eCommerce Podcast

Our podcast is raw, honest and damn right insightful, as we chat to some of the best minds in eCommerce

Hosted by Richard Hill

Ep 54:
Jim Herbert:
How Small Changes Can Make the Biggest Differences When Growing Your Online Store

This week we’re super excited to introduce ‘King of the Nerds’, Jim Herbert (his words not ours!). Jim has worked in the tech and eCommerce space for over 20 years and for the last 10 months has been working for BigCommerce as their Vice President and General Manager EMEA. 

In this episode we discuss the benefits BigCommerce can bring to your store and how they compare with Shopify, how to find the balance between having a seamless shopping experience and staying true to your brand, as well as what you can do to evaluate your user journey and what needs to be done to improve it. 

Are you keen to find out more about how your current store experience could be holding back your growth, and what you can do to fix it? Of course you are! Tune in and take note of some of the fantastic advice Jim has to offer.

eCom@One presents

Jim Herbert

Jim is the Vice President and General Manager EMEA at BigCommerce. Having spent more than 20 years working in digital strategy, eCommerce and in the tech industry, Jim brings a wealth of knowledge to this episode. 

Technology has always been his passion and since studying Computer Science at university back in the early 90’s, he has since taken on a variety of roles within the industry, as well as running his own eCommerce agency until 2015. 

In this episode, we talk about the main benefits of BigCommerce and opinions on other similar platforms like Shopify, the common mistakes he sees stores make when they’re trying to grow and what you can do to avoid them. Jim also gives some great insight into how to better understand your customer journey and how that understanding can inform better decisions, as well as how simple changes to your checkout experience can drive more sales. 

If you’re an eCommerce store owner using one of the big eCommerce platforms like BigCommerce or Shopify, listen in for some great practical advice you can start implementing to boost your website performance. 

Topics Covered:

01:25 – How Jim became the Vice President at BigCommerce

05:56 – BigCommerce vs. Shopify

11:21 – Mistakes eCommerce stores keep making (and how to avoid them!)

16:32 – How to improve your checkout experience

19:10 – How to improve your website’s UX

22:41 – How to better understand your user journey

25:51 – Tools that boost your website performance

31:01 – How can brands create an omnichannel experience?

35:41 – Where to keep up with the latest trends

38:04 – Book recommendation 

 

Richard Hill:
Hi there. I'm Richard Hill, the host of eCom@One. Welcome to our 54th episode. In this episode I speak with Jim Herbert, the Vice President & General Manager EMEA at BigCommerce. Jim has been heading up BigCommerce now for last year and brings a wealth of experience to this episode from his 25 years in digital strategy, eCommerce and the tech industry. Some of the topics we cover in this episode include the main benefits of BigCommerce and his opinion on other platforms like Shopify, the mistakes that he sees when scaling and growing stores and his advice on how to avoid them,. We go deep on what a store can do to understand the customer's journey, and how that can help growth. We focus on checkout experience and how simple changes can make a huge impact. If you enjoyed this episode, please make sure you subscribe, so you're always the first to know when a new episode is released. Now, let's head over to this fantastic episode.

Richard Hill:
How you doing, Jim?

Jim Herbert:
I'm doing well, Richard. How are you?

Richard Hill:
I am very good. We were just saying before we jumped on, we are both looking forward to a bit of sunshine today. It's circa 20-plus out there, so we're both looking forward to having a good bit of a mooch around the garden later.

Jim Herbert:
Absolutely. Typical British weather for this time of year, definitely.

Richard Hill:
So, we've got snow forecast for next weekend, haven't we?

Jim Herbert:
Like I say, typical British weather.

Richard Hill:
Absolutely. Well, thanks so much, Jim, for agreeing to come on the podcast. I think it'd be great to tell the listeners how you became the Vice President and General Manager at BigCommerce.

Jim Herbert:
Yeah, that's great. Thank you. I've been here just over 10 months now. So it's an interesting story because there's actually a little bit more about my background actually. So I've been doing eCommerce for over 20 years now. So late '90s, I started becoming an ATG developer. So my background is very much computer science at Loughborough University, actually programming computers from the age of eight. Basically, my friends call me King of The Nerds. I'm happy to take that. I'm an unashamed nerd, and I quite like a bit of retro tech and 8-track this, and all the other stuff. But I actually started my own business in 2007. So we started an agency called Sceneric, which was an eCommerce agency, and back then, eCommerce was still a game for the big boys really. There was no BigCommerce, there was no Shopify. It was very much large brands toying a little bit with this new channel, "Will it work for us?"

Jim Herbert:
And so, we started off doing some work for diy.com, we built martinbrown.com on the old ATG software. And then I actually took some business, Stanley Gibbons stamps, and I'll refer to them later potentially, on Hybris, what's now SAP Hybris because obviously, they sold to them in 2013. And we became Hybris' number one delivery partner across Europe. We also had offices in Hong Kong. We started doing work in ASIAPAC as well, and I sold that business to a company called LBI, who were very shortly afterwards bought by Publicis Groupe in 2012. So, effectively ended up working for Publicis. They bought Sapient, they had no real need for us anymore, we had earned out and we left, right?

