“Speed to Market” vs “Speed to Innovation”? What's the difference, why does it matter, how should you approach each, and can they work together?
Karim Marucchi joins us to discuss the differences between Open Source vs SaaS, the strengths of each, how they're different, how they work, and most importantly, how they can work together!
Karim is the CEO of Crowd Favorite and one of the most forward thinking leaders in the digital experience platform space, and all things open source. He works with some of the largest brands in the world such as Disney, Lexus, Cambell's National Geographic, helping them innovate on WooCommerce, an open source platform.
BONUS: Our Chief Revenue Officer at Bold joins us on today's show!
Karim Marucchi, CEO of Crowd Favorite, has over 20+ years of experience in launching digital strategies. From bootstrapping one the first digital production teams in the industry, to leading global teams within the WPP Group, to taking agencies public; his wealth of expertise in leading digital teams across the globe has helped curate and expand his vision to lead Crowd Favorite in helping Enterprise organizations integrate successful Open Source into today’s Digital transformation strategies.
Jay: Karim, thank you so much for joining us today. Why don’t we start; I’ve got two special guests with me today. I have Mike Sanchez and Karim Arookie, CEO at Crowd Favorite. I want to quickly get each of you guys to introduce yourself and then we’ll jump into it. So Karim, who are you and what is Crowd Favorite?
Jay: Karim, thank you so much for joining us today. Why don’t we start; I’ve got two special guests with me today. I have Mike Sanchez and Karim Arookie, CEO at Crowd Favorite. I want to quickly get each of you guys to introduce yourself and then we’ll jump into it. So Karim, who are you and what is Crowd Favorite?
Karim: Hi Jay, thank you. Originally, I’m an architect who fell in love with building things, and then in the mid-nineties, I quite by accident, fell into the internet and software and loved it, and one thing led to the other, and today I’m CEO of Crowd Favorite. My specialty has always been sort of complex internet projects and starting with the enterprise with them working with all sorts of interesting complex companies. I’ve worked on all sorts of startups and I’ve helped companies go public and I’ve helped entrepreneurs start businesses, but most of all, it’s about helping fix these complex problems that our clients come up with.
Jay: I read something, was it back in like ‘94, ‘95, you helped build a game for Pixar, was it Bug’s Life?
Karim: Yes, one of our claims to fame was we were one of Los Angeles’s first webshops and we built the Bug’s Life website for Steve Jobs at the time, who was doing all the approvals himself of all the marketing. It’s crazy.
Jay: If that’s not a qualification right there, I don’t know what it is. And to build some type of, because, there was a gaming aspect to it right, on the site?
Karim: Definitely, yes, there were all sorts of little… crazy.
Jay: With what the web was then, that must’ve been no easy feat.
Karim: This was before Flash was a game engine, so yeah. Using an old Macromedia director, if anybody’s that old.
Mike: Way ahead of your time.
Jay: So Mike Sanchez is our CRO at Bold and he’s joining us today as well. Mike, can you give us a little bit of a quick background on who you are?
Mike: Yes, I would love to. So CRO at Bold, started in November of 2019. Similar to Karim, I had been kind of a tech nerd my entire life, started off actually in software development early on in my career, and really just started taking a bunch of different tracks in different roles from a business-oriented, technical, architects and then found myself in like sales partnerships, business development. So I spent seven and a half years at Rackspace, about a couple of years at Big Commerce, met Karim. My last job was at WP Engine for four years where my last role was leading up partnerships there. So Karim and I have a history there doing some really cool stuff, working on some really great clients. That’s actually one of the big reasons why they were such a key partner to bring in to Bold to collaborate on some of the great stuff that we’re doing today. So yes, happy to be here and happy to do this chat today.
Jay: Awesome. So for a little bit of background, so Karim, Crowd Favorite, is it like the largest digital agency for WordPress, I know you are one of the longest?
Karim: Not at all, Crowd Favorite was founded originally by Alex King, one of the original contributors who helped start the project with Matt Mullenweg and Mike Lindell, and then he wanted to figure out the challenge of scaling WordPress. So Alex founded the Crowd Favorite brand in 2007 as a brand to really focus on scaling WordPress, originally in publishing, and him and I met in 2011, 2012, because my team was brought on to help Walt Disney Studios move from an on-premises private software to open-source for the entire organization. So we helped architect that. So we started talking, one thing led to another, and at the end of 2013, we merged.
Jay: Wow, and that was the three companies, right?
Karim: That was three companies. It was **(inaudible) **Media, Crowd Favorite and 4D Design out of Tempe, Arizona.
Jay: Who was it that was one of the people involved that was early on with WordPress?
Karim: That would be Alex King, the founder of the original company.
Jay: That was him, okay, awesome. So I guess, and so you work with larger brands, it can be in kind of any space, whether it’s ecommerce or whether they’re media brands, or is there any specific vertical you focus on?
