Discover more from Future Commerce
Episode 318
September 1, 2023

HalloThanksMas is Upon Us

The holidays are upon us. Or are they? Well, the holiday merch is on display already in August. How has Black Friday/Cyber Monday evolved and what do vendors and merchants do to keep up and meet consumers where they are? The world has changed and so has the shopper experience and what they expect to experience. Listen now to hear Meghan Stabler, Senior Vice President of Marketing at BigCommerce, share key insights to how to navigate these changes and set up your brand for a winning strategy for this coming holiday season.

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this episode sponsored by

Tickle Me Elmo

  • {00:04:30} - “The world has changed. The shopper experience has changed. That linear thing that you talked about from an experience perspective has changed. That journey that customers go on has changed. The way that they interface, they search, they click, they like, they turn you into a buyer immediately has changed. So merchants have to change too. So now is the time, if you haven't already thought about is what is your strategy?” - Meghan
  • {00:15:24} - “eCommerce nowadays is the mentality of all of these things coming together: the infrastructure, the platform capabilities, and then what you want to do as an eCommerce brand manager that has to be seamless to capture me in that very emotional moment of buying.” - Meghan
  • {00:22:07} - “One of the things that I think is super important and it's not discussed too much in typical holiday shopping prep is you actually need to prep for other types of shoppers that you wouldn't normally deal with when you're typically running your promotional promos or your marketing or messaging campaigns. The type of buyer might be someone who's way outside of your ICP, but they're buying it for someone that they know is in your ICP.” - Brian
  • {00:41:47} - “Merchants have to think global at local as well and when they think about this is just a Thanksgiving Day sale, yeah, it may be but Thanksgiving is not celebrated overseas. But at the same time, your sales are celebrated and people are going to your site to think about things.” - Meghan
  • {00:44:08} - “Some retailers definitely have to lean more into promotion to have a clear out and to make room for inventory. And others are leaving money on the table. That's where you don't ever really get the demand curve perfectly. What I think we've seen most recently is that there were some missed forecasts and demand that have led to the industry having to lean more into promotion over the last 18 months.” - Phillip
  • {00:47:44} - “The future of commerce is where AI is going to lead us from where I sort of surrounded it on the data side and analytics and then getting into predictive analytics and then getting into predictive changes and then making individualized journey changes.” - Meghan

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Meghan: [00:00:00] How many of us go to a car dealer website and bing, and immediately you get a chatbot saying, "Hey, I'm Amanda, I'm here to help you. Were you looking at a Jeep today?" "Yes, I am, because I'm on the Jeep component of the website." "Okay. How can I help you?" "Are you a chatbot?" "How can I help you?" And I'll go, "Well, is it really Wednesday or Thursday? Or who's the president," or something like that? And I know it's really a chatbot and not somebody. Right?

Phillip: [00:00:24] That's funny. Proof of life.

Meghan: [00:00:24] I do want proof of life because we all want humans, right?

Brian: [00:01:51] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast where we explore the intersection of culture and commerce. I am Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:58] And I'm Phillip. And for astute listeners, you'll probably recognize Brian is still in his brand new wine cave. You can hear the cavernous sounds behind him. Brian, we'll take it out in post. But one of these days maybe you got to get some of those wine corks on the wall, buddy.

Brian: [00:02:16] I know. I do. I do.

Phillip: [00:02:18] At some point. And if you put them up, I don't know if you know this. It's like sound design sort of thing. When you put them up on the wall, they can't be linear. You have to stagger them a little bit. Kind of like the customer journey these days. Wow. Was that a transition or what?

Brian: [00:02:35] Well played.

Phillip: [00:02:36] Never been a better time to talk about all things holiday, nonlinear customer journey than today. We're recording this the second week of August, and I think we're already in the full swing of talking about holiday, and I can't think of anyone better to bring on the show to talk about it than one of our closest partners and valued friends. I want to welcome for the first time to the show, but not first time around the Future Commerce parts. Megan Stabler, who's the Senior Vice President of Marketing at BigCommerce. Welcome to Future Commerce.

Meghan: [00:03:06] Hey guys, how's it going? I'm glad you said bat cave or wine cave for him. I was worried it was something else.

Phillip: [00:03:13] Well, he's got... {laughter} It's a bit of a bat cave. Brian is building a winery in Seattle.

Brian: [00:03:20] No. Well, you know, it's going to take me a few years.

Phillip: [00:03:24] I call it a compound because he has enough children. It could be a compound these days.

Brian: [00:03:29] And pets. Have plenty of those.

Phillip: [00:03:33] Meghan, let's get into a little bit. I do want to touch on some things. I think holiday is top of mind for a lot of us now. I think one thing that you probably think quite a bit about is this idea of, well, holiday keeps creeping backwards. It's not even pumpkin spice season yet. And we've got we've already got holiday shopping on the mind. What are you seeing over there at BigCommerce and what are you preparing for here today?