Jim Herbert:
And the reason for giving all that backstory is Mark Adams, who is the GM and VP. You always know you've arrived, by the way, when you've got three acronyms in your title, right? GM and VP. It's a really, really good thing to make you feel good about yourself. Mark started off BigCommerce in Europe at the end of 2018, and he had a very similar background. He would say that he had the leading Hybris delivery partner in PortalTech that he co-founded as well. And he approached me last year. I was doing some interim work. I had a couple of years off, I did the L'Etape du Tour. I'm obviously quite into cycling, with a yellow jersey behind me, and sort of enjoyed the kids for a bit, but I started getting back into doing some advisory work. So I advised a couple of BigCommerce partners, Greenlight Commerce and then AyataCommerce. And while working at Ayata, Mark came to me and said, "I've got a really good opportunity for you," and I thought it was a business opportunity. And it turns out, it was a personal opportunity.

Jim Herbert:
He got offered an amazing job to become CEO of Attraqt. The old Fredhopper as it's probably best known amongst the enterprise eCommerce people. And he said, "Look, the reason I've worked here is I expanded PortalTech, it worked for me from that perspective. I've grown a business. We're quite similar people. A lot of what BigCommerce is doing in more the mid-market enterprise now is around solution selling, so it's not just about, 'Here's our software, come and buy it.' It's about, 'Here's our software, here's what it does really well, here how it will work for you,' and working out how we can work with as enterprises. And we're quite similar people. Both got a sales background. Both got a level of technical backgrounds." And sure enough, I came through the interview process about this time last year. I think it was literally the beginning of lockdown one, and then started in May last year and inherited a team of, at the time, it was 23 people ultimately.

Jim Herbert:
And it's been interesting. It's been an interesting thing to do to onboard as a leader during COVID, when you can't meet people. I'm sure you can imagine. It's a strange old business meeting via Zoom, but actually, it's gone well. We're now pretty much double the size we were this time last year, BigCommerce in Europe. We've taken on our first mainland European employees. I've got absolutely no plans to see any of them face-to-face anytime soon, for obvious reasons, if you know what I mean. But we had a meeting in September when that kind of weird between lockdown time where we could get together, you could do events, like private dining, and we did, and a couple of people are like, "I feel like I already know you." And it's like, "Well, we have been working together five months, even if it's all virtual." Just goes to show the power of the human brain, really, to overcome that.

Richard Hill:
Yeah, so a year on Zoom almost, and pretty much with sort of 30, 40 people just proves it can be done. Obviously, doubled the team in that time. Brilliant. So as an eCommerce store owner or potential owner, there's so many platforms out there I think, and obviously, we run two agencies here at eCom@One. It's like, "Which platform should we use?" Obviously, BigCommerce is a platform that a lot of our clients use, but time and time again, we get asked the question. So I'm going to ask you the question: Why should a business choose BigCommerce over, say, Shopify?

Jim Herbert:
Absolutely. No, it's good. I'm not the sort of person or salesperson who criticizes on the platform, right? Every platform out there has got good features going if they're selling right now because otherwise they wouldn't be selling right now. And in fact, I've used Shopify in my kind of downtime that I mentioned earlier. Friend of mine opened a shop, she went and already purchased Shopify, and I put it together and I have to put the store together, and the tools and backend stuff is really good. I think the reason you might look at BigCommerce, though is our kind of philosophy is different, and I think there's nothing wrong with that. The market needs differentiation of some sort. And from a philosophy, we're very different. We look at being the best eCommerce platform out there, and that's it, right?

Jim Herbert:
So we then look at offering our clients the ability to pick the payment partner they want to pay. So we're not going to force them to do BigCommerce payments, it doesn't exist. So what we do do is negotiate brilliant rates with PayPal Braintree, for instance, or Barclaycard or Adyen or Stripe, and it gives our merchants the capability to say, "Actually, I've already used Stripe, so I'll just carry on using Stripe," or, "Oh, look at those rates from Barclaycard. I didn't realize how good they were and that they operate across all of Europe. Let's use that, or Adyen. I didn't realize that some of those big clients were using it. We'll use them instead." So if you open a trial store on BigCommerce, or come into the backend of BigCommerce, you'll see there's lots of different payment providers in there. And that's just the payment side of it. It's actually the same for all our partners.

Jim Herbert:
So again, if you want to do Pulse, or you want to use a different OMS, you have a selection in our app store. And it's a kind of curated selection. It's not as big, but it's deliberately not as big as well. We want to make sure that you can kind of die by choice. It's the old two piles of hay and the donkey that can't choose which one to look at. It's all about, for us, creating that best platform for our merchants, and then they can choose the right partners to go with it.

