Join us for a dynamic interview with John Williams, CTO of Amplience, the API-first, headless content management platform for enterprise retailers. John has helped power customer experiences for some of the world’s most innovative brands, including Mulberry, Traeger, and Crate&Barrel.
Learn about why more retailers are moving away from monolithic platforms and embracing the MACH (Microservices based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and Headless). Also learn key tips and strategies from an ecommerce veteren who has been instrumental in demystifying headless commerce for brands and helping them build more powerful customer experiences.
John Williams is a highly energetic individual with an impressive track record of matching technological innovation with business strategy. He completed his MBA at Imperial College alongside an impressive full-time position as CTO at LBI, Europe’s leading digital agency. John became Amplience’s CTO in 2010 and has proven to be a genuine asset who thrives in highly complex and commitment environments where precision execution, innovation and leadership are critical.
Jay: Hey, John, thank you so much for joining us today. Really a pleasure to have you here. Can you give us a quick background of who you are? What’s your story and kind of what got you here today? You’re the CTO of Amplience, but I know you’ve got a rich history with commerce and headless and everything else. And I won’t say anything, but can you kind of give us the synopsis?
Jay: Hey, John, thank you so much for joining us today. Really a pleasure to have you here. Can you give us a quick background of who you are? What’s your story and kind of what got you here today? You’re the CTO of Amplience, but I know you’ve got a rich history with commerce and headless and everything else. And I won’t say anything, but can you kind of give us the synopsis?
John: Yeah, sure. Well back in the day I was working in an Agency, it’s an app called, I think it’s LBI. It’s now publicist actually. So I grew up in a kind of era where it was the.com boom, the .com bust. Pretty much used every CMS and every commerce system that was on the planet at the time. That’s the great thing about Agency. You got to use lots and lots of stuff. And I kind of started off there as a tech lead, actually [00:43 inaudible] from Reuters. I started out as tech lead, went through huge amounts of developments and projects around e-commerce and content. And I met my CEO, actually my CEO of today, James Brooke. He was one of the client partners there. We went out in the industry and we do some really cool things in e-commerce.
Worked through, God knows how many mergers and acquisitions I sit in the same seat and had five different company names. It was that time, right? And then actually LBI came and like dropped off and then grew huge. Had a massive team there. And then James had started up a company called 10 CMS, which is now Ampliance and asked me to join him. I thought, you know what, it’s time I owned my startups burst. I joined James, it was kind of going for a big office down into 11 people sort of thing we were joking about an orange carpet. That was pretty standard at the time, typical kind of startup environment, like, oh my God, what have I done? But actually we’ve had a huge amount of excitement, huge amount of fun. We’ve grown Ampliance into a world-class, headless sort of Mach bear CMS. And it’s been an incredible journey. So that’s kind of the backstory.
Jay: There was a bit of a major pivot that made Ampliance become what it was right, with the whole transition out of flash and then kind of redefining what the company was. Can you talk about that a little bit?
John: Sure. So we’ve always been passionate about giving customers the ability to great experiences. Back in that time, so it was what, 10 years ago, to create sort of interactive experiences. The only way we could do it really was with flash. I know it’s a bit of a dirty word now, but it’s the only way you could really do things. And what we enabled businesses to do, was use their videos and their media to enrich it and then create these really powerful shoppable experiences from things that they already had. And we kind of went with that for awhile. And then I think it was there about six months a year, and then we had Steve Jobs say flash is dead. So, you know, CTO into a new, fairly new company and then finding out the core technology is probably not where it’s going to go. It was a little bit of a shock but what it allowed us to do was to innovate. So we then worked on actually, how do we make the same sort of experiences, but in HTML, because everyone was banging on about HTML5. We did the same thing and you could choose HTML5 or flash, but what you’re doing there is you’re actually learning a huge amount about experiences and about delivering to different channels and understanding that complexity.
And actually what we did eventually, it was probably about two, three years later, was we pivoted away from that and decided that moving away from just owning the head, as they say, and now the presentation layer, is not really feasible, right? Cause there’s just so many presentation layers. You could be going into a [03:36inaduible]. You could be going into, you know, now there’s PWS, SPS, and it’s not even that, there are just multiple channels that you can be delivering content and experiences to, when people do go back in the store, you know, you have [03:53 inaudible] apps and other guys walking around with the iPads or even in customer services and supports, it just goes on. There are just so many interfaces now into your business that actually just a one size fits all didn’t kind of work. And we hit on that pretty early. And as we’d already built everything actually API first, it wasn’t really a big step to kind of move to that. I think we were calling it then content as data. Cause the headless was not really a full term at that point. I think it might have been just starting to emerge or people kind of talking about it. No one really knew what it was like.
Jay: So when one of this been what year?
John: That was probably 2014.
Jay: Just to kind of put the context around it.
