Commercetools is taking a fascinating approach to enabling digital commerce. They are referred to as a true cloud, headless commerce platform, providing the building blocks for the new digital commerce age. Those building blocks are 350 consumable APIs that let you build anything commerce experience you want!
Fun fact, they coined the term “headless commerce” in 2013, long before it was as popular as it is today.
Examples of brands that use Commerce tools are Audi, Tiffany & Co, Universal Music, Carhartt, and many more. Plus mutual brands with Bold such as Harry Rosen who leverages their suite of api's with Bold Checkout and other technologies to really create something special. Shameless plug, but definitely check out HarryRosen.com when you have a chance.
It's a fascinating conversation that I think everyone will learn something from. Enjoy!
Kelly Goetsch is Chief Product Officer at commercetools where he oversees product management, development and delivery. He came to commercetools from Oracle, where he led product management for their microservices initiatives. Kelly previously held senior-level product development and go-to-market responsibilities for key Oracle cloud products representing nine+ figures of revenue for Oracle.Kelly has expertise in commerce, microservices, and distributed computing, having spoken and published extensively on these topics. He is the author of three books - APIs for Modern Commerce (O'Reilly, 2017), Microservices for Modern Commerce: Dramatically Increase Development Velocity by Applying Microservices to Commerce (O'Reilly, 2016) and E-Commerce in the Cloud: Bringing Elasticity to E-Commerce (O'Reilly, 2014).
Jay Myers: Kelly, thank you so much for being on the show. It’s really a pleasure. I know we had to go back and forth a little bit getting you on here and you’ve got a really interesting background in commerce. Before we start, tell us the story of where you came from and how and why you ended up with commercetools.
Jay Myers: Kelly, thank you so much for being on the show. It’s really a pleasure. I know we had to go back and forth a little bit getting you on here and you’ve got a really interesting background in commerce. Before we start, tell us the story of where you came from and how and why you ended up with commercetools.
Kelly Goetsch: Well, first, thanks for having me. I appreciate it. You’ve got a great podcast here; I’ve been listening to some back episodes. So, my background started, well, if you go really far back, it was in high school. I used to build websites for local businesses in the small town where I grew up in Wisconsin, and this was back in the mid- and late-nineties and folks would pay me a thousand bucks, two thousand bucks per page, law firms and folks like that.
So, I actually did pretty well back in high school, it was a great job, but then I went to university and I was looking for a summer job and it turns out that in my small town here was where Footlocker.com was based, and they were going through a really big ATG implementation. Which was the big commerce platform back in the 90s and 2000s, later acquired by Oracle. So, I worked for ATG, finished my studies, I really loved that, I was the lead architect for Walmart, great time, but I couldn’t travel a hundred percent of the time because my wife and I got married and had a child.
So, I ended up going to work for Oracle where I was a product manager, and I really liked product management, consulting was great, but I think product is better. In product management, I was lucky enough to cover Java EE and ExoLogic and Java Cloud Service, and a bunch of other services there. And in my last year at Oracle, I was responsible for microservices. By that time I had written “eCommerce in the Cloud” for O’Reilly, and with microservices it just kind of clicked, there has to be somebody out there doing commerce, cloud, and microservices.
And after 5 years at Oracle, my boss who I loved and adored left and I said, you know what, it’s time to get back into the commerce space. So, I joined commercetools in 2016. I actually Googled it: commerce, cloud, and microservices, and commercetools came back as eighth of the top ten search results. And it turns out we actually had a lot of connections in common, and the CEO, my boss and I, he invented headless commerce back in 2013, we really hit it off. We see commerce and the world very similar, and I’ve been at commercetools now a little over four and a half years.
Jay Myers: It’s an interesting time because it’s an evolving space and you are kind of joining early, well, 2016 or ‘15, whenever was it, it was still very early on and now the concept of headless, which we’ll kind of get into in a little bit and how you define that, but that’s not a new word anymore. It would’ve been for sure when you were joining the company, that’s very forward thinking. So, let’s just talk about commercetools in a practical kind of way. What is commercetools and why does it exist?