Karim: Well, originally going back my whole 20 something years, it started with enterprise, but as we started specializing on more complex projects, as we’ll talk about even later on, it comes down to performance and personalization whenever you get through to anything. And really, we start with companies like Disney, which everybody knows and then we have clients like Victaulic, which not a lot of people know out there, but they’re one of the major brands in commercial plumbing. They own the market. They’re huge in their industry. Then we have some consumer favorites, like if anybody who lives in Texas knows HGB and Central Market and then some great innovative start-ups like Counter Culture Coffee. So you don’t have to be an enterprise client to have complex problems, so we work with these brands to just solve some complex issues and help them get past what their pain points are today.
Jay: Interesting. So I guess that kind of leads into one of the main things. I have a few things I want to make sure we touch on in this episode, but WordPress open-source, and you’ve chosen to build your business around it. Why?
Karim: Well, so, as I mentioned earlier, I spent so many years in the enterprise space where we had on-premises closed source software or the very beginnings of SaaS and we were limited by either the on-premises software or the beginnings of the SaaS market. The customers were held back by how quickly the platforms could innovate. So what we wanted to do is say let’s take a look at open-source, how can open-source be different and way back in 2007, 2008, I looked at the very beginning of what WordPress was at the time Drupal and other open-source projects for content management, because everything starts with content management like it or not on the Internet. And really what drew me to WordPress, were these two incredible factors. Incredible factor number one was this concept of a core and keeping their modules or plugins separate and they’re theming or their front end separate, more on that later. And then number two, more importantly, was you could get anybody to learn how to use WordPress in about five minutes, content-wise. You take those two things together and that’s why a company like Walt Disney Corporation would say, let’s go and switch to WordPress because anybody can edit this content. It was a wonderful idea. It was just that it couldn’t scale at the time. At the time it was only scaling for publishers where you could heavily cash and put things into memory that you would have to have dynamic websites. So that was a challenge more than 10 years ago.
Jay: It’s interesting you say everything started with content because I feel now everything’s going back to content. It’s even like the biggest ecommerce brands are really becoming media and content companies that have a commerce aspect to it. So we’re kind of coming full circle on it. So why don’t we, Mike, if you want to say anything at any point, cut me off or anything, but then open-source, I feel like right now Bold plays; we’re in the ecommerce space and you’ve got custom builds, you’ve got platforms, you’ve got SaaS solutions, you’ve got open-source. I want to just make sure that everyone has a good definition of open-source. How do you define open-source? Just so everyone’s clear on that.
Karim: Well, I won’t give the standard technical ones, I’ll say for folks who don’t know what open-source is out here. The idea here is software that doesn’t have licensing restrictions around paying for license. Software that you are free to edit, you’re free to customize, you can do all the things you want to do around innovating. That was what drew me to open-source is the innovation aspect of it. While Bold is assessed today, but bold embodies the idea of moving very quickly, Bold embodies the ideas of being open, a lot of SaaS software out there, you’re stuck with moving only as fast as the platform can move forward, and on-premises software, which was the old alternative, the same thing you’re sort of stuck with, “I can only do whatever my competitors are doing because those functions are released all at the same time.” What drew me to open-source originally was the fact that you could innovate very quickly and inexpensively and play with new customization that your competitors as a brand may not be doing yet.
Jay: Yes, it’s an interesting dilemma. SaaS makes it easy for everyone, but when it’s easy for everyone, it’s actually harder for everyone from a competitive standpoint. I heard the quote it was, “the hard thing about easy things,” and when things become easy, they actually become hard. So when everyone has access to something, it’s no longer a competitive advantage and so in the open-source world, is it a fair statement that there is a bit of a higher barrier of entry, but once in there’s a higher level of future flexibility and growth and competitive advantage?
Karim: Right, so today, one of the big buzzwords out there is codeless development. People want to drag and drop their entire website into being. That is absolutely the easiest way to get moving quickly, to get in from zero. But the minute you want to try and do something different or you want to try and customize, or you don’t like the way something happens on the screen, that you only have three options for on that cordless version, then you have to start actually either writing code and getting into one of these bespoke solutions; or the wonderful thing about open-source, for those of you who don’t know, for instance for WordPress world is WordPress is one core product, but there are over 60,000 free plugins out there on an open-source repository at wordpress.org that you can play with. So no matter what you want your website to do, whether it’s written in a performant way or not, if it will work well for you or not, there’s something out there for you to play with, and that might get you to say, okay, whether I know my own development, I’m a developer, I can hire a developer, I know development, I can change that and make that unique to my proposition for selling.
Jay: So then can we jump into the advantages of using open-source versus SaaS? And maybe let’s talk about the advantages. I imagine there are pros and cons too, right? It’s not just black and white and there are probably times when one makes sense and when the other makes sense, but let’s start first as you see it, the advantages of SaaS over open-source or vice versa.
Karim: The advantages of SaaS at the very beginning are initial financial cost. SaaS, you get up and running literally by subscribing to SaaS decks. So very quick to have a low-cost entry. The second thing is the operational burden is very low because literally, you’re not maintaining it, it’s being maintained for you. Then sort of the deep instant scaling is a big thing that SaaS has, your costs might go up if all of a sudden you get mentioned on a major network on TV or something, but it just will instantly go there because your SaaS providers ready for that, as opposed to having to do it yourself, or depending on your hosting or ten other things. So SaaS has always had those advantages, not that you couldn’t solve those with open-source, but those were the beginning of the advantages and to solve them you had to be very innovative or they had to spend lots of money.
