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The 3 Most Important Tactics for Growing an eCommerce Store (Episode 108)

T.J. Gamble is the Founder and CEO of Jamersan and the personality behind eCommerceAholic, a content brand that produces educational content for the eCommerce community.

T.J’s content focuses on the technical side of eCommerce and helps cut through the marketing hype while simplifying the complexity to provide easy-to-understand and meaningful insights in an entertaining way.

His agency, Jamersan, has been working with eCommerce merchants to help them do more with their eCommerce stores for over 20 years.

Want to skyrocket your store’s growth? Get the Jamersan eCommerce Makeover Playbook Here.

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What you will learn

  • The 3 main tactics for growing an eCommerce online store
  • The importance of building communities for an online store
  • How TJ’s side hustle became his “main hustle”
  • The different types of content you should focus on for an eCommerce businesses
  • Why you should you use TikTok for your marketing
  • Why you should have your online store products in different marketplaces such as Amazon and Walmart

Transcript

Jeff Bullas

00:00:06 - 00:00:53

Hi everyone and welcome to the Jeff Bullas show. Today I have with me, TJ Gamble. Now, TJ is the Founder and CEO of Jamersan and the personality behind eCommerceAholic, a content brand that produces educational content for the e-commerce community. TJ's content focused on the technical side of e-commerce and helps cut through the marketing hype, but we're gonna try and keep it simple today, he does that while simplifying the complexity to provide easy to understand and meaningful insights in an entertaining way about e-commerce. His agency, Jamersan will be working with e-commerce merchants to help them do more with their e-commerce store for over 20 years.

So TJ has been an e-commerce man ever since e-commerce basically started. So welcome to the show, TJ. It's an absolute pleasure.

TJ Gamble

00:00:54 - 00:00:59

Hey, thanks for having me. It just makes me feel old when you know you've been doing it for as long as it existed.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:00 - 00:01:03

Well we could call you a pioneer really, couldn't we? Almost.

TJ Gamble

00:01:04 - 00:01:17

Oh yeah. You know, pioneers get arrows, settlers get land, I think is the, you know how the saying used to go. So I don't know if a pioneer is necessarily a good thing to be.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:18 - 00:01:31

What could we say? Frontier man. Yeah, okay, what else, what were the other names of those that sort of went from the east to the west and to get to or the name of in America.

TJ Gamble

00:01:31 - 00:01:42

I think pioneer is probably the right word, explorers. You know, things like that. Yeah, but most of those weren't terribly successful. So I don't know, that's probably a bad sign.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:43 - 00:01:58

So TJ, you did a degree which sort of started with Architecture and then you moved into Computer Science. Okay and that was in Alabama, is that correct?

TJ Gamble

00:01:59 - 00:02:42

Yeah, I went to Auburn here. I come from a very small town of about 200 people and so when I, when I wanted to go to college, I wanted to go somewhere fairly close to home, happened to be about an hour away. It was really before computers were a thing or at least the Internet was a real big thing, kind of the mid to late 90s, architecture was something that you could be creative but it had a technical aspect to it, you could design and then you could go build a building.

I got about two years into the program and realized it just sucked. Like it was just really abstract, there was none of the technical side. By that point, I was coming home building websites on the side anyway, so it just kinda made a smooth transition over to computer science to start building web pages.

Jeff Bullas

00:02:43 - 00:02:48

So your innate ability then was in computers essentially, is that correct?

TJ Gamble

00:02:49 - 00:03:10

Yeah, it's you know, I lucky to be blessed with a good eye, some design talent but also the technical ability. So that's why web pages were great, you could design them and then you could turn around and build them. Of course, nowadays, everybody is so specialized, very few people do the design and the development anymore.

Jeff Bullas

00:03:11 - 00:03:26

Yeah. Yeah. So you have the front end and the back end I suppose you call that. So you finished a degree, you've basically almost doing what we call a side house or building websites by the sound of it. We're getting paid for that on the side.

TJ Gamble

00:03:27 - 00:04:18

Yeah, I was doing pretty well actually. It's kind of a, I mean it's a long story but I’ll try to give the abridged version. I was trying to get a job at the university building web pages. I had some friends there and I, you know, I bothered the professor over that program for months and months and months until he finally hired me. But then he sent me to the film lab. So my job was actually scanning slides of animal experiments. I weren't, I wasn't building anything, but the film lab had the only good digital camera in the entire town.