Kelly Goetsch: Well, a little history is in order. So, the company was founded by Dirk Hoerig, who is still the CEO, back in 2006. So, commercetools was actually founded as the Hybris Professional Services Group, and this was back when Hybris was in its first office and had just a handful of employees. So, Dirk actually did the first couple of Hybris implementations, the first Commercetools office was actually in the Hybris office and Dirk spun that out of Hybris and he built an agency around it and was very successful at that.
But you have to remember that Amazon web services hit the market in 2007 and really got going in about 2009. And by 2011, Dirk had a decision to make which was to continue on in the agency business or stop and pivot to product,and he thankfully made the decision to stop the Hybrid consulting business, and in 2011, raised some money from local Munich investors and built a platform from scratch and launched that platform in 2013, and that’s commercetools today. So, we’re a hundred percent product-focused and what we offer is Headless Commerce which Dirk is credited as having invented.
But it goes back to the name of the company, we are commercetools, so rather than having a platform like Hybris, or ATG, or Webster Commerce, or Shopify, or something like that, we offer commercetools. We have a big library of 300 individually consumable APIs, so when you log into AWS, or GCP, or Azure you have this big collection of services that you can choose to use or not use, and then you can choose to build those into your applications. So, we do the same thing but for commerce. It’s great for folks who have a legacy platform and are incrementally switching over to us.
They really like that composability concept, and then we do have a lot of customers who say, you know what, I love what you’ve built here, but we do pricing so differently that no platform could ever handle our requirements, we’re going to build that ourselves. Our response to that is, great, that’s exactly what we want, so, we have a lot of customers who will pick one or two or three pieces and then build that on their own as their own microservices. And what you want to end up with is a big catalog of APIs that your front ends can consume.
Some provided by us, some provided by third parties like Intentful, or Contentstack, or Amplan, and then some provided by search vendors, and some provided by the customer apartment themselves. So, we’re really getting past this model where the commerce platform is the front office in a box towards a model that is very much aligned with the public cloud, which is we’re part of the ecosystem, as if Google or Amazon built a platform and added it to their cloud offerings.
Jay Myers: Interesting. What does someone purchase? What are they a customer of? What is like the thing that, I guess it’s the cloud infrastructure, and with the tools wrapped around it, right? Or is there some aspect that every commercetools customer utilizes to actually be a commercetools customer?
Kelly Goetsch: I would say first, the vast majority of our customers use at least eighty percent of our APIs. So, it’s not to the degree of Amazon or Google Cloud where people use one or two of them, but the vast majority end up using all of them. And it might take a while, it might take six or twelve months, but they do, and when you go to commercetools.com. you sign up and you get a project key, and you can start hammering your APIs, or you can log into our merchant center which is our business user tool, and then you can see and manage your product catalog, your orders, and everything else.
So, that’s what they’re getting,they’re getting access to our APIs in the same way that you might get access to Stripe or Twilio APIs, for example, it’s the same concept.
Jay Myers: So, then, from a pricing model, is it API calls that affect pricing, or how does that work?
Kelly Goetsch: It’s a function of the number of orders and the average order value, so it’s usage-based.
Jay Myers: Gotcha. I guess, your role at commercetools is Chief Product Officer, and, so, why are you passionate about this approach to commerce?
Kelly Goetsch: I’m passionate because I’ve spent so many nights of my life having to troubleshoot production deployments, and restore databases, and upgrade JVMs, and just doing all of the stupid things we use to do back then with commerce. And commercetools built a much better platform that has really aligned with the future. And what’s great is since we really pivoted to enterprise hard in 2016 — so I was hired as part of a group of folks below Dirk to go after enterprise very aggressively, and really bring it out of Germany because to that point it was very much of a German product.
But I’m really passionate just because it’s the right technology, right time, right place, and this is what the market has needed for a while. I remember when we tried to get into the Forrester Wave for the first time, in early 2017, it was Dirk, and I, and our head of sales. We went into Gartner’s office in Boston and the first question from the senior analyst there was, who the hell are you guys? And second, are you guys stupid? He totally didn’t understand what we were doing.
“Why would you buy a headless platform? Why are you defining your category of software by the thing that it doesn’t have? Business users just want ‘point and click’ everything, and they want a big suite. You’re going to get crushed by Salesforce.” I mean, he just was so awful to us, and now it’s because we’ve been named a leader — so we’re one of three leaders in Forrester, or one of five leaders in Gartner, and we actually were just named a leader in IDC’s headless report as well. So, we have a clean sweep of being a leader in all three, but it’s been crazy how quickly the market has oriented around what we’re doing, and it’s now the standard.
