E-commerce Innovation with Jay Myers of Bold Commerce | Soar Payments LLC

E-commerce Innovation with Jay Myers of Bold Commerce

There is no reason why an online shopping experience needs to work like a brick-and-mortar store, so why have we worked so hard to mimic that process? Jay Myers, Co-founder of Bold Commerce, joins us to discuss the power of empowering brands to explore the endless ways to approach customized checkout experiences.

Payments & Fintech Insights In This Episode

  • Why direct search customers have a higher tolerance for upsells.
  • The importance of simplifying the checkout experience for the user.
  • The revenue impact of one-click checkout experiences (for better or worse).
  • The importance of AB and split testing on checkout processes.
  • And so much more!

Episode Transcript

Heather: Hi, everyone. Welcome to “PayPod.” I’m your host, Heather Bodie, and today, we’re going to be talking about e-commerce solutions. Joining me is Jay Myers, co-founder of Bold Commerce, a software development company that provides industry-leading e-commerce solutions for the world’s most innovative brands. Jay, welcome to the show.

Jay: Hey, thank you for having me. Honored to be here.

Heather: So start us off by telling us about you. Give us a little bit of an idea of your background and what brought you into fintech. How did you get where you are today?

Jay: Sure, I’ll give the condensed version. So I’ve been in e-commerce since 1998. I was 18 years old, had a family business, decided to put the store online. But this was a very different time in ’98, built the store with Microsoft FrontPage. There was really…platforms that exist today didn’t exist back then. But fast forward in 2009, I put one of the stores, we ended up building out a lot of brands, put one of them on this kind of new platform called Shopify, no one had really heard of it yet. The store that I put on was store number 4000 and something, one of the employees told me one time that…because they were just getting started.

But they had this concept of an app store, which, at the time, was really new. You know, now we’re kind of used to software having app stores, it’s pretty common. But at the time, every e-commerce platform just was baking in every feature they could. Shopify took a bit of a different approach and they had an app store, they were the first one that did it. So I remember looking at it just like a kid in a candy store, even though there was only, like, 20 apps, but thinking, “Oh my goodness, there’s all these things I wanted to do for our own stores.”

So we built an app. The very, very first app was a simple app, it just did upsells. It was, like, you click add to cart and a pop-up would appear and say, “Hey, you’re buying a leather jacket. Would you like the leather treatment kit or some complementary product?” It took off, it did really well, and merchants loved it. So then we said, “Okay, well, let’s maybe turn this…” There was four of us, myself and three others. We were all friends, two developers, I’ve had the e-commerce background and one was a designer, so it was kind of a good mix.

So we took off building apps and we just took off building different solutions. In around 2000, everything from loyalty points apps to membership programs to subscription solutions to, like, we, at one point, had 30 different apps. We’ve actually scaled down, got more focused, so now we have about 13 live on Shopify.

But really the core of our focus is around 2017, we started to realize we also had this kind of agency side of our business where we would do custom work for brands. And a really common thing that we had to do was we kept building checkouts for large brands because they would have some complexity in the checkout that they couldn’t solve and sometimes it was… The first custom checkout we ever built was for Time Life, they sold DVDs and they had this model of five easy payments of 1999. They wanted to have a way to authorize credit cards, vault it, charge it, keep track of it, a bit of a dunning process where if their credit cards don’t go through, keep trying.

So that was the first one, then we built one for a company called Chef’d in New York. They do meal delivery and they wanted to have a way to create saved credit card profiles so that when someone was placing a meal order, they could pick from one family member’s profile or a different family member’s profile. So we built that, then another one, and then eventually, we kind of got to a point where we thought we should build a checkout as a platform. First, it was to speed up our development time so that each time someone needed a custom checkout, we kind of had this base to work off, but the long-term goal was that other developers would be able to use it and brands to create really any kind of custom checkout experience they want.

So that was 2017 and we spent four or five years really developing it, and now today we power checkout for some of the biggest brands in the world. We power it for Staples, for Pepsi, Vera Bradley up in Canada, Harry Rosen, which…and I think, I’m sure they’re down in the States, but for a lot of brands. So our checkout, we have a custom checkout that any e-commerce brand can use, you can use them with major platforms or it can just be…we’re actually noticing more and more brands often want to build these one-off checkout experiences coming directly from social, which maybe we’ll probably get into a little bit. But this whole concept of going to a store, shopping, a catalog, products, adding to a cart, going to cart, going to checkout, potentially abandoning it, there’s all these steps versus going from a social click directly into a checkout experience. A lot of brands are using it for kind of flows like that.