So every e-commerce merchant that was doing any e-commerce was bringing their products to the film lab to actually have those products shot. And so I was able to network and build a network of all the local e-commerce merchants. So the first website I ever built was e-commerce and you know, just kind of escalated from there.

Jeff Bullas

00:04:19 - 00:04:27

So you just transitioned from almost what you call a side household during uni to starting a business in e-commerce, is that correct?

TJ Gamble

00:04:28 - 00:04:48

Yeah, when I graduated there were no jobs around here in e-commerce development. So either needed to move to Atlanta or the West Coast. I'm from a town of 200 people. Like I said this, this city here, which is about 30,000 votes. Biggest city I've ever lived in, I don't really want to move anywhere. So no other choice other than just to figure it out and find customers.

Jeff Bullas

00:04:49 - 00:05:18

So let's go, let's go back to that e-commerce landscape back then. Starting an online store and we had the likes of Ebay and Amazon back then were that they were sort of starting to evolve. So what was the e-commerce landscape back then? Because a lot of people don't understand what it's like. So give us a quick thumbnail sketch of what e-commerce was in 2000.

TJ Gamble

00:05:19 - 00:06:21

Yeah, it was pretty easy. It really was pretty easy. Back then you had a few search engines, Google was still kind of kind of early and dominating though but you, you had a few, I can't even remember all the search engines like Lycos and you had Yahoo! and folks like that Amazon. People weren't really selling on Amazon at that point, they were still focusing on books and their own products. So it was great. You could get customers pretty easily, like it was really easy to rank on all the search engines so you would get organic traffic, traffic was cheap, there was absolutely no competition unless you were selling, you know, some big national thing. So it was, it was pretty easy that the downside being the market was fairly limited. There just weren't, there weren't a lot of people online shopping, there weren't a lot of people that were comfortable putting their credit card into this internet thing because who knows if this is gonna be around and this person may be scamming me. So it wasn't getting customers to the site. The biggest hurdle was building trust and trying to get people to actually buy from.

Jeff Bullas

00:06:22 - 00:06:51

So were there any sort of e-commerce platforms back then? So we have BigCommerce, for example, today we've got Shopify, we've got Magento, we've got Adobe Enterprise software, it's just they're everywhere. So all these e-commerce platforms, were there any e-commerce platforms back then? It was all custom build using, you know, basically software that was used for blogging and everything else.

TJ Gamble

00:06:52 - 00:07:25

Yeah, by about 99 or 2000 when I was really getting started, there were a few. It was, it was really fragmented, there were a lot of different options. We actually started with an open source Pearl shopping cart and then transitioned into Miva Merchant, which I think is still around, still still doing business to this day. That transition to an open source PHP cart called osCommerce. That osCommerce really dominated the 2000s up until Magento launched in the late 2000s.

Jeff Bullas

00:07:26 - 00:07:54

Yeah, yeah, I used to work for an agency that actually did Magento and it was sort of like one of the e-commerce platforms of choice back in 2009, 2010 and maybe into the teens of the 2000s. So what has happened since then that makes it so much easier to start an online store? What's, how is the software e-commerce industry changed to what it looks like today?

TJ Gamble

00:07:55 - 00:08:54

It's basically the SAS-ification of e-commerce, right? Everything needs to be a SAS platform these days, which is software as a service. Back then it was all open source, you go online, you download the code, you install it, it's yours for better or worse it's yours. Nowadays you've got really Shopify is obviously the, you know, the big player in that space, the one that made SAS extremely popular but there were softwares before that, you know, evolution and different platforms that dabbled in SAS and had some success. So now you have a lot of options, you know, BigCommerce is as another name that comes to mind that we support, that really is a platform that is fully supported, fully managed by the platform themselves. So you don't have hosting, you don't have these different things, you pay a monthly fee and you have access to it and that really alleviates a lot of the technical burden that can weigh customers down, way merchants down.

