Season 1 Episode 12
January 25, 2022

The False Dichotomy of Brand Vs. Conversion - SEASON 1 FINALE

For the last episode of Season 1, Ingrid is joined by Michael Bower, the Founder and CEO of Nyla. They talk about everything from the false dichotomy of the brand and conversion tension, how to look at the future agency models, DTC technology, and so much more. Listen now!

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For the last episode of Season 1, Ingrid is joined by Michael Bower, the Founder and CEO of Nyla. They talk about everything from the false dichotomy of the brand and conversion tension, how to look at the future agency models, DTC technology, and so much more. Listen now!

The Forever Changing Landscape of eCommerce

  • {00:06:20} “But there's a language also in the thought process and the way that we address problems. And I think that there's a similar but distinctly different language that founders and retail merchants have to create and cultivate on their own.” - Ingrid
  • {00:11:36} “The communication, while having that communication actually be more compelling, which is what conversion requires.” - Michael
  • {00:19:16} “So like your brand, people probably are brand people because they care about the brand. Conversion people are probably conversion people because they're going to kind of lean that way, so that they'll acknowledge the other side. They won't necessarily see the other side, as the main reason or rationale.” - Michael
  • {00:26:49} “So conceptually, I think eCommerce companies will have to key into something bigger than just everything that they've done so far. So is that their storytelling? Ok, great. Well, that's going to have to ratchet up a few notches.” - Michael
  • {00:34:31} “They should be thinking about brand. They should be thinking about the future. They should be thinking about the human side. But, I think anybody in development in eCommerce knows that back end dev is not really a thing anymore, it's more front end dev.” - Michael
  • {00:40:58} “There's lots and lots of incredible agencies, so many that I look up to and aspire to be more like, honestly. But I think that having the alignment between the merchant and the agency is the main thing that takes that from being dysfunctional and completely amazing.” - Michael

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Ingrid: [00:00:07] Hello and welcome to Infinite Shelf, the human centric retail podcast. I'm your host, Ingrid Milman Cordy. You guys, this is the last episode of the season. I'm so incredibly grateful for all of your support, feedback, and just coming along on this journey with me. I am also happy to announce that we are coming back for a Season 2. All right. And in Season 2, I'll be sitting down with some brands and brand founders to help me workshop with them some problems and opportunities that they're actually currently managing through. And you'll get to be a fly on the wall as we talk through some of these challenges and try to resolve things in real time, which, you know, if you're as nerdy as I am, it will be incredibly fun and satisfying. So I hope you'll subscribe and join me. That will be coming to you in the mid to end of February 2022. We also have an unbelievably insightful conversation here for you today to wrap up the first season. Michael Bower is what I would call eCommerce famous in circles that have been in this game for, you know, 10 years plus and is a real sort of thinkfluencer in the space. He is as humble as he is curious and brilliant and hardworking, and I'm just so lucky to get to call him a friend at this point. We talked about some really top of mind things for me, specifically the false dichotomy of the brand and conversion tension, and how to look at the future of agency models, DTC technology, and a whole lot more. Thank you again for an incredible Season 1 and hurray for Season 2 coming back to you in late February. Make sure to follow us on all of the socials for an official date announcement, and please go ahead and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or wherever you listen. Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy the episode. Welcome Michael Bower, the Founder and CEO of Nyla. That is a high performance front end for premium brands using Shopify. Hi, Michael.

Michael: [00:02:59] Hi, Ingrid. Thanks for the invite.

Ingrid: [00:03:02] Of course. I'm so happy to have you. You are actually the Season 1 finale episode.

Michael: [00:03:10] Oh, wow.

Ingrid: [00:03:11] And I'm so glad that it worked out this way because you and I have known each other for many, many years and have worked on lots and lots of projects together.

Michael: [00:03:22] Lots of really cool projects. I just want to say,

Ingrid: [00:03:24] Oh, lots of cool projects like truly, every time there's something weird and interesting and unique and like a tangled up mess of a project to deal with, you are literally on speed dial. And my favorite thing is your response to it is always very like, "Yeah, that sounds cool." Like, "Let's get into it."