Jay Myers: Well, I would say that’s probably the case with a lot of visionary type software, is you’re out ahead, and the market doesn’t understand exactly, and now the market is kind of catching up. So, here at Bold we’ve been in the ecommerce space for a while, and the word headless is interesting in and of itself, and I want to get to how you define it, but it went from being a buzz word in 2016 or ‘17. People thought, “what is headless,” they didn’t quite understand it. I’m sorry, it wasn’t a buzzword at that point, it was like something people were talking about, but it became a buzzword in 2017, ‘18.
In 2018 most platforms would say, “oh, we’re headless too, every platform is headless,” but it kind of became a simple definition of decoupling your frontend and your backend, and that’s headless commerce. How do you look at headless? What is your definition when someone says, what is headless commerce?
Kelly Goetsch: Well, if we go back in history, let’s go back to the mid and late nineties, the commerce platforms at the time were very, very ahead of the contact management platforms. So things like JSpave went back to the Java EE days. JSP actually came from ATG, because back in the day ATG needed a way to dynamically render content from the server side to the frontend. And all of these platforms had to invent a lot of that frontend technology that allowed for server-side rendering of pages. Because before, you’d just throw everything into a patchy web-server directory, and you’d be done with it, they were static.
But ecommerce mandated that they be very, very dynamic, so they actually pioneered a lot of that frontend technology work. So, it made sense back in the day if you’re adopting commerce for the first time, that you want a platform that has the frontend and the backend, and the two are very tightly coupled. And you may or may not even have a WYSIWYG editor where a business user could drag and drop something and that was seen as a really big deal back then. But since then, we’ve had frontend technology completely change three or four times over now, it’s really matured as a profession and it’s easier than ever to go out there and build or buy a frontend.
And you can pick up React off the shelf and use that, or any number of frontend stacks, or you can go out to companies like Frontastic where you could get Vue Storefront or Mobify before it was acquired by Salesforce. You can go out and buy a pre-built frontend, and at the same time the commerce vendors had a really standard set of templates, and a Shopify website looked like a Shopify website. And they all looked very similar to each other, and you also had IT controlling a lot of those experiences. So, I still remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Walmart had folks submitting IT tickets to do pixel changes on websites and that was a whole process.
So, the business has really grown, technology has matured, and also the pace of change has dramatically accelerated, and all of that’s led to you now having a frontend that’s built on its own release cycles. It’s built, it’s released, it’s changed and many times those frontends are being updated fifty times a day. You also have many more front ends than you ever used to have, back in the day it was just a website, and now it’s at least a website, and mobile, and a few others.
So, it’s multi-headed and you cannot expect a commerce platform to have a good, and swift development, IDE for example. So, decoupling the front end from the back end allows business users to use business tooling to go and manage that experience. Because ultimately, for the majority of brands that are not Amazon or Target or Walmart, you’re selling a differentiated product. They’re considered purchases, you’re selling jewelry, electronics, or a musical instrument. You’re selling something that is not just a, “hey, Alexa, buy me some toilet paper” kind of purchase.
It’s something more considered than that, and that’s where you need to engage with your customers. You need to show them product videos, you need to do unboxing videos, you need to engage with them on social, you need lots of product content, you need to build your brand. You can’t just sell a thousand-dollar handbag in a standard magenta style shopping grid, you need an emotionally compelling, engaging experience that’s driven by marketing. And it’s nice because now you have a clear delineation between your frontend and your backend.
You’ve got a contract there, the frontend can iterate whenever it wants to, it’s driven by marketing, and your backend is controlled by IT, and they’re able to iterate when they want to. So, it’s a really different change, but it has been very widely adopted because of its benefits out there.
Jay Myers: So, then composable commerce, how would you define that, and how do the two work together?
Kelly Goetsch: I have some personal history with this, I’ve written three more books since then: Microservices for Modern Commerce, APIs for Modern Commerce, and Graph QL. We at commercetools talked a lot about microservices, the challenge with microservices is it didn’t necessarily capture everyone who is involved with this new space. It’s a more extreme form of composable commerce. Composable commerce, broadly, is being able to compose your experience from many different APIs which may or may not be backed by microservices.