Jeff Bullas

00:08:55 - 00:09:28

Yeah, because the challenges with software especially in the past was you know, there's a lot of moving parts but there still are a lot of moving parts. But what the trouble was that you had to manage all those individual moving parts when you brought the software loaded on your computer or had to get it hosted, then you actually then had to manage the hosting and there was an issue then you actually had to manage the payment gateways, then you actually had to get products, photos of products taken. So what's happening is it's become a much more managed service, is that correct?

TJ Gamble

00:09:29 - 00:11:03

Yeah. Back in the day, you know, when you were, when the web was early, most web masters, web people were technical, they were developers, they all gravitated towards these open source platforms and it was fine because you had those resources. Nowadays, the hard part of e-commerce is marketing, so so many more people are marketing focused. They're not technical. And so when you give them access to tools they don't really benefit as much from the technical complexity and technical overhead and it actually slows them down. It's like if you, you know, obviously this is a topic that is applicable to me, but if I need to lose a little weight, right. The easy thing is I need to eat less and I need to go to the gym.

But what a lot of people do when it comes to e-commerce is they want all the power they could possibly have with an open source platform. So that's like building a gym next door. I go through construction, I build a gym, I put a bunch of stuff, a bunch of equipment in there and it's great because I've got a gym next door but now I gotta mop the floors, I've gotta sweep it, I've gotta mow the grass, I've got to maintain that equipment that I have, that I have bought and and that's a lot like open source software, you get all the, you could, you know pick and choose everything you want, you can get it exactly like you want it.

But it comes with that tax that overhead of maintaining it, whereas SAS really alleviates all of those needs and allows you as a merchant to focus on the business at hand and actually trying to grow the business.

Jeff Bullas

00:11:03 - 00:11:28

Yeah, I think that's a great analogy, in other words, the technical back end if you like and all the moving parts technical that you need to manage. You need basically a lot of the stuff too is you need to update the software, you need to make sure that interfaces with that and you can spend all your time doing that in the meantime, no one knows you exist because you haven't done any marketing because you've been tied up with the technicalities.

TJ Gamble

00:11:28 - 00:11:32

Exactly, and if you're not doing it yourself, your money is tied up with the technicalities.

Jeff Bullas

00:11:32 - 00:11:51

That's right. Exactly. So the cost of starting a need of online store. So I think BigCommerce starts from just a few dollars a week, isn't it? I think I just don't know the exact number. What's the sort of starting point for a BigCommerce?

TJ Gamble

00:11:51 - 00:12:09

It's next to nothing. I think it might be, you know, less than $20 a month or something like that. You know really most of the customers we work with are going to be on their enterprise plan, which is you know, hundreds of dollars and up, but you can get started for next to nothing.

Jeff Bullas

00:12:09 - 00:12:40

So the main thing I wanted to concentrate on today was you've just helped a customer and you start, you did a series of it, I think 12 videos that goes into the transition of the journey of a customer moving from a I suppose custom built self hosted site e-commerce to a BigCommerce platform. Tell us about that customer and the journey and from day one.

TJ Gamble

00:12:42 - 00:14:38

Yeah, it's interesting because it applies to what we've been talking about here. This customer was a small business, they had a retail store, they sold on Amazon in different places. They had a website that was not terribly successful but making a little bit of money. They sold at state fairs and festivals. Covid hit, shut all of their actual in person business down, their stores shut down, all of the fairs and festivals were gone for nearly two years, which was half of their revenue. And so they were able to, because they had all this free time and no stores to manage, they were able to double down on their e-commerce, start putting a lot of effort into trying to grow that and they tripled their business which took it from tiny to a decent sized business with some complexity, but they started pushing the limits of their e-commerce platform. They had an outdated, unsupported Magento one site. And so they didn't want to invest in fixing it and continuing to upgrade and patch it because it was, you know, no longer supported by Magento. Now everything has to be Magento too. And they wanted to add new functionality and do all of these things and it was just going to be expensive to do. So they contacted us and we went through the process of moving them over to BigCommerce, a SAS platform, really focusing on automation and freeing up a lot of their time by adding different tools and features to the site. So we cut down on their customer support inquiries through automation. We gave them tools so that they instead of spending 10 or 15 minutes fixing those problems they could spend two or three and we did a lot of things to improve the business and then we took the additional money in time that we freed up to add the new functionality that they wanted to the site like subscriptions and loyalty programs and all of those things to drive more revenue.