Then on the other hand with open-source, you had data security and privacy. You’re always in charge of your own data. You’re not giving it out onto a SaaS platform, which is the most prominent complaint about SaaS these days, especially the enterprise; the speed of innovation, definitely with source you can do things much more quickly; and then vendor lock-in, back from pre-Internet days and our cable companies and a cell phone companies would try to limit what they call churn. Now that’s coming into fast world. It’s like, how do I keep my customer and keep them from migrating to my competitor? Well, with open-source, it’s all open data, so it’s very easy to move open-source X to Y, or it’s open to, it’s easy to move, to work with other systems, that kind of thing. So those are the six key elements and sort of how it’s been divided traditionally, but change is coming.
Mike: Yes, and on that point, so like what I’m hearing, you have open-source customization innovation, not feeling that you can… future-proofing yourself, but possibly, potentially depending on how big the project is and then SaaS is quicker to market. So I think I’m kind of leading to where you think things are changing, but how do you bridge the benefits of both of these and be able to kind of leverage both a SaaS or an open-source and pull things together to create the best thing?
Karim: So taking advantage of that, I’m an old dog in a new Internet, I’ll say 20 years ago, we talked about how we had to integrate legacy enterprise systems with these cool new content management systems and you had to integrate one function at a time. Well, now we have APIs, and everybody’s talking about how APIs work. The future is having the power of SaaS, which is net performance, which is I’m going to do the hard calculations, the complex, costly functions on a SaaS cloud, yet I’m going to have the customization and the innovation that I can have with open source through open, like what we think of today as APIs, it’s just going to go crazy because APIs are becoming headless. The word API is now being replaced by decoupled or headless and just APIs are part of that. So as these things keep growing, those who want to innovate the small and medium enterprise, once you out a small, medium business, and they want to innovate to get past their competitors, they’ll say, I want to go from something that’s very quick to market, to something that’s very quick to innovate, and the companies that are mixing and molding SaaS and open-source together are going to dominate that space.
Jay: That’s an interesting way of looking at it. I feel there’s well, I’ll ask you before I say, what do you think builds will look like in five years, the mid to larger ecommerce stores? How will they approach a build and what will be different in five years versus now?
Karim: So I know you guys on this podcast are very focused towards the commerce side, but I’m sure you guys have talked about or looked into the new buzz term DXP, Digital Experience Platform that’s replacing the CMS. All that means, bottom line, is that 360 degree view of your customer. Right? So in five years, it’s no longer going to be about your content management system versus your ecommerce, it’s not going to be about your offline versus your online. It’s not going to be about that experience for your customer, and in a new digital experience, in an innovation where you have your store and your marketing so integrated that it really bleeds in between the two, you can’t tell the differences, it’s so blended, it’s going to be just a seamless experience. Right now, whether you look at some of the major stores out there like LL Bean or others, where it’s very different, even pre-COVID, going into the store versus ordering online, versus ordering on the phone, those were three different experiences. My mother who still orders on the phone or goes to the store, they charge her to send something back. What’s that about?
That’s all going to be blurred because the brands who can actually make this a seamless concept across that, that 360 relationship, it’s going to be amazing, and the only way you can do that is if you’re integrating the best-of-breed of everything. So incredible, incredible online ecommerce platform with your customer intelligence platform, with your content management system, you’re really going to have to be able to blend those together. Some people are betting on one system. Like in the enterprise today, Adobe tries to say, we can take care of everything, A to Z, cradle to grave, we have a solution for anything you need. But then you’re in their universe and you’re stuck there, you can’t innovate. You can’t integrate. You’re really just doing whatever’s going on with them and if you happen to be one of the top 10 brands in the country, you can tell Adobe, hey, get this feature out quickly. Otherwise, you’re just waiting for them to come out with what’s next. If we look at what’s now become, what is the new MarTech number Mike? 5000, 7000? How many MarTech?
Mike: My eyes bleed when I see that visual every time.
Karim: But that’s keeping innovation, that’s the disruptive nature of technology. So the small, medium enterprises and the businesses out there who want to innovate are looking at these technologies, and they’re saying, “I’m using this commerce platform and this CMS, but I want to specialize in this thing over here, how do I integrate those?” And today we’re just at the very beginning of all those APIs coming together. I mean, (inaudible)… and if this, then that were based on the fact that things weren’t talking to each other, that’s why they exist. As platforms start realizing that their future’s based on APIs and integration, that’s going to just be taken for granted.
Jay: We’ve definitely seen that accelerated and to be true in the ecommerce space and it’s not the best, like when you talk about the different aspects, like your content, your customer intelligence, it’s not the same tool for different brands that make sense. For certain brands, it’s one tool for a certain brand it’s another, and it might change over time as well, too. Like one brand might swap in one content management system or order manager, and then swap in another, I agree 100% with that. That’s refreshing to hear.