So there’s the checkout and we have a subscription engine, and we have a price rules engine. And then the three together in a nutshell, allow brands to create any custom checkout experience they pretty much can imagine. Sorry, I don’t know if that was a Coles Notes version or if I…but that’s where we are today.

Heather: That was wonderful. It’s so easy from a consumer standpoint. As someone who… I talk to people who work in payments, but I don’t directly myself work in payments on a day-to-day basis. And so, I was just noticing while you were talking, how easy it is, even though I am close to the industry, to have…I just take it for granted that this one pathway was only a few clicks or took me direct to check out when another pathway seemed really complicated. And I’ll be honest, when it is overly complicated, I’m abandoning that cart again and again and again.

Jay: Absolutely.

Heather: And I’m always both pleasantly and a little fearfully surprised when I can click one singular button and everything was stored inside my phone, and the product is already…I’m already checked out and it’s being shipped to the right place and I only clicked once. So it’s definitely the experience I prefer, but it just surprises me how often we take that for granted. So let’s talk about that since you teased out that social checkout experience. Let’s talk about a little bit of how that works and how that is different from a traditional checkout experience when you’re actually starting from the landing page of a commerce platform.

Jay: Sure. So we have what we call the checkout flows internally. We use the terminology outward facing as well too. So to take a quick step back and then I’ll get into the kind of the social checkout.

Heather: Yeah, go ahead.

Jay: We believe our thesis of which we build on top of is that there isn’t a perfect checkout experience.

Heather: Not yet.

Jay: So we have this thesis, we call them checkout flows. And basically, the thesis is that no checkout experience should be the same. Well, they can be the same for certain types of customers, but different customers need and require different checkout experiences. So that means maybe B2B versus B2C, member versus nonmember, are they a repeat or it’s their first time? Are they coming from social media or are they coming from a direct link or a search?

So we break them into four buckets or triggers, if you want to call them that. So it’s who the customer is, the device they’re on, where they’re coming from and what they’re buying, and who they are, are they a member, nonmember, repeat, first time, B2B, B2C? A lot of different things that can define who they are.

Where they’re coming from is, are they coming from, you know…? We use the example of social media, let’s take Instagram versus Google. If someone’s coming from Instagram, they’re essentially thinking with their thumb, they’re scrolling with their thumb, it’s kind of mindless activity. And if they click on a product page and they go to it, and if it doesn’t load lightning fast with the product ready to buy with ideally one click, maybe a minimum is possible. Take that versus if someone is searching for a product in Google, what you call spearfishing, they’re looking for a specific product. And that means by the time they get to your site, you can afford more time, which means you can show upsells and cross-sells. If you have a membership experience, maybe try to get them to sign up for your club versus that Instagram click where speed matters most because if that page doesn’t load as fast as the next Instagram post, their thumb just mindlessly goes back and keeps scrolling. So that’s where they’re coming from.

And then device, I mean, you think mobile and desktop, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s now SMS, and voice, and QR code, in-store, it’s tablet, it’s, you know, Staples is one of our clients and they have what they call an endless aisle experience. So you’re in-store and there’s checkouts at the end of the aisle, you can check out yourself. And then what they’re buying lastly is are they buying…? Is their average checkout 1 product or is it 10 products? And if it’s one product, then a one-click very fast checkout makes sense, but if your average SKUs per checkout is eight products, let’s say you sell, I don’t know, crafting supplies or something. And the average person buys eight items per checkout, if you have a one-click checkout, that’s super fast, yes, you’ll convert higher, but you’ll actually end up with less revenue because customers buy less products per checkout.

So depending what criteria, like, those four factors should dictate the checkout experience. And so, when we talk about social, what a lot of our brands are doing, they’re building these lightning fast single-page experiences, and I don’t even want to call them, like, a…it’s not a cart, it’s just directly to a page, the product’s there, the checkout is right there on the page. They don’t have to add to cart, they just have to complete the checkout, and that is the one that makes the most sense for social. But again, if someone’s coming from a different type of campaign, maybe different device, different customer, it might not. But I think a lot about why things are the way they are and not to get too philosophical on it, but when people rode horse and buggy, I remember that, you know, you see these pictures of like the first thing they wanted to invent was a mechanical horse that pulled a buggy.

Heather: Right.

Jay: They would think of a car. And when we started shopping online or having e-commerce, we basically tried to replicate the offline experience. That’s the way human nature works, we go with what we know and we slightly adopt it. Because when you go to a store, there’s departments, you have different aisles, you find your product, you put it in your cart, you shop around, you add things to your cart, then you walk and you wait in line at the checkout and you go through the checkout. But there’s no reason that an online experience needs to work like that.