What we had been talking about commercetools, and pioneered was, APIs backed by microservices. So, it’s a bit more of a rigid version of that, composable is the more general term, and it allows you to have a monolithic app that also exposes APIs, but to have some composability to it, which I still kind of disagree with, but I think composable commerce is a much better, friendlier term to the market than microservices and APIs and things like that.
Jay Myers: Is this a correct statement: a brand could essentially piece together best-in-breed of whatever their ecommerce tech stack is, and that’ll be different for every brand, but whether that’s where their ERP, their product, information management, their OMS, their CMS, their customer database, all the different aspects that make it up, you basically, essentially pick which one makes sense for your brand and how you want to do commerce, and then compose them together to build your solution, and then commercetools kind of help provide the tools to connect everything.
Kelly Goetsch: Well, kind of, so the first part of that, a hundred percent, yes, composable commerce is best-of-breed, that’s basically what it is. We are APIs, so in the same way that Twilio offers APIs, or Stripe, or any other vendor, we offer commerce APIs. We’re very focused on doing commerce really, really well, so, that’s what we do. Integration — there isn’t really that much in terms of integration between any of these APIs. You might send out events, for example, using SNS, or SQS, or whatever cloud vendor there might be, but it’s not like those traditional platforms where it mediated the engagement with the customer, where everything had to integrate with the commerce platform.
Think of us as a library of APIs, think of us like a box of crayons. Or color pencils, where you can pick and choose the one you want, but they’re not really integrated with each other.
Jay Myers: Gotcha. So, describe a perfect client for commercetools.
Kelly Goetsch: A perfect client for us is someone who is a retailer or brand, somebody who’s been on a legacy platform, specifically Oracle Commerce, because they killed that product and they’re all looking to leave. That was the big platform for 20 years and they’ve gone headless already, and they’ve made a commitment to digital transformation and part of that is demonstrated by the way that they approach IT. They might’ve built a couple of microservices, they’re probably using the cloud, that’s the perfect example of a customer.
So, to give you some of our customers, AT&T.com uses us, Ulta Beauty does, they do a couple of billion a year online, lego.com does, burberry.com, express.com, we have a shared customer with Harry Rosen. We have a pretty broad assortment of customers across quite a few different industries, but it’s typically someone who’s been abused by one of the big mega-vendors, and is really feeling constrained by that old approach and is feeling the need to do innovation where they hadn’t necessarily felt that need.
Jay Myers: And the ease of commercetools is they don’t necessarily have to re-platform everything, they can use APIs, and best-in-breed for which pieces of the stack make sense. The term re-platforming probably doesn’t make sense in the commercetools world.
Kelly Goetsch: Yeah, I mean, you’re migrating over to us over the course of 6 or 12-months because nobody has the time or budget or risk tolerance to move an entire customer-facing “.com” that does a billion dollars a year in revenue, and then flip the switch and all of a sudden everything goes through commercetools. That’s a really good way to get fired if you’re an executive; that’s nothing to do with us, we’re a solid product, but there are obviously a lot of integrations and intricacies involved with a move like this.
So, most of our customers will start by using us for, like, a product detail page, for example, they’ll use us for that, and then they’ll use us for the category pages and they’ll just kind of work their way through the product catalog. And then they’ll start using us for customers, and then finally, for orders. And that takes time. It’s an API every week give or take, and you just incrementally switch to us. Another way to do it is to pick a market as a business that you don’t really care about that much, it sounds harsh, but it’s true.
So, we have a huge customer base in South America, and they just bought a business in Peru, and they have eight retail stores. And they’re going to be expanding that business, but they started out by using us two years ago by saying, hey, nobody cares about these Peru stores, if you guys screw it up, then it’s fine because we’ll just shut it down. And it was seen as a good way internally for them to get experience with our platform, learn how it works, and develop that expertise.
And then once they tackled that, they went live in about weeks with that one because that was all Greenfield, and then they started tackling the flagship.com, which they’re now live with. So, that’s an example of risk mitigation, start with something really small, learn about it, and then just work your way over to the flagship.com.