Meghan: [00:03:57] Yeah, you're spot on actually. When you go into some of the department stores nowadays or even grocery stores, you're already seeing the pumpkin decorations and Halloween decorations. So it's skipped that holiday period that we used to think about. And now it's really fast forwarded into Fall. And it's weird, you're sitting here in August, as you mentioned, we're already doing it. So, look, that whole notion around Black Friday/Cyber Monday is still going to be around, right? I think they're still going to be those presumptive sales and better deals that you can go ahead and have. But the world has changed. The shopper experience has changed. That linear thing that you talked about from an experience perspective has changed. That journey that customers go on has changed. The way that they interface, they search, they click, they like, they turn you into a buyer immediately has changed. So merchants have to change too. So now is the time, if you haven't already thought about is what is your strategy? And ultimately, I think part of what we should discuss is what is Cyber Week. Is it Cyber Week anymore? Because if anything fell out of Covid, it was that everybody has really gotten so easy to shop online, including my 87 year old parents, to have things delivered to their door. And so there's an expectation that, yes, we're going to have holiday shopping periods. People are going to be doing their promotions. They're going to do the, you know, buy now, pay laters. They're going to have the buy now, but you're going to get 30% off if you want something else. They're going to think about shopping and delivery. They're going to have to think about returns. So there's a lot in that linear line that may not be smooth. It's going to be bumpy. And if merchants don't really think about addressing it now, even from a conversion perspective all the way through to the returns perspective, you can have some serious issues as we get closer to the traditional Cyber Five/Cyber Week, whatever it may be.

Brian: [00:05:49] Yeah, totally agree. And this is a trend we've been tracking at Future Commerce for a while now. It seems like holiday is just expanding out into infinity. Really. I was at Costco recently, as I'm prone to be.

Phillip: [00:06:05] Shocking. I'm shocked, Brian.

Brian: [00:06:07] Not only do they have the Halloween costumes out, but end of year holiday was also very prominently displayed.

Meghan: [00:06:14] Yeah.

Brian: [00:06:15] It's August and in fact, I believe I saw something holiday-focused back in like June or July. I mean obviously that's not like the same thing as a holiday sale, but things are moving further and further back and around and pretty soon people just be buying holiday literally after end of year holiday ends, like it'll be January coming up here.

Meghan: [00:06:40] I honestly do. Because I look at the post-Christmas sales to also see what else is there that I may want that I can put into a box to bring out from a decoration perspective, right? I mean, to these Tomte gnomes from Sweden and stuff. So I have a whole bunch of new gnomes stacked up ready to go for the holiday season. So I think there's a big time FOMO that vendors, that the retailers like Costco and others are playing into by bringing this stuff out now. I was at Costco the other day, too. I bought my three tons of grapes from them. And, you know, the buy a dozen of these cupcakes and you get another dozen free. I don't want two dozen. But I think there's a FOMO where they put the stuff on the shelves and they stock it and they promote it to get it off to clean it out. That essentially for me in my mind keeps their costs and their revenue going when they know that the summer dip is about to happen. Nobody's really going to go out there and buy a canoe or you shouldn't do it in Austin where it's 105 degrees anyway. But nobody's going to be out there buying all their summer gear and the summer kit now that we know that the summer is ending and kids are going back to school. So you're going to have discounts on those things. But they want to bring in all the other brands that fill that vacuum between summer ending and what's happening next. The next big sale is going to be the traditional Cyber Week, right? So there's a gap to fill. So bring the produce and the stock and the inventory in now. And it could also be an effect of what we saw as a fallout from Covid, which is the supply chain. Maybe we've overindexed on supply as well. And now they're just trying to clear it off shelves. But it is interesting. It's an interesting thing to see.

Brian: [00:08:27] I do think you're on to something about bringing that stock in now because if they can get full price for stuff now and discount later, maybe the best sellers won't have to discount them as much.

Phillip: [00:08:40] Yeah, I think the omnichannel of it all really is you're not going to give a lot of air time in digital channels right now to holidays. So what we're really talking about is sort of priming the pump and using merchandising as a marketing strategy that will help us orient the customer over a longer period of time and socialize the idea of getting in the mood for holiday shopping. And while we all like to complain... This is what I've learned about eCommerce professionals in particular. We love to complain, especially about things that work. We don't suffer a lot of time and energy on things that don't work. But while we may hate pop ups on websites, I think we've all decided, you know what, they just work. We don't like SMS marketing in our own inbox, but Lord knows we're going to send tons of them this holiday season because why? Because they work? And I think that the merchandising as marketing strategy, especially in the waning summer months in socializing holiday shopping is something that works, or else retailers wouldn't be giving space to be doing it. I think the question here is when you are thinking, when BigCommerce is thinking about emerging holiday trends, I think there are two things to suss out. One, there are consumer trends, and one of these is the perma marketing of holiday shopping. But then there's the other thing is there are technology trends and then there are the merchant trends, the things the merchants have to really be aware of. What are you doing right now to keep on top of those trends, however broad that question might be in whichever way you feel like answering it?

