behind a platform that’s doing something, and that community’s either strong or not strong or vibrant or not vibrant. It’s harder to put your finger on a community in terms of buying things. It’s always going to go back to experience, how they are experiencing something, and that eCommerce experience or however you want to phrase that is where it’s going to be how we attach that experience to that community.
Speaking of experience, I thought that’s such a great point that you are making about how the customer is experiencing something because that’s what they know. A lot of what you are sharing is a little over my head, to be honest, because I don’t work on the platform side of things. My focus is more on the customer journey and the marketing side of things.
I know that’s something that you work in as well and I would love to hear more about your perspectives on marketing and how that’s shifting because that’s something we think a lot about over at eStreamly, especially when it comes to video and livestreaming and seeing how that’s all evolving. Meeting the customer where they are is important too, but you need to be a step ahead.
One thing I saw in one of your articles, or maybe it was on your website, was about how a lot of companies are so consumed with keeping up with the competition instead of trying to pave the way forward in their industry. I’m curious what your beliefs are in terms of where we are going with marketing and how a company can consider that when maybe they feel consumed with trying to figure out what the best platforms and eCommerce solutions are. How do they fit marketing into that equation?
The first rule is to measure and test. If you are not measuring and testing, you are not knowing what you are doing. Even thinking about what you can do going forward is an impossibility if you are not measuring and testing. Specifically, to better answer your question on that, it’s always riskier to be a leader than a follower. The easy path for any merchant is to follow what the next big agents or next big store are doing. The riskier thing is to plow your path or to try something new.If you are not measuring and testing, you don’t know what you are doing. Click To Tweet
Having said that, even if 1 out of 10 things is successful, that path is going to be successful. I remember interviewing a Dutch guy who’s familiar with Booking.com, which is in the Netherlands, and he said Booking.com is doing a lot of testing. They do AB testing and maybe some of their tests are only successful 10% of the time but they are spending all that time and energy to do those tests and see how things are going.
You, as a merchant, need to spend as much time to figure out what is it in your industry that people are doing now. The more that more paths that you can make for people to come and buy from you, and the more entry points that you have in your funnel, the better you are going to be as a marketer, as a merchant, as all those things. Always look at and pay attention to what that customer journey is. Maybe even more important, where are the customers dropping out? Where are they coming in?
If we have a traditional 8-step or 7-step customer journey, are they coming in the beginning? Are they coming in as warm leads? Are they coming in the middle and suddenly, they are buying something? Are they finding you on Instagram and then getting go, but never coming back? There are so many things that you should be looking at, measuring, and testing.
There are so many opportunities for channels nowadays. You have been talking a lot about video channels. Are there different types of videos and are there different platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, or whatever is going to be out next? There are marketplaces and there are video marketplaces now, and the opportunities are endless as a merchant and weighing out what is the cost.
There might be a cost, but there’s also a time cost to that. How much is that time cost going to take you? Figure out the right time and the right energy to put into it, at least to try it, and how successful that is. It’s testing, doing, and exploring. One thing I do from my show is learn about what a lot of other people are doing in the industry. This is a great example of a show that you should be tuning in to learn about what other people are doing in your industry to help you figure out what would be the best thing to do.
You had Russ Johns on, and he was talking about livestreaming and podcasting. Podcasting is another opportunity that a lot of merchants are taking advantage of to help promote their brands. It’s endless. At some point, we will probably have in-stream podcast purchasing. I don’t know how they are going to do it, but I bet somebody’s going to figure it out. You will have a podcast about your favorite energy drink, and it will say something into your microphone and your energy drink’s going to go into the basket and it’s going to get delivered to you in two days.
I was thinking, Nicolas, you should get on that because that would be pretty cool. It’s interesting. When I was first exploring podcasting for myself seriously. A few years ago, I was hearing so much about the future of technology in terms of our buying style and how we see the development of all these voice-activated platforms like Siri and Alexa.