John: It was some time ago. So what we did, we kind of went through a situation where we built this. We called it interactive merchandising, it was all flash and rich and fancy, decided that that probably wasn’t it. But between that, we also built dynamic media service because we’re all about experiences. We were dealing with so much imagery and so much video, customers wanted us to take responsibility for it. And there was only, I think there was one big product, which I don’t know if I can mention. There was one big product out there that most people using was falling out further. And then we built basically the ability for customers load up master assets, any share, any size, and then render out, any shape, size or form, so he could crop it. Change the sizes, put different layers on top of it, do video and coding, all the things you need to do, the best layer stuff, without having to think about it. And we did that on a huge scale.
We have customers that are loading even now tens of thousands of images a day. And we’re doing billions of image requests a week. So we’ve kind of went, if you think about it, that was headless content management fit media. We didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s what it was. So we moved from that. And then when we went back into, well, actually what’s the next iteration of sort of CMS and experiences in that respect. We basically took a lot of that with us. So a lot of how do you build something that’s hugely performaning, multi-tenanted and hugely scalable, but do it in a more complex world of CMS and delivering content. And that’s the pivot we made. And we had two iterations with it. So we started off with something called content authoring, which was the first iteration built on the best platform that we built for dynamic media.
And then we actually rebuilt the whole thing again, from scratch, with a brand new architecture. And now that’s dynamic content. Same principles, same sort of use in terms of Mach and headless. We just completely replaced the backend as well because we took all the learnings that we already had and then reapplied them again. It’s been a huge journey.
Jay: Oh, I believe it. Can you give me kind of a, like a practical example of how a brand uses Ampliance, where their product media data lives? How you then distribute it or maybe then how do they come to Ampliance with like what their tech stack might look like and how does Ampliance plug in and what role does it play? Just in super layman’s terms for anyone listening, who maybe isn’t familiar with this whole concept of headless content, headless commerce, like what does that mean?
John: Yeah. So previously you would have said an eCommerce system in the moral, the world, which might be an on-premise or maybe it’s just a big monolithic and we call them a monolith. It’s just, everything’s all in one, as kind of like a suite, everything’s there, apparently there and what would happen generally, the CMS wouldn’t be quite as good as you might want for the experience you want to generate. So in the past we started off plugging into those e-commerce platforms. So you have an e-commerce platform. You want much more out of it. You want much more content, much more experience. So you can basically come to us and we’ll give you the media and we’ll give you the content in a format in which you can inject it into that system. So headless just means that instead of having HTML, you have it just sort of HTML, which is the Mach-up, like all the presentation, everything molded into one.
We’ll just give you the content, like a data object, and then you can take that and turn it into whatever you want. So that’s where we kind of started from, that’s where the industry really started from in e-commerce. It was like kind of a plugin into systems. Now it’s it’s changing. So what’s happened is that the commerce platforms, a lot of the eCommerce platforms are building their own APIs. So they’re now taking away the experience elements, the frontend out of the delivery and producing it as a much more standard sort of rest, just an API. So doing the same thing from a transaction, from a product catalog level. So now what you have is everything on the same level. So you have all of these services, all at the same level, and you can basically build your own experiences and plug all of those APIs into your experience. So like PWA, which is progressive web app.
Jay: Yeah. We just had a Finbar from Shogun who’s, that’s a big focus for them is, progressive web app.
John: The reason why it’s really important is that, what I said earlier, is that your experiences need to go to lots and lots of different places, lots and lots of different devices and be contextual. And if you deliver them in all, pre-baked with all of the presentation module built in and HTML, you just can’t transport it across these different devices. And that’s what it gives you. You can basically take all the same consistent data, consistent content.
Jay: So do you get brands that come to Ampliance that are on what you might refer to as like a legacy platform, that don’t want to completely replatform, but they need to solve for delivering content in different places? So like, is it kind of a good intermediary step or what does that look like? Cause I know like we had commerce tools on recently and one of the things they mentioned was like with headless architecture, you can kind of piecemeal different aspects of the build and kind of, you don’t have to completely replatform. You can do what makes sense at that time.
John: Yeah. I mean, that is a massive benefit of going down the sort of Mach or headless architecture. In the old world, when I was in Agency, there was always this big replatforming exercise, where you went from one big monolith to another one and you would always end up with less than you started with and finished with the last one. And then you’d have to build it again so they got clunky. It’s a different model now, you can actually choose pieces. You can kind of look at it and go, you know what? We just want to sort out. Let’s just sort out the homepage, let’s sort out the landing page, let’s sought out the PDP. Let’s add a little bit more in this part of the site or this part of the experience. And you can take it piecemeal and progressively move through your site and your application and pull little pieces out. And each time you do that, those pieces become available to other places as well. So it’s not just you replacing hard-coded pieces at a time. You’re actually starting to open up the entire platform as you’re replacing pieces of it.
Jay: Are there typical partners in the tech stack for brands or is it completely different for every setup for a brand?