Maybe there’s no need to be a checkout, if all your information is saved in your device or whatever hardware you’re using, maybe you’re not actually even shopping, maybe it’s just that moment of inspiration on social media. You see something in a video that’s becoming a really popular one now too. People aren’t actually shopping, they see something, they can click on it in a video and complete a purchase right there. They never went to a store, they never shopped, they never added anything to the basket, they never went through a traditional checkout.

So the more that we can bring that checkout experience to the point of inspiration where a customer actually wants something, the better they convert. So yeah, that’s I guess kind of it in a nutshell. So, on the social we’re seeing, the thing that matters the most is lightning fast for social because they’re typically in kind of, like, a mindless state scrolling, so you want to get them through as fast as possible before they get distracted.

Heather: Talk to me about your client journey or your customer journey. When somebody comes to you and needs your help in sort of finding this, what that checkout experience or what that flow you were talking about looks like for their company, is that kind of a customized or bespoke process? Just walk me through a little bit about what happens when someone comes to you?

Jay: Yeah. So we don’t do a ton on the service side. We work with a lot of partners that they build out these experiences. And so we are a software, like, a checkout, we provide the platform and then there’s a lot of agencies that that is their business. And actually, it’s funny you ask this because one of the things we’re really proud of is we feel that we’re activating an entirely new revenue stream for agencies that wasn’t before possible. The checkout has historically been very locked down. You could do A/B testing and optimizing on your product pages, you can do it on your homepage, you can do everything on your website, you can split test, and optimize and try to get the highest conversion. But the checkout was just the checkout, you just didn’t touch it.

So we thought, well, why? Why can’t we split test and A/B test the checkout? Why don’t we check whether putting shipping first versus last or let’s put different payment options? Maybe instead of showing five buy now pay later options like Affirm, Sezzle, Afterpay, Zip, instead of showing all of them, maybe just show the one that’s the most common and have the other rolled up in an accordion and they can expand and see more because sometimes options confuse people.

There’s a hundred different things that can make that checkout, just like a product page, that can make it convert better. And so when I talked about those flows earlier, one of the biggest things that our brands are doing with them is they are split testing, not based off of necessarily trying to create, like, a, here’s an experience for this customer, here’s one for this one, they’re running a percentage of their traffic to one-page checkout versus three-page checkout. There’s a debate, a lot of people say one-page checkout. You would think it makes the most sense because it’s one page, you don’t have to click to another page, but we’ve actually seen a lot of brands test this and the three-page step-through actually converts better in a lot of cases. And I kind of think it might have to do with this concept of micro-commitments as you’re…

Heather: Mm-hmm. I was just going to say something like that. Yeah.

Jay: Yeah, it’s weird. Like, you think everyone says get through as fast as possible, but also if it’s designed well, each step you go through a journey, you’re committing. Okay, I’ve got my, like, on the first page, I keep it very simple. All I need is my address, that’s it, then I click next. Then I just pick my shipping, that’s all. Then I click next, then I just enter this. So I’m not overwhelming them with this big long form. But for other people, we’ve seen them test one page and they’ve done better.

So we try to stay unopinionated on it, but we provide the platform that lets agencies build out these experiences and test, and we’re very proud that no one’s been able to do that before. Everyone has just thought that checkout is whatever I get from whatever platform I’m using, this is the checkout I get and take it or leave it. Like, I can style it a little bit and add some…but you know, we were told forever that for security reasons, you can’t edit a checkout and we’ve built a way that brands can do that. And we’ve seen brands…actually we have one brand right now they’re split testing, and they’re getting I think it’s like 38% better conversion on…

Heather: Oh, that’s incredible.

Jay: …one checkout versus another. And the impact that that’s going to make in their bottom line is incredible, and they could never do that before. So really activating, like, while we don’t do the service side. So when you talk about, like, the buyer journey with us, it’s more with the agencies. And when I say agencies, it’s, like, the service and developers that work with the brands. So we’re helping them build out whatever experience and then they’re working with the brands to create those checkouts.

Heather: You teed up my next question about security and privacy. That was exactly my curiosity, was when you’re doing this A/B split testing and you’re going through somewhat of an arduous process of building, or the clients are anyway, the agencies are building out what this ideal checkout experience looks like. On your end of things, how are you approaching security and privacy to make sure that that’s possible for them?