People have been predicting for years that podcasting is going to be a big role in that because people are multitasking. They want something easy. They want to be able to say it out loud. They don’t have to go to a website. Why not be able to listen to a podcast and say, “I heard about this thing. Order whatever Nicolas was talking about in the latest episode?” If we can be part of that with eStreamly Nicolas, even better.
One other follow-up question for you, Brent, because you had so many great perspectives on marketing, and thank you for sharing that with us. You did mention the customer journey and the community side of it. There seems to be a big opportunity to use something like a private community as we have been developing and testing with eStreamly to better understand the customers so that you know the journey that they are on. There might even be a better opportunity to use that versus social media where it feels so competitive. There’s so much noise.
I feel like people’s style of using social media is changing their preferences. You mentioned platforms like TikTok, which I feel right now has a special presence in social media that the older platforms are losing. Yet it seems a lot of people and customers specifically are rethinking how they are going to use social media. We have to rethink that along with our marketing journey with them. I’m curious if you see a lot of benefit in using something like a private community versus social media or how the two can go hand in hand when it comes to your marketing plan.
The biggest thing that we see in the community is built-in trust. That trust is something you don’t get initially from social media. The whole idea of community commerce comes from the trust that you get from the community that’s saying, “This product is something that I’m buying.” As a community, we should all get behind this product and buy it.
That trust factor as a community is something that you get inherently. There’s a public and a private community. As a private community, there should be even more trust built in because there’s an opportunity to give. It should be a little bit smaller. However, I would say that maybe the risk you get in the private community would be pushed back to the vendor.
There’s probably not a lot of risk in there but I think about, “Are you more likely to give negative feedback in a private community or a public community?” That negative feedback, too, is how products get better. If somebody’s selling something all the time and it’s always positive feedback, then nothing ever happens because they are like, “I have already got a great product.”
When somebody gives you negative feedback, you have an opportunity to make your product better. We have put on conferences in the past and we always want to know what didn’t go right in the conference because we want to know, “What can we improve on in the future?” If everything’s great, there’s nothing to be improved. We all probably know that’s not true anyways. There’s always something that can go better.When somebody gives you negative feedback, you have an opportunity to make your product better. Click To Tweet
Learning what could be better is another part of a community. That way, the feedback you get from the community makes it better, and then, that trust factor is coupled with the community. The third part of that, the trust, the feedback is the common knowledge that comes in a community. I will go back to running.
In a community, typically, people are runners. You don’t have a lot of people that aren’t, that are sedentary. If you are in a running community, chances are you are a runner. You have a trust factor about, “What type of shoes should I use? What type of energy shots should I take during my race?” Whatever that thing is. That community both has trust and knowledge that is shared amongst the community. As we get then into commerce, the community of commerce, that trust then drives those sales to those things that you would like to sell.
It’s been a fascinating conversation from the get-go. It’s been interesting from the perspective of thinking about the video and looking at the experimentation. The experimentation you were talking about made me think about something that one of the executives of Coca-Cola is saying on the marketing side. Out of their marketing budget, they had 10% for experimenting. Out of that 10%, if something was going well, they would put it into a second fear where they were spending 20% of their marketing budget on that, but 70% of their marketing was the actual day-to-day regular marketing of it.
I was making a note here because I felt it was resonating with what you were saying on the marketing side. We talked about how to think about as a creator or as a new entrepreneur about thinking about your technology or if you already have a technology stack and what you want to think about and thinking about that personalization and customization. It has a cost now but it has a cost later, and how you want to think about that. We concluded around community commerce. This conversation has been fascinating. There is a lot of insight. It’s been interesting. I’m so blessed that you joined us, Brent. It’s been an awesome conversation, honestly.
Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
I have certainly learned a lot about things that as I said, I’m not as knowledgeable about. That’s the joy of having guests like you on the show. Thank you for all the wonderful work that you do with your podcast too. It’s wonderful to have other show hosts on here. It’s not something we get to do often. We have new shows every week usually with guests on here. We have got an incredible lineup coming up for you in December, January, and beyond, in 2023. Thanks again for reading. Thanks to Brent and Nicolas for being here, and we will see you in the next episode.