Michael: [00:03:45] Absolutely. Yeah, this is my job and my hobby. I don't know why, but it's like, I really am into this stuff after 18 years still.

Ingrid: [00:03:51] Oh man, it's actually... Isn't it such a blessing to feel that way about what you get to do every day?

Michael: [00:03:57] Oh my gosh, yeah.

Ingrid: [00:03:59] Yeah. I feel the same way and like the people and just like watching, watching the industry change. I mean, you and I can probably just have our own podcast one day. It's just like, Holy Moly, there's so much going on. But talking about what's going on and sort of how we got to now. Do you want to just do a quick introduction of who you are and why I am lucky to get to call you a friend and a colleague?

Michael: [00:04:27] Sure. Although you're far too kind in that intro. But yeah, so I'm an eCommerce junkie. I've been in the space for 18 plus years. I've had the privilege of working with everybody from the United States Air Force to Facebook, Goat, a lot of other top startups, but the whole time, and this was during my agency days at an agency that I still am involved in, called Celery. We started out as a tech company and that was back when eCommerce Tech was sort of like really needing help, I would say, and we focused around let's make tech easier for merchants, and so we did that for 10 plus years. Then we started adding the other service lines and got really good at conversion rate stuff. I can't tell you who, but we were successfully able to double the conversion rate at one of the world's largest multi brand marketplaces. And to me, that was like, ok, we've gotten there. We've really achieved what we wanted to do, but only for these really big companies. And I was scratching my head saying, "How do we make this more accessible for the newer companies, the DTC up and coming companies?" Because hat's where I think the magic is.

Ingrid: [00:05:38] Totally.

Michael: [00:05:39] Anyway, that's the first part of my story, and I think then that leads into the second part that we can maybe talk about as we go.

Ingrid: [00:05:45] Yeah, yeah. Well, I think one of the main things that I really have enjoyed working with you on and watching you continue to do is what I'm trying to do kind of with this podcast and with my career in general is just to humanize what we do. There's just this... There's a language that eCommerce and technology and direct to consumer is and forget about all the complicated acronyms and the fact that we only speak in like three letter acronyms.

Michael: [00:06:19] Exactly.

Ingrid: [00:06:20] But there's a language also in the thought process and the way that we address problems. And I think that there's a similar but distinctly different language that founders and retail merchants have to create and cultivate on their own. And then they get to this place where it's time to build an eCommerce business or you want to build an eCommerce business from the beginning. But you know all of the language that it takes to create a product, to market a product, to set up your sales relationship. So it's just like all these skill sets that I'm always, from my vantage point, listening and learning and in off from. But it's truly still a foreign language to me, whereas like the eCommerce and the digital language is where I grew up. And I think you have done such a great job of being a translator. And I've learned a lot from you in being that translator of technology to people who are on the retail side or the merchant side or the product development side or founders. And I just wanted to learn a little bit from you and share that with our audience about how do you build that relationship and trust of sewing these two worlds together.

Michael: [00:07:41] I love what you just shared there. I think I come to this from being... I actually originally wanted to be a creative. I was practicing piano eight hours a day. I wanted to become a professional musician. MP3 then killed the music industry. Then I went, "Ok, well, I'll do video." Did that for a little while, then realize, you know what, I'm a technician. And then I just leaned into that. But with all this respect for people that are the true creators of the world, and for me, what they do is so challenging and what I do, I find pretty easy, but they think it's hard. So six to one, half dozen... But we talk a lot as tech people about how do we make things easier to understand? And kind of the word in my head is sometimes that I don't want to say is like, how do we make this simpler than it actually is or like dumbing it down? But really, we need to smarten up. And that's what I think that I want to talk about today is there's all these sort of myths and false dichotomies in the agency world and the tech world that are propagated, perhaps deliberately, perhaps not, that create all kinds of friction for the world of the brand and the merchant and moving things forward And I would love to see those things go away.

Ingrid: [00:08:56] Oh, my gosh. You saying "false dichotomy of so many things" is just like such a trigger for me.

Michael: [00:09:05] What are the false dichotomies you think of?