Jim Herbert:
The other reason I would suggest is that, again, part of our philosophy is that we are the platforms for all stages of growth, right? So we do have people coming to us from other platforms who say, "Well, we're kind of up against a limit. Suddenly it's getting really expensive, or that provider is saying to us, 'Oh, you need to move to a slightly different version of our platform, and it starts at two grand a month or whatever it is.'" We have a very clear and transparent pricing model. It's really obvious what it is ultimately. We've obviously got the free kind of retail plans that you can just go and self-serve and buy. And then when you get into enterprise, we talk to people, and it's literally a per order cost. It's not a percentage of GMV, or anything like that. It boils to price per order ultimately, and funny enough, the more orders you buy, you get volume discounting. It's the same as everything, right? It's just how the world works, for good business reasons.

Jim Herbert:
So it means that you can come on, and we've got a couple of clients, a great example is an EMEA region. You can come on and buy pro plans, so you get access to most of the features, start trading well, and then realize that you need to upgrade to enterprise because otherwise it's going to cost too much money. You don't have to change anything, you don't have to go out to a partner and say, "I'd like to re-platform on something else." You could just carry on using the core BigCommerce platform knowing-

Richard Hill:
That's huge thing, isn't it? That's a huge thing. You get to a certain point, and then potentially you've got to start again, or you've got some serious investment, or depending on the size of the business, but still a fairly chunky investment. Whereas what you're saying with BigCommerce, it's just a natural progression to be able to upscale with a sensible costs without this big initial re-platform cost.

Jim Herbert:
Exactly, and because we've become members of the MACH Alliance, that kind of end of it as well. You can use BigCommerce as just a commerce engine using our headless APIs. Headless is a horrible word, right? As my wife said to me, "It sounds a bit sinister," and it does. Composable commerce is what Gartner are now calling it.

Richard Hill:
It is the word or the thing, isn't it, at the moment, headless.

Jim Herbert:
It really is. Yeah, exactly. And what does it mean? It just means taking the frontend off and replacing it with a different one to a certain extent, and then maybe embedding that commerce engine to other stuff like Internet of Things and automatic reordering, and subscription-based pricing and all that kind of good stuff. And you don't have to do it, but if you want to, if you want to maybe have a completely different frontend, we give you that flexibility as well without having to re-platform. Once you've plugged BigCommerce into your OMS for orders, and into a PIM maybe if you've got a large product catalogue, you can go down that route as well. And we've got a number of very large merchants out there who are coming across onto us.

Jim Herbert:
Nokia mobile phone's a great example. They're a headless implementation. They went live in 10 weeks, right? So it doesn't have to be hard. The whole point of what we're doing is in the modern world with a younger demographic of developers than me, bluntly, it's quite easy to put that stuff together and go live, but that's the fundamental thing I want to get across is that we are that platform for all stages of growth. It's the same platform, right? We do turn features on and off between $30, $80, and $250, but once you get into the enterprise space, it's exactly the same platform for Nokia phones as it is to a smaller merchant using enterprise.

Richard Hill:
I have to say, we've had a client recently, and with several clients over the course of the last year, but right now we're working with a client who has just moved to BigCommerce and has been a very positive experience moving over. Okay, so obviously worked on a lot of eCommerce stores, see a lot of what eCommerce stores are doing, and all those years and years of actual hands-on, sort of in the coalface, on the coalface seeing what's working and what isn't working, what mistakes do you see eCommerce stores making sort of quite consistently?

Jim Herbert:
It's interesting because as a techie, you probably expect me to say a lot of technical mistakes, but actually in reality, it tends to be more business or human nature mistakes that are an issue, in my experience anyway. So a classic one is fixating on things that aren't really going to make a difference and missing out on the business benefits of having that new store. So I mentioned Stanley Gibbons earlier. It's an interesting one. There was a three month delay in launch when it was all around categorization. And I get it, it's hard, right? For them, they have 1.4 million individual products for stamp collecting. That particular stamp isn't going to go away. It isn't going to come around again, so that Penny Black that was misfranked or something. I don't know, I'm not a stamp collector, but it has to be categorized in the right way to make it easy to find. You got great search, but there are lots of different ways that people go through the UX to find a product ultimately.

Jim Herbert:
There was an internal debate around that for three months. They launched, conversion rate shot up, the site was much easier to navigate, to find stuff, and I went back to the CEO at the time, and said, "Look, I'm not doing told you so here, but you've missed out on millions because in that time, this new site is so much better than the old one, we could have gone live and then iterated over that category stuff live, right? Because the site's live and trading, and then you can start using the site." Because eCommerce is... One of the things it's really done to retail is giving people the ability to use science. It's just mathematics at the end, it's just math or maths depending on what side of the Atlantic you're on.

Jim Herbert:
And you've got three levers really. Get more people on site. You can acquire more people ultimately through SEO or through paying for agencies that do ads, or nowadays, going via social media or other channels to get people onto your site, or onto your commerce journey, so to speak. You can get the average order value up, and you can get the conversion rate. And those three things compound interest into a very big differences. So until you've got a site that allows you to do it, and there are still merchants that don't have that bluntly, and you can't see the analytics, then you don't know. So get that site live and then iterate around it. The example of that merchant I used earlier who bought the pro plan is now doing millions a month through BC did exactly that. They are constantly living the eCommerce journey, working out how to increase the conversion rate by a little tiny bit with partner apps or with an agency.