Meghan: [00:10:13] Wow. Well, yeah, you laid out several, several hills on that one. There are a lot of things that we do as a platform. One is, years gone by, in the past, it was to make sure that the platform, a SaaS-based platform, was ready for traffic. Now, we see that traffic is consistent. We're definitely going to see some spikes. That is the holiday traffic. You're still going to see those things. So it's ensuring that we have a platform that is responsive. It's about ensuring that inside of the BigCommerce that's the infrastructure, that's the hosted on GCP that's making sure that we've got everything spot on for response time, first time to paint, everything else that's needed for the merchant. It's ensuring that inside the product as well we are being responsive. We're giving either you as an agency, you as a developer, or you as just an eCom manager, the right tools that you need to make sure that your site is ready to go. So that includes everything from the design, the way that you engage a merchant with a site and its look and its feel and you use our page builder capabilities through to attracting me as a shopper into the site to go ahead and do something or attract me through a third party, like an Instagram shop or Facebook or TikTok or some of those other ones that you're making sure that your product is as efficient as possible in its description to connect to those channels. And then the third one for me is conversion. It's making sure that we're giving you the conversion tools that you need from, you know, order to checkout or visits to order. You want to have a fairly high rate on that visits to order and you want to have a higher rate once they're they've got the order is checkout. So giving you the right APMs that you may need, alternative payment methods. Thinking about things like depending on what you're trying to sell and the demographic that you're selling to, do you need to have things like wallets? And a one page passwordless checkout even for guest as well. But you're using Google Pay or you've got Apple Pay and you've got it positioned and designed efficiently on your checkout page. Or are you adding things for shoppers around buy now, pay later? Hey, look, I've got a ton of stuff, a lot of inventory that sells to different ICPs or different types of shoppers or tribes. Well, do you really want to have them mess around trying to find this stuff? Or would you want to go headless and have one BC back end, one big eCommerce store back end with different fronts, a front for this type of produce or inventory and stock that you've got, which is very different from this one, but give that unique shopper experience into those individuals and tie them through then into the channels that we talked about in attracting the merchants into it. So it's ensuring that merchants use a more simplified eCommerce structure to go ahead and design and build and do things with. That's it. So that's a long way to talk about the product.

Phillip: [00:13:26] Sure.

Meghan: [00:13:26] And then it's making sure that merchants are getting through our blogs, through relationships that we have with you and others. The right information that an eCommerce manager can say, "Hey, what should I be thinking about?" Loyalty programs, subscriptions, are they thinking about, you know, again, I'm going to go back every time here, Phil, and talk about your linear approach, right? For me, eCommerce is a linear approach, but it's really a set of chains, a set of links that are together, and that has to extend all the way down into not only things like buy online, pick up in store, but also things like ROPUS, return online, pick up in store. How am I doing when I receive something that it doesn't fit? It's not what I wanted. It's definitely not what I can go ahead and use. How easy is it for me to return it? But as an eCom manager, you want to keep me as a brand ambassador, You want to keep my loyalty. So at the end of the day, how am I interfacing with customer support through a chatbot right? Maybe an AI chatbot that is better than me going, "Are you really a chatbot or are you really a human?" I need to know that it's really a human there and if I return it and I can drop it off at my local Mailbox, Etc, or UPS store or FedEx, am I getting something back that says, "Hey, sorry for the inconvenience. We're giving you a 10% off for the next week if you want to buy something..." So that linear approach that you talked about, the linear shopping experience is a set of chains, links, and if any one of those links break, your conversion checkout rate breaks or the way people are trying to use advanced search and merch or you're not integrating AI, search and merch to make it easier for me, I could get turned off by your site very easily and I could likely go find it somewhere else on another site and buy it from them. So for me, eCommerce nowadays is the mentality of all of these things coming together: the infrastructure, the platform capabilities, and then what you want to do as an eCommerce brand manager that has to be seamless to capture me in that very emotional moment of buying. Because I sit at home, I'm sure you both sit at home. You think of something, you go, you pick up your iPhone, you find maybe what it is and you're either doing the quick buy through Amazon and hopefully it's there in the next two days or shipped overnight or whatever it may be, or you're finding it on a store and you're thinking about, "Okay, do I really want it? Yeah, I'm going to go get it." So that is the moment that we want to infuse the consumer and infuse the shopper to buy on your site. So by providing all that stuff, platform infrastructure, and then those capabilities like really advanced checkout and stuff is so, so critical in today's world.