Jay: Yeah. So we’ve built out, we take on all that responsibility and the way it’s designed is we expose the ability to create the different checkouts just through checkout APIs. But we are PCI 1 compliant, we’re SOC 2, we have, as far as data, GDPR compliant, we’re fully compliant in every single way, and then as far as credit card, like, tokenization and things like that, we pass on to the gateways. So we don’t store any credit card data, even though we are compliant enough to do it, if required, that’s all stored with the credit card, whichever gateway they’re using. The only thing we store is tokens, so if someone needed to do subscription billing or prepayment or something like preorders where they, we store it, and then they charge later. There’s a lot of different things you can use tokens for, but we don’t actually store the credit card information.

So now that allows the agencies to build everything about the experience without having to… there’s not a single certification that they have to have, we take it all on. It’s just exposed through APIs and controlled and certain data they can access, certain data they can’t, but they have the freedom to create the flows and the experiences without having to worry about any of the security and fraud and everything else. That’s really the beauty of it is that really wasn’t possible before.

Heather: That’s incredible. I think I’m most struck so far in our conversation by that image of you talking about the turning a horse into a mechanical horse to pull the buggy. Because I think that that’s the hardest part about innovation and disruption is how do you look at something in a different way than the only way you’ve ever looked at it, right? And that is the sort of key to creative problem-solving. I think this is really incredible that it allows… I imagine the developers are really excited about this too, to be able to have this moment of creative problem-solving with their customer base because some people are going to have that, I need micro commitments in order to make this purchase kind of journey, whereas other people, depending on the product or the service provided, that micro commitment isn’t necessary because maybe the product area is more B2B driven or is a larger commitment rather than that, “Oh my gosh, my thumb landed on it, and now I have to have those shoes” kind of commitment.

Jay: Absolutely. Yeah. And people listening, if you’re shopping and you’re a customer, pay attention to the checkout experiences you’re going through, they’re very different. So you’re shopping at, you know, Staples has options to buy online, pick up, in-store, as you’re going through the checkout experience, they need to do API calls to their inventory of each location to see that there’s seven at this location, there’s three at this, right until the last second, they need to be able to, “Do I want it shipped? Do I want to hold it in the store? Do I want to do curbside pick-up?” Like, the checkouts have gotten really complex, a lot happens in there.

And you’re right though, that’s how when…often I find, like, maybe it’s why Space X and, like, now Amazon is saying that they’re getting into the vaccine game and they’re going to have a vaccine for what was it? Lyme disease within a year or two, and, like, our regular scientists haven’t figured that out. But now, I guess there’s a lot of money to be made in vaccines, so Amazon’s getting into it, but people coming from totally different perspectives who’s never…they look at it like, “Let’s start from scratch. Why do we do things a certain way? Does it have to be like this?” You can still see the forest and you’re not stuck in the trees. I think we were fortunate to come from that perspective and because we were building these custom checkouts, every single one was, “How does it have to be?” It wasn’t, “Let’s just work with the tooling we have, let’s build it from scratch.” And so when we built a platform for developers, it was the same mentality, like, how do we want to build on it? So give them the same flexibility.

Heather: So what’s next for Bold Commerce? Do you have any exciting things you’re about to roll out or stuff that’s in the works that maybe you could give us the early scoop on?

Jay: Yeah, we got a lot. One of the biggest things is I don’t know how, I don’t wanna get too technical, but… So there’s this concept in commerce called, it’s two words and people…one’s composable commerce and one’s headless commerce. And I’ll quickly define them. But composable commerce is basically taking the pieces that you need to run an online store and composing them, building them together in your stack. So, for example, I bet you, everyone listening they might use Gmail for their email, they might use a certain calendar app, they might use a different app, they might use Microsoft Word or Excel for that. They might use Zoom for their video calls, they might use another tool for something else. They’re not using all of the Google products or all of the Microsoft, they’re composing their office stack.

Historically, for the last 20 years, to run an online store, you had to always use a platform and you had to be all in almost. Sometimes, you could do certain things on the side, but technology is allowing brands to now pick and choose. So, like, imagine if you had to only use Microsoft products, you couldn’t use Zoom or you couldn’t use Google Meet. You had to use Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft…you couldn’t use one and the other. That’s now happening with e-commerce is people can say, I need to use my best, the order management tool that works for my business, the CMS, the content management tool that works for my business, the product management, the checkout. Whatever tools they need to create their experience, they can compose them together, which is becoming the way that a lot of modern retail brands are building on experience, and it’s allowing them to do incredibly incredible things, really. There’s no limits because they’re piecing together what’s best for them.

So we’re really big believers in this space of composable commerce, I would encourage anyone listening who is in the e-commerce space to Google it and kind of do a bit of research on it. Headless kind of falls in there, and when I say headless commerce, what that is, it’s, like, decoupling the front-end experience of your online store versus the administrative backend, they don’t have to be the same.