Jim Herbert:
That's, bluntly, the biggest mistake. It's not just small merchants or midsize merchants, like a Stanley Gibbons. I've worked with some of the UK's largest retailers and the massive Italian fashion brand, who could it be? Similar thing. It's fixating over that image or that... It's important. It needs to be done, but it needs to be good enough. It doesn't need to be perfect. You'll find out what perfection is when people are actually using the site.

Richard Hill:
I think it's true. I think we can be, and I know a lot of people are very guilty of just, "Oh. Well, we'll just wait. We'll just wait. Hang on." The beauty of eCommerce is obviously you can make crazy quick changes that can impact the bottom line. Either way of course, you've got to be monitoring and checking what you're doing, but ultimately, staying nimble, staying in the fact that you can do things quickly is the whole point really of the industry, I think. The fact that you can quite easily get somebody to do X, Y, Z, whether it's in-house, out-house, depending on the size of the team that you've got working for you, and crack on and get it done, rather than, "Oh. Do you know what? Let's have a meeting about that," and... Six months later, you're still staring at the same UX or whatever it may be, where some simple tweaks potentially...

Richard Hill:
Of course, depending on the size and scale the business. We're not saying rush into it completely, but in the same respect, you don't need to be dragging these things out too much. I think that so many merchants are so guilty of that. They've got the site, it's working. Oh. Well, we better not risk doing such and such, but hang on a minute.

Jim Herbert:
Exactly, and use science. Sorry, Richard. And when I say use science, make sure you got a control. I worked a large retailer in the mid-2000s, when I was get my business off the ground, and we were working on trying to improve the search conversion. And they did just an A/B testing. Again, as a techie, I was there to kind of implement, or my team was there to implement the changes that came out of it. So here's the control, and in this test, we changed these three things, and in this test, we changed those four things. And this one was the best. But which bit of those was the best? The whole point of having a control... Yeah, just change one thing, and the next day, change another thing. Because they were getting millions of search jobs a day, so you've got plenty of data to work on.

Richard Hill:
Brilliant. Checkout experience, I think that's a huge topic for e-com. What tips would you give the listeners on how to improve checkout experience?

Jim Herbert:
So if you'd asked me this question six years ago, I'd have talked about one page checkout obviously, but everyone's got one of those now. I suspect there's two best ways of looking at this, make it as easy as possible, right? Everyone talks about the Amazon experience of eCommerce. You can't not talk about eCommerce without talking about Amazon, the elephant in the room to a certain extent. I buy lots on Amazon. Why do I buy lots on Amazon? It's really easy, bluntly. I got my credit card details vaulted away. The app on my phone's already signed in. If we're going to bed, I've got prime. It's like, "Oh, it'll be there tomorrow. I forgot to buy that, but it'll be here by 3:00." My wife's Easter egg, for instance.

Richard Hill:
Good point actually.

Jim Herbert:
If nothing else, it's been useful for that, right? No, I think it's that ease of purchase, ease of checkout, that's what's going to get your conversion rate up, ultimately. And about displaying the right data, so things like shipping methods and stuff. People will pay for next day shipping if they know what the price is, and like the Easter egg as an example, if they know how important it is to get it in before a public holiday, so to speak. So I would suggest that ease of use is the most important thing, but coming back to the data conversation we just had around analytics, look at it. Work out where people are coming in, make sure that your checkout process is instrumented like it is by default in BigCommerce for Google Analytics, our own analytics within there, so that you can understand where people are falling out the process.

Jim Herbert:
And it might be for reasons you don't understand, but that's fine. If you know they are falling out of it, you can make some tests, make some changes, and then when you see people are getting passed maybe that step in the process, then it might be that you need to put in address lookup, it might be that you need to offer different payment methods. Is there a particular payment method for that demographic you're going after? Once you start putting that in there, I think that's when you can start looking at the data that's coming back out and working through that way. But absolutely ease of use. Take away the friction from buying, right?

Richard Hill:
Yeah. Very straightforward that, I think. All the guys that are listening in, it's making sure, as you're saying, making sure it's something that you are monitoring, firstly. It's like, "Oh, the conversion rate is this." Yeah, but what was it last week, this week, what changed? Making that one change, we're saying, maybe at a time, and that control on your checkout, adding a postcode lookup or whatever it may be is the first change and then seeing what the conversion rate and the different steps through the checkout change to. So on from that, obviously we've got checkout, but also just general UX of the site. What tips would you give to eCommerce stores about improving their UX?