Ingrid: [00:09:07] Oh man. Well, I mean, definitely, definitely, definitely the top one is like that brand versus conversion. The tension or the perceived tension between, well, "We can only optimize for conversion and it's going to be at the risk of losing our brand equity." And I'm like, "Whoa, whoa. Why?"

Michael: [00:09:31] Would you ever say that if you're talking about a physical retail environment? Nobody would ever be like, "Oh yeah, let's put big red yellow 99% off banners on top of everything. Now we're going to convert like crazy." Nobody would ever in any universe do that. A silly example, but yeah it's crazy.

Ingrid: [00:09:48] Totally. Yeah, but it illustrates such a good point where it's just like, "No, why are those things..." We are so binary in our thinking as humans. It's not just like, I think everyone is like that, and we have to just be aware of this like binary bias that we all have. So let's workshop that example of the false dichotomy of branding and conversion. How do you define the interplay between brand and conversion?

Michael: [00:10:18] Oh, such a great question. So while I'm thinking of an answer, I'll think about how I'm going to get to the answer, which is historically again, I started in the tech side, then I kind of went conversion focus, and I felt at first that, wait, maybe there is a tension between the two. Maybe in order to maximize brand, we're going to have to compromise on conversion. And then after a while, this is back when we were working with Best Made Company, which you may be familiar with. It's one of those early DTC brands that a lot of folks look at now as kind of a Pattern in a lot of ways, but they were able to do both, and this was actually what we were tasked with is they had done this really good rebrand and their conversion was struggling. And I don't actually know if it had been struggling before the rebrand or not. But the point was we had been brought in to maintain the brand and maintain the high quality aesthetics and UX and not compromise that at all, but expand conversion rate. And at first I was like, "How are we supposed to do that?" And then we started fiddling around and trying things and went, "Oh, wait, this is going to work." There are ways you can tell a great story and increase, let's call it the resolution. The communication, while having that communication actually be more compelling, which is what conversion requires. And so suddenly in my head, something flipped from this idea that, well, I can either tell a great story or I can be persuasive. Well, hold on a second. Anybody that studied comms in university knows that's not true.

Ingrid: [00:11:59] Right. It's a means to an end, not the enemy.

Michael: [00:12:02] Yeah. Exactly. And I think we can create these little eddies of confusion where we say, well, in this particular case, we are going to have to make a call to focus on one KPI more than another. Fair enough. Fair enough. But from a big picture similar to another, well, I don't want to jump too quickly, but this is reminding me of all kinds of other false dichotomies.

Ingrid: [00:12:24] Oh, man, well, we have to we have to unpack all of them, but I think you're right. Let's stick on this one for just a second, and I think that OK, so now come to have a better awareness around the interplay between brand and conversion. And now we need to do the actual hard work, which is make that a shared vision between the technology people, whether they're in-house or agency side.

Michael: [00:12:54] Mm hmm.

Ingrid: [00:12:55] And the people who have to approve or be brought along on the journey in order for it to come to life. So, we just had a really great conversation about just the concept of selling trust and the concept of an agency model being functional or dysfunctional sometimes. How do you build trust in order to be able to share these insights and actually make things happen?