Jeff Bullas

00:14:39 - 00:14:47

And so because they've moved to BigCommerce which they look after all the hosting that became a lot more scalable, didn't they?

TJ Gamble

00:14:48 - 00:15:09

They did become a lot more scalable but also the small team that they had now had a lot more free time. And so instead of focusing all of that time on just keeping the site together, they're now able to spend that time on actually growing and doing better, which is going to, you know, continue to take them to that next level.

Jeff Bullas

00:15:10 - 00:15:42

So let's talk about that then. So for an e-commerce merchant, online store, what are some of the most important things you need to consider from a marketing perspective? Now, we've talked a little bit about content marketing before we left on the mark on the camera. So can you tell us essentially some of the most important things if you want to get attention for your store and increase your conversions and get sales? What are some of the most important things you need to consider from a marketing and marketing point of view?

TJ Gamble

00:15:43 - 00:17:07

This may vary a little bit, depending on the business type, but for most businesses right now in this landscape, what you have to be focusing on is building community because you've got Facebook ads that are getting less and less effective with the iOS banneds. You're getting more and more competition as more businesses flood into the market, SEO is getting harder and harder. And so what you really have to do is understand that you need to build loyalty, you need to really work with the customers that you are obtaining and try to turn them into long term, you know, ongoing customers. That's the single most important thing because your cost of acquisition is just going to continue to increase. The other thing I would probably advocate for is making sure you set aside enough free time to try new things because attention is always cheapest on new platforms. So TikTok right now, that's pretty cheap attention. Now, it's getting more and more competitive because everyone's flooding over there from Facebook. But if you had been on TikTok a year ago, you could have built a million followers pretty easy. So it's try new things and really focused on, you know, customer retention.

Jeff Bullas

00:17:07 - 00:17:49

So we mentioned TikTok, but there's also the bigger players that have been, in the edge, TikTok introduces like 15 seconds, 30 seconds videos with people dancing to music themes and doing crazy shit. So, but now as it's growing up, as you said, it's evolving. But there's some competitors to TikTok, which can be used for marketing as well that have been that of leptin and going, let's do what TikTok is doing and basically copy exactly what they're doing almost. So what are some of those platforms that e-commerce merchants should maybe consider as well?

TJ Gamble

00:17:50 - 00:18:37

Yeah, I don't know any right off the top of my head. There, there are a few, but everybody's copying what TikTok is doing, right. YouTube has their Shorts, should be trying Shorts because not everyone's doing that. Instagram is moving toward more short form video. And on the flipside, TikTok is moving toward longer video. They went from, you know, 60 seconds to three minutes now you can upload 10 minute videos on TikTok. I don't know how that's gonna work or if anybody's gonna watch them. But it's, it's worth trying. Now you're going to make some mistakes. You're going to pick up one of these auxiliary platforms and you're gonna invest a bunch of time into it and it's gonna fold, it's gonna happen. But you know, if you're continuing to try, you're gonna, you're gonna strike out every once in a while, but you're gonna hit a few home runs as well.

Jeff Bullas

00:18:38 - 00:19:42

So we've talked about, you know, Facebook Ads getting more expensive. It's getting harder also to do search engine optimization as essentially Google keeps changing its algorithms almost every week. Well, in fact, it's just an evolution of algorithms all the time. They do some major updates. In other words, trying to rank and there's more competition. There's many more people online compared to 20 years ago, 10 years ago. So and we also talked about community, but what the other thing we maybe would like to touch on too is the importance of content for an e-commerce merchant online store and so the company that you helped move from a Magento one legacy system essentially to a latest and greatest software as a service, BigCommerce platform that takes a lot of the burden off them maintaining the technical side of it, allows you to concentrate on the marketing. What's the importance of content for merchants? And you've helped this company, which is Bulk Candy Store.

So how’s, how would you use, how do they use content? Because it's about candy, which is, you know, what you put in your mouth. So how do you create content for that sort of store? And also how do you create community for that sort of store?