Jim Herbert:
Yeah, and that's an interesting one from a techie/sales background. I'm not a UX designer, so to speak, so all opinions are my own, they say. I think it's an interesting one, again, because of the way eCommerce has become standardized to a certain extent, working with luxury brands as it did in the around about 2014, 15, they would quite often want to come up with a very different experience. Spend a lot of money with a large agency, probably the agency that's doing their billboard ads, ultimately, the kind of offline ads you see out there. And they would come up with some fantastic crazy ideas, but it meant it was almost impossible to use. And there's two parts of UX. My sister's an information architect actually, and it's all about making the path to purchase as simple as possible. And that, to a creative designer, they might go, "Well, that's really boring. That's what eCommerce websites just look like. I need to do something different," but actually do you?

Jim Herbert:
It's about getting across the brand aesthetic and the reason that people want to shop with you, but also still making it really easy to find what you want, ultimately, isn't it? It's that blend. The one bit of advice I'd give to probably more the creative side of it really is that there is a certain way of buying now. Again, the Amazon experience to a certain extent, the eBay experience and kind of the old guys that have been around for a long time. Not surprisingly, you can look at BigCommerce themes and templates, they all look pretty similar to a certain extent, where in that regard and in terms of categories, where you select the currency and all that kind of good stuff. But there's a reason for that, there's an expectation for it. With most, except for very few notable exceptions, you go to a shop on the high street, they're all fairly similar laid out, but there's a reason.

Richard Hill:
Yep, there's a reason for it.

Jim Herbert:
Yeah, it's what you're used to. So don't abandon it for the sake of it would be my kind of personal take on it. You can still do a lot within that in terms of getting the brand values across and making the experience feel like you're actually shopping with that brand. Because that's also really important, right? People buy from brands for a reason. Coming back to my little search conversation earlier on around making some small changes, I worked for a large food retailer years ago, whose corporate colour is green. Who could it be? Actually, to be fair, there's two options, so I'm doing quite well there. They changed the Add to Basket button to green to match their brand aesthetic, conversion rate went up 20%. Tiny little change. You wouldn't expect that to make a difference, but it kind of matched with the brand aesthetic.

Richard Hill:
That's one that we use as well. When you look Amazon for example, they've got their, I want to say yellow, but it's an off-yellow, isn't it? So all their money, so the checkout, the basket, the next and the checkout is all yellow, the buy, the outer basket is all yellow. When you look at a site, normally, there's that multi-colours in that flow, whether that's the checkout, the basket. Now you've got the theme that maybe they use is done in red, but this is green. It's like, "Well, having that all the same colour is something just very, very simple," but I think you're saying that work for the high street food store, and it definitely works for Amazon. Let them do their 100 million pounds worth of testing, and it's clearly... I have to admit, I'm waiting an Amazon delivery right now.

Jim Herbert:
Excellent. If it comes, by the way, I'll sing a song or something while you go and get it.

Richard Hill:
Yeah, you could just [crosstalk 00:22:35] guys. Yeah, absolutely. So obviously checkout, UX, and then this all ties in really well with sort of user journey. What's sort of some advice and sort of ways that businesses will understand their customer journey better?

Jim Herbert:
Yeah, I think there's two ways really. There's clearly going to be more than two, and there's going to be a lot of nuances in what I'm about to talk about, but the first way is using those analytics tools. We have numerous partners out there that offer the tools to allow you to investigate how people are going through your site, showing where they drop out, where the bounce rate's bad and where it's good as examples. Google Analytics is the big one out there. We integrate now to Google BigQuery as well. So, all that data can be dropped into BigQuery, then you can use the tool of your choice, ultimately, to check that data and do a lot of real analysis on it, if you want to, or you could just use it quite simply to say, "Where are people falling out on the journey," and from that perspective.

Jim Herbert:
The other way is actual user testing. So sitting in a room with, effectively, some people in actual real life human beings. That'd be crazy. So probably again post-COVID for this one, but I've worked with agencies in the past that have got kind of eye tracking, and all that kind of good sciencey stuff going on you, which will give you some... I mean, this isn't very much at the moment with a larger merchant obviously, but you can get some really good data out the back of that and some really good understanding at the back of it as well, but it's kind of... If you go down that route, you have to be careful about bias and nuance and what's actually happening in that environment, whereas the kind of analytics part of it is a little bit... You can't ask the question, "Why are you finding that hard?" With this, you can do that with somebody in the room. It's more within the crowds, isn't it? Sorry.

Richard Hill:
Yeah, when you see people actually navigating your store, it's like, "You're not supposed to do that." Yeah, but they do do that. So I think there's a couple of tools and softwares out there that you say get people in a room and navigate your site, but there's a couple of other things we've used. I think usertesting.com is an example where you pay, I can't remember, 60 quid, 100 quid or whatever. Or more than 2, 3, 4 people, you'll say, "Right, I'm looking for people based in this demographic," so the tool will then select people in that demographic, and then they will navigate your store, hit record on their camera and on their screen, and then you get these little videos back of them. You could then say, "Right, could you find me four females in the UK or males that will go to my site and go through... Find the site in the Google index and go and buy a X?" So you see them go to the category, the subcategory, the checkout, and you're seeing, "Oh, there's a problem in the checkout. Oh okay." If they can't find the product, "Oh, okay. Search isn't working," or whatever. Yeah, so there is ways to do it obviously while we're all battling COVID as well. Fantastic.

