We are delighted to have Bardia Dejban, Chief Technology Officer at Volusion participate in our eCommerce Influencer Series.
Volusion was founded in 1999 and now powers over 30,000 active stores, processing over 185 million orders, totalling $28 billion in sales.
By any metric, the company is one of the leading cloud-based eCommerce platforms and over nearly two decades has been working with entrepreneurs build better eCommerce stores.
Q: For anyone who doesn’t know you yet, who you are and how did you get started in the eCommerce industry?
I started coding websites when I was 17 years old. The first ecommerce site I ever made was for a friend of the family, but it became their full-time business which was incredible to see. It’s been bit of a whirlwind after that: launched countless digital experiences for some great brands like Intuit, eHarmony, Alibaba, OpenTable, Hearst, IAC, and Citrix.
If you had to summarize who I am professionally — which translates into any company I’ve been in, including in the ecommerce industry — I’d say I prioritize people first, since they are the most important part of any company (customers, employees, stakeholders). I really like to focus on autonomy, simplicity, and transparency. Those words mean a lot to different people, so we’ve defined what they mean here at Volusion, and to me.
Q: Looking back over the past 3 years what do you think have been the biggest changes in eCommerce and how has Volusion tackled them?
There are so many, but I’ll focus on a handful of changes for merchants and their customers (shoppers). Our established merchants have had to work through growth challenges, whether it’s new marketing channels like social, or saturation of their particular industry. Social selling, for example, is a standard feature these days, but more than three years ago, not everyone fully understood it as a growth channel.
Ecommerce entrepreneurship is a rapidly growing space, and passive income has become more prominent, especially for millennials and younger generations. These first-time ecommerce entrepreneurs expect sourcing and fulfilment to be mostly automatic, aka dropshipping.
Shoppers have had consistently rising expectations for price, speed and quality. Amazon has really set a standard here, which also makes it a challenge for some small businesses to keep up. As a consumer, we expect to buy something at the best price, with free shipping, and delivered in hours (or a day at most). When it arrives, it needs to delight us or we’ll return it, with little to no penalty in most cases.
Q: Amazon obviously cannot be ignored in eCommerce, do you believe they are largely friend or foe to small businesses?
Amazon really is, and wants to continue being, the best shopping experience for North American consumers. This means they’ll do things a certain way, which may or may not benefit every merchant. I hear some merchants doing well selling on Amazon, as a channel or exclusively. I also hear about some merchants who hardly make any money on Amazon. Some of this could be industry and product specific, but it means Amazon might not be the best fit for every merchant or a specific product in all cases, at least not right now.
Here’s my advice to merchants who want to sell on Amazon. If it’s super easy to find your product on Amazon (lots of sellers), you are competing on price and quality. If your unit economics don’t jive with that model, you will not make money and even risk losing money. However, if you have a long-tail product that’s hard to find, or even impossible to find, Amazon might be a great sales channel for you.
Q: With more advanced technologies such as AI and A/R becoming more prevalent among marketplaces and large eCommerce merchants. How can a small businesses compete at the same level and what unique features does Volusion offer to help small online merchants?
Artificial intelligence has been around for a while. There’s some great opportunity in the support and chat side we’ve seen, but sales and marketing intelligence is where I’ve seen the most traction. Being able to predict and prescribe marketing dollars at the right time, and to the right channel.
In regards to augmented reality, it’s always important to separate novelty from useful when it comes to cool tech. There’s some compelling examples of AR being used for interior design, or in the beauty industry. Ultimately, Volusion will invest in the areas that will increase shopper confidence to purchase. If we help our merchants to allow their shoppers to try something without having to be in a physical store, that could increase confidence and likelihood to purchase.
Q: social media is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Do you see changes coming in social media that will impact Digital Marketing often used by eCommerce merchants?
Absolutely. The way any company requests, uses, and stores information about users will change drastically over the next two to three years, beginning with GDPR. The way ecommerce merchants consume and use that social data to better target their customers will also change. Digital marketing has had some inflection points of change, so it’s only natural we will see more critical shifts in the ways businesses can market to consumers. In the near-term, our merchants will still likely leverage the channels that work (SEO, word-of-mouth, PPC, etc.) and learn about changes to other channels and how they will impact day-to-day. Our blog has actually become a great resource for that learning.
Q. What emerging technology do you see as the biggest game changer in eCommerce?
I’ll answer this based on interactions I’ve had with our merchants, which might not be a full representation of ecommerce (which includes Alibaba, Amazon, department stores, etc.). Usually when you go to Amazon, you have something in mind you want to purchase, find it, and buy it in one click.
For many of our merchants, discovery is key. They might be selling products that are hard to find, handmade, or niche. Or, they might be selling replacements to name-brand goods found on Amazon (refills, surplus, etc.). In order to attract a new customer, you have to get that product in front of them somehow (ad, referral, blog, email, etc.). Any emerging technology that can help our merchants get discovered by new consumers becomes critical to our merchants’ bottom line. And if the return on investment for that technology beats traditional marketing channels, that’s when it becomes a game changer.
Q: Where can business owners connect with Volusion to learn more about your services?
Our website is always a great place to start, www.volusion.com. We also have a toll-free number, 888-750-3936. If you’re in Austin, we invite you to stop by our office!
Q: Austin is known for its cuisine and visitors often find their way to Franklin Barbecue or Torchy’s Tacos. But what three places would you recommend that are less famous and are “must stops” in Austin?
Tacodeli for breakfast tacos. Stiles Switch BBQ if you want great food, with reasonable wait time. Although I’m hearing Kerlin BBQ is becoming a hot-spot too!
We want to thank Bardia Dejban very much for his insight into eCommerce and how Volusion can help small businesses find success in an ever changing industry. To learn more about Volusion, please visit them at www.volusion.com or call them at 1-888-750-3936.