And so, that social example is a great example, there’s no e-commerce from there, they’re essentially shopping Instagram as they scroll and then they see something they like. And it says “Shop now” and it opens up the checkout and they checkout, and it pushes to wherever they manage their orders. But nowhere in that process did they go to an online store and have to go through that experience, it was just a social to checkout. And that’s a headless shopping experience where how they shop on the front-end is decoupled from the backend administration, and that can be in VR, that can be in voice, that’s happening a lot, that can be SMS. Like, there’s different things that can be the front-end. So those are some of the things we’re excited about and we are, with our checkout, right perfectly positioned to help brands who are innovating in those areas. So that’s something.

Heather: That’s incredibly exciting.

Jay: I hope I didn’t get too technical on some of the stuff there.

Heather: No, you didn’t at all. And I really appreciate you bringing up both composable commerce and also headless commerce, because, again, it’s one of those things that when you are in the user experience, you take for granted, but understanding that people like you, organizations like yourself, are problem-solving from behind the scenes to make that experience for the consumer as easy as possible. You know, I think that there is some negative connotation to, oh, I’m being watched or there’s targeted ads or oh, this was just almost, “too easy.” But the fact of the matter is, it really is simplifying our life and that is what technology, when used for good, that is the purpose that it serves, is simplifying these things. And also, like you said, giving companies the option to build that tech stack in a way that serves their clients, their consumer, and their company in the best way possible. And not being boxed in by this sort of all-in-one space where they have to use one platform for multiple elements of building that business online. So it’s exciting, I think it’s really cool what you’re doing.

Jay: I’m glad you think so.

Heather: I do. So to close out our time today and I especially like to do this when I talk to folks who founded their own companies because I think it’s a little bit of a different flavor. But I’d love if you could close us out with the best business advice you’ve ever received and from whom.

Jay: Sure. And actually, I’ve listened to some of your episodes, so I know you ask this at the end. So I was a little bit prepared. I got so many. So I kind of have two that stuck out with me recently. One is, and I can’t remember who said this to me, so I don’t know from whom, but the saying is the number one thing that you have to sacrifice to be great and achieve what you are capable of is your comfort. That’s one thing that has really resonated with me over the years is if you’re comfortable, you’re probably not growing and neither is your business, so that one was stuck with me.

And then this one was actually from the book “Atomic Habits” that I lean on a lot and that’s, “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems and your habits.” And I’m all for goals, we are very goal-orientated at Bold, but not enough people spend enough time thinking about their systems and their habits. And that’s usually what ends up making you or your company or your family, your kids, your… Like, your habits are more defining of who you are than your goals. So those are the two that I like.

Heather: I know you couldn’t have known this because we just met, but I needed to hear both of those today in a really, really big way. I’m really grateful. I have a good friend who talks about discomfort being that space in between you and your peace when you’re learning something new that in order to grow the amount of peace and comfort we have in our life, we have to continually experience those moments of discomfort. And I feel like that one aligned with your first piece of advice really deeply. But yeah, so thank you for both of those. I’m going to carry those with me. Jay, thank you so much for joining us today. If folks want to get in touch with you or if they want to learn more about your company, where should they go?

Jay: Boldcommerce.com is our website. That’s a great place to start. I’m fairly active on LinkedIn, Twitter, just search Jason Myers or I think it’s actually Jay Myers, either one under Bold. Those are the two best places, but if you hit up our website, we can definitely get in touch there, there’s a number of different ways.

Heather: Beautiful. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Jay: Oh, that was a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.

Heather: If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, head on over to soarpay.com/podcast to subscribe on your podcast listening platform of choice. That’s soarpay.com/podcast.

Industry Spotlight

Bold Commerce

Bold Commerce is a software development company that provides industry-leading eCommerce solutions for the world’s most innovative brands.

We empower entrepreneurs by providing them with tools they can use to make their eCommerce stores truly awesome.

That means giving your store the ability to fulfill all the unique needs of your business – and more. Every merchant is different, so we give you the power to make your eCommerce platform not only perform exactly the way you want it to, but also to do things you didn’t think were possible.

Our apps and suite of tools focus on merchant’s core needs including subscriptions, automation, wholesale & B2B, integrations, the payment experience, customization, personalization, and digital merchandising.

Since the beginning, we’ve kept ahead of the curve and we want to help you do the same. Tens of thousands of merchants around the world trust Bold’s industry-leading innovations, effective sales boosting solutions, and world-class customer service.