Jim Herbert:
Yeah, that's true. Yeah, exactly. It's a good point actually. You can still virtualize that, can't you? We're having that conversation to start about how the virtual world does seem to blur nicely in the human brain with the physical one.

Richard Hill:
Yeah, absolutely. Okay, obviously you mentioned Google Analytics. Any other tools that you would recommend for the listeners to help the performance of a website?

Jim Herbert:
Again, I mean, Google's the high street, right? The way I always talk about it with people's if you're putting a webshop on the street, the street is Google. Now, it's not just the only street now, ultimately, because of the social media network as well. There are a number of different high streets you need to be on to maximize your virtual footfall, if you know what I mean? But again, you need to make sure you've got the performance to rank on that big one, on the Google side. So I mean, there are bits of it that you as a merchant can't do anything about. So time to first byte, which is a bit of a techie thing, that's very much in the platform area. So on the BigCommerce site, if you install some of the partner apps, if you have lots and lots of stuff installed, loads of analytics installed, coming back to what we talked about earlier, and if you're increasing the kind of page rate and the behind-the-scenes server weight, you might see that go down. Analyze that.

Jim Herbert:
We work with merchants all the time with our customer success team to say, "Well, your time to first byte's gone slow. Let's look and see what it is." Sometimes it's a partner app, sometimes it's not a partner app, but they've integrated themselves and it's the way it's been integrated that causes that initial server thing to come back. The other good news I can tell everybody's we're working on that with NBC all the time, right? So we have plans to basically improve that as the year goes on and constantly improve it. Mark Howes, he runs our sales teams, he's got a slightly cheesy sale expression... Sorry, Mark. Which is, "The day you buy BigCommerce is the worst the platform's ever going to be because we're always innovating, and you get those updates for free."

Richard Hill:
I like it, cheese.

Jim Herbert:
It is a nice slice of sales cheese, but it's true though. I mean, it is true. That's exactly the point. And so we are working on that time to first byte area to make sure that we are as competitive as our competitors, not surprisingly, but also to help rank everybody higher and higher and higher in Google's side. The control you have over our SEOs is really important to us because it means that the merchants have that control to get themselves up the SEO ranking. With Google constantly putting PageSpeed top, we're doing what we can to get there as well. The other thing I would say, therefore, is use things like the Lightspeed tools in Chrome and other bits and pieces to understand what elements of your page or of your site are causing the performance issues. Often it comes down to page weight.

Jim Herbert:
Years ago, when we were launching Martin Brown, we were in a race with some competitors, and I ended up working next to one of our competitors because obviously, everyone was helping everybody else. He was in Capgemini, and I was in via a different, big consultancy. Both had the same client. We were in a race to see who could get Martin Brown live before Burberry. They were working on the Burberry website. Burberry website went live. We were sat in this kind of engineering building, which quite often this... Hour away from the main headquarters, it was a terrible internet connection, and Burberry site took about 37 seconds to download the page because it was so heavy. I mean, it's not a technical problem. The problem is that they had the videos, they had the images and all that-

Richard Hill:
Imagery.

Jim Herbert:
Yeah, exactly. Over a poor internet connection that we had, I think it was 128 kilobits ISDN2 or something ridiculous, it just took a very, very long time. I think the homepage weight for that was 1.1 gig. Now obviously, that changed very quickly because you can do that, and that was the nice thing is that people had the ability to go and change that stuff. But page weight, image size. We obviously have Akamai in for our product images to resize and make that as quick as possible as part of the BC platform, but seeing the coding itself, working with people like yourselves, that's all really important.

Richard Hill:
That's great to hear. Those that obviously listen to the podcast regularly will know that as a podcast and as an agency that we just ran a couple of webinars around Core Web Vitals, which is something that is sort of going to becoming sort of a ranking factor in May. It already is sort of very much focused around core areas like site speeds. Obviously, that's very, very current Jim, I think the amount of people that maybe are still just front-loading those images, front-loading those videos and spending a lot of resources and money on their corporate videos and dropping them on the home pages or on the core landing pages, and then it's just really slowing down those pages. It's something that Google is sort of almost sort of hammering more and more. And in May, which is literally around the corner... When you listen to this now, it probably will be. It's going to be April, May. Obviously, it's great to see and great to hear that BigCommerce were already tackling that.

Richard Hill:
And I think you know the amount of sites as well. I think for the people that are listening, it must resonate that the amount of plugins that probably they've installed over the years. Oh, try that for the feeds. Oh, try that for the image compression. Well, try that for the store catalogue, or this, that and the other, whatever it may be. Well, try that for the Facebook pixel. And then they go, "We've got 14 plugins on there that we're just not using." So I think maybe pause this episode now and go to the backend of said platform, and going, "We're not using that, we're not using that, we're not using that." But obviously, be careful what you're doing there, but no doubt there's a lot of weighting there that will definitely help on that first time to byte, that site speed. Okay, fantastic. Let's move on. How can a brand create an omnichannel experience, what we say about that?