Mike: That’s kind of killing what Karim said, the old vendor lock-in issue that you used to run in before. It’s like, you don’t have to feel married to a three to five-year contract if there’s something you don’t like, swap it out, give something else to try, be dynamic, keep 80% or 90% of your stack in place and I know that’s what we’re hearing, but even on the DXP side, which was my prior life, we were starting to hear a lot of the rumblings of that as well. I think people want options. I think that’s the biggest thing. Like Karim I’d love to, I have my opinion on this, but I want to hear your opinion on this. But like you mentioned, like this LLB example, of just how disconnected some of these things are, what do you feel is keeping brands from taking this next step? Like what’s holding them back?
Karim: I’m just going to be blunt. I’m going to say bad communication between marketing and IT for most of these big brands, you have a mentality of one’s leading or the other’s leading. Because you have great innovative leaders in these different marketing and IT departments or these large brands, yet it doesn’t need to be seen as separate. Marketing is based on technology now, technology is so ingrained in marketing that you just need to be able to do that and these brands definitely just need to realize that you don’t need to just take whatever comes out of the box out of an AEM. I mean, one of your lightning questions, I think is, what store do you use lately? I was using, right now, I’m in the middle of building a house and I went on a site that sells lighting, and they actually, I can tell, they actually use this large content management system and ecommerce that they’re locked into those features. So I can’t go and research more about what they’re selling because they want to push me off. So they put little text boxes off on the side that link out to other pages, so you no longer have an integrated experience. You can’t bring that content in any longer. So it’s about making it a unified experience. It’s the customer experience. If you’re not working on your customer experience as a brand, especially since COVID, we’ve accelerated this now, you’re going away folks.
Jay: No, that’s great. I think when you are shopping or on a site and you know the platform, then to me, they haven’t done a good job differentiating the brand. Like I can tell when I’m shopping somewhere or I’m on a site or I’m somewhere and I’m like, oh, this is this platform, this is this platform, this is this platform, because you’re right, it feels a certain way, there are certain feature sets, certain limitations they’re working within. But again, pros and cons here, how does a brand strategically think about this then as they’re making this decision, given that there’s pros and cons and there isn’t right or wrong, there’s different and how should a brand strategically think about open-source versus SaaS as they’re deciding what’s best for them?
Karim: That’s a good question and a complex one, because what we tell our clients at Crowd Favorite is don’t think of it as does open-source do X or should I be using open sources. Think about your business problem. Think about what your business goal is and then let’s talk about what’s the best for each one of those issues. So no matter which business you go to, you’re going to have your top five or top ten things that they’re looking at. Some of those are going to be best hit with one platform or another, but just look at it as, first look at your business and then start looking at technology. Don’t try to take a square peg and fit it into a round hole as far as, oh, I want to do this so let me go take a look at this platform. First look at a business wise and then start shopping. That’s the number one thing we talk about. Does that make sense?
Jay: It does and then would you say like, so how does that relate for SMBs versus enterprise, is one more geared to the other or better for the other?
Karim: So I’m not in the small, medium business market, the SMB market, but I can imagine that the quick sort of drag and drop codeless experience getting out there very quickly is exactly what they want and of course the enterprise wants everything to be a special snowflake and everything has to be completely custom. The challenge where I think we thrive is this, S and E market, small medium enterprise. When a business is going from, we’re having some success to where we’re about skyrocket, or we’re about to do something that’s changing for our business, is do they stay in that groove that’s created by their platform, whatever it may be, that just has these features or do they deal completely custom? That’s where really looking at the advantages of open-source and merging open-source, single SaaS really gets your best ROI, your best return, that’s the most interesting customers that we have are the ones that are saying, we have an interesting problem we’d like to solve, that’s one side.
Then there are clients that want to innovate. I mean, I’m so impressed with, again, for people who live in Texas, HGB and Central Market, they went out and they said, “yes, there’s all these platforms out there, but we want to experiment,” sort of like how Ferrari uses the formula one circuit to experiment on their cars, to then bring it to market. You want to experiment with the best possible process for customers. So they went out and they started with open source, and then they started building their own very intricate system, always with that customer focus in mind. and they did some incredibly innovative things with Central Market and curbside and all the things they do. You can’t do that as fast as cheap and as well without using open source.
Jay: Mike, you for anyone listening, so Mike is CRO. I was going to mention this earlier, a lot of people might think that conversion rate optimization is also another acronym for CRO. So Mike is Chief Revenue Officer, which is head of sales partnerships. So he works with partners and also a lot of larger clients, like Mike, when you’re talking with clients, how do you think about it as bold works with a lot of different platforms, we work in the open-source space, we work with platforms. How do you think about it for brands, how to approach it, how to think about it, and maybe what makes the most sense for them?