TJ Gamble

00:19:43 - 00:21:30

Yeah, I think content is key to community. And so the first thing we did for them is really focused on user-generated content and we did that by setting up a loyalty and a review system that incentivizes maybe longer form reviews. So reviews that have videos, reviews that have photos associated with them. So user-generated content is one way and that you could then use to create social media posts really increase engagement from, from that perspective. But they've also began working on platforms like TikTok, short form video content, building an audience there. I think they've had a few videos now, get over a million views on TikTok.

They've been able to leverage a lot of trends from other people's content, tap into a trend if that trend is candy related and drive a lot of traffic to their website that way. And then we'll start, you know, working on other things. Newsletters and different things where you can regularly engage with your audience that's, you know, intrigued or interested in your products for them, they sell a lot of nostalgia candy. So candy that, you know, bit of honeys or things that people had as a kid that you can't go to a convenience store and get. And so that's a passionate audience that you could really create a lot of content around, you know, the history of this candy or why it went away or those types of things and share that to that audience and build that loyalty.

Jeff Bullas

00:21:31 - 00:22:07

So you're building community for in other words, people quite often come for the content in terms of, but stay for community, in other words, you're building communities where people share their videos, the user-generated content, which is a very, it's a cheaper way to correct content because content creation is actually a very expensive exercise and very time consuming. So where are you building, where you found success building communities? Is it their own community site, like on a Facebook group, or is it more building communities on the different social platforms?

TJ Gamble

00:22:09 - 00:23:43

It is easiest where there's already attention. And so if you go to Facebook, if you go to YouTube or TikTok or any place that people spend time, it's obviously easier to engage with them there and you should, you shouldn't try to spend too much effort converting people from one platform to another. And so if you're, if you're creating content for Facebook, create it for facebook and then you can repurpose content. So if you create a YouTube video that can often times be a Facebook video as well, but you don't want to try to just share your content from YouTube over to Facebook, you want to upload it natively. You want to make sure it's in a format that's good for them there. But, you know, when you're building on a social platform, you're building on rented land that you don't control that. You don't control what they do, you don't control how long they're gonna be around. And so if you don't directly control the relationship with your audience, then someone else owns your business. It's kind of the same for Amazon, right? If you're only selling on Amazon, you don't own your business, Amazon does, and so they're just allowing you to be there and they can cut you off at any time, and you wanna you wanna try to engage with those customers and try to work them into newsletters in different ways and try to, you know, promote some of your other platforms to, you know, at least diversify your risk a little bit, but just know that you need to be natively engaging with them on each platform and you need to try to diversify it as much as possible.

Jeff Bullas

00:23:44 - 00:23:56

So with BigCommerce, what are some of the different sort of content, I suppose features they do, they obviously have a blog feature, I suppose.

TJ Gamble

00:23:57 - 00:25:17

Yeah, they've got a nice page builder. It used to be, what was it 10 years ago, most e-commerce platforms had terrible content management, and so you would have to have Wordpress or something like that, and then the e-commerce site, you might throw them on a subdomain, you might try to integrate them, but it was it was really complicated, really difficult. So, BigCommerce has some nice content management capabilities, if you really want to go robust, they actually have a headless integration with Wordpress. So you could do Wordpress and, you know, do your e-commerce through BigCommerce or some other platform, WooCommerce or something if you want to. We typically recommend for merchants that are serious about e-commerce though, that the storefront, the e-commerce portion be the portion that someone lands on first and content is secondary to that, like the most important thing for you is to sell if it's reverse, if you're, you know, if it's reverse and your most important thing is get people on your page and you can add and you kind of sell a little stuff on the side. Sure. You know, put Wordpress first tie in Woo tie in the head list but for most folks, e-commerce first use the tools and BigCommerce, there's some plug ins like Shogun that add even more capabilities to BigCommerce from a content management perspective. So you you have quite a few options.

Jeff Bullas

00:25:18 - 00:25:55

Yeah, I've been dealing with content since 2000 and I'm gonna launched my website and blog and it was a lot easier to actually get attention back then because the algorithms are easier for Google search and it continues to get harder, so let's go leapt back into the Bulk Candy Store story, you've done a series of 12 videos on that and you would touch on a range of topics. What were some of the challenges along the way that you and the customer learned that you could share with the audience?