Phillip: [00:16:21] I have a couple of ideas there that we could take this in a couple of different directions. I think the first would be you mentioned APMs or alternative payment methods. You mentioned installment payment solutions...

Meghan: [00:17:34] Buy now, pay later.

Phillip: [00:17:35] Right. Buy now, pay later. Sort of colloquially. I know that that's what everybody calls it.

Meghan: [00:17:40] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:17:40] We are in the moment right now at least there are a lot of headlines that are talking about consumers exercising credit, and so there are a lot of folks who we talk about seasonality in our business, in the business of retail or eCommerce, consumers have seasonality in their earning potential. And it tracks closely to the economy. It also tracks very closely to how consumers have to balance out the needs and demands of their wallet during certain times of the year. I'm curious, as you're watching holiday, is that a thing that merchants need to prepare more for this year? This usage of credit? And from your perspective, how can they prepare best for that? Because that feels like a very down funnel conversion-centric metric that has very little to do with price and promotion and more to do with the mentality of the customer when they've already made the decision to buy.

Meghan: [00:18:34] Exactly. No, you're spot on it. It is about the decision to buy. It's that emotionality of, you know what, I'm going to split these payments into four. I'm going to buy it now. I'm going to receive it. I'm going to split it into four. So it's a matter of who takes the risk. I don't think the merchant's really in a situation to take that risk, especially in the margins that a lot of merchants play with so that risk is really upon the buy now, pay later providers to take that risk. If we were to really dive into it, I have my own personal thoughts on buy now, pay later. I'm very, very cautious about over-promoting buy now, pay later because I see that as a socioeconomic... It could keep you in further debt for longer. And I do worry about that as a society. We've even seen, you know, I'm from Europe originally and we've seen a bunch of regulations and concerns coming out of the EU around buy now, pay later, and the impact that it does have. If we think we have we're not in inflationary terms right now here in the US. I know that today, August 8th, whatever it is 10th, we rose up by a couple of points. But it's not that much in Europe it's heavier. If I think about the UK where I'm from, inflation is pretty heavy out there. If I think about some of the other European countries as well. So the available spend in your pocket is reduced. Mortgage rates are significantly higher for a mortgage as well. So people are beginning to think about how do I spend and what do I do? Now, having said that, let me pull back another observation. We as humans like to please people, so there is a delicate balance that a parent with a child who is desperate for a whatever the latest toy is. I'm old enough to go back to the Cabbage Patch dolls and the Tickle Me Elmo's with my kids. But you got to play that balance about how can I get it? Where can I get it? But I also think that's why the promotions that you do, the discounts that you do, and hopefully the stock and the inventory allows you to promote and beat a price of somebody else. We all know that you pay a little bit more if you're promoting your product on Amazon than you would do if you were promoting it yourself. There's a cost that comes with top placement on some of these platforms, but there may be other ways that you can do it. I mean, in the BigCommerce platform you get SEO and you get marketing built into the product as well. So there may be tweaks and adjustments that you could make. You may want to, as you talked about before, you know, run these flash sales, to go get something right. Your margins may not be as high as it would be if you sold full price, but maybe there's something to be a first mover on something. So I think merchants have really got to understand many things, right? The products, the pricing, the placement. But they also have to... I'll give you another piece. They've got to send the people that they are really selling to and the mentality of the people that they've got. And again, that's the chain. That's everything that you have to encompass and worry about.

Brian: [00:21:35] Especially when it comes to holiday shopping. This is more important than ever because I think that the biggest challenge is we're talking about gift givers, which are not necessarily... People shop when they shop for gift giving they shop potentially differently than they may shop for themselves. And so the types of customers you may be looking at might be a slightly different cohort than you're typically used to dealing with. And you may have to account for more of these cohorts.

Phillip: [00:22:04] It's so true.

Meghan: [00:22:05] Yeah. Yeah.

Brian: [00:22:06] And so one of the things that I think is super important and it's not discussed too much, I think, in typical holiday shopping prep is you actually need to prep for other types of shoppers that you wouldn't normally deal with when you're typically running your promotional promos or your marketing or messaging campaigns. The type of buyer might be someone who's way outside of your ICP, but they're buying it for someone that they know is in your ICP.

Meghan: [00:22:42] Yeah, it's a conundrum, isn't it? It's a real conundrum on that.

Brian: [00:22:45] Massive conundrum. And I think something you hit on that I would love to see you dive a little deeper on is this idea of building out the multiple experiences. So something that we've really been exploring at Future Commerce is sort of personalization and beyond the typical "you may also like" type personalization or other individualized type emails. And you mentioned having headless sites so that you can build out multiple front ends. I'm just thinking about the different types of shoppers out there and the psychographics associated with them.