Mike: Yes, great question. I think very similar to the Karim’s approach of what he said. I think the goal is you have to start with what is the problem you’re trying to solve? What is the experience you’re trying to create? What are the things that you aspire to be right as a brand and what do you want to become? We see so many brands that actually choose technology before answering this question and honestly, that’s a big part. Honestly, we have a lot of customers that come and talk to us because we are trying to go in and say, let’s go figure out how Bold can go solve some limitations based upon a technology choice, before this was actually vetted out and I think for us, if we have the opportunity to drive that right engagement, to start from the beginning and start piecing that through, I mean, that’s the power of having choice, that’s the power of, if you want to call it modular, if you want to call it open source and SaaS combined, it’s all kind of the same type of theme, which is, we want to take a look at it if it’s simplicity and if it’s just time to market, and there’s not a lot of complexity, well, let’s go SaaS. That’s the perfect way to go and we have great partners out there, that we could take down that route.
If they want to go content first, that starts to kind of think of like, well, let’s start talking about what your content strategy is and not start with ecommerce. I think that’s the biggest challenge is that sometimes you want to start with the ecommerce choice yet you’re a huge content driver of where you’re going to expect all your demand to come from. You’re starting the wrong way and then what ends up happening is you have a limitation down the road, and then we have to go hire Crowd Favorite and Karim to go and wire and figure out how to go in and bridge this together. So to me, it’s like, if we can get ahead of those conversations and really consult and identify it, bring in good partners like a Crowd Favorite and other ones we have in our ecosystem, we can bring that best of breed approach and hopefully create the experience that these brands are trying to get to.
Karim: I want to echo what Mike said, because I think if you asked the question, “what’s the biggest challenge we face when we come into clients down the road?” It’s almost always the fact that they started with thinking of content and ecommerce or marketing and ecommerce as two separate things, two separate sites, two separate processes, and they shouldn’t be doing that anymore. There’s a ton out there on 360 experience. I won’t get into that but the bottom line is don’t make that mistake, because we’ve probably spent way too much of our client’s money and we try to always spend the least possible in un-separating these things.
Jay: Yes, ecommerce companies are content companies and content companies are commerce companies. I agree.
Karim: That’s why I’m a fan of the DXP name.
Jay: Yes and that was worth touching on that because that’s not, I mean, what Gartner coined out a couple of years ago, it’s a relatively new term, but that term defines, can you define it, how you define it?
Karim: Well, so originally with CMS and then somebody said, “well, now we have to do web-based CMS. So it’s going to be W-CMS,” and then all of a sudden, somebody said, “well, it’s more about the digital experience,” and somebody asks, “what does that mean?” There’s a great definition, somewhere out there for Gartner but the bottom line is trying to make the entire experience with your customer feel integrated so that it’s not, here’s my marketing site, here’s my customer service, here’s my ecommerce site, here’s my channel for wholesale and blog over here. Let’s integrate that so that it’s absolutely seamless. Let’s bringing that together so that the customer doesn’t have to go, all right, where am I and where do I go to next?
Jay: That makes sense. You touched earlier on APIs and how APIs are now being used interchangeably with headless. That’s a big area that we talk a lot about. Does that play into your world?
Karim: It does, for some of our technical clients, it comes in just like that. But a lot of times we get brought in by some of the upper-level management that’s saying, look, we don’t want to talk about pay technology. Don’t talk to me about headless, decoupled and APIs, talk to me about what my problem is and my problem is omni-channel. My problem is how do I get out there across all the channels, and that’s where then the technical terms, decoupled, headless, that’s where it comes into play. But we tend to talk about it more on the business side, on purpose, to try and keep it from somebody saying, well, we want to use this particular technology, this particular headless piece. The future is we’re going to be speaking about the word headless, decoupled, or API in the next five years as much as today, we say HTML and CSS, you just don’t. It’s just under there and it’s about that omnichannel experience.
Jay: I like that. A couple more questions and then I want to jump into before we run out of time, some of our lightning round stuff, but what does the future hold for open source and if you could relate it to commerce because that’s most of our listener base, but what does the future hold, open-source for commerce?
Karim: Well, in a perfect world, we want to see the performance and the sheer power that is a maintained SaaS with the absolute innovation flexibility of open source. That’s what we’re striving to build every single day across all the technologies we use across all of the things that we do, and that’s something that I think is sort of the Holy Grail right now is getting past this idea of what it was five years ago, if it’s one thing or the other.
Mike: Couldn’t agree more, I feel that’s been the Holy Grail for a lot of years that has been trying to, technologies have, think back to IRCE in like 2010, 2011, and you’re talking about Hybris and Adobe and then trying to come together and do these types of things, and I think we’re getting closer to getting there and doing it in a way that is not paying multi-millions of dollars to actually get that technology as well. So yes, I think when you can bridge the power of both, that’s when you’re going to do some fairly incredible things.
Jay: Yes, because they each have their weaknesses, they each have their strengths and yes, I agree. Can I just ask a question Karim, one of the things I hear about open source is vulnerabilities, security, that kind of stuff, like there isn’t like a ton of negative stuff out there, but that is one that comes up. How do you approach that with like, if someone listening right now is like, “ah, open-source, but there are vulnerability issues.” I mean, what would you say to someone who’s thinking that who’s listening?