TJ Gamble

00:25:57 - 00:28:47

Most of his problems were fairly simple actually that's what's, you know, so concerning about it for a small business. It is really difficult sometimes to see the forest for the trees and so you've got these very simple problems but you're stuck in a platform and all your attention is going to maintaining. For him, he had problems with dimensional shipping. That was one of the biggest issues. He sells popcorn and popcorn is huge and it weighs next to nothing. But he couldn't get dimensional shipping right. So he was charging customers two or three times what the actual shipping costs should be. Now, when they checked out, he would, when he actually shipped it he would go refund them and it would work out. But how many people got to that shipping charge and saw that it was $80 or $100 and then just left. So there's no telling how much business he lost from that. That was a big problem that, you know, on BigCommerce plugin ShipperHQ. That's an easy fix. It. It literally took 15 minutes to fix that problem. But he had that problem, customer support was difficult and so he really, there's only a few things you need to focus on an e-commerce business. 1. How many new customers can you get? 2. How often can you get them to buy from you? and 3. How much are they buying each time? That's it. Every other metric filters down to those. And so we, we really worked on a plan to try to address all of those metrics. He was getting pretty good customers, you know, customers to the site but he was converting at less than 1% and so why is that? Well it's, it's shipping, it's transparency of, of shipping estimates. So hey this, if you buy this today, it's gonna arrive Thursday.

So having that level of transparency gets people to, to check out a little little, you know, a few more percentage points on your checkout. Having different payment options, sometimes people want to pay with Paypal, sometimes they want to use a credit card. So having those different options are gonna increase your conversion, having the site faster so that they can get through it. Increasing search like search is a big problem. Most people are going to download a platform or by platform, even BigCommerce, which I love. The search is not incredibly robust on that and if people can't find what they're looking for, they're gonna bounce, they're not, they're not gonna stick around and big for the products, especially on mobile. And so tying in with a partner like Liviu to increase the search and make sure you've got synonyms and all these things to make it easy for people to buy. That's really the heart of a good user experience and user experience is all about driving conversion rates.

Jeff Bullas

00:28:47 - 00:29:17

Absolutely. So I love the simplicity of basically there's only three things you need to do. You need to get, increase the number of customers, need to actually get them to come back more often and also increase how much they buy. It's really those three things. Now, Bulk Candy Store, they are selling to other candy stores, is that correct? So is that a B2B or not?

TJ Gamble

00:29:17 - 00:29:59

Not exactly. Now what we were working on the majority of their business is B2C. It sounds like a B2B business, Bulk Candy Store but what they do and they do some B2B. But not near as much as they do on the B2C side. But what they do is they buy candy in bulk and then they break it into smaller packages and resell it. And what that allows them to do is you know have better pricing, they can get access to a lot of nostalgic candies that other places can't carry because you just have to buy so much of it to be able to acquire those products. So there's some advantage in the bulk side. The name is not one of those advantages. You know it's a little confusing.

Jeff Bullas

00:29:59 - 00:30:20

Well that's why I asked if it's like Bulk Candy Store. Okay they must be a wholesaler. No, they're not but that's fine. So what are some of the, you obviously help people make more money out of the e-commerce stores or actually start e-commerce stores. That's really the two core things you do, is that correct?

TJ Gamble

00:30:21 - 00:31:20

Well, typically we don't help people start businesses. It's one of those things where we like working with small merchants and so most of our customers that start with us are 20 million in online revenue or less. Typically that's going to start at around $1 million dollars in in online revenue when they come work, you know with someone like us and it's not because we don't like working with smaller retailers than that, but the talent that we have on our team unfortunately comes with a price tag and so you really need to figure it out and get to to the million or so in sales before the finance is starting to make sense to engage with an agency like ours. So to help merchants smaller than that, that's why we create content like we did with Bulk Candy Store.

So we were, you know, typically not going to work with someone that's just getting started, but we try to provide content that is accessible to them to help them throughout that journey.

Jeff Bullas

00:31:21 - 00:31:27

So one of your, one of the big services you offer is helping them create content, is that correct? And strategies for that?