Meghan: [00:23:22] Oh yeah, yeah.

Brian: [00:23:23] Can you dive a little bit further in on how to address those different psychographics? Like someone who's buying their gifts in summer for holiday versus someone who's like, "Oh, it's Christmas Eve, I need to buy my gifts still."

Phillip: [00:23:42] Do you mean psychographic is a procrastinator? There's something wrong with that.

Brian: [00:23:46] I mean, that's like 90% of the psychographic out there. I guess. {laughter}

Meghan: [00:23:51] It's called the husbands on Christmas Eve. You're hitting on something that I think marketers and eCom already addresses, to specific gift buyers. Think about the Valentine's Day period of time. How many advertisements do you see that are geared towards the picture of the female with a necklace and jewelry and a tennis bracelet and stuff that's geared towards the guy that has probably forgotten or needs to think about those types of things? So there is some of this gift-giving promotion already happening. But you're also hitting on something. We've got to think about I'm buying something based off of what I think somebody else that I love hopefully or like will want to go ahead and go, "Oh, my gosh, this is amazing. Thank you. What a wondrous gift." That is... That is difficult, but can we envision a world where you have a brand, people are coming back, you're collecting some customer information, and you're beginning to parse that information through AI. You're using some sort of data integration, right? You know, BigCommerce is integrated into BigQuery and Google, so you can take your data and infuse it and blend it with other data from CRMs and data lakes and really come out with stories. Is there a way that we can start really thinking about how merchants look at demographics? I'm not saying that they collect data on the age of the purchaser, but they may collect it on the location. The zip code that purchased on the credit card is different to the zip code that it was sent to. Is there a connection that you can tie? Hey, the zip code it was sent to is in a different state and it was generally for toys for a kid aged, you know, 9 to 11. I've got an 11 year old daughter. So I'm beginning to think about what do I need to get her that is not electronics yet again. So do we tie that and understand that the purchaser is a different zip code and they're purchasing for toys to be shipped over to this one? Maybe this age demographic is a bit different. I think ultimately it just comes down to data. And then what we as vendors can provide the merchant based off of the merchant owns their own data, and then how do we enable them to have actionable insights to do things with? But for me, for those gift buyers, it's definitely a new way of thinking about it. And maybe headless could be a way for the Hey, if you're a dude trying to find this type of stuff for your wife, we're promoting it through. But that's also what really good advanced search is going to do for you as well through some of our amazing partners like Algolia and Bloomreach that are integrated into BC can provide. So you've got that, I think content is key. We used to say content is king, but it is key to everything that you do, and so integrating good CMS with good quality content, using UGC, user generated content, and packaging and opening up and doing that, that's key. Sustainability nowadays is key as well. So there's no easy answer, my friend, to an interesting question there, but I think the root of that comes down to data and then this advancement of AI being infused into platforms as to how you as a merchant can actually start doing something with.

Phillip: [00:27:59] Let's talk a little bit about that AI journey. So a lot of it has been made of AI working its way into tools and certainly BigCommerce is no exception. I know Generative AI is helping a lot of retailers and online e-tailers to create content specifically meant to put in front of a consumer. Where do you see or do you see the possibility or the potential of AI changing the nature of holiday shopping? Is this going to be a different holiday season or different holiday shopping season due to AI? Or is that something that just the consumer would never even be aware of the kind of rich data and the rich data opportunities and the marketing capabilities that AI is bringing to the merchant? They're just experiencing something that just feels great and they couldn't tell you otherwise.

Meghan: [00:29:44] I think it's the latter, right? If we get AI correct, and ethically correct on how we use AI, it is very much the latter. The end user is delighted. The end user is, "Wow, I just typed in this and this is exactly what I wanted. And what arrived on my doorstep is exactly what I ordered and I'm going to go use it," without any "Oh..." and afterthoughts on it. I think if we get AI right, it's going to have an impact on returns. There's a high propensity for people to buy stuff, receive it, and then return it. And that's the cost. That's the cost on all of us from the environment, with the trucks going back and forth, through packaging, through wasted materials. And even from these, you know, large volumes of stuff that gets returned doesn't actually end up back on the shelf. It just gets dumped somewhere else and discounted.

Phillip: [00:30:37] It's so true.