Mike: So it’s out there, but today, if you have somebody telling you that open-source today has that problem, it’s usually somebody who’s reading something that’s very dated and old because open-source absolutely did have that problem. The roots of open-source were just thrown up on any type of hosting and it’ll just work well, that creates nothing but problems. I mean, in my past life at WP Engine, they had that beat. You put something like WordPress on something like WP Engine, security is not an issue, vulnerability is not an issue. They just haven’t handled it for you. That’s part of that infrastructure as a service part of WP Engine that was just so amazing from day one. Now, as you add pieces to that, it just becomes more and more robust. Getting back to your question, today, nobody should be running any open-source software on generic hosting somewhere. The reason why you go to an infrastructure as a service square DXP platform, or you start integrating with a SaaS is exactly for that reason. So the future is with sort of the mixing of the two.
Jay: That’s perfect and that kinda just touches on what you just said five minutes ago about the future. So what are you most excited about for the future of Crowd Favorite?
Karim: Quite literally every week, we are finding new ways that we didn’t think of before of the advantages of crossing SaaS and open-source, I want to see where that goes. I mean, there’s gigantic players out there with the investment of Salesforce into automatic, for WordPress, for wordpress.com and VIP and all of that, with what WP Engine is doing on the content side is amazing, where they’re headless, but then like with what we’re doing with Bold and in the content space to have that sheer power of instant performance availability, the heavy-duty crunching, the hard parts of the functionality is being taken care of in a SaaS, yet with these strong APIs and these strong connections, being able to say, “hey, I want to use a SaaS platform, but I also want it to be available to my open-source piece. So that way I can do additional content or customization in a very customized way.” That’s where the future lies and we have not seen the tip of the iceberg there, it’s coming.
Jay: That’s the sound bite right there Karim. I couldn’t agree with — do you have any examples of many brands that are doing this in a meaningful way right now?
Karim: Ones that I can talk about?
Jay: That you’re not breaking NDA.
Karim: There’s a lot going on right this minute out there, but I’ll talk about the fact that in the last three and four years, we were just talking about HGB a few minutes ago. Some of the things they did around the customer were amazing, nobody would have thought of doing that with open-source and the way they merged open-source with SaaS was just amazing. But really it’s anybody’s game out there. It’s ripe for disruption in the sense of brands who are looking to break out of how they’re selling right now, with what you’re doing at Bold, with what others are doing with different types of content, personalization engines, the way all these things can combine, the sky’s the limit really.
Jay: It’s interesting. Yes, that’ll be interesting next five to ten years, that’s for sure. Before we run out of time here, I want to fire off some lightning round questions. Just got a few here and I was telling Mike before this, one day I’m going to; I ask every guest similar questions, and one day I’ll compile it into a blog post or a short book or something, but we’ll see. But Karim what is the biggest mistake you see commerce brands make?
Karim: I’m going to say the lack of integration between them trying to sell you something and the rest of their customer service and marketing, drives me crazy.
Jay: And it’s different messaging, you’re getting one experience here and then a completely different experience.
Karim: If I wasn’t as technical as I am I’d say, I don’t understand why these experiences are different, but it’s caused by the fact that they’re using systems that just don’t play well together and they haven’t thought it out.
Jay: Yes, Mike, I want to ask you these same questions as well too. What’s a big mistake you see ecommerce brands make?
Mike: Choosing technology before understanding the problem. That’s been the biggest one recently. I feel two out of five customers we talk about, it’s like they’ve already contracted with certain technologies and then if we would’ve just slowed down and taken a more different approach, we could have solved this quicker, faster, probably cheaper. But I would say that’s the big thing right now that we’re seeing is think about the business problem that you’re solving first and then allow the technology to be the second piece to come in.
Karim: I have a follow-up on that. Today, business intelligence tools are very affordable. They’re no longer just for the fortune 50. Business intelligence tools, use them.
Mike: Definitely, that’s another big one.
Jay: So when you are shopping online, outside of the technology and the backend stuff, when you’re shopping online Karim, what’s a pet peeve of yours?
Karim: When people are setting up their online experience, test it with the Chrome forms fill in, test it with one password, test it with one pass and all those other systems that are formed fillers, because I don’t want to fill out that form, and so many of these sites have broken forms that don’t work with the browser or whatever. That’s crazy.
Jay: And that’s literally one of the bigger conversion killers. I don’t care if a site, to be honest, Bold has a checkout and it’s one of our products, but when I’m shopping, I don’t care what checkout they use. My browser generally has everything saved and it’s one or two clicks for me to check out and it’s like, when I fill out a form and they’re not configured properly to know that there’s name, address, field different thing and I have to type it in. I sometimes leave.
Karim: Well, especially pre COVID, I did a lot of traveling and I was based out of a couple of different cities. So I have to choose which one in this instance when I’m buying X or Y, and it’s not just one click, it’s I have to go and choose and if I come back, it’s a mess.
Jay: Mike, what’s your biggest pet peeve?
