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The Future of Ecommerce Technology: A Q&A With Derric Haynie

The Future of Ecommerce Technology, An Interview with Derric Haynie, Founder of EcommerceTech 

Interview with Derric Haynie, founder of EcommerceTech.io.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Derric Haynie, founder and Chief Ecommerce Technologist of EcommerceTech. His company is focused on helping e-commerce merchants select marketing technology strategically, and he’s had a front-row seat to all things ecommerce from agencies, to SaaS vendors, to the big shopping carts, to high performing brands. 

As Derric put it in our interview, the ecommerce technology landscape is a convoluted space, with nearly 5 apps being launched on the Shopify app store each day. Vetting every single one is impractical as a store owner.  In our time together we spoke about the future of ecommerce technology, or more specifically, about how the best brands are thinking much more strategically than in the past about the tools they use to personalize the customer journey. 

We’ve highlighted some of the insights from our discussion below, but encourage you to listen to the full interview (video above) or through our new Podcast, podcast link here.

The Future of Ecommerce Technology, Q&A with Derric Haynie

The future of ecommerce marketing technology

Q: Derric, one of the terms I’ve heard you talk about frequently is this idea of the “digitally native vertical brand.” Can you say a little about what that means to you?

Derric Haynie: It’s an odd concept because we can describe it in many other ways. It used to be called “branding” or just “good business”–better owning the relationship with the customer. Branding isn’t about the logo, it isn’t about the look and feel of your site. That’s user experience and design. Branding is about how the customer feels when they think about you. And it’s how often do they think about you? What do they think about you and what are the implications of that?

When I think about this “digitally native vertical brand”, I think this brand is an expert in a very niche category. It’s a brand that pioneers a niche category in a highly digitally native way. It’s a brand that is, in a way, able to build a friendship with its customers around its product, so that the brand becomes more than just a product. It becomes a product experience. And you can have that experience anywhere–out with friends, in your home with the product, and on social. Digitally native vertical brands are all focused around that unique product experience, so that they can build that relationship for life. And that’s, I think, the only way you can really build a long-term, established, healthy business.

Q: Scott Brinker once said that “the make of a marketer is the stack they build.” Can you talk about what that statement means to you, and maybe elaborate on how technology plays a part of that brand building today?

Derric Haynie: For him it’s the “make of the marketer.” For me it’s the “make of the merchant.” It’s quite clear when you launch an ecommerce business that technology is going to be a core, prevalent part of it. Until fairly recently, using a “technology stack” as a part of your retail business was pretty unheard of. And then the internet came about, and now you need to have an online presence as well as offline. At that moment, every company became some form of technology company. 

And now, there are new tools coming out that change the whole game, because the stack of the store is so important to the customer experience. As a random example, if I’m not using a “buy now, pay later” tool, I can’t sell to people that maybe don’t have this much money in their bank account and they don’t have a credit card. So that changes the type of person that’s going to buy from me.

 If I don’t have a blog that where people can go for information if they have questions about the product or the experience or if I don’t have something to relate to the user around my product on the site, then they’re not going to have as deep of a brand connection with my brand. Then that will eventually reflect in my bottom line, whether I can track it or not.

So I think what “the make of the merchant” or “The make of the marketer” means is, “are you a conscious, deliberate, hungry-for-more merchant that has the latest technology on your site?” That will reflect on how you have a relationship with your customer. 

Q: What are you seeing companies do to really make consistent improvements around owning the relationship with the customer [and how it relates to ecommerce technology]?

Derric Haynie: To me, owning a relationship means also owning a lot of data points on the customer journey. You miss out on that data a lot in certain situations, like when you sell in a retail store or on Amazon. When customers buying from someone else, it’s a lot more difficult to engage with those customers directly or continue to market to them through, say, organic social or email. 

Companies doing a really fascinating job of owning those data points are those that use first-party data collection. And what I mean by that is: Those companies that ask people a lot of questions as part of their journey. For example, Stitch Fix might ask “Are you a man or a woman? What’s your waist size? What color are your eyes?”

Sometimes this is collected via onboarding, a survey, a microsurvey, or an email. When you own that first-party data, the magic that happens is the personalization that you can do at scale with that information. It’s the custom email sequence. It’s the product you create because you better understand a segment of your audience. When you see the data and you own and collect it, you’re able to do really fascinating things for your marketing, product, and positioning.

Q: How else can companies better own the customer relationship and customer journey?

Derric Haynie:  The other thing I think about immediate is an Omni-Channel experience: if you are able to track that somebody is following you on social and you know which social channels they’re following you on, if you know that they are subscribed to your messenger marketing list, they’re subscribed to your SMS marketing list, they read your emails, etc. 

The more touch points you have with them, the higher engagement, the higher the conversion rate, and the more likely they are to be a lifetime customer.

So, by having an omni-channel experience, you can absolutely keep customers around longer. And these experiences all need to be something that they opt into, which generally means that those experiences–social channels, email, etc– need to be creating a lot of value for the customer from the brand. You can’t just be, you know, “Sale! Sale! Sale! Promo! Discount! Promo! Discount!”

And of course, having some form of loyalty and retention tool is very important, so that you can get people to take social actions, engage with your brand, post reviews, refer friends, earn loyalty points, etc.

Finally, on the content marketing side, it’s important to keep your audience engaged with your brand experience through any variety of ways–video, blog, podcast, social sharing, etc. Create content that is compelling and provides value, and that audience and customer will stick around.

Q: Do you think it’s fair to say that over the last four or five years, D2C companies were able to achieve such good returns from Facebook and Instagram and direct response advertising that it allowed them not to focus as heavily on all of the types of content creation that you just mentioned?

Derric Haynie:  Yes, I believe that’s fair, especially the further back in time you go. Years ago Facebook launched an amazing advertising platform, which in the beginning days, wasn’t fully filled with ad inventory, right? 

You were buying attention, and you had high supply of attention with low competitors for that attention. 

But there are a lot more competitors in that market now. If your competitive advantage was “I know how to use Facebook Ads,” you don’t have that advantage anymore, because everyone’s doing it. 

Now, more brands are realizing, “Hey, if I had had done a blog earlier, if I had collected better information on my customers earlier, I would be making more money today.”  It always made you more money to do those things, but because you could make enough money without doing them, brands neglected it.

Q: Have you started to see marketing technology becomes so overwhelming that companies that you advise are looking for more, all-in-one solutions or are you still seeing companies preferring to integrate lots of tools via APIs? What’s your take on that?

Derric Haynie: The first thing is I believe there is a convergence of technology going on right now. Many tools –like Klaviyo, Yotpo, Privy, etc.—are capable and doing a good job at expanding into lots of different spaces, but at the same time, the cliche kind of does hold true, which is either you’re a “master of one”, or you’re like a “kind of okay at everything.”

I believe in five to 10 years, there will not be a standalone tool, like an SMS marketing tool. You will have to be integrated into other things. And this brings up kind of a bigger problem. On the one hand, you have these specific use cases that are really well solved in a niche tool. And on the other hand, you need your data in a whole bunch of different places so that all the tools can communicate well with each other.


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