E-commerce for Brands

Navigating the E-Commerce Tech Landscape

E-Commerce With Coffee?! podcast guest Derric Haynie explains

Derric Haynie is the Chief Ecommerce Technologist at Ecommercetech.io. Not only is his “e-commerce technology” corner of the market new, but his dedicated role would have never been imagined five years ago.

In short, Derric spends half his day consulting with clients and the other half watching software demos.

Maybe that sounds like a cakewalk, but to give you a more meaningful idea of what watching demos entails, Derric is actually researching and discovering the right apps and software for Shopify stores and brands in e-commerce.

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s no shortage today of apps and software, most of them directed at specific pain points for online businesses. Admittedly, almost all those solutions come from a good place — they give e-commerce brands, for instance, access to slick automations, AI insights, streamlined customer service, and more.

The trouble is, everyone and their brother is offering solutions that seem to overlap with the next.

Derric joined the E-Commerce with Coffee?! podcast to talk with host Nate Svoboda about what brands should do to build the right (and the tightest) app stack for sales online. Dig into this summary of the episode to see what’s next in the “new normal” of tech, how brands should vet software solutions, and what to watch for in the Shopify app landscape.

E-Commerce Technology Post Pandemic

Derric’s experience with software and demos started when he grew his own tech company a decade ago. Over the course of building his own solution and marketing it, he went through more than 200 demos of other apps.

Derric digs deep into his experience over the course of the interview to answer questions like, “what’s in an effective demo?”

“You have to explain ‘here’s why this is important and here’s how it makes you money,’” Derric says. Forget about an app’s functionality. “There’s a lot of feature parity right now, so tech companies need to communicate their differentiation factors.”

After 2020 and its whirlwind implications for e-commerce, tech solutions are more important today than ever. They’re also more abundant and more redundant. Step number one for any brand looking for worthwhile solutions that secure ROI should be to look for those apps that articulately explain their differentiation factor.

App overload is a real “thing,” because just about any solution sounds like a good idea for brands bogged down by their day-to-day. But to avoid redundancies, app parity, and bad investments, Derric comes in to advise brands on which tools make sense for them.

For example, some tools aren’t made for small brands, while others are made specifically for them!

Derric points to several deciding factors for which apps “fit” a brand, such as:

  • Size of the business
  • Number of employees
  • Current growth of the business
  • Existing technology stack
  • Size of catalog
  • Sales volume

Shopify Apps

Like the general app overload wasn’t enough, sellers and brands on Shopify easily become overwhelmed with the number of apps made specifically for the platform. Many of the apps are also misleading now that the tech landscape has made the ease of entry to e-commerce a lower bar to jump.

“You could start a [Shopify] store today for $40,” Derric admits. But then, he warns, too many brands are taken advantage of by the get-rich-quick schemes that follow.

No one app solves it all.

Listen to the full podcast to learn what Derric says about apps on Shopify and the future of e-commerce. “The Shopify app ecosystem is a bit of a mess [right now],” he explains. There are 6,200 apps, with roughly 60 new apps a week, and half of those solve a problem already solved or simply aren’t necessary. Their claims would have brands believe otherwise, however.

Before a brand loads up on apps that each seem like good ideas, that brand should push each attractive app through the following matrix of questions:

  1. Does the app have lots of good reviews?
  2. Can you objectively estimate the app’s ROI on your current processes?
  3. Does the app overlap with any other software or app currently in use?
  4. Does the app specify its security standards or update schedule?

The answers to these questions make the path forward pretty clear.

As a final caution, Derric reminds listeners that the over-installation of apps can compromise a Shopify storefront’s security and significantly slow the website down.

Overrun though the Shopify app ecosystem is, Derric also offers an insider prediction that piques your interest: “Shopify might launch an Amazon competitor [soon], a sort of anti-Amazon for brands that consumers know and love,” he says. “There’s been an exodus [of brands from Amazon], and they want a better relationship with the consumer.”

Getting Buy-In from Stakeholders

Getting buy-in from leadership on new apps and software is harder than it used to be. When the first handful of apps for e-commerce were born, the brands with an early adoption attitude were rewarded with huge ROI.

Today, however, most stakeholders have become tired of the repeated solicitations from app developers and software companies. The pitches are too frequent, and with all the overlap it feels like each new app is “more of the same.”

In this interview on E-Commerce with Coffee?! Derric offers some wisdom on how to get stakeholder buy-in so your business can grow with the right solutions.

Specifically, Derric says to break down any pitch for an app by what core function within operations the app serves. If the brand already has a strategy around collecting user reviews, for example, explain how that process can be improved with the right review app.

Core App Functionalities in E-commerce

There’s an endless market of apps milking e-commerce shop owners for $3, 5, 10, or even 50 a month that either aren’t necessary or aren’t the best option for what that brand is trying to achieve.

Even when an app has a worthwhile functionality, if it doesn’t have the best security or isn’t maintained well, the brands using it will lag behind the competition.

Derric estimates that of the 6,200 apps on the Shopify market, 4,500 fall into this category of “sub-par” in terms of maintenance. He says that the brands that win in online sales focus on the tools that change their business in a measurable way while also demonstrating integrity in updates, transparency, and security.

For brands aiming to simplify their app options and start with the apps that really make a difference, Derric says, “somewhere between review, loyalty, and SMS [app solutions], most brands are missing at least one of those.”

These are the three core functionalities that today’s apps simplify for brands selling online:

  1. Review apps
  2. Loyalty apps
  3. SMS apps

In particular, Derric says, “SMS is one part of a strategy that’s a mix of omnichannel marketing and personalization using AI-driven segmentation.” He partners with multiple SMS providers at Ecommercetech.io and assures us that they’re all great tools. Few brands, however, understand how to use SMS effectively.

Perhaps a consultation with Derric to identify the right tools and learn how to get the most out of them is just what the doctor ordered.

Artificial intelligence has also become an increasingly impactful technology in e-commerce. Just look at the AI-powered product data optimizer that sweeps through whole catalogs of SKUs to point brands in the right direction for their product listings.

Whatever the case for brands in the market for app solutions, in this podcast Derric demonstrates his deep knowledge of e-commerce tech in a truly memorable interview. Listen or watch the full episode of E-Commerce with Coffee?! for more insights into what tools are changing e-commerce and what brands should do about it.

A content contributor at Amber Engine, a software company passionate about eCommerce