Meghan: [00:30:38] So can AI improve not just from the way that we're looking at improving the product description to make sure that you're capturing the right red sneaker size 12 with three stripes versus something else that is designed for some kind of sport, but also AI for the content? AI for the search. The AI for all the integration, even serving up things before, you know you need it. Back to the beginning conversations we had about that personalization and that journey. I as a shopper, want you as a merchant just to believe that I'm the only shopper that you will ever have on your platform, and therefore you're going to delight me. And I think AI can help generate that. And then the next shopper that comes into your digital front door, that digital web front or that digital, you know, sitting on my mobile device has their own unique experience where they go, "Wow, they really got it right." So I think AI's got a way to play in a lot of things. I think AI's got a lot of ways to go. And I mentioned chat before. I hate chat right now. I hate chat because how many of us go to a car dealer website and bing, and immediately you get a chatbot saying, "Hey, I'm Amanda, I'm here to help you. Are you looking at a Jeep today?" "Yes, I am, because I'm on the Jeep component of the website." "Okay. How can I help you?" "Are you a chatbot?" "How can I help you?" And I'll go, "Well, is it really Wednesday or Thursday?" Or "Who's the president?" Or something like that? And I know it's really a chatbot, not somebody. Right?

Phillip: [00:32:14] That's funny. Proof of life.

Meghan: [00:32:15] It is. I do want proof of life because we all want to... We all want humans, right? We don't have much human interaction in our lives. We're more on the Googles and the Zooms and the Hangouts and everything else. We need that human interaction. And I want to know that I'm speaking to somebody. So I think AI's got a long way to go before it convinces me that it really is a human. But it's really AI. I want to see that change. I think AI and improving data analytics and insights to the points we were talking about before to help a merchant sell more, sell faster, sell quicker, recommend that you automatically... This is just vision. It's not something we've got going on right now, but vision a truly generative dynamic checkout page that is moving the widgets around, putting a wallet above another wallet and replacing somebody else, doing something around it, and moving my checkout to be very unique to me, which would be very different to Lee, the guy that's behind my camera right now. And he gets a different because we know that Lee doesn't like to use Apple Pay to pay. So don't offer that up right now because he's one of those Android users. So he's going to be out in Google Pay and doing his stuff over there. So I think the future is just so huge on AI for a lot of different things. But I'll come back to how we at BC think about it. It has to be ethical. We have to do it for the right reason. We have to ensure that data is protected. Protected your information as a shopper through your collective data as a merchant is your data and really enable you as the merchant to interrogate the data, get actionable insights, and then when you're comfortable, move to the next level of the system automatically doing these types of things for your site and managing it. So you're on a beach, you don't have to worry about it. You've got your supply chain, you've got your returns and orders all the way set up. But that's my vision, right? That eCommerce becomes so symbiotic with human interaction that we don't know if it is an AI or not. And so you answered the question. It's really the latter. I don't want the shopper to really know the interfacing through AI. I want it to be seamless.

Brian: [00:34:36] My Turing test is to ask what's the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? And if the answer is not African or European, then I know that it's an AI. {laughter}

Meghan: [00:34:52] That's really interesting.

Phillip: [00:34:53] That's a deep cut these days. I get it. I'm assuming Meghan gets it. I don't know that everybody in the eCommerce space would get that. Here's the real question. You know, as we're looking into our crystal ball about the future of commerce because that's what we tend to do here, we're also seeing that the modality of purchase is changing, not just mobile versus desktop anymore, but it's the context where the mobile happens to be. And Cyber Five, you mentioned earlier, part of Cyber Monday and the designation of Cyber Monday as a holiday was predicated on the idea that people only had access to high speed Internet at work and would do their shopping at the office on the Monday following those Black Friday deals.

Brian: [00:35:37] Because what else do you do on the Internet?

Phillip: [00:35:37] Right. So the question here today is, if you're looking more at this idea of mobile shopping trends and I'm using air quotes for those not watching on YouTube, what are you thinking, and what is BigCommerce sort of seeing as that modality change, that context change of the mobile shopping journey and how are merchants and how do platforms have to rise to meet that change in demand and the flexibility because people are shopping wherever they happen to be now is my assumption?

Meghan: [00:36:08] We are. I took vacation in Hilton Head this year and was sitting on a beach and ordered a bunch of stuff sitting under a cabana on the beach. So we're shopping wherever we can be. I shop from an airplane. I've shopped and had groceries delivered to my front door because I knew my flight was landing within an hour. I know exactly how long it's going to take me to get from an airport back to my house here in Austin.

Brian: [00:36:31] I mean, let's be honest, 90% of shopping happens from the toilet. It's really where it all occurs.

Phillip: [00:36:37] It's either true or you're telling on yourself, Brian. One of the two.