John: I was gonna say there are some familiar players, but it seems to be different actually. And I guess that’s originally when we started doing the sort of early days and Tenzin masters and interactive merchandising, there were like four or five key players. We’re seeing a much richer variety of players out there now, so far more than they ever used to be. I guess it’s because there’s more choice now. You can kind of be holding to one thing and you have to use it. You can kind of like you said, pull a little piece out and get the best of breed player for that piece. And it’s more open, I guess.
Jay: Yeah. So who are some brands that use Ampliance? Like what type of a brand is it really well suited for?
John: I can tell you one of my favorite brands right now is Trigger grill.
Jay: I saw that on your website. I actually just got a Trigger and I used it for the first time last week. So that’s cool. So they’re using it for all their contents?
John: Yeah. So we’re driving their entire site. But what I love about it is that, you know, when people talk about IOT and they’re looking for examples of it, they’re actually pushing content and they’re pushing the data into the grills. And I think that’s really cool because it’s actually something that’s not just a gimmick, it’s actually really, really useful. And it’s quite cool. And I want to have one of my own so I can play around with it myself, but that’s a great case study.
Jay: They have a great mobile app experience as well, too. So it’s the wifi connected with the grill and you pick your menu and then it monitors the temperature in the app as well, too.
John: Yeah. So they do it great. They’ve got a really big multi-channel experience. You’d go to the site, you’d got the app and then you’ve got the grill as well. And we were going through some really detailed discussions about how do you design the content so it can appear in the grill because you got really tiny screen. It’s not like you can put like a whole paragraph text in it. And it was just a really interesting exercise to go through. It’s a real IOT multichannel kind of experience. And we’re driving the entire thing, from the navigation all the way through to the content. It’s one of my favorite.
Jay: That’s a great example of solving for content across different channels.
John: And then one of my other favorite customers is Crate and Barrel. One of our first customers on, who helped us actually develop parts of the new system. And what I liked about them is they didn’t just change the technology, they changed the way they’re doing things as well, which I think gets lost in a lot of the technology discussions. They changed the way they’re working from being more of a traditional e-com sort of team and passing different developments backwards and forwards between tech teams and that kind of separation, into being a true multidisciplinary team, focused on their one area around e-commerce. And then we worked with them. So our technology helped to enable that. They just accelerate the amount of innovation, the development, and they did exactly what we said earlier. They didn’t replace the entire site. They just replaced the parts that they needed to replace with our software.
They were changing the way they’re working. They changed the tech, and they introduced little parts of it. And as they move through the system and they changed parts of their site, they moved across multiple brands. So they got a number of different brands, moved into their mobile application and into app as well, and also looking at stores. So it was just, one of those things that was quite pervasive if you start in one area, you change one little piece to see the power of it and then move across and there is also the whole thing around changing the team as well, to go in line with this new way of working.
Jay: So they’re still on their existing platform, but all the content now is managed by Ampliance?
Jay: Awesome. You picked two brands that my wife is on, Crate and Barrel on a weekly basis and I just bought a Trigger. So we both interacted with Ampliance in the last week and didn’t even know it. So I’ve heard from the development side, I can’t remember if I was reading this somewhere or listen somewhere, but there’s this concept of staging as an API, as in the development process. And I thought that was really interesting and super useful. Can you speak to that a bit and what that is?
John: Yeah, sure. Some of the things we’re really pleased and really excited about. So when we started with dynamic content, the system. One of the key things that we realized is that customers struggled, if they couldn’t see what the outcome was of what they were doing. So if you’re creating all this content in a form, you need to see what’s going to happen to that. And then we had customers like Crate and Barrel, who, and most retail customers that we know have this kind of concept to walking the wall. So you’d kind of set up your campaign. You’d put it in a calendar of some kind, because they didn’t have a system that did it.
They would print out the designs, of all the different pages and stuff, print them out, put it on a wall and people would walk across it and comment. And what we wanted to do was enable app. So we had this kind of requirement to allow you to see what the content looked like at any point in time. So the traditional way of doing it would have been to create staging environments. And then synchronize different staging environments. But if you imagine the complexity around, you might be doing tens of campaigns simultaneously, it’s just impossible. And then if you’ve ever had to deal with synchronizing environments like I have in the past, it’s a nightmare. You never have enough.
And one environment is never sync properly with another one. And it just gets really, really complicated because it’s all about the different layers. So what we decided to do was to challenge ourselves with what if we just made a staging environment, an API call and we worked on it. So now what you can actually do is you can pretty much take a call to our system. It’s an API call and you can identify that call. You can decorate that call with an ID of a staging environment. So we basically generate staging environments on the fly for everybody. Everybody has their own staging environment at any point in time. So we generate thousands and thousands of basically staging environments. And what it does is it takes the talking, the idea of that stage environment and it manipulates the API calls at the backend to then retrieve the right content at that point in time for that particular user, and then return it back. But from an implementation perspective, you use exactly the same API call, exactly the call Ampliance that you’re using live, you’re using in staging, you just pass it a different token and that’s it, images included.