Mike: Well, you stole my first one Karim, because that annoys me like crazy, but I’ll add a fast-follow second one is being that where we are and we’re in 2021, you still have horrible mobile experiences with some of these ecommerce sites. I won’t name any names, but just same thing, I’m building a house and we’re renovating another house and I’m trying to get this house sold. So I’m going onto these different things and I’m trying to buy lighting and I’m trying to buy this, I’m trying to buy that. When I’m not in front of my laptop, I go into the mobile experience, it’s probably one of the most difficult things for some of these things where it’s not unified, either from search from your credentials, saving your carts, all these different things are simply broken. Texts showing up in weird spots, not being able to click on buttons or whatever it may be. So yes, I’ll add-in that’s my second one. I feel that should be, I feel that was a big problem six or seven years ago about this whole being mobile optimized and things like that, but still a big problem now.
Jay: I love what Facebook did a few years ago where they made every product demo at the company, it has to be on a phone. Literally mobile-first, no one would pull up and do a demo at a Facebook Town Hall on a laptop. It would always be on a phone, and it’s interesting, like I noticed like Google, most of their products are actually better on mobile than they are on the web. Like if you use Google photos, there’s better functionality in the Google photos app on my phone than there is on Chrome on the desktop. They’ll eventually add that into the desktop, but like I can search by maps on my phone, but I can’t on desktop. Anyways, I think it needs to be mobile-first, not even equal anymore. I think it needs to lean towards.
Mike: I agree.
Jay: Karim, what’s your favorite thing about your job?
Karim: Working with the people, the different teams. My team’s awesome, but we get to work with other teams in the nature of our work and those social dynamics and solving problems together, it’s amazing.
Jay: How about you, Mike? What’s your favorite thing about your job that you’re on the floor here because everyone at Bold will hear this.
Mike: Like first and foremost, it’s obvious, working with you Jay. That’s the only reason I even come into work all the time. So that’s a big one, but no people, culture, culture of innovation, trust, all those big things, the builder’s code of what makes Bold amazing. I think Jay being one of the founders, definitely built up an incredible company here. I would say secondary to that, Bold is modular, so we work with everybody, we’re platform agnostic. It’s so cool to talk to all other types of technology that’s out there, partners and seeing kind of what the trends are, what people are thinking are, what the brands are thinking are good or bad, what are the most leading-edge ideas that are coming out there and being to be a part and being a kind of in the hub of hearing all those things. I think that’s what makes the job exciting. I feel like every single day I had jumped on a conversation and I learned something new or learn something that somebody is thinking about. So I think that’s another fun part of it.
Jay: Yes, Karim, do you have a favorite online store? I know you mentioned you shopped at that lighting place earlier. I’m sorry, plumbing place.
Karim: Because of the business I’m in, I shop at so many, I have many favorites. It’d be hard to pick one, but lately it’s all been about construction, I have a lot of feedback for all those stores if they get in touch with me.
Jay: I bet you that is probably a vertical that is ripe for improvement, because they all have massive catalogs that were probably built a long time ago and updating their systems is a lot more effort than probably a lot of verticals. How about you Mike, what’s your favorite online store?
Mike: Hard for me to choose one, I would say one kind of local and I would say local, but you know small DTC brand, it’s vuori.com, really cool clothes. So I buy like kind of active shorts, shirts, pants, things from that, I think it’s a pretty cool brand. They started to do some B2B, I’ve seen them pop up like an REI and some of these other things, I think from also kind of to Karim’s point kind of being in this like other I’m trying to think of like buying for your house and stuff, I’ve been spending some time on Restoration Hardware and their site so, seen some awesome rooms of improvement, but they’re also doing some really great stuff as well. So there are some interesting things there, but so much opportunity there, I think to make it a more seamless experience during COVID and things like that. But yes, I would say, yes, I shopped just kind of everywhere. It’s crazy. I don’t have one go-to, it’s just depending on the weekend, what’s the highest importance
Karim: Props to restoration hardware though, you’re absolutely right.
Jay: When their new catalog comes every couple of times a year, it’s like Christmas.
Mike: And they have a great approach too, if you’ve ever been into their store. I mean, the way they have the walk-in and build your room on an iPad, save that to your catalog so that you can go back and have like four different versions of the type of bedroom or living room that you want to build out and then you have the integrated sales process where you have your consultant, that’s reaching out to you to help you. So like I said, it’s less, kind of like what Karim said earlier, it’s less about just like the website it’s about like, I think they’ve nailed that entire customer experience, from the point that you walk into a store to online to helping you kind of make the decision.
Jay: Totally. Two more questions, Mike, I’ll start with you on this one. What’s one thing you think almost every store can do to grow sales or where are they leaving money on the table?
Mike: A lot of stuff right there but I think right now during COVID, you need optionality right now. I think brands that haven’t given their customers options on how to purchase, where to purchase, but also how to fulfill. I think that’s one great thing, like I know Staples Canada is doing right now with like split orders, is they give their customers options of if somebody bought five products, they can figure out the best way. Either if it’s pickup in store or delivery or whatever it may be, there’s still a lot of brands that are falling behind on that and I think the ones that we know and we can name all of them, but Jay you and I know this, that the ones who have made those moves are making a ton of money right now, and they’re transacting a ton right now and they’re beating out their competition. So I think more options, I think the landscape of ecommerce is changing. So I think a lot of people now have gotten actually used to this curbside pickup and how easy it is and how efficient it is, where it used to just be kind of like a maybe I can use this to now, I think that’s going to be the norm where people are just going to go click, click, click, drive up, they get notified, pop it in your trunk and you’re gone and you take 10 minutes versus an hour. So I think things are going to be changing overall.