Meghan: [00:36:42] Maybe he's not in a cellar anymore. He's changed locations. But I think the modality is important. We know that we're spending more time on on these devices, on tablets, probably more so than we're doing on shopping in those office hours on our desktop devices. So these are the ones that we're probably picking up and using in the office versus typing away on a dashboard to go do it. So this has to be seamless. Your web presence, your front digital door has to be as seamless as possible on this device. And then something that I talked about before that we've taken very seriously. We started it with the well, we had it before we acquired them. We had integrations into Amazon and a whole bunch of other things like Facebook. But when we acquired Feedonomics, we got access to a whole bunch of different channels to make sure that we were streamlining product data recommendations into all of these other channels that are out there because each has a different schema. So you have to normalize it and get the right data out there. But it is connecting me, the shopper, where I have and I think you've used the word before, propensity to shop. And yeah, I'm on Instagram, I may not post much on Instagram, but I am on Instagram a lot. And my ability to find something, to have some content served up because it's been maybe something I looked at on my laptop at home on my MacBook and it happened to be in the cache that Facebook captured as well, or Google captured that is now being served up over here on an Instagram widget that is interesting to me. And I just say, "Okay, yeah, I'm just going to go shop," and I swipe up and shop now and I order it. So the modality is we've got to be device agnostic because I'm going to be everywhere. You've seen the things in Europe where even in shopping malls, those big touchscreen devices in a mall allow you to go buy things and order things. So it is capturing us wherever we may be and ensuring that we can actually, as a merchant, convert people into shoppers. So for me, it's you've got to have the right connections, the right channels, the right marketplaces.

Brian: [00:38:49] It's not just channel agnostic. You also sort of have to be location agnostic as well. Because I'm kind of making a joke here, but a lot of holiday shopping... So we talked about Cyber Monday and Black Friday, but actually, the day that's been seeing serious traction recently that never used to be a day of traction is actually Thanksgiving itself because the best sales are now hitting Web sites on Thanksgiving Day and people know it. And so they're actually spending a lot of time on their phones. I wrote a whole article on this. This is actually near and dear to my heart that it was actually a kind of brutal. I used to do a lot of Black Friday shopping, and I enjoyed it. I used to do it in person and in-store and then switched to online on Black Friday. And now it's all happening on Thanksgiving. And what happens is you actually end up sitting on your phone for two hours not talking to anyone, your family or your relatives. And maybe this is really just the best excuse that people have ever come up with not to interact with relatives that they don't enjoy. But it's actually an extremely isolating experience, whether you're hosting or you're going somewhere else, you end up no matter what's going on around you or what location you're in, 100% focused on the screen and you scroll through thousands of product listings looking for deals and for things you actually want or want to gift. But mostly I think that people are looking for stuff that they want. {laughter} And I think this is a huge shift in the way that it used to be. Shopping was a holiday. Now it's an isolating experience that I think there's a little bit of a reaction against right now as well. And maybe that's why it's being smoothed out.

Meghan: [00:40:59] Agreed. Yeah. I mean, I remember, coming to the States and getting up at 1:00 in the morning to go stand outside a company called Circuit City in line with other people because they had the FOMO and the latest whatever it was and stuff like that. You don't need to camp outside nowadays. I agree with you. Now, the other thing that I have noticed, and I thought you were going to lead into it a little bit, but I know that Europeans also know that Thanksgiving is a sale day in the States. And boy, if you've got cross border setup and you're doing international shipping orders and stuff like that, they know that they can come to your site on that Thursday or that Friday and get some deals as well. So merchants have to think global at local as well and when they think about this is just a Thanksgiving Day sale. Yeah, it may be but Thanksgiving is not celebrated overseas. But at the same time, your sales are celebrated and people are going to your site to think about things. So I think for those people, they're not sitting at home for two hours, obviously, I think you probably need to get into some therapy with your family members and stuff and figure out why you don't talk to them, and hopefully you're gifting all those people the things that you're finding online. But it has changed. It has changed the way we shop. But if I go back and just look at my own preferences for Thanksgiving over the last couple of years, I don't think I've really done any major shopping on those specific days because deals have truly been surrounding those time periods anyway. And I expect a 10% discount wherever I go because I've always had the opinion that whenever you see somebody saying, hey, on sale, 10% off, well, that's a given. That should be a given discount you're going to give me anyway, I mean a shout out to my dad on this thing. He will argue for a discount on anything in England. Anything. You can give me a discount. Discount for cash. Discount because otherwise I'm going to walk away and he'll probably get that 10%. I want those deals that are the 40-50% off that are still going to give that merchant, that vendor some discount. But I think it's wedged beyond just... Which is why we started off talking about is Cyber Five really Cyber Five? Is Black Friday really Black Friday? Is Cyber Monday really Cyber Monday? I'd love your opinion on this. I thought I started seeing over the last couple of years during and then post-Covid that more merchants were having less big deals that had good discounts. Did you see that?

Brian: [00:43:44] I believe you're right, yeah. I've been looking at this as well. Discounting has... You're right. Fewer big discounts overall on those specific days has been a bit of a trend.