Jim Herbert:
Yeah, and so omnichannel. I remember when, I think, Deloitte trademarked it back in the day, not that they're enforcing that, but I remember when it was the big thing. Again, it was for big brands, right? And I think what's interesting is that smaller merchants have found it easier to take that on than the bigger ones have for kind of good reasons to a certain extent. If you're a very large retailer, so say Arcadia Group, that's sadly gone to the wayside. A friend of mine was their first digital director back in the early 2000s. They built this amazing architecture, it has some quite good omnichannel experiences, but it becomes a legacy system pretty quickly because you're building stuff at the very vanguard. If you want to change it, that's a lot of money, a lot of expense. Probably even quite possibly one of the reasons they have fallen to the wayside because the smaller, fast fashion guys who maybe don't need an omnichannel experience, they haven't got high street presence, could change things a lot more quickly and then more modern architecture.

Jim Herbert:
And what we've found for BigCommerce customers is that they can go out and do things like pick up in store, collect in store, or ship from store using our partner apps that we have in the app store, and come up with something that's probably more sophisticated, therefore, as a user experience than some of the bigger merchants. I mean, I noticed it myself a few years ago. This isn't a BigCommerce or Shopify thing. I don't know what the guys were using, but I could go into small shops, maybe a small harbour shop, small bike shop is a classic one for me. I'll buy from somebody who's offering it at the best price. Oh, look. They're around the corner. I can vendor collect, collect from store, buy something else while I'm in their store, get a full omnichannel experience, they know who I am at the till, so it's not a question of, "Oh, here's a different system for that." It's all integrated. Because of the power of software as a service and pre-integrated apps, they can build it that way.

Jim Herbert:
So that's what I would talk about. If you're a merchant, and you're on a SaaS platform, go and look in the app store, or work out what your experience needs to look like. It's those things I've already talked about, knowing your customer, being able to service their needs based on what they've maybe previously bought, maybe aspects of clienteling if you want to go down that route, if you're a fashion or a luxury. Again, it's always nice to know that that person came and spent X grand with you last quarter. Bikes is another good one there, right? Sure, you need a new bike, mate? It's spring. Of course, exactly. If you look around within the pre-integrated stack of the software as a service platform, you're going to find stuff in there that's going to allow you to create that experience really quickly. There'll be a cost involved, but the cost won't be integration, it will be the cost of your own business changing and the cost of those apps in particular. Go and have a conversation with those reps.

Jim Herbert:
And so I would say think about what the experience needs to be. What would you think your customers want? Go and find the tech that's pre-integrated, and then again a bit like we talked about with eCommerce, be happy to test and learn. Don't be afraid to drop bits of it. If it's not working... Omnichannel, again, back in the mid sort of 2010s, people start talking about smart mirrors and all that stuff. None of them have ever produced a return on investment. Not yet anyway. Maybe with COVID and other things, it might actually start to really work. QR codes have taken off in the past year when they were always kind of... People talk about using... And they just. It could be used to using them. QR code payments, QR code AR, pick up and clear. That is-

Richard Hill:
I think it's QR code now when you go into a bar soon, or a restaurant. QR codes have definitely had a comeback there.

Jim Herbert:
They really have. Actually, I stayed in a hotel because I live about an hour and a half away from the office. Had a night out when we were allowed last year, stayed in the hotel and they didn't even have menus in the breakfast bar in the morning. It was a QR code, it popped up, went to the website, I ordered it from my phone. That's great omnichannel experience, right? They clearly put out together with some off-the-shelf packages that did that and that's fine. It might not be perfectly what you want, but the fact you can get out there more quickly, coming back to the earlier conversation, is exactly what you need.

Richard Hill:
I think the guys listening in... I think that the word omnichannel sounds a bit scary and sounds a bit, "Oh, can't do that." The reality is that the tech and apps, plugins, etc, largely built out there have very, very low cost. So it's really understanding more, is what Jim's saying, more about your business, what your plans are, what your strategy is. But the tech is there at low cost. Somebody's already spent the 100 grand needed to get your products in X, Y, Z or on X, Y, Z to make everything work together, that technology is out there, and then some sort of thing. Okay. So we're coming to a close, Jim. Last couple of questions. Where would you say is a good place for marketers to go and sort of keep up to date with the latest trends? Where do you go, or where would you recommend?

Jim Herbert:
I tend to subscribe to all the various different marketing publications, to be honest. There's nothing wrong with a bit of curated content, where you get experts. Things like The Drum, various other internet retailing model mailing list, so that myself and that side of it. Interestingly, computing. I am a nerd. We'll come on to that for other questions, I'm sure. But you do get to understand the tech that's behind that because often sometimes tech is driving the change. More often than not, it's responding to a need from a larger team. And actually, LinkedIn.