Michael: [00:13:25] Hmm. Well, it's a super big question, and I would love to know the answer better than I do. But I think that's kind of the point is that we should all be orienting towards that question and figuring out how we can better and better answer that. To attempt an answer, based on my own experience here, I would say that I think the agency model, and I'm thinking of like dev or eCommerce agencies, sometimes the services that they offer are too narrow for them to actually be able to focus on brand and conversion at the same time. And so when that happens, you really need sort of like a conductor or somebody it can be internal with the brand or just having one party. Internal or external doesn't really matter for this, but somebody needs to be sort of orchestrating how the different parts and pieces are going to work together. For example, CRO and Dev and UX and design. So all those things can be serving the same purpose, but usually they're not. Usually they're sort of siloed, which you've talked about in other episodes. So what I've seen is that when we have a sort of master pipeline that everybody's aligned around sort of top level initiatives per quarter per year and that everything rolls up into those that that can work really well. So, for example, we can have an active conversion rate optimization pipeline that applies as a subprocess on all the other production processes, whether we're talking about campaign style activations or email or SMS or website optimization, all these things are fully capable of working in a very effective way and maximizing, therefore, because all parties are at the table so brand can be maintained. Everybody kind of actually inherently knows that if you think about it for a second. Of course we can maximize brand and conversion, generally speaking, at the same time, if you just think about it for a minute, but it comes down to the devil's in the details. What is the tooling that's available to us? Can we actually do that pragmatically? So for me, it's a lot about visibility having that sort of willingness in the organization to try having fewer silos and more sharing going on. And that sometimes honestly, from my agency experience that can take a year to get to that point of trust or sometimes people are willing to start on day one. These are operating businesses we're talking about. We can't mess around and destroy them with bad moves. So obviously there's that sort of trust building, period. But let's fast forward to now we have some trust. Well, now what do we do? And to me, that's where you put in good processes and procedures that support maximizing both brand and conversion at the same time and obviously other things. And it can work great.

Ingrid: [00:16:13] I think that one of the things that you just said is resonating with me and some of the things I've been thinking about recently is having a person responsible. There's always been this orientation, at least in places that I've worked, where there's like a brand team or a brand marketing team, and then there's the eCommerce team.

Michael: [00:17:35] Mm hmm. And they're different.

Speaker3: [00:17:37] And they're different and they, at the highest level, share the same goals, but they very quickly at the second highest level sort of diverge in goals, right? There's the brand goal and then there's the revenue driving goal. And I've always seen that as somewhat problematic. Because the people ultimately everyone wants the same thing. Everyone wants the the brand to grow. And that includes both brand awareness and brand relevance and, you know, revenue.

Michael: [00:18:16] And conversions in order to pay for that growth. Exactly.

Ingrid: [00:18:16] Exactly. And so have you seen a model in which those two worlds are combined in a more productive, efficient manner?

Michael: [00:18:29] Wow, great question. Trying to think of a company at scale that I've seen do this well.

Ingrid: [00:18:37] Yeah, I'm struggling with it, like it's truly what I'm struggling with right now.

Michael: [00:18:41] Here's what I've seen is I'm a tech person, but I actually want to let my business guy brain win because, not that they're at war or something, but... I'll get to your answer, but I see that when there's so much focus on which is... The two teams that you described also represents sort of the personality of the orientation of the people in those teams, right? Typically. So like your brand, people probably are brand people because they care about the brand. Conversion people are probably conversion people because they're going to kind of lean that way, so that they'll acknowledge the other side. They won't necessarily see the other side, as the main reason or rationale. So to me, it's like I'm thinking of some companies that we've worked with where they had a good respect in mutual shared understanding of the other side, sort of like key drivers and motivations and even metrics, and they actually were able to see, "Oh, wait, when we have the right kind of visibility across teams this totally makes sense." And it's kind of like a "I know this could work, but I need to see it happening" moment. So I'm thinking of some work that we did with Flight Club back before they were purchased by Goat. They were very sort of tech and tech enabled style multi-brand retailer. Most of what they needed to solve for was like operational issues, but at the same time, they were still like really focusing on brand by virtue of continuing to propagate their marketplace model. So I think they did a good job of mixing up the conversion oriented pipelines with the higher level brand initiatives. And so maybe one way of thinking about it is brand is a strategy or a strategic layer, and conversion is almost like for me, it's tactical, experimentation oriented. Let's try a bunch of things. Brand you have to make some assumptions. You have to basically say, "This is what we stand for."

Ingrid: [00:20:50] Right.

Michael: [00:20:50] This one conversation when I was working with Best Made, where I was like, "Do you guys want to do reviews?" And they're like, "No, it wouldn't be good for brand." And I was like, "Huh? Good call." You know, that would be better for your conversion, and you're just absolutely saying no to it. Long term, of course, that's going to work out for you because you're the type of brand that's a leader. Ok? Does that make sense for everybody? No. Should they have experimented with that? Yes, they should have. But at the end of the day, were they probably right? I think so. So I would say short answer. No. Slightly longer answer. I have seen some emerging models that will support this process in ways that I think everybody is going to feel unlocked. Partly tech. Partly process. Partly mentality.