Jay: And just some parameters to, at what point in time the campaign is?
John: You don’t even need to do that.
Jay: That could be manipulated on the front.
John: Yeah. So what we’ll do is, if you say, I want to know what this content looks like at this point in time for this edition of content, et cetera, it will generate that token for you. And all you do is you just switch it out, where the demand part of the token is, the demand part of the [18:00 inaudible]. You just swap that out with this token and it’ll just work it out for you. So you don’t need to do anything.
Jay: I can see that being extremely useful.
John: So it allows you to visualize content, while it’s work in progress. It allows you to drop content into a calendar and then slice and dice through that calendar at any point in time. So you can see what the content is going to look like and roll forward and backwards.
Jay: What are some of the challenges still from your perspective with headless, this has kind of had the slash composable commerce. Actually, maybe let’s take a step back before that, because I know you’ve mentioned Mach a couple of times, our pronunciation of different Mac/Mach. The Mach Alliance and actually we just became a member of that at Bold recently, a couple months ago maybe. Can you just describe that, why is that important and what is that architecture? What does that mean? And then I want to talk about some of the challenges still to come with it.
John: Yeah, sure. So Mach, if people don’t already know, it stands for microservices, API, cloud and headless, basically it’s a system that. So if we take it in as pieces, microservices means that you haven’t got this big monolithic API set. It’s like everything’s quite discreet and isolated. So it means that you can do exactly what we said earlier. You can choose parts of your experience of your app and pull bits and pieces out and swap them in for these microservices. So that’s one advantage of it. API. When we talk about APIs, we’re talking about the whole thing having API coverage. So it’s not that you’ve just got this one little API that you really like, and you’ve built, the entire system is a set.
So everything you can do in the system, you can do through an API. There’s no, well, you’ve got to install an app somewhere to make it work. The cloud, when we say cloud would be cloud native and what that actually really means is you get all the benefits from being on cloud around things like multi-talented. So you’ve got like, you know, you’re not having to re-install things upgrade, releases are done on the fly without you knowing. And it’s whole backward compatible, hugely scalable, highly performance, et cetera. We’re not looking at say an older monolithic kind of system that’s been kind of wrapped up in a little cloud layer and then put on there and you’d get your special environment. You basically get everything out the box, it’s like on the cloud, you don’t have to kind of install things. And then the headless part of it means you’re not required to have a presentation and use their presentation layer. You may be given an example of one, but you don’t have to use it. It’s kind of like, you probably, you’ve got your own. You can roll your own presentation.
Jay: That is a perfect definition. I think I’m going to clip that for one. And then if someone says to you though, why would I want multiple technologies for my e-commerce, doesn’t that just create more headaches and more things to break or more things to go wrong? Or what’s your response to that view?
John: I’ve spent, like I said before here, I spent 10 years building this stuff and I think people get short memories about this thing. But every time you implement some of these like suites, I’m not going to mention any of them, but I’ve done a lot of them. The reason why you go for them is they’re all integrated, they have all the features you need. Then you have got to implement it and you’ve got to do it and you realize, well, it’s not as simple as that. You got to spend a lot of time setting up all these systems. Actually, you’ve got to do a lot of gluing together that you didn’t expect to do. Then when you start building these things, you start fusing all of the component parts together because you have to customize it. And then it becomes terms spaghetti court. You can’t find anything. So that’s kind of the old world and it basically fuses itself into a lump that you just never want to touch. You know, you have that thing. Well, you know, Bob built this and he’s gone now and we don’t know what to do if we change that piece. So that kind of thing, right. It can be quite tricky.
I think the difference is that if you go down a route where it’s microservices or this Mach type architecture, the benefit you get is that you get people who really focus on that one piece there’ll be delivered as cloud. So you don’t have to worry about the infrastructure. Everyone worries about scaling that component themselves. You’re buying that service, let them worry about scaling it. You just worry about how you’re going to best use it and innovate it on your platform. And you can build better experiences than you could have before. Because you’ve got much more freedom to pull these together and build much more dynamic kind of experiences you couldn’t build before. It’s something I’ve been talking about a lot, which is the way that I think e-commerce retail is going, is that there’s much more expectation on the experience of the eCommerce journey than there was before. And things have changed. Convention is out the window, the whole thing around funnels and starting homepage, landing page, all of that is kind of out there. With social media, people being from COVID are using lots more channels to get into those experiences.
And they’re hitting the product details page far more than ever done before. So what do you do? You have to have a system that you can rapidly change and redevelop and manipulate these different experiences as things change. If you’ve got this old kind of monolithic thing as all fused together, it’s really, really hard to move fast. I don’t know if I answered your, sorry.