Jim Herbert:
LinkedIn's a great area for that now because there'll be people you work with or have worked with, you might be working with competitor now, sharing their experiences, certainly with what's happened in the last 18 months with COVID. A lot of disruptions happening very quickly, and I was getting some really good advice from people who've been through it, and said, "We implemented this, and this happened." It's amazing. And so understanding that, that's what starts to cause trends ultimately. Pretty similar to the old channel, it's just all email now, isn't it? But also that social channel, that kind of social proof you get from everything.

Richard Hill:
I think you really hit the nail on the head there, where people are trying stuff out there in your industry or similar industries, but if they're on social saying, "Oh, we did that, and this worked." That probably isn't documented on a typical website, for example, but it is in a social post. For example, somebody said, "Oh, we tried this, that and the other," and then they documented it in a thread, "Oh, yeah. We've had this and we've had that." You think, "Do you know what?" You can be almost first or a very early adopter of a certain piece of tech or plugin or something that's been tested out in the market.

Richard Hill:
It's very much how we use a bit of software actually that sort of looks at trends in social or looks in social for specific sort of key phrases in terms within industries, and tries to catch them before they're trends, and then potentially from an SEO perspective, we can then write about those topics in the hope/understanding that they may become big trends in the future. So it can work on a product level as well. But brilliant. Okay, Jim. Well, I like to finish every episode with a book recommendation. If you could choose one book and recommend one book to our listeners, what would that be?

Jim Herbert:
Oh, it's difficult one this because it's sales and king of the nerds, right? I tend not to read business books. So I tend to read science fiction, to be honest with you. I will give you two books, if that's all right? From a business side, I read a book few years ago called Disrupted, by an ex-New York Times author who went to work for HubSpot, and it's an interesting book because it kind of... Certainly for one of my business partners, who are a little bit older than me, kind of reflected our experiences of being bought by a London digital agency, walking into somewhere and realizing that the new generation, if you want to call it that, or Gen Z/Millennials are very different in many ways from Gen X, like myself, or a baby boomer like my business partner.

Jim Herbert:
But enjoyable, really good fun. How can I put it? Slightly sneery, but I actually ended up having a Twitter conversation with the author and it was really good. You got to see his side of it, understood it, and it was funnier than it was annoying from that side of it. Worth a read if you're struggling with that side of it. The other thing I read, like I said, a lot of science fiction. Probably my favorite book. I'm not saying Iain M. Banks. I like Iain Banks. The books on whiskey are great as well, to be fair, but his Culture novels were always a fan. All my home network kit is named after his spaceship. Told you I'm a nerd. But actually Neal Stephenson, American author. He wrote a book called Cryptonomicon in the '90s. It was a follow-up to Snow Crash. Snow Crash was one of the very first kind of cyberpunk novels, William Gibson.

Jim Herbert:
Really liked Snow Crash. It was a great book, lots of stuff happening as they predicted them, and they're happening now, around virtual worlds, kind of Minecraft's world and the Fortnite rock concerts. He predicted all that, and I think it was '93. It became famous because he actually published an encryption algorithm, which meant that when the CD and the book came out, again, quite old, you weren't able to buy it. You weren't allowed to export from the United States because it fell foul of the NSA encryption laws that were in there at the time. It's why I heard about it. But it's a story set in two time zones, Alan Turing's a character, very prescient thing to talk about given that he'll be shortly appearing on a 50 Pound note. It's set in the Second World War. It's all about the Enigma, it's all about encryption from that side of it, but there's also a modern story that takes place, which is all about building a cryptocurrency. Again, very prescient for where we are right now, and very much worth a read.

Richard Hill:
Yeah, fantastic. We'll link them all up, both of them up in the show notes. So for the guys that are listening want to find out more about yourself, Jim, and BigCommerce, what's the best place to do that?

Jim Herbert:
Obviously, bigcommerce.co.uk. That'll get you the access. If you're in a different country, you're listening to this in somewhere else in the EMEA region, it should automatically redirect you to your site. Again, feel free to follow me on LinkedIn. We also have Instagram, Twitter, and to a certain extent, Facebook. I don't think we post quite as much on that. So I should probably end this saying, "Like and subscribe," because that's what all the videos my son watches say at the end of a YouTube clip. Also, jim.herbert@bigcommerce.com. Anyone's got any questions, feel free to send me an email and I'll happily reply.

Richard Hill:
Thanks, Jim. It's been a pleasure having you on the eCom@One Podcast. I'll speak to you soon.

Jim Herbert:
Thanks very much, Richard. It's been a pleasure for me too. Bye.

Richard Hill:
Thank you for listening to the eCom@One eCommerce podcast. If you enjoyed today's show, please hit subscribe and don't forget to sign up to our eCommerce newsletter, and leave us a review on iTunes. This podcast has been brought to you by our team here at eComOne, the eCommerce marketing agency.

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