Jay Myers: Makes sense. So, once everyone is potentially transitioned off of Oracle and there’s no one left there, how do new customers come to commercetools? Could a completely new brand starting today, or is it typically always they’re existing and they move onto it? But let’s just say Oracle didn’t exist and there wasn’t anyone left on there. What would be the motivation for the build with commercetools?
Kelly Goetsch: Well, we actually have a very wide assortment. So, it’s not just Oracle Commerce, but yes, for an ideal, that’s an ideal, it’s a high win rate on those guys. So, at the very top end of our market, we just signed John Lewis in the UK, for example, that’s a good solid multi-billion dollar a year brand and they were choosing between building it from scratch on their own or buying us. So, at the top end of our market, we see five, six, seven of those per year that we come across, it’s “build or buy,” and then on the buy side it’s just us.
So, that’s one avenue. Another is replacing those big legacy incumbents, so, whether it’s ATG or Hybris, which is owned by SAP, or IBM WebSphere Commerce, you see a lot of those out there where there are first-generation 90s and early 2000s era platforms and they needed to get out of those old-school platforms and switch over to us. Another is, we see folks that have outgrown Shopify, for example, or BigCommerce. I’ll give you an example, Purple Mattress.
They do a couple of hundred million a year online in mattresses. That’s a perfect example of somebody who got pretty far with Shopify, but they needed something different. They needed something more because they actually got to be a real business, so, they came over to us, and then we have folks doing really new, interesting use cases that we never used to see before. And these are all net news, so, NBCUniversal bought us, they’re doing shoppable commerce, so, if you’re watching one of The Real Housewives of something or other, it’ll show you a QR Code on the TV screen, where you can scan that QR Code and buy the handbag that’s featured.
Jay Myers: Geez, my wife doesn’t need to know that.
Kelly Goetsch: So, we also do all the in-car connected commerce for Audi and BMW. So, they’re manufacturing their cars with options in the car that may not be enabled at the time of purchase. So, I’ll give you an example. Let’s pretend I live in Florida, if I live in Florida, I’m not going to get heated seats in my car, that’s a lot of money for a feature I’m not going to use. I live in Wisconsin, I actually do live in Wisconsin, any car I buy has to have heated seats, that is a requirement, but what about all those Florida cars that get shipped up to Wisconsin for resale after the two-year lease is up?
And what Audi is doing is they’re going to be charging you, if you want to enable that feature, you can buy that feature for, let’s say 2000 bucks. And it’s a permanently added feature to the vehicle, or if you’re going into the mountains for five bucks a month, you can add that feature on an a la carte basis.
Jay Myers: It’s not something they turn on, they would actually ship the new seats.
Kelly Goetsch: No. So the car is manufactured with a lot of the options there, they’re just not enabled because, if you think about it, like the parts are actually really easy, it’s not an expensive feature to do. What is expensive are all the variations in the manufacturing process. So, if you can build the same car, build it more streamlined, and you can make the entry-level price lower, you can build yourself a healthy subscription business by adding more of those features on a subscription basis over time, and from a customer standpoint, it makes sense.
If somebody buys my car that I’m selling, and they’re buying it in Florida, they don’t have to keep paying that monthly fee to use that feature for the heated seats.
Jay Myers: Yeah. Well, and with self-driving features, or self-parking, all the cars have all the cameras already, and it’s now which features are enabled, the manufacturers are kind of doing this, but then they’re not doing it as advanced as Audi is. But yeah, no, that makes a ton of sense.
Kelly Goetsch: Even Tesla did this. I don’t know if you know, but one of the models of Tesla, maybe it’s all of them, actually have more battery capacity than you’re allowed to use. There was a big hurricane that hit last year and it made a lot of news when they software-enabled everyone who had not paid for that premium extended battery feature to use that feature for a week. And that’s an example of, they have the feature, it’s in the car, it’s something you can buy, but they don’t give it to you for free. It’s something you have to pay for as an option, but it’s there because why not just make them all the same?
Jay Myers: Oh, totally. I just want to go back a little bit on the build versus buy. I have a hard time seeing why someone would choose, build, versus buy. What is a motivation where a brand says, it makes more sense for us to completely build from scratch versus using commercetools? When do you lose those deals?
Kelly Goetsch: What’s the politically correct way of saying this, ego?