Jay: No, I think that’s perfect. And I think in a real simplistic way, like you want the best in breed of each component. So if it’s a race car you want, whoever makes the absolute best tires, you want those tires, whoever makes the best steering wheel, he want that brand. It doesn’t have to all be Ferrari or Honda or whatever. It can be components and they can work seamlessly together. I think that’s how I look at it. So if you want to build a race car, there isn’t one brand that makes the best. They don’t make the best oil, they don’t make the best gas. Now to go to the challenge part of that question, I mean, obviously things have come super far in the last, maybe five years. What challenges still do you run into with this approach?
John: Yeah. I mean, ultimately you can still end up building a monolith, even if you got things separated, right? So that’s something you need to get your mindset change into. There’s things around managing experience as well.
Jay: What does that mean, you can still build a monolith even with this approach? Does that mean, like, what does that mean?
So you still need to think about how you’re going to pull these things together. Going back to what we said earlier, taking pieces of a site and doing it in iterations. For instance, you could build micro apps. So each part of the site could be a micro application as opposed to being part of a massive big application. So you have a micro application that just deals with product pages and a micro application that deals with landing pages, for instance. And you can deal with it that way. So it means that they’re much more nimble and kind of agile and can make those changes. And some of the other challenges I see in things like Mach, which I pointed out a while ago, where the experience itself, if you’re not careful can be more difficult to manage if you don’t build it in the right way and you don’t use the right tools. So for instance, you have all of these API calls, they’re not experience, they’re just APIs, they’re data. So a developer takes that, looks at some requirements, designs, et cetera. And then we’ll build an application that does what the customer says they want, but where does the management of that happen?
If you’re not careful, the definition of that experience will be embedded into the application. And it’s something we’ve been really cognizant on for some time. And we’ve been working very hard on how do you represent experience, but in a headless way. So you still don’t have, just move the problem around, but you can define what the experience elements are, but you define them in a headless way. And then the developers can use those headless components, those definitions to build the experience. And then the business users then get tools to actually manage them. That’s another problem you’ve got to be really careful. And I guess one of the other kind of emerging problems is the switching problem. Everyone gets really focused on the sort of front end experience, consumer based experience of an architecture, and always forgets a lot of the time about the backend, that there was a whole series of business users that are there, as their day job to drive these experiences, drive the site and operate the site to drive revenues, et cetera.
And if you’ve got hundreds of best of breed, well, not a hundred, but tens of best of breed products. How do you kind of manage that? How do you make sure that you’ve got the right business tooling so that people can do their day jobs without having to switch too much and content switch too much and it just seems natural, how do I do that now? How do I run this promotion? How do I update the catalog? Those kind of things. That was been an emerging challenge and something that we’re working really hard on both internally in Ampliance and actually with the rest of the people in the Mach lines as well. And talking about how do we do that?
Jay: Do you have any thoughts around that? Is that education? I see agencies playing a role in a lot of this because to a large extent, they’re the one educating the brands on how to operate their system. And I’ve run into this before, if anyone’s listening and saying yes, exactly that, like any thoughts on how to improve that?
John: There is literal a few viewpoints on this that I’ve heard. So there’s one viewpoint, which means that you need some sort of ultimate master system that you plug everything into and it’ll magically join all of the backend user experience together. I’m a little bit not in that camp, as you can tell, but you know, I think hopefully we’ll get some standards around that, that would help that. I also think it’s very contextual, as in people play different roles within the business. And they don’t do everything across all of the platform all of the time. They’re very contextualized. So what we need to do is build systems, and we’re doing this with Ampliance. That is extendable in a way that you can either join systems into Ampliance, or you can put Ampliance into other systems depending on the context.
So if your job is very promotional campaign, content experience, kind of driven roles, then you’d spend most of your time in our system, but you still need to have access to product data, segmentation, personalization, a whole bunch of other stuff, to augment your job. And we’ve built the system in a way that you can plug those in, that you can extend the UI. We’re building a way of referencing data like, so we call them third party reports from the process of doing that right now, it allows you to connect to other systems without synchronizing it again. And it helps you to kind of pull everything together you need for your job at that point in time. And then having easy switch from when you have to go a content switch from purely in the content experience thing. But right now I just need to manage my detailed product record and I really need to use a PIM now or whatever it is, the ability to switch over at that point.
But then have that system also be flexible enough to bring in our APIs because ultimately everything we have is an API. So there’s nothing stopping you from joining all of these pieces up together. I think that’s an emerging part of the kind of Mach Alliance. It’s nothing new if you think about it, even in the monolithic platform, suite world. How many other players does a e-commerce implementation have? Sometimes there are 20 or 30 other businesses inside that. Different SAS players and business users had to even then switch backwards and forwards between these smaller players. So what I think we can do, is I think we can do a better job of that.
Jay: And whether it’s yeah, order management is probably a big one for monolithic platforms rarely, are they the best at order management or promotions are usually run somewhere else. And so it’s a challenge anywhere.
John: Yeah. I think with the openness of the architecture, we’ve got an opportunity now to make that a lot better than it ever could have been before.
Jay: B2B versus B2C. Are you seeing any adoption of this in the B2B space?