Phillip: [00:44:00] Despite the way that we've sort of been predicting seasonality or the way that we have tried to predict demand has sort of fallen short. So some retailers definitely have to lean more into promotion to have a clear out and to make room for inventory. And others are leaving money on the table. And that's where you don't ever really get the demand curve perfectly. What I think we've seen most recently is that there were some missed forecasts and demand that have led to the industry having to lean more into promotion over the last 18 months.

Brian: [00:44:33] And it's interesting, if you look at Cyber Monday sales over the past few years, they've continued to increase despite fears that they would sort of trail off, which is interesting given that the sales seem to have been spread out more. It seems like people are still shopping on the three big days, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.

Meghan: [00:44:54] We talked a little bit about buy now, pay later and other things. We have to think about other factors that may have impacted those things. We know that eCommerce as a whole globally is not that huge. You know 15% of business is through eCommerce, online or whatever. I haven't looked at a stat in a long time, but we've got a long way to go before everybody uses every device to buy online and nobody just walks into a store and stuff. We have to think about the economic factors inside of it. You've got to think about the supply chain. And a huge margin. If you can create a FUD around, "I think we're going to have some supply chain issues again this year. And we may not have that Tickle Me Elmo 3.4 version that is available. We've only got a limited supply today. Get your order now." I'm going to charge a premium for that. I mean, the stuff that has happened in the past, I think, that creates that FOMO for you going into Costco and buying all your things. The two tons of grapes or whatever it is that you buy out of that stuff. But there is that FOMO that we still have to wrap around what it is we're trying to promote. The discounts may not be as heavy, but it's all psychology. Phil mentioned it before. It's the psychology of people and stuff that wraps into it.

Brian: [00:46:17] It sounds to me like all of this moving things early and earlier, is this really a psyop to get people to buy on when we get there?

Phillip: [00:46:26] This is what I've been looking at. I have this working thesis that maybe the shift in seasons or our perceived shift in seasons has a lot more to do with commerce now and a lot more to do with the shift in messaging and brands and seasonal fashion collections than it does with actual weather change. Something to consider here is I think climate change actually has a lot to do with the way that we're feeling the dissonance around this seasonality of marketing, which also throws us off a little bit in sort of the circadian rhythm of the way we buy and belong because I think retailers feel the same struggle in technology in that they're also consumers. And so their feeling of how early is too early to plan, how early is too early to predict demand and forecast demand, I think also has a lot to do with it, too. So multiple parts. We opened with nonlinearity multiple parts of this conversation are actually nonlinearly connected to each other. And that's the thing we're all having to wrestle with here is that we typically end this by saying, "Can you look into a crystal ball and tell us what's in store in the future?" I don't think it's ever been harder to do so than right now. But I'll give you the last word, Meghan, because I don't want to take it out of you.

Meghan: [00:47:43] I think the future of commerce is where AI is going to lead us from where I sort of surrounded it on the data side and analytics and then getting into predictive analytics and then getting into predictive changes and then making individualized journey changes. I think that, for me, is a very strong direction on where AI could be used ethically. I'm going to keep cementing on that. But I also think the consumer gets to shape eCommerce for us. Sustainability, the requirements. Some of our some of our customers like Skullcandy. If you've got a pair of headphones from Skullcandy and you turn them in, you're going to get a 30% discount on your next one. And then the packaging is going to be sustainable and you can offset, if you want, some of the carbon footprint on shipping it to you. There are things that people are going to start to expect. The kids that we all talked about. The tribe that one of you has to my 11 year old daughter, they're going to have a different set of expectations when it comes to the experience of shopping, the experience about the delivery of whatever it is that they've bought and the experience on returns. So I think the future of commerce is absolutely amazing. I mean, we could have said 25 years ago when that first credit card was used to buy the album. I think it was the first thing that was bought. It was the Sting album, I believe. Just a long way to go. That was 25 years ago. That's nothing. And the future is just amazing for commerce in my mind.

Phillip: [00:49:20] I think so, too. And no better place to hear about the positivity, about the changes in commerce than Future Commerce. Meghan Stabler, thank you so much for coming on Future Commerce and sharing about it.

Brian: [00:49:34] Thanks, Meghan.

Meghan: [00:49:34] My pleasure.

Phillip: [00:49:34] I can't wait to see what the future has in store, and I think that's a great place to leave it. For those of you listening, thank you so much for making it this far into this episode of Future Commerce. We know that you need to see around the next corner and that's why we are helping you to do that four days a week now with podcasts and newsletters that can be found, all of it in one convenient place. And I would love for you to subscribe to The Senses, which is our newsletter that shows up in your inbox twice a week on Wednesday and Friday. That'll keep you up to date on what you need to know to shape the future of commerce for your own business in context with today's news. You can do that at Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Future Commerce.

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