Jay Myers: Well, fair enough. Yeah, I guess.
Kelly Goetsch: There are folks out there who they’re building an empire and they’re CIOs or CTOs, and they want to build a big team and get a lot of budget. Maybe they’ve had a poor experience with IBM 10 years ago and they say, “you know what? I’m going to build it.” But it’s hard to see that as a credible option because we at commercetools have spent so many years and so much money and so many people building this platform. And I just think, why on earth would you want to deal with this yourself?
If I look at the amount of work it took for us as commercetools to add in extended digits on prices, because with cryptocurrencies, you can have 30 digits for pricing. So, we had to add that feature, do you know how difficult it is to add that feature? And you talk about database storage and document sizes, and it’s just from a UI perspective, for a thousand reasons that was a really difficult feature to add. But I can’t imagine if you’re a retailer that there would ever be a positive ROI for adding some stupid little feature like that.
Jay Myers: Well, those are probably the same people that insisted on having their servers in their own building forever as well. Go back 15 years before cloud, that was the big challenge, and so now time will prevail and they’ll come around.
Kelly Goetsch: It will, and the market’s moving in this direction, folks want to buy services a la carte that do one thing and one thing really well.
Jay Myers: Yeah and then eventually it becomes table stakes for a certain service. It’s hard to imagine, we’re a fairly large company at Bold, and we would never imagine that it would make sense for us to have our own servers inside our building that we’re cooling, and, it wouldn’t even cross our minds. And eventually, it just has to come to that with build versus buy for commerce as well, too. In my head, I’m there already, so, I have a hard time understanding why any brand would still think that way.
Kelly Goetsch: Yeah. But, put yourself in the shoes of an up-and-coming hotshot CTO who wants a huge budget for next year, and they could very well implement it. And then, the names of a few folks, who I’m not going to mention, but there are some high profile CIOs in the US retail space who have done this, and they build it over the course of two years. They get some good press, and they use that job to get another position somewhere else, a very senior position.
And then, it’s somebody else’s problem to deal with all the maintenance work on that, it’s their responsibility to do the stupid WebLogic upgrade. Take your pick of all the stupid things that don’t involve you selling to customers that a retailer shouldn’t be doing, it’s crazy. But I understand it from their perspective, if you’re an up and coming exec and you want to make your mark and get a better job somewhere else. And you have a boss that you can convince to give you a hundred million dollars.
Machiavellian politics here, that’s their thinking, and their math, and we hardly ever lose to that. Maybe once a year, we’ll lose the deal to somebody who builds it themselves. But even then they tend to come back to us because it’s just a big waste of money and time and distraction to build the commerce platform.
Jay Myers: And you’re then positioned perfectly to support them when they do come back because they can piece by piece, move over in a way where it actually probably makes sense as well too, yeah. I think I know some of the ones you’re mentioning as well too, but yeah, we won’t.
Jay Myers: I guess then on that topic, what does the world look like when commercetools achieves its goals? If you’ve done everything, I know it’s a relatively new company, I say new six, seven years, but five years from now, ten years from now, what does commercetools look like? And the brands that are using it, is it like now, but just more widely known?
Kelly Goetsch: I’m going to say something that probably is going to get misconstrued, but I would love a future where commerce is commoditized and you don’t really know who your commerce vendor is.
Jay Myers: Why would that get misconstrued? I think that’s a great statement.
Kelly Goetsch: We as a commerce vendor have been talking forever about our differentiation and everything else, and we’re very differentiated. We’ve got a really rock-solid commerce offering, but let’s go back 10 or 15 years to the load balancing era. I remember having to go out and buy these gigantic F5 physical appliances. They were a million bucks. At least you had to get their professional services team to implement them. They were capital purchases and it was very, very specialized.
And the public cloud does it for you. You don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. And I think we’re getting to that point with commerce as well, slowly, you’re starting to see this now with Google Cloud, where they have some retail APIs, Amazon has long offered integrations with AWS, Azure, I think we’ll get there at some point they have some retail offerings, but I’d love to get to a point where we’re just another API in one of them, not the marketplaces, but the actual core cloud.