John: Yeah, we start to see some adoption. I think that the trends in, I was talking to someone about this earlier around the trends in B2B as opposed to B2C. I think one of the things that is quite prominent is the change in generations in sort of the B2B. A lot of B2B work in the past, the ones that I was involved with tend to be very catalog, kind of best, you know, like you’ll have a list of all the things that you needed, parts or whatever, and you’d have the tradesmen or the professional that kind of knew it inside out and would look for all these things. But with the younger generations, they don’t think like that anymore. You know, they’re much more experiential. They use YouTube all the time. Their expectations are very different and the B2B world needs to catch up in that respect as well, in terms of need to generate the same types of experiences and produce the same types of tools and moved far more digital than they were before. And we’re seeing some of that starting to hit right now. Even the divide between what’s B2B, B2C, et cetera, is starting to separate. I mean, starting to emerge, becoming a bigger gray area.
Jay: If just for a simple wholesale application, like if a Crate and Barrel wanted to have a B2B wholesale channel, would Ampliance be a good solution to deliver a specific content, specific media products, prices, everything for B2C and then different content for B2B, using the same architecture, but just delivering based off of maybe who the customer is or login or something like that. Or would that be a use case for implants?
John: Yeah. One of the benefits of having a system like ours, is that you can define your content in a content model. So you basically have a schema and you can define your content and our content lives in something called a graph, which means that all the items are connected together and you can make them more granular. And when you do that, it allows you to do really interesting things like B2C land, do pure personalization. So you’re able to go get me this piece of content of give me a piece of content for this particular user or segment. And you could use the graph to pull the right bits back that you needed. And that same thing goes for B2B. So we don’t necessarily deal with pricing because our realm is content and you’d have another micro-service deal with pricing or the transactional parts. But we can have that interconnectivity with our graph and the transactional side, and we can disseminate that content depending on who’s accessing it. So if it’s a B2B kind of client customer, you can deliver a different set of content based on the same model as what you do for B2C.
Jay: Gotcha. Well, that’s actually where we can work perfectly together. We have a price rules engine that does exactly, so there you go, with Ampliance and Bold pricing B2B. One last question before I jump into our lightning round here, what are you most excited for the future with Ampliance?
John: I think being on the journey so far, what I’m really excited about is this, I think we really are on the new wave now of Mach and this change in terms of monoliths to services. And what I’m really excited about is that we are evolving away from just being content as assets. That used to be the kind of old world of headless CMS, into really driving the experience. And the fact that e-commerce is moving to a much more experiential than it ever was before. I think it’s hugely exciting for us. And I think there are going to be, new e-commerce experiences are yet to evolve around everything from AR and VR onwards. And there’s going to be a whole bunch of technology. My one is transparent forms. I think there’s a whole bunch of things like that, that could definitely accelerate the experiences around that and that you’ll only ever able to manage those experiences if you’re doing them in a headless on I kind of Mach world, as opposed to an old monolithic world.
Jay: Awesome. Okay. I’ve got a few quick questions to end this off here. And I don’t know if you had a chance to read through them or not, but there’s just kind of fun questions.
John: I did yes but I don’t know if I can remember them.
Jay: What is one of the biggest mistakes you see e-commerce brands make?
John: The biggest mistakes I see them make are getting the basics right. Not just the around performance of the site, logistics and delivery. And if they’ve got that right, the next mistake I see is that they’re not take advantage of that and then it tends to be pretty conventional. That’s uninspiring.
Jay: It’s back to basics, I think is it blows me away. I shop on some of the biggest brands in the world and the fundamentals aren’t there.
John: The crisis with COVID and lockdowns has shown that if you don’t get the basics, right, you’re in real trouble.
Jay: Yeah, we saw this last year, everyone kind of putting band-aids on solutions and patching together, quick fixes for things. And then now spending proper time, proper money building a proper solution because they weren’t really ready for it. So do you have a pet peeve when you shop online?
John: Product detail pages, maybe I’m like everybody else at the minute where, because we’ve been locked down and being stuck in the house now for over a year, you buy a lot more things than you ever would do online. And some of those things may not be things that you’re used to buying. And you go to a product detail page and they expect you to be an expert in that thing. So you get the detailed specifications to something. We talked earlier about audio-visual equipment. So getting your microphone, stuff I’ve never done before. So you go on a site, it’s got one of these and it says spec and you go, what the hell does that mean? I have no idea. There’s no like contextual stuff around it. There’s no like easy way of finding out something. Is it actually the thing that I want? I’m not too sure. How does it fit into my life? It’s just a spec, an image, which is just not enough. And like I was saying earlier, a product details page is the new landing page. So it needs to be much richer.
Jay: Long form is great, you know what, let the customer consume as little or as much, but you can have videos. You can have customer reviews, you can have all the content, examples. Even like the pictures, people, I could go on a rant about it, but the nice glossy clean white background is nice, but people want to see it in the home where you’re going to use it. And yes, I agree a hundred percent.