Ingrid: [00:21:30] Right.

Michael: [00:21:31] How would you answer that question?

Ingrid: [00:21:32] That is so insightful and I just learned something or you just sort of like unlocked something in my head, which is the brand team is the push model, and the conversion team is the pull model, right?

Michael: [00:21:47] Exactly. Has to be.

Ingrid: [00:21:48] So basically the brand is developing boundaries, and those are like the big pillars that you're like putting down.

Michael: [00:21:56] I'm going to write this down. Absolutely.

Ingrid: [00:21:57] And then your conversion team kind of takes that as their recipe, their items and their recipe. But then they make different concoctions based on those items that are validated or invalidated by the results, right?

Michael: [00:22:15] That's so great. So it's kind of like, you know, build, measure, learn or something like that where we have some starting assumptions. Let's call that the brand. Then we're going to validate those assumptions and try different things against those and refine them over time. And that's what we're sort of like calling conversion.

Ingrid: [00:22:31] I love that. That's really a helpful mindset to apply.

Michael: [00:22:36] I think we've just solved brand and conversion, Ingrid.

Ingrid: [00:22:39] I think we just did it. Here we go. Well, so ok. So one of the other things that we've been talking about recently is, and I think this kind of goes into that, which is how do we enable brands and leaders within brands to be more optimistic about the future and less risk averse?

Michael: [00:23:03] Oh man.

Ingrid: [00:23:04] Yeah. How do we unpack that?

Michael: [00:23:09] Oh, well, this is one of my career ambitions, just like to make the future remain bright for founders, right? You come into the world as founder, let's say, and you've got something great going on. You've got a mission you've keyed into. You've got some great product. Maybe it's already built out. Maybe it's at the idea stage, but you can see a visible difference between an early stage startup founder and somebody who's been doing it for a while and had some problems along the way. So because of maybe issues that hopefully will get time to talk about today, but if not, we'll come back to it another time, maybe. But the sort of starting point for a founder is they've already been through some challenges to get to where they are, like they already know some things. There are some things that they have bringing to the world that are going to be able to evolve into something bigger. But as soon as they hit the wall on technology problems, I would say mainly, and some other types of problems, but mainly technology problems that can make them become risk averse very, very quickly.

Ingrid: [00:24:10] Right.

Michael: [00:24:11] Because you make a couple of wrong tech decisions and anybody who's been in that situation is nodding along going like, "Yeah, it cost me millions of dollars. It cost me my company." I talked to a company, I can't say who, but this was a drone company. They spent too long implementing their ERP. By the time they were done, their competitors had outflanked them. I mean, just crazy stuff. And to me, it's just like that's the ultimate example of tech not doing what it's supposed to do. If tech is not in support and in service of the company of the brand, then you should just not have that tech. I don't care what it is.

Ingrid: [00:24:53] Tech should be an enabler.

Michael: [00:26:09] Yeah, has to be.

Ingrid: [00:26:10] Yeah, definitely. Well, so let's get into some of the, you know, we always talk about like eCommerce being a little bit behind in tech and what are the reasons behind that? What do the next five years in eCommerce and technology look like? And is there a best case scenario and is there a maybe a less optimal scenario? And how do you see the future of eCom?

Michael: [00:26:40] Wow. Big question. To me, there's two sides of my answer. One is sort of conceptually and the other is technically. So conceptually, I think eCommerce companies will have to key into something bigger than just everything that they've done so far. So is that their storytelling? Ok, great. Well, that's going to have to ratchet up a few notches. Are they keyed into a movement? What are they really good at? They're going to have to become way better at that or something different. And then I think the age of cool DTC brands is in a sense over because every brand that's going to survive will be a cool DTC brand.

Ingrid: [00:27:25] Right. It's table stakes now.

