Thea Earl of Shopify Business Development interviewed by VL for 7 questions on ecommerce and supply chain data integration

7 Questions eCommerce and Supply Chain Data Integration: Thea Earl


 The 7 Questions Interview Series: eCommerce and Supply Chain Data Integration

The 7 Questions Interview Series: eCommerce and Supply Chain Data Integration “The 7 Question Series” is an investigative content series where we seek out key leaders in a specific industry and/or subject matter expertise area and ask them 7 key questions that “enquiring minds want to know”. There is a twist however to these questions. We provide the person being interviewed with a hypothesis for each question. This helps to frame and set context for their answer.

eCommerce and Supply Chain Data Integration Series Objectives:

eCommerce and Supply Chain Data Integration Series Objectives: The objective of the ecommerce series is to establish direct connections with eCommerce experts across the globe and ask them the same set of 7 questions regarding e-commerce data integration in the supply chain. We want to derive insights from their direct experiences and expertise that will help e-commerce companies, both B2B and B2C at all stages of their evolution. We are also curious to see if their answers are similar or different. These interviews will be featured on this website as a series.

Interview with Thea Earl, Business Development Manager, Shopify

About Thea Earl

thea_earl_shopifyThea is a Business Development manager at Shopify, aligning key technology partners in the software as service space. Since joining Shopify two years ago, Thea has been involved with multiple referral and reseller partnerships spanning North America, the UK, and Asia Pacific. Prior to Shopify, Thea focused on digital strategy for lululemon athletica and earned a BAH from Queen’s University in Health Studies. In her spare time she enjoys running along the canal in downtown Ottawa, which is partially fuelled by her unyielding love of chocolate.

The Interview:

Robin Smith: Recent statistics tell us that close to 50% of consumers do not buy online. Why do you think that’s the case?

Thea: Rather than wonder why more people aren’t shopping online, I’m more inclined to marvel at the fact that over half of consumers now shop online. Less than 1% of the population was using the internet in 1995, and now twenty years later, over 80% of Canadians are online. I’d prefer to pose the question – will this number ever reach 100%?

Probably not, but it’s interesting to think about. Barriers like accessibility and age play a role in adopting online shopping, and there will always be an element of retail shopping – it’ll just evolve to focus on the experience rather than a deal. The current shift we’re experiencing in online shopping is mobile; already half of those consumers shopping online do so on a smartphone. 1.75 billion have a smartphone – it’s only a matter of time when these mobile shoppers will surpass desktop.

Robin Smith: Only 10% of Canadians plan to do their holiday shopping online in 2014 compared to 44% in Britain. Why do you think there is such a large margin?

Thea: Compared to the US, there are far fewer Canadian retailers online and as a result, almost 70% of Canadians are expected to buy from retailers located outside of Canada. Shipping and taxes tend to be higher for Canadian consumers, which may be attributed to the sheer size of Canada versus Britain (Britain has double the people in a space that’s as large as a quarter of Ontario!). Specific to holiday shopping, 20% of Canadians said they plan to cross the border and shop in the US, drawn in by deals and the wide selection. It may only be 10% forecasted for 2014, but compared to previous years, online spending has more than doubled in the past 5 years. This 10% also doesn’t account for the number of consumers who may have perused online prior to going in a shop to make a purchase.

Robin Smith: In our experience very few ecommerce sites integrate their systems and data making it impossible to scale and putting customer service and relationships at risk. Why is that?

Thea: Building a website from scratch is difficult if you are not a developer. Most ecommerce platforms focus on making it easy to customize the “look” of a website at a low cost, leaving more technical integrations as a lower priority. Compiling product, inventory and customer data requires more technical development, which can be more expensive to not only build, but then display in a way that makes sense to the retailer. Shopify accommodates small and large retailers by offering built-in reporting features and more sophisticated integrations via the Shopify App Store.

Robin Smith: In your view are online retailers and sites leveraging their transactional data strategically? Are they making good use of their data to make strategic decisions and generate more revenue?

Thea: The first hurdle is getting retailers online, and then being profitable online. Larger retailers have resources to have an online team, and the budget for marketing (ie. Google AdWords). SMBs (1-10 employees) typically don’t have the bandwidth (time or money) to spend on marketing, even though it’s likely to pay off in the long run. This is where data and CRM integrations like Maps BI and Vantage Analytics are incredibly useful for smaller retailers. With easy to use interfaces, budget tracking and conversions, retailers are able to make quick decisions that improve their business.

Robin Smith: What are the key differences and similarities when it comes to B2B and B2C ecommmerce?

Thea: Speed, integrations, reliability, scalability and ease of use are all important adjectives for both B2B and B2C ecommerce. For B2C, customer experience is crucial. Part of customer experience is speed and ease of use, etc., but extra perks like loyalty programs and personalized shopping are proven to ensure repeat customers. Just think, how important do you feel when the local barista remembers your name and order?

Robin Smith: What’s next for ecommerce? Where do you see things headed?

Thea: First, drop the “e” from ecommerce – online and offline retail is becoming increasingly synonymous. The world is moving, charging rather, to mobile. Smartphone penetration has already hit one out of four people worldwide and is expected to continue to skyrocket. This past August, more than half of the traffic to Shopify stores was from smartphones and tablets versus desktop!

It’s interesting to watch the era of the entrepreneur unfold. Now there are many websites that offer to build your ecommerce store. The technology for a DIY website is much more saturated than five years ago. Now that there are so many businesses online, what sets ecommerce platforms apart is how successful those businesses are. Shopify is known for supporting successful entrepreneurs, in initiatives like Shopify’s Build a Business Competition and through our Shopify Partner network. Not only are Shopify merchants successful, Shopify Partners are too – like Bold Apps, which grew to a 40-person team in only 2 years, and Lettuce Apps (once a Shopify app, bought by Intuit for 30M earlier this year).

Robin Smith: How involved and active is the C-suite in developing an ecommerce strategy and monitoring the success of ecommerce sales?

Thea: In my experience, this entirely depends on a) the size of the business, and b) the type of business it is. At Shopify, our customer base is primarily made up of SMBs  – smaller businesses with 1-5 employees. At this size, the C-suite is very much involved in every aspect of the business, particularly ecommerce, as they may not have the budget to have someone else do it. This is another reason why the Shopify App Store is so crucial – third-party integrations make it easier for up-and-coming entrepreneurs to manage their business and be successful.

Thea’s Social Outposts Twitter | Linkedin | Shopify Blog

About Shopify

At Shopify, we help emerging small businesses get off the ground and grow into successful companies. We do this by creating great technology and by making it accessible to people that previously wouldn’t be able to afford it. We are a team of highly dedicated individuals who share two things: a passion for problem-solving, and a commitment to excellence.

Shopify was founded in 2006 by Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand and Scott Lake. The user-friendly platform garnered rave reviews right off the bat, drawing accolades from TechCrunch, The New York Times and Fast Company. Shopify has received $122 million in Series A, B and C funding from OMERS Ventures, Insight Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, FirstMark Capital, Felicis Ventures, and Georgian Partners.

Today, Shopify powers over 120,000 online retailers including General Electric, Amnesty International, CrossFit, Tesla Motors, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Foo Fighters, GitHub, and more. Our platform lets users easily and quickly create their own online store, without all the technical work involved in developing their own website, or the huge expense of having someone else build it.

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