John: 1.1 meters. And you’re like, what does that mean? I don’t know.
Jay: Ar is starting to be really neat because you can, a lot of these sites now open up your camera and view it in your home.
John: You buy something new that you’ve never bought before, whether it’s a microphone or something that’s for DIY. And it gives you all these features, you go should I care about those things?
Jay: Yeah. I think the whole world bought microphones in the last 12 months. What’s your favorite thing about your job?
John: The people that I work with, I work with some incredibly exciting, inspiring people. The reason why I love to come to work is, it’s more difficult now because we’re not in the same room together. We still talk on the calls and meetings, but that’s the thing I love the most is that, you know, when you get into a meeting and you’re brainstorming something or working through a problem together, and you have that freedom that you can kind of argue against each other, but at the end of the day, you can have a quite heated debate, but you trust each other and you come and you’ve got this huge amount of wealth of knowledge and experience and just great people to work with. That’s why I come to work. I just love working with the people in Ampliance.
Jay: We say at Bold, strong opinions, loosely held as we want. You want a healthy, strong debate and dialogue. But at the end of the day we need to all be on the same page going forward. But during that, like when we’re flushing out an idea, that debate is good. So what’s your favorite online store or the last place you bought something?
John: I would say it was Aile actually. So we just moved house. So we had to buy lots of things like a new fridge freezer, a new oven, a new cooker and stuff like that. So it was like also domestic appliances, which you don’t buy them every day. And it was just a great customer experience. So I went on there. I think, like I said, I was trying to find things like, I didn’t know, what’s the new thing that you buy when you buy a refrigerator? Who knows? I don’t know. I went on the site and it had everything you needed.
Jay: And all things you probably wouldn’t have thought you’d ever buy online 5 or 10 years ago. You know, that was all in a store because of the size and complexity.
John: So it gave me loads of information. Give me all the stuff I needed in terms of the product detail page, give me enough to make decisions about what I should go or I should get. What was right for me, or as opposed to what’s just right for everybody. Plus the overall experience was good as well. They got everything right, in terms of the delivery, the delivery date, it wasn’t like, oh, you can have it in six weeks. It was like, you know, because it’s a big item. When do you want it next week? Or you can have it tomorrow if you want. It was that kind of, you know, so the delivery was great. The guys that come out were great, you know, they’ve fitted it. The whole thing and even called me afterwards. I don’t know, the whole customer experience felt exactly the way it should be. You felt like they cared about everything about you as a customer, as opposed to here’s a product.
Jay: I think there’s a lot of gold in there, like you as a brand are only as good as your weakest touchpoint. And if that’s a rude customer service person, a buggy product page or emails that are don’t make sense or poor tracking information, or you can have the flashiest videos or the flashiest product, but like whatever your weakest point is, that’s where people think of you, is the weakest point. That’s a great one, two last questions. What’s a trend in e-commerce that you’re excited about?
John: I think the trend that I’m excited about, apart from being Mach obviously is graph QL because I think that it’s been emerging for a little while, but it’s great enablier in terms of joining all the experiences together. So if you’ve got all of these different APIs, it’s a thing that can actually help join all these APIs together to actually give you the experience you need at the end, it kind of gives you a bit of glue in simplistic terms. It helps you join things together, allows most developers to develop their own APIs based on your APIs in some respects. And I’m quite excited by that. And we’re doing a lot of work around that. We have been for some time. If I was to go a bit further out, it would be, like I said before, I’m really excited about things like AR and VR.
I think there’s a lot that can be done there in e-commerce. And like I said, I think that the nature of experiences in e-commerce is going to dramatically change. And there’s gonna be a few other innovations around things like glasses and a transparent [41:37 inaudible] a bunch of things like that, that might accelerate some of that. And I tend to look at things like China, for instance, which they don’t have the legacy of all the old older platforms and conventional ways of building e-commerce sites that we have today. And it’s very different. And it’s interesting to see how social and rich media and e-commerce and fashion shows and things like that all come together in kind of one experience. And it’s completely different. It’s a lot respects to what we have in the west. It’s interesting to look at those kinds of trends as well.
Jay: We evolved in the.com boom, thinking we have a retail store, we need an online store and it doesn’t have to be a store. When you think about it, you should be able to, that experience can happen anywhere, but that’s just how, you know, what they say, if we gave the people what they wanted, it would have been a faster horse. We only think in steps. Last question here. A lot of our listeners they’re business owners and entrepreneurs, you’ve gone through an interesting journey. And do you have any advice or quotes or things that inspire you?
Jay: So I put a value in place at the very beginning in my team, in the sort of technical team, which we kind of live by and it’s best idea wins. What that means is, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the business. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have got. It doesn’t matter about anything else. It’s about the idea. So it kind of puts everybody on a level playing field and we’ve got some incredible innovations out that actually, where we all get together as a team. Have these heated around. So we’ll come up with an idea and then we’ll kind of debate around it and it’s really worked and it helps. I think it makes you open as a leader to understand things that are out there. It doesn’t mean that you’re the best person to have ideas. It means that you can get them from anywhere and you’ll learn, but it also helps everybody else.