Michael: [00:27:25] So therefore what's the future? Yeah. Now I would for like over the last two years, I thought that the future was going to be, oh, eCom brands have to become tech enabled, meaning they're just going to have to become smarter with tech. They're basically going to have to become tech companies that will help with everything from their unit economics to their efficiency to their multiplier if they choose to sell. Well, that that may be true. But I actually don't think that's true now. I think that the main reason that eCommerce companies struggle in, let's call it the last several years is being a bit blocked by adoption problems related to technology. My observation is that eCommerce companies are basically 10 years behind on average on their technology, and I don't think it's their fault. But I think that the future is going to be represented by those brands that are able to make smart technology decisions that unblock them. And that's kind of moving to the second part of my answer. So, for example, with Nyla, without going too much into the product, we basically said, "What if we were to build for eCommerce brands, a solution that would allow them to have high performance, have great functionality out of the box, the functionality that normally would take six months to a year to simply sort of get up to that baseline level of everything that everybody knows you need to have functionality wise? What if all that just shipped out of the box and you could just flip it on? Then you could spend all of your time and all of most of your budget on things that are going to drive revenue. You're going to drive story and drive brand and drive conversion and experiment with all those things." And sort of like two year backlog out of the box style thinking. And I think this is just for the DTC layer that it will be similar corollaries for the Metaverse and Web3 and so on. But, you know, nowadays nobody goes, "I wish I could change my email program, but I can't." They all say, "No, we're just going to hop into Klaviyo," or whatever their ESP is and start running with things and trying ideas and moving quickly and agile. And right now, that's difficult to do for the web. So I'm expecting that whether we're talking about DTC experiences that are native or other types of modalities and emerging patterns like Web3 stuff, I think that is all going to become much easier. So for the brands that are willing to sort of like take a deep breath and say, "You know what, I've had some bad experiences with tech. I'm going to see that the world is changing and move with it, rather than staying risk averse, which I've needed to be up to this point." So I think in the same way that brands switch to SaaS software as the majority of the solutioning that they did maybe 10 years ago, five years ago, there's going to be sort of another process like that, which is going to unlock a lot of teams and processes by virtue of being less reliant on black boxes and complicated sounding acronyms and much more around getting back to the basics, but with better solutions. I think of being kind of vague here, but to me, it really comes down to putting the power back in the hands of the merchant. And I think that that's not only the responsibility of tech companies, but also I actually think it's a problem that solves itself, ultimately. I think that we've been in a weird place where eCommerce has been almost like a forgotten part of the internet in terms of functionality. But I think that is about to change.

Ingrid: [00:30:54] I think that makes incredible, like just so much sense And the way tha I'm thinking about it in my head. And again, just like simplifying it for myself and hopefully for the audience. But it's basically if I had to translate what you just said into real world examples, it would be up to now merchants who have stores, let's say you have a store on Fifth Avenue in New York and you have not only had to run your store of, "Well, where am I going to put the pants and the shirts and everything that I'm selling and the accessories?" But I also had to think about the structure of the building that I'm selling things in. I have to think about the the plumbing in the bathroom. And like all of these things that in retail, you haven't had to think about as a merchant for the most part.

Michael: [00:31:50] Forever right? Yeah, I remember one. Yeah, exactly.

Ingrid: [00:31:53] And so the same thing has happened, is happening right now in eCommerce, where right, we went through this period where it was, it felt so real. The fact that, well, if you're going to be a modern DTC company, you basically have to become a technology company. And now, hopefully with things like Nyla and other services, eCommerce technology is able to be actually put into a place where you can invest in it, but then forget about it in the same way that you would invest in your lease and then forget about it and know that there are people who are managing the plumbing and the electricity and the infrastructure and all of that kind of stuff. And it doesn't need to be something that is yet another thing that a merchant has to make a decision on multiple times a day.

Michael: [00:32:52] You've framed it so well there.

Ingrid: [00:32:55] That's awesome. I mean, I'm very enthusiastic about that world. Obviously, I love the technology and so I'll always be on some form on the side of the technology pieces. But the concept of being able to free, ultimately, founders and retailers of all of the weight that technology and eCommerce puts on them is incredibly powerful.

