2019 was an incredible year for Something Digital, both as a company, and for individual team members. Our end-of-year recaps always lead with what we’ve learned, and given our journey over the past 12 months, this blog post will be long.
A couple years back we published our first ebook, the Ecommerce Footwear Guide, which was a significant event for Something Digital. We published it in conjunction with our partner, Magento, and the collaboration made us realize something important: working with partners is a sure path to success. Partnerships, and the value they offer, has been an overarching theme for us in 2019, influencing how we work with clients, hire new employees, and help ecommerce businesses make the best possible decisions for the next stage in their journeys. Read on!
SD + Zoovu = Guided Selling eBook
This time last year I predicted that 2019 will be the year of guided selling and that turned out to be the case. It’s not as if I had a crystal ball; the interest in better search and browsing technology was unmistakably clear. Consumers want help in selecting the right products for them and progressive brands are eager to provide that assistance. That’s why we kicked off our thought leadership for the year with the Guided Selling eBook, which we created with our partner, Zoovu.
Working with Zoovu reaffirmed for us that creating content with a partner will pretty much guarantee success. Then again, ecommerce in general requires an ecosystem of partnerships, as few people can launch a Shopify or Magento store without integrations from many other tech providers.
Mercury and Jupiter Rising
Did you know that Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system — just a smidgen bigger than our moon? It’s also the fastest, spinning three times on its axis for every two revolutions around the sun. I’ll explain why that’s relevant in a second.
Over the past year we’ve focused on maturing the way we build our front end technology for clients. And, some clear leaders in the third-party tech marketplace have emerged, such as the Klevu search tool, and the shipping management platform, ShipperHQ.
This year we’ve worked with many brands who are small and nimble, and wanted an ecommerce platform that reflected that mindset. With them in mind we created Mercury, an accelerator program that allows Magento Commerce Cloud merchants to go live with an operational, no-frills, affordable online store faster. You can read about it here.
Jupiter, meanwhile, is the largest planet in the solar system, with a mass that’s two times greater than all the other planets combined. The planet is distinguished by a red spot, which is actually a giant storm — bigger than Earth — that has raged for hundreds of years. Jupiter gets its signature stripes and swirls from cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water that float in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. In other words, this planet, with its hundreds of moons, has a unique brand and it aims to flaunt it, which is why we decided to name our accelerator for bigger, more complex ecommerce brands, Jupiter.
Jupiter offers Magento Commerce Cloud merchants a feature set that’s equivalent to a minimum viable product (MVP) and implements customer data-driven enhancements using an iterative approach. You can read about it here.
Both accelerator programs allow SD clients to benefit from best-in-class market-tested technology, at a lower price point, as we pass along our partner pricing to our customers.
Bullseye: We Partner with Our Customers
No one goes to a McDonald’s without knowing what to expect; menus are superfluous in all fast food joints. Now compare that to the fine dining experience, where the wait staff will personally tell you about the specials, ask if you have any food allergies, and recommend the right wine with your dinner. Something Digital is fine dining. Even if you use an accelerator, we’re still going to ask a lot of questions about your preferences, the way you sell, who your customers are, and your day-to-day staff members who’ll manage your site.
Why? We want to be a partner in helping clients choose the right solution, rather than deliver a site that’s based on you prior experience or assumptions about constraints and limitations. We’ll talk with you about your products, customers and industry, and the quality that’s expected. Our menu prices are a bit higher, but we’re an elevated experience.
Guided selling asks the customer some questions about their needs, and recommends products based on their answers. We’ve been doing guided selling with our clients since our founding over 20 years ago, and this year we decided to make our consultative approach available to the world through Bullseye.
Bullseye is a quick and easy assessment tool we designed to help B2C and B2B companies select the right partners and services to grow their ecommerce businesses to the next level, which you can read about in our three-part blog series here, here, and here. Part 1 talks about how we use Bullseye to measure the maturity of a business (it has nothing to do with revenue or business acumen and has everything to do with the size and skillset of your ecommerce team). Part 2 is all about how to right-size the tactics and strategies you deploy to grow your business and define success. Part 3 focuses on how we use Bullseye to right-size your partnerships.
NYU WEST Fest Summer 2019
This past summer, Something Digital was invited to speak at NYU Tandon’s annual WEST Fest, where five women from our team answered questions on a moderator-led panel and questions from students on how to prepare for a future STEM career and our perspective on working in a male-dominated tech industry.
A lack of women in STEM means a lack in perspective of half of the world’s population, which puts any thriving industry competing in today’s economy at a major disadvantage. Because 41% of the Something Digital team are women, they were able to offer first-hand advice on how to create and foster a culture in technology that is equitable to all people, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or identification. Incidentally, we don’t just talk the talk, we walk it too. From hiring practices and writing job descriptions, to providing prayer and mother’s rooms, we focus on creating an inclusive environment where all can thrive. Is it any surprise that we have a diverse team?
Of course, ensuring employee success takes more than recruiting from a diverse employment pool and providing the right physical amenities. Employee success requires providing each new hire the tools, advice and mentoring, which is what we did in 2019.
Jumpstart/[Bridge] SOMETHING Mentoring Program
This year Something Digital hired eight recent college graduates, and six of them participated in our Jumpstart program, which we think of as our bridge between college and work life. Jumpstart is very practical and hands on, encompassing day-to-day tasks that allow new hires to go from zero to hero in terms of understanding what ecommerce is, its lifecycle, and the process of building a site. In addition to the rigor, Jumpstart has a feedback loop in which participants tell SD what’s working and what’s not so that we can continually improve the program. Some of our Jumpstarters have already received certifications from Magento, Shopify and Google, so we know they’re getting a lot out of the program.
[BRIDGE] SOMETHING is a six-month program that brings together newly hired, recent grads with seasoned employees to help ease the transition from school-life to SD-life through thoughtful guidance and structured support. It’s more about relationships…how is the new hire getting on? Are there questions he or she would like to ask in a safe space? The idea is to match someone just beginning his or her career with someone who has been around the block a few times and can provide perspective. I mentored Bradley Brecher this year, and you can read about our joint experience here.
Magento 1 End of Life — Oh the Horror!
In October we focused on encouraging merchants who are still using Magento 1 to face the reality that they needed to move to a new platform. This four-part blog series dwelt on the gruesome horrors that await retailers who fail to make plans.
Although it was a fun way to remind merchants that demise of Magento 1 is imminent, we were frank about the evil that will befall merchants and their customers who refuse to migrate.
But that’s Something Digital: We’re not afraid to lead with the difficult conversations, or to debate the difficult decisions.
We expect to continue growing our footprint in the Shopify world, especially as Shopify becomes more relevant in the space. The number of sites that use Shopify is growing, and this past October, the company announced that 1 million merchants now use its platform.
We have an ambitious year planned for 2020, as you may have guessed from our December 6th announcement. Among other things, our delivery team is moving from a traditional hierarchy to a matrix structure, and I’ve been promoted to Chief Commerce Officer. We’re already planning more thought leadership pieces, more programs to help our clients and employees succeed, and an update to Bullseye to serve the DTC community. So reserve time next year to read another lengthy blog about SD’s accomplishments in 2020!
If you have questions or comments for us, don’t hold back, let us know!
Written by: Phillip Jackson, Chief Commerce Officer