Everyone else can feel part of the values of the business. So that was one of them. The other one I use day to day, is it’s about getting things done. Not about keeping people busy. Well, that’s about it. When you have teams that have multidisciplinary teams, front end developers, back end developers, QA or whatever, you can end up with a situation where the work that comes into that team may not always fit the direct profile of that team. You might have people going, oh, well, we’ve got a few front end devs for you or something. And it’s quite easy to think that the more work you do in parallel, the faster you’re going to go. You don’t, you’ve got to stay focused on one thing at a time and get it done. It’s all about the lean principle of work in progress. If you don’t focus on one thing and get it done, it’ll take forever to get all of the things that you want to get done at the same time.
Jay: And those are two really good. I have a question on your first one. Best idea wins. Is there any practical advice if 10 people are in a room to prevent the leader or the CEO, whatever, whoever’s like the manager, from their opinion, having extra weight.
John: I think it’s down to you as a leader to make sure that doesn’t happen. Unfortunately.
Jay: Yeah. I’ve heard, one company I was talking to, they said they have, when there’s a decision to be made, they have everyone write down their thoughts, their ideas. And then they’re read at a meeting and you don’t know whose idea it is, but the ideas are read and then discussed. I thought that was a cool approach.
John: Yeah. I think it’s about getting the team in a place where everybody trusts each other. If you’ve got a position where everybody trusts each other and they feel confident and comfortable within that team and you get into a situation and you’re not being bolshy as a leader, I’ve got the best idea cause I’ve been doing it a long time or I’m the leader or whatever. I know this bit of stuff more than anybody else. If everyone comes in with the right mindset. And that’s why I love working where I’m working. We’ve got, people are all like that now. Everyone will kind of work off each other, but you’ve got to kind of nip it in the bud if something does happen. If someone shut someone down, like oh, that’s not good. You’ve got to able to go, no, wait a minute. Let’s explore it.
Jay: And if you have that culture, that mindset, you will also enable everyone to speak their ideas. By the other token, you might have people that have great ideas, but they’re afraid to say it.
John: It’s a part of making sure that they get engaged with it early on as well. If you don’t get people talking at the beginning of the meeting, they’ll spend the whole meeting quiet. You’ve got to kind of get everybody involved and then, you know, walk around and go around and say, well, what do you think? How do you think we should approach it? Oh, you don’t look like you’re convinced about this. What do you think. It’s about being a leader that facilitates these things as well, or even stepping back and letting other people in the team do, which I do quite frequently, depending on which team it is. I might just say, look, I’m just an observer. I’m really interested in these things. I’ll come in. Sometimes I’m a business sponsor. I don’t know anything. And then, and let the team kind of unpack the idea right. And play around with it. And all you’re doing is giving guidance on requirement side of things, as opposed to solution.
Jay: Yeah, I read one time. I think it was Jeff Bezos, that would do this in meetings. He would start off by saying, this is probably a really stupid idea. And I want you to tell me why this is a stupid idea, but here’s what I think we should do. So he would phrase his whole idea saying that it’s probably a dumb idea, but here’s what I think. So no one was afraid then to pick it apart, as opposed to a CEO saying, this is what I think we should do, or this is what we’re going to do, so even just the way it’s presented.
John: I mean a lot of the innovations that we had have come from, people who are new into the business, even graduates. I had graduates who said, why don’t we build one of our services? Why don’t we build it in Node? And that was when Node was really early, and no one was really using it. We’re all a bit uncomfortable because we’ve been in [47:34 inaudible] and oh god, that could go wrong. But we sort of stepped back and said, you know what, explain to us why. And we’d kind of had the debate and then it was enough for us to go, tell you what, we’ll give you a couple of weeks, go and build something. I know Node is a old thing now, but at the time it wasn’t and they went off and built something. I went, this is really interesting, let’s see if we can take this forward. And now it’s a big basis of a lot of the things that we do.
Jay: Awesome. John, thank you so much. Where do you want to send listeners? And is there any social channels you’re active on that they should follow you?
John: Yeah, I mainly publish on LinkedIn. So you can get me John Williams on LinkedIn. I publish articles and I do have a series of videos I call CTO breakfast. I’ve started. I did them internally, but now I’m making them external. And it’s just, when I’m playing around with things and ideas in the mornings with my coffee, before I start proper work, I’ve kind of brought them to life in videos and things. So I’m starting to do more of that.
Jay: And that’s on your Linkedin?
John: You’ll find that on LinkedIn and it’s on YouTube as well. So it’s on there, my You Tube channel.
Jay: And it’a Ampliance.com.
John: Anything about Ampliance, go to Ampliance.com.
Jay: John thank you so much.
John: Thank alot.