Michael: [00:33:24] It's so powerful. I mean, you see the spark come back into their eyes when they go like, "Wait, you're telling me we're not going to be blocked by dev? You're telling me we're not going to be in a position where we're waiting months for basic things to get done?" "Yeah, that's what we're saying." "I don't believe it." "Here's five examples." "I know it's true, but I just can't get it through my head because that's the world I've always wanted to live in. But that's never a world I've been able to live in, and I don't know why." And so I think brands have great intuition. That's the point, right? Tech companies need to follow brands, so brands and merchants need to get back into the driver's seat. That's what I would like to see happen, and I think that it's already happening, so I'm excited about that.

Ingrid: [00:34:06] That's so cool. And yeah, and so for all the developers and designers out there, you know, that's the new world we're painting. We're painting this really easy, amplified world where we get to put merchants back in the driver's seat and the technology can assist in that and not be the driving force. I think that's really exciting.

Michael: [00:34:25] Can I say one other thing, just for the developers out there that may possibly be listening to the show? Because I hope they are. They should be thinking about brand. They should be thinking about the future. They should be thinking about the human side. But, I think anybody in development in eCommerce knows that back end dev is not really a thing anymore, it's more front end dev. But what is the future of front end dev? That's what I would encourage developers to think about. Is the future of front end development, is a writing code or is it using higher level abstractions and patterns? And I would say you can already tell. I think it's probably less writing granular code and more using great tooling that's available to you. And to me, that's what development is about. Not writing code is about like creating amazing experiences and solutions.

Ingrid: [00:35:12] Yeah, for sure. And I do think that that actually makes the concept of being a programmer or a developer. It sort of expands the definition in this way that is very encouraging to people who think differently than, you know, maybe just like the very, very mathematical code writing to architects and problem solvers in very, very different ways.

Michael: [00:35:37] Exactly.

Ingrid: [00:35:38] Yeah, that's so cool. That's so cool. Well, Michael, what else? There's so much that I want to talk about, but I want to make sure that we hit on everything that you want to talk about, too.

Michael: [00:35:51] I mean, I think we've covered a lot of good stuff here. The branding conversion dichotomy is always kind of there in my head.

Ingrid: [00:36:01] Yeah, it's a big one. What are some of the other dichotomies you mentioned? There were a bunch.

Michael: [00:36:08] Yeah, there's so many. I mean, there are a lot of them are technical, like, for example, SEO versus brand. Like it's basically brand versus the world in a sense. Can we have great SEO and and tell stories? Yes, of course you can. How about this one? This is an interesting one. How about usability versus accessibility?

Ingrid: [00:36:30] Tell me more about that.

Michael: [00:36:30] There's a false dichotomy there, so right now, everybody's getting these troll lawsuits for your sites not accessible enough, right? And if you actually read them, they're kind of hilarious sometimes. And even self-contradictory. But they are calling out something important, which is that if you've ever flipped on the accessibility mode in a browser and tried clicking around, you'll go like, "Oh my gosh, this is horrible. I can totally see why people with disabilities would be complaining about the internet because it's like horrendous." And it really is still terrible for sure. And I really my heart goes out to anyone who would have challenges with browsing the internet, which is something that we all take for granted. But what I've observed is that accessibility is actually a subset of usability. So when it's seen within that context of this is part of UX, we need to consider the needs of all users that there's this great democratizing effect of UX being sort of like empowered to help people across the gamut. We have, by the way, found examples to the contrary where certain times accessibility principles, and this is mainly because the rule set is so new that we will have actually conflicts with the usability rules. So this is an esoteric example, but it was something I was dealing with yesterday. Another example would be, let's just call it the lack of alignment between the agency model and the merchants themselves, whereas I think that there can be incredible amounts of alignment and sort of instead of optimizing for like on the agency side, billable hours of doing the smallest amount of work, well, what if we take a longer view and plan that our engagements are going to last potentially a little longer and that they're going to create incredible amounts of value, but that delivery window is a little longer?