And you can just commerce enable stuff, whether you’re a huge enterprise or a single developer, and you want to add that add to cart button, you should be able to call an API and do that. That should be a really easy thing in the same way that doing load balancing now is a really easy thing. So, that’s what I’d like to get to, where commerce has just commoditized and you don’t need commercetools developers, you need cloud developers, just like you don’t need F5 developers anymore, you need cloud developers.
And that’s exactly what our extension model is. We are part of the cloud as a first-class citizen, you event data out, and then you write Lambda functions to change that data or to do something based on that. So, we’re very much in alignment with that trend, and I don’t think there’s anybody else really doing what we’re doing specifically in the commerce space. And I would like to get to a world where commerce is commoditized.
Jay Myers: Well, I think that’s a fantastic vision, it makes perfect sense to me. There are very few people that wouldn’t say that when they’re predicting where commerce is going, commerce is happening everywhere. It’s not just happening on an online store, and it’s being literally extended. It’s wherever the customers want to buy, when they want to buy, how they want to buy, and so your vision of that future, I think perfectly aligns with where the market would generally say that commerce is going. So, I don’t know, it sounds like you’re in a great space.
Kelly Goetsch: But it’s still not a widely shared vision out there at all because a lot of folks, if you talk to them, in the commerce space, they’re talking about some crazy new bell or whistles that they’re adding to the platform, in the same way that the F5s of the world were talking about some crazy new feature, they were adding to their hardware load balancer back in the day. They’re missing the point, I think in many cases.
Jay Myers: Well, we’re getting close to our time here. So, I want to ask you a few quick, I don’t know, we just call them our lightning questions. I think this has been very, very informative. I’m very thankful for your time. I’ve learned some stuff, I know our listeners are definitely going to learn as much as well. Are you ready for a quick lightning round?
Kelly Goetsch: Sure, let’s do it.
Jay Myers: I don’t know if you read any of these questions ahead of time or not, but either way we’ll fire them off here. So, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see ecommerce brands make?
Kelly Goetsch: Cookie cutter templatized websites, they all look the same. And if I’m going to spend some serious cash on something interesting, at present you have got to earn the money. And if it’s a standard product grid with your logo there and nothing else that’s differentiated, I’m not going to spend money with you.
Jay Myers: Do you have a pet peeve when you’re shopping online?
Kelly Goetsch: I hate having to wait for shipping. I’ve gotten spoiled by Amazon, typically it’s a day, but for a lot of brands out there, it’s 10-plus days, in many cases business days and I think it’s obscene.
Jay Myers: I think that’s going to be solved in the next year or two. There are so many people working right now on the same day, local, almost real-time delivery. And like the networks of drivers are out there, especially with everything happening with COVID right now, I see a big shift happening there. So, I agree, and I think that is going to be interesting. And it’s actually going to probably move a lot of the power back to the local companies that are able to serve the local market, so, it’ll be interesting. What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Kelly Goetsch: It’s that I do so many different random things. I might start the day reviewing a legal contract, might do a deep dive on MongoDB Sharding. The next meeting I might talk to the CIO of one of our customers, and another, I might talk to our investors. I’m all over the place all the time. And I like the variability of the work.
Jay Myers: And you might end up on a podcast with Jay.
Kelly Goetsch: Yes, perk of the job.
Jay Myers: That’s right. Yeah, I noticed you left that out there. So, speaking of you mentioned what mistakes, you see cookie-cutter templates — what’s one of your favorite online stores? Or something where you’ve shopped recently that has stood out to you, you’ve really enjoyed?
Kelly Goetsch: My favorite store on earth?
Jay Myers: It can be a commercetools brand as well, too. That’s totally fine.
Kelly Goetsch: It’s actually not. It’s been my favorite store since 1997, it’s eBay. And I have a weird collection of, I like really, really nice cashmere sweaters and it’s one of the very few hobbies I have in life. And I love going on there, it’s like a treasure hunt every time, and I have like a hundred different RSS based alerts set up and you’ll see somebody in like Italy list, a sweater from 20 or 30 years ago, and you can get the most phenomenal deals, a handmade Italian knit sweater for ninety, a hundred bucks.
And a lot of times it’s because people don’t know what they have, his grandpa died or somebody died and the kids are posting it all online. They might misspell names and brands and words. I think I’ve beaten the system with all my RSS alerts. So, if you ever see me, you’ll probably see me wearing a cashmere sweater of some sort.