TJ Gamble

00:31:28 - 00:31:56

Yeah, we can. Typically, content if it's going to be done well, it's going to be internally driven. It's really hard to have someone else create content around products because you have to ship them the products you have to, you know, it's just expensive and so we firmly believe that you need to hire someone internally to help with content. But we absolutely strategize with them. What platforms are your customers on figuring that out, figuring out a strategy to try to reach them.

Jeff Bullas

00:31:56 - 00:32:22

Right, okay. So what, in terms of your what you're discovering in the e-commerce landscape, how many people are still or e-commerce stores still sort of stuck on legacy systems and need to transition to the newer systems like and software as a service platforms like BigCommerce, how many, how many people are still having their online stores in legacy systems?

TJ Gamble

00:32:24 - 00:34:00

Well, you know when you say legacy systems, most of the people who own those legacy systems wouldn't consider them legacy systems. So I guess we would have to start with the definition of what a legacy system is. Right.

Everybody on balloon evolution thinks their system is just fine even though I don't, so it's especially their V1 which has been around forever and they haven't updated it in probably, I don't know five or six years at least. Magento 1 is a legacy system. I think everyone would agree with that just because Magento themselves now owned by Adobe no longer support the first version of the platform, you have to be on 2, 3 or later for them to support it. And so that's, that's a legacy system. There are still a lot of merchants on that platform. They have a significantly customized site, they're not ready to reinvest or they were just happy with what they had. Miva has been around forever. They're still actively developing on it. So it's that legacy, you know, it's been around for 20 something years, so probably, but it's still an active development, they still, they're still acquiring new customers to this day. So there are a lot of, I would still say probably the majority of of e-commerce is on open source platforms if that's what you mean by legacy. So that that legacy architecture WooCommerce is the biggest platform in the world I think by, by number of merchants and that's, that's an open source platform that's been around for quite some time.

Jeff Bullas

00:34:01 - 00:34:14

Because I suppose the challenge for everyone is, if you're moving to a new platform, the transitioning to it, migration is the term software people use. Migrating it to a new platform is quite a lot of work, isn't it?

TJ Gamble

00:34:16 - 00:36:20

It can be, yes, so it needs to have a return right, there's no sense in doing it just for fun. If you're not going to be able to improve something. Yeah, it's not it's not it's not that, I mean I enjoy it, but it's not that fun for you to spend that much money and that much time and effort to do it. So you really need to be on a platform that's not getting it done for you anymore. And what usually gets people is one of two things either you're on a platform, I guess one of three things you're either on a platform that's no longer supported, so you're, you know, PCI risk or you're you're concerned with that to the platform, you have just won't allow you to do what you needed to do.

Your business has grown and you want to accomplish something that this platform won't allow you to do or three, you don't have good third-party support. Back when I started there was no third-party support, we just built everything. You needed a piece of functionality, you just wrote it, that's what you had to do. And so you either had the money to accomplish it or you didn't. The problem with that is that that functionality was never as robust as it could have been. If someone had focused on that small subset of need and built a platform that a lot of different merchants were going to use, but that's where we're at now with SAS, so people start doing email marketing and they build platforms to do it really well.

I remember I wrote the first email marketing platform that a customer used. I wouldn't even imagine doing that today. And so you end up on a platform that just doesn't, it's not super popular. There's not a lot of really active merchants or a lot of new merchants coming to it. And so the third party support is not there and that means that you have to then write those tools or do without. And so a migration might be in your best interest there to a platform that you know, like BigCommerce or Shopify or an Adobe-commerce that has a vibrant ecosystem so that you can leverage all of those tools and not have to write that stuff yourself or write the integrations custom.

Jeff Bullas

00:36:20 - 00:37:00

Yeah, especially yeah, years ago it was all about, you basically had to build everything else from scratch with a combination of tools, whereas today those tools are embedded in the platform, it's in the cloud that makes it so much easier. So you've been in this game a long time and we won't use the word pioneer. Um, What's, what do you see some of the big things for the future for e-commerce that you think are coming in the next 10 years or so that you think to keep an eye on?