Ingrid: [00:38:17] Yes. Wait. That is just like a whole other thing, like the whole dysfunctional agency model and just very, very, very different goals based on whether you're on the agency side and or on the brand side. And I think that you just hit on something that I really try to live and advocate for every day, which is just full integration of agencies because agencies are really important and can be a really big value add and unlock for brands because agencies allow for specialized expertise to come in and very, very narrowly focus. Not very narrowly, but, you know, somewhat narrowly focus on a particular component of a business that is not maybe native to what the business is there to do. So like if I had to define the use of an agency in the simplest terms, that's how I would do it. But then what ends up happening is that agencies have their own business models and they have to make their money and they have to manage how much they're billing with how much they're spending for the talent. And it ends up being, you just get squeezed, right? So like, you get less talent or...

Michael: [00:39:44] You get squeezed. Yeah, there's a lot of people who build agencies and then they sell them right? Because it's I mean, it's requires a special orientation to want to really progress an agency model long term. I'm really thankful that a lot of the folks that I work with in my group, Celery, I've worked with them for 10 plus years. They're lifers. We're not going anywhere. We're not trying to like, just exit.

Ingrid: [00:40:11] Right.

Michael: [00:40:12] And that long view is, I think, important.

Ingrid: [00:40:16] And I think that shows. It does. We love you guys.

Michael: [00:40:18] Yeah. And I think we've worked on so many different types of projects together, you and me, that I think that we could probably comment on the same type of mechanic for the freelancer model, the in-house agency model, the venture studio model. There's all these different ways to do things. And I've seen a lot of clients like trying, "Should I have fewer larger agencies, just one number to call one party to sue if things get weird, or should I just have different subject matter experts with that conductor model?" There's a lot more to talk about there. I definitely don't see agencies as a bad thing. Like you said, they're good agencies. There's lots and lots of incredible agencies, so many that I look up to and aspire to be more like, honestly. But I think that having the alignment between the merchant and the agency is the main thing that takes that from being dysfunctional and completely amazing.

Ingrid: [00:41:15] Yeah, it's just that shared goal, shared vision, and entrenchment in the business. I think that's really critical.

Michael: [00:41:26] Totally.

Ingrid: [00:41:27] Yeah.

Michael: [00:41:28] There's so many things we could talk about, but I think we've gotten some good thoughts out there on brand and conversion, especially on sort of the risk aversion and how to get away from that. What does the future of tech look like? I didn't give you a great answer on that, honestly. I think that it's going to be so cool to see what happens with NFTs and how they're used in the real world.

Ingrid: [00:41:50] Oh man. I mean. Yeah, we should. We should table that.

Michael: [00:41:54] All right.

Ingrid: [00:41:55] Well, I had like my first episode on that, and I'm so, you know, I guess now you call it like red pilled,

Michael: [00:42:03] Oh yeah, Mike at Pattern, right?

Ingrid: [00:42:04] Yeah, Mike at Pattern, exactly. Yeah, it was super, super fun an I have since now, done the whole I have Etherium domain and like Phillip Jackson from Future Commerce like, you know, airdroped me his NFT. So now I have an NFT in my MetaMask wallet.

Michael: [00:42:32] You're ahead of me there.

Ingrid: [00:42:34] It's a whole lot of fun. It feels like it's very nostalgic and it feels like the early days of the internet.

Michael: [00:42:41] It does. It does feel that way. What happened with me was we were working on like blockchain stuff a few years ago before the bitcoin had just been rising and then it crashed. And so it was like, "Oh, whatever. Forget about this." But I think we're on the cusp of like getting back into it. Really excited about that.

Ingrid: [00:43:00] Yeah, man, it's going to be really fun. There's hopefully in Season 2, we'll do a little more Web3 stuff and we can come back and where our Web3 hats and just nerd out about that together at some point.

Michael: [00:43:11] Sounds good. Another acronym.

Ingrid: [00:43:14] I love it. I love it. Well, Michael, it's just it's a blast. Thank you so much for coming on and for sharing your thoughts and journey and all the things that you're working on that are incredibly exciting. And as we get closer, hopefully we can have you back on and we can talk a little more about Nyla.

Michael: [00:43:34] Thanks so much, Ingrid. Really appreciate it.

Ingrid: [00:43:36] Yeah, of course.

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