Jay: I want to just add one quick thing to that too. I asked this to a lot of guests and they always say it’s meeting customers where the customer wants to be. I think curbside pickup is going to evolve. I think we’re in the infancy stages of it. I think I can see a world where in a few years there are hubs in cities because like right now I’m doing five curbside pickups, five different places waiting 20 minutes. I think some savvy entrepreneur is going to open up hubs where I can order from five different places and pick up from those hubs and then someone else might even deliver from those hubs. But I think we’re in the very early days of this new logistics for brands, I think that’s going to be drastically improved in the next couple of years.
Mike: Well even like, for example, on like the last-mile delivery, I think it was Door Dash is starting to do that already on the delivery side where I made an order and that right when I made the order, they said, this person’s in this area, here are five stores in that area. Do you want to go add anything else at no additional shipping costs? Just because that person’s around, they can make another stop and go pick you up a few other things if you need it and I actually used it. Like, I was like, oh, you’re by there, I can use X, Y, and Z and they picked that up on the way. No change and delivered. So yes, I think it’s infancy, but that’s going to be new ways on how to consume.
Karim: So I’ll piggyback on that. The Home Depot has received a lot of accolades for their curbside pickup, yet the one thing they need is that fast food drive-through window of how long the customer has been waiting since they get to the party. Because of number of times I’ve waited for a half-hour, 40 minutes for something that I could’ve just gone into the store and bought in ten, just ruins the experience
Jay: Because you’re stuck in, you’ve already paid for it, now you don’t want to go in and you’re stuck waiting there.
Mike: To tell you shift Karim, I’ve made the choice to just go in because of that, the last time I had that experience where I’m like 45 minutes an hour, I was like, I got this much time to go do this before my next meeting. I was like, no thanks, I’m just going to run in, it’ll take me 20 minutes and kind of killed that.
Karim: That’s what we want our customers not to have to go through, exactly.
Jay: And my last question for you two gentlemen, most of our listeners are business owners, they’re entrepreneurs, they’re partners, agencies, brands. What’s a quote each of you, that has meant something to you or that you live by related to business? Mike, I feel like you probably have 20, you’re the most inspirational guy I know on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Mike: I had to get it word for word here though and so you kind of caught me off guard. Karim, you have one off the top of your head?
Karim: Off the top of my head, my business partner and I constantly trade back and forth “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”, that’s internally, and then as far as working with our staff, I’ll say that we’re big fans of the West Wing. So the idea of keeping things moving all the time, my favorite quote is “what’s next?”
Jay: Yes, that’s good. It’s so funny. I listened to, I’m making my way through the Adam Grant podcast, which is work-life, which I highly recommend to anyone listening and the episode I actually listened to today was, I can’t remember the guest he interviewed name, but she talks all about discomfort and being comfortable being uncomfortable, and she consults with companies in Silicon Valley and one of the things she teaches them was to onboard for discomfort. That’s part of the onboarding process is onboarding for discomfort and I just thought that was so enlightening and she encourages companies to have what they call a problem box. So it’s not a complaint box. It’s not a suggestion box. It’s a problem box and you can put your problems in there and it’s okay that it’s uncomfortable, you don’t know the answer to these problems, but it’s creating a company that’s open and vulnerable and it’s uncomfortable and that’s okay. That’s how you grow and that’s how innovation happens. So I love that. How about you Mike?
Mike: So I had to look it outside and do it cause it’s a; so I’m a big fan of stoicism and just that whole philosophy of controlling your outcomes, you know what I mean? Being able to control that and one, it could be a little dark, but it doesn’t mean it the way it is, but it’s from Seneca, it says “he who fears death will never do any worth a man who is alive” and a part of that is it’s about letting fear control the things that you want to go do and I think when you kind of push that into the business, and if you’re a startup, you’re entrepreneurial and every day it’s like, are you going to sit back and make fear and never make that move, never make that risk, never make that push to go and do the things that you did, to go help create what Bold is today, and I use that along with a lot of my teams. Like I would rather us make a decision and go do something and then have the fear for the outcome that something bad could happen, and I’d rather go do it and fail fast, and do something and figure out and learn and go to do that. So it’s a big philosophy that I’ve kind of taken in my entire career, is I’d rather go back and say, I tried and failed versus saying, I didn’t actually try, and then keep thinking about the regrets of doing it.
Jay: A hundred percent.
Karim: And who doesn’t love a quote from Seneca, c’mon he’s brilliant.
Jay: No better way to end it off. Well, Karim, thank you so much for joining us. Where should I send everyone listening to, to learn more about you and Crowd Favorite?
Karim: crownfavorite.com, for anything we can help anybody with that has to do with their digital needs, I can be found @kareemarookie on Twitter and murky.com if they have a request that’s outside of digital.
Jay: Oh, awesome. Well, thank you so much Karim, it’s been a pleasure.
Karim: Thank you, Jay. Mike, it’s been a pleasure.
Mike: Always, thank you.