Jay Myers: So, this is my ignorance to cashmere, but do they hold their value like a 20-year old cashmere sweater? It still looks and feels.
Kelly Goetsch: They actually don’t hold their value very well, unless there are a few specific brand names. Some of those brand names can get really, really valuable. I’m not wealthy enough to spend ten, twenty thousand bucks on a sweater, of course, and you’d have to be stupid to spend that much money, but there’s an active community out there of folks who spend ten, twenty thousand on these very intricate, handmade, and they’re just beautiful sweaters.
But, no, I think a lot of it’s just finding hidden old gems of really, really well-made stuff from a few years ago, a few seasons ago, and a few decades ago, even because they hold up perfectly, the materials perfect, it’s cashmere for a reason. And unless it’s all filled with bugs.
Jay Myers: Well, you mentioned Burberry is a commercetools store, right? Aren’t they big on cashmere? I think.
Kelly Goetsch: They have a few, but no, they’re more about overcoats and things like that. And I love their stuff, but I’m not that wealthy. I need to be like a banker in London or something to be a good Burberry customer. I’m not though.
Jay Myers: What are some big trends in commerce that you are personally excited about.
Kelly Goetsch: Graph QL. I love graph QL. I actually just wrote a book on it in January of this year for O’Reilly. It’s a compliment to your APIs, very similar to SQL. So, with SQL you can query data for multiple tables and you can get a single response back. The same is true of graph QL, but for commerce and APIs. So, Facebook actually invented it and pioneered it, Twitter adopted it and has been using it for years now. And every time you pull up any number of social media or other websites, you’re using graph QL and at commercetools, a good 75 plus percent of our customers are doing graph QL these days.
But I think it’s fascinating, it’s a big game-changer. And from a client developer standpoint, being able to just ask for exactly what you need and nothing more and nothing less, and not having to worry about authenticating with different APIs, it’s huge. And it allows you to move really, really quickly on the front end.
Jay Myers: Interesting, last question, a lot of our listeners are business owners and entrepreneurs, do you have any favorite quotes or business advice that have impacted you that you’d like to share?
Kelly Goetsch: It’s kind of dark, but, never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity, or not even stupidity, but maybe it’s a lack of organization and people. Maybe you’re not getting an email response, not because the person doesn’t like you, but because they are not organized enough to keep on top of their inbox, or maybe somebody didn’t show up to your meeting because they have 10 other meetings, or maybe somebody is not buying your product because you’re not the right product for them and they don’t know it yet.
I think we as humans tend to attribute other people’s actions to very narcissistic tendencies of them not liking us, or them not thinking we’re good people, or them not doing something because of me. And as I have gotten older, I’ve realized that people have their own demons to deal with, they have their own challenges. A lot of people just simply can’t even stay on top of their emails. So because you didn’t get a response to an email, it’s not necessarily a reflection of you. It’s more often a reflection of them.
Jay Myers: I literally just listened to the Tim Ferriss podcast this week with Jim Collins, author of Good To Great. And I know he’s not the one that said that quote, and I was just trying to Google who originally was, but they talked a lot about that on the most recent episode, Tim Ferriss, Jim Collins actually was the one that talked about it. And I thought that was a fantastic quote too, and it’s so funny that you mentioned that.
Kelly Goetsch: Interesting, I’ll check out that podcast.
Jay Myers: Yeah. It’s worth listening to. Jim Collins is fantastic and it’s a great episode as well, too. Wow, Kelly, I can’t thank you enough for giving us the time and our listeners the time. Where would someone go to learn more about commercetools or any place you’d like to direct our listeners?
Kelly Goetsch: commercetools.com would be great. On my LinkedIn, I’m always posting there, so, send me a connection request there and then I actually do a podcast with the CEO and founder of commercetools, Dirk Hoerig. The podcast there is Commerce Tomorrow. So, we interview lots of good folks there as well.
Jay Myers: I’m glad you mentioned that commercetomorrow.com. I actually just recently found out about this podcast as well too. And I wanted to make sure I called that out. I’m going to make sure I add that in the show notes as well, too.
Kelly Goetsch: Thanks so much for having me.
Jay Myers: Thank you, Kelly.