TJ Gamble

00:37:01 - 00:38:20

The next 10 years are going to be about, probably two things. You'll probably hear a term called Headless, if you start doing a lot of e-commerce researchers spend a lot of time in this game. So Headless with were basically all of your e-commerce is kind of API driven in the back end, we won't get too technical on that, but you know, from a marketing perspective, it is just going to continue to be dozens of different marketplaces that you need to sell on. And so integrations are going to be the most important thing and feeding your data into a lot of different places because it's getting harder and harder to get customers directly to your website. You still want to try to do that, but selling on Amazon and Walmart and you know, Etzy. And just any, any place that pops up is going to continue to be important. I think livestream shopping is going to continue to grow. So basically like QVC for social media, we're already seeing it in China in a lot of different places. I think those are gonna be the biggest hurdles that businesses have to overcome. Managing all of the data and trying to, you know, engage with their audience in a community building fashion through live streaming.

Jeff Bullas

00:38:20 - 00:38:30

So, livestream shopping basically where it's very experiential type of experience, you say that is quite a biggie.

TJ Gamble

00:38:31 - 00:38:41

Okay, I think it could be a big advantage right now, I would, I would be, if I were a merchant, I would be looking into it if I thought my audience would be responsive to it,

Jeff Bullas

00:38:42 - 00:38:50

Would that tend to be a younger audience then. So if in other words, if you're dealing in like under 40s or you think it's just right across the board pretty well, these days.

TJ Gamble

00:38:51 - 00:39:46

Mostly for the most part, I would think it would be a female driven audience. I think fashion tends to do really well, a product that you can display and really drive some hype around. So like Bulk Candy Store, where we're talking about candy probably not so much, right? Like that's probably not a business that's going to do extremely well on live streaming, but you're seeing a lot of people who were selling, you know, a lot of these kind of, for lack of a better term, these pyramid scheme style sales tactics, you know, a lot of, a lot of products that were, that were driven through that way, so a lot of women's fashion, a lot of skincare and different things like that. Those are doing really well right now with live streams. I haven't seen like a male dominated product or a male focused product do really well yet, but somebody will figure that out.

Jeff Bullas

00:39:46 - 00:40:58

Yeah, I'm sure they will, but you only have to walk into a, basically a big shopping center and count how many menswear stores there are compared to women's, where it's there might be 1 to 10 if you're lucky, or it might even be a menswear store in the actual shopping center and some of the smaller ones, so just to wrap it up, TJ, what are some of the top tips that you could share in terms of if you want to grow your online store? Make it more robust, whatever. But what are some of the top tips you've learned in your 20 plus years of e-commerce and also the latest evolution of e-commerce platforms and also your experience in helping, you know, like the Bulk Candy Store site transition to a more robust scalable platform, BigCommerce.

What are some of the, what's two or three top tips you'd like to share with our audience to help them what they need to be really looking at if they want to grow their online store and also make it more robust and easier. Any tips in any of those areas?

TJ Gamble

00:40:59 - 00:41:51

Yeah, don't overcomplicate it, Keep it simple. Try to figure out where your attention is going, where your resources that you have now being spent and try to alleviate those pressure points. So automation, is there a tool we can bring in to fix these issues? Is there a different platform that maybe wouldn't take up as much of our time and focus and money and then leverage those to leverage that time and focus and and money to then try to focus on revenue generating activities. And those activities are increasing customer lifetime value through loyalty building community and and obviously exploring and experimenting on low cost attention areas, like new platforms or, or social media.

Jeff Bullas

00:41:53 - 00:42:46

Alright, I think some, some wise tips there from decades of pain and learning and it looks like you've done a great job helping people take away the pain of it because you know what you're doing, you're an expert, your team is an expert, and basically your job is to simplify it, make it easier for them so they can concentrate what they do best, which is marketing their products.

TJ, it has been an absolute pleasure to have you on the show and the evolution of software continues. The evolution of online stores continue. And the tips that you shared with regarding the future, I thought were excellent and, and maybe some people will need to Google what Headless really means. They might, they might come up.

TJ Gamble

00:42:46 - 00:42:48

Don’t worry about it, it'll find you when you're ready for it.

Jeff Bullas

00:42:49 - 00:42:52

So thanks, TJ. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you on the show.

TJ Gamble

00:42:53 - 00:42:54

I appreciate you having me.