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Season 3 Episode 2
May 3, 2024

[DECODED] Conjectures and Commerce

Is the “path of least resistance” a universally true experience? Do all customers experience resistance the same way? In this episode, Rishabh Jain and Rabah Rahil from Fermát explore this idea through the legacy of polymathic thinker Pierre de Fermat, who pioneered the principle of least time in the 1660s.

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Is the “path of least resistance” a universally true experience? Do all customers experience resistance the same way? In this episode, Rishabh Jain and Rabah Rahil from Fermát explore this idea through the legacy of polymathic thinker Pierre de Fermat, who pioneered the principle of least time in the 1660s.

Forging ‘desire paths’

  • {00:20:48} “In the nondeterministic consumer world, you have millions and millions and millions of opportunities to screw up a test with a customer because they don't behave in a controlled way.” - Phillip
  • {00:25:55} “I think, you know, there's a saying where it's like the future's already here. It's just unevenly distributed. This already happens. And the place this happens is in B2B.” - Rishabh
  • {00:47:06} “The website is turning into the business card...I think zero-click commerce is going to be the path.” - Rabah

Key Takeaways

  • While the “path of least resistance” is a maxim in conversion rate optimization, optimization is highly personal to the customer and their motives. The nature of CRO will evolve with more 1-1 personalized and ephemeral experiences.
  • The ‘website’ as a monolith is a construct of search engine optimization. In the coming future, the rise of constellation sites allows for personalized customer experiences.
  • Brand roles and channels will need to adapt as privacy changes shape the future of web commerce. Zero-click commerce could bea future of online shopping. The website model is evolving, and multiple user experiences and types of interfaces will become a norm.

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Phillip: [00:00:11] Welcome to Decoded, a podcast by Future Commerce, presented this season by FERMÀT. Today on Decoded, we are exploring these hidden trails of insight and meaning that come from studying polymathic thinkers, that is, the people who are so discontent to study and specialize in just one area of expertise that they become masters of many. Today, we will embark on a journey through time and thought, guided by the intuition of one extraordinary mathematician, Pierre de Fermat. No one is more familiar with the path of least resistance than a web marketer. But picture this, the first person to ever propose such an idea did so in 1665 amidst a candlelit chaos of his study. Pierre de Fermat considered that light, when traveling through a medium, always found the quickest path, what he called the principle of least time. And it's more than just a scientific curiosity. It's as we observe in the ecommerce industry, a metaphor for our own lives, our decisions, and the paths that customers choose. This season on Decoded, we're not just giving history lessons, we're unraveling insights. And we're connecting with modern thinkers and builders and storytellers about how ancient principles influence everything from technology to personal and even career growth. And we're hearing these tales of paths not taken, the allure of the easy route, and the unexpected places that we will arrive when we follow the beam of our own intuition. I'm Phillip, and this is Decoded, presented by FERMÀT. This season on Decoded, you and I are going to mix it up talking, Rabah, about the way that some of these prolific minds in other adjacent industries have shaped our reality. And then we're going to talk a little bit about how marketers might play the next role of being considered to be prolific minds that are going to shape the future. And maybe one of those people is joining us here today. Your boss, Rishabh Jain, welcome to Decoded.

Rishabh: [00:02:30] Man, you know what the privilege is? Not only being with you, but actually getting to be on a podcast with Rabah. He's very selective about his guests.

Phillip: [00:02:38] {laughter} You should be more discerning, actually, I think, because I've been on one or two of them. Could I get you to just give me a little bit about your background? Because I think you have quite the history, and you've done quite a lot in the world of digital marketing and advertising that we may not recognize. You helped build a lot of the industry and the industry tech that powers a lot of the experiences customers have come to rely upon.

Rishabh: [00:03:03] Yeah. Totally. So before I got into ad tech and marketing, I actually got my PhD in physics. So that'll help us a little bit as we explore the world of Fermat and some of these other people that we want to talk about. And then I started at a company called LiveRamp in 2015. And LiveRamp is one of those companies that stays out of the public eye but underpins a large amount of how we interact with the consumer Internet. So they enable the stitching of identity between your physical identity, so email address, name, address, cookies, and mobile IDs. And so everywhere where you are getting targeted with ads, there's some sort of identity spine being used in order to sort of message you. And in almost 100% of those cases, LiveRamp is somewhere behind the scenes, whether it's Facebook, Google... Name your ad tech provider, and LiveRamp touches it in some way. And so that was basically my education in advertising and consumer Internet. And so while I was there, I was responsible for all of our customer-facing technical teams and then built three business units inside of LiveRamp. So that was sort of where I came from before starting this company.

Phillip: [00:04:27] And having that as your underpinning gives you a lot of perspective as to the types of technologies that media platforms need to use in order to service their customers, which ultimately are brands trying to reach their audience. So let's talk a little bit about what the opportunity was that you saw here, and then we'll get into what you think the future of commerce looks like and maybe the name and what inspires you.

Rishabh: [00:04:56] I'll say that the big opportunity was, I guess, like every opportunity, it comes from being somewhat prepared, you know, having a prepared mind. So it actually dates back to 2017. So 2017, Apple started something called ITP, which is Intelligent Tracking Prevention. So on Safari browsers, slowly over time, starting in 2017, tracking of consumers started to degrade. And then in 2020, they said, "Hey. Actually, we're also going to implement a new policy that says you have to ask people for permission in order to be tracked." And this was like a light bulb moment or like a world shaking moment because the moment that came out, the way the industry reacted, especially how "insiders" reacted was very dramatic. I mean, most people won't remember this, but actually Facebook's initial posture was "We're not going to do that." So they actually said, like, "No. Thank you. We're not going to follow that policy." And then they realized Apple was serious. They were going to kick them out of the App Store if they don't follow that, which would be crazy. Right? Think about the fact think about, like, having an iPhone without Instagram and Facebook. That would be ridiculous. So then Facebook was like, "Okay. I guess we're doing this." And that was when I was like, "Oh my god. The consumer Internet is never going to be the same." And then I saw the world of commerce or how you like to describe it, Phillip, around culture, converging into just people interacting and engaging only on Facebook, Amazon, and Apple properties. And I was like, "This is a disaster. Somebody has to do something that enables independent brands to thrive in this new Internet that is being built in front of our eyes." And this sounds cliche or sort of like the proverbial, I couldn't get it out of my head. And so I was like, "I've gotta be part of the solution for owned properties on this new Internet that is not just Facebook, Amazon, TikTok, whatever else it may be."

Phillip: [00:07:06] In what parts of your background and sort of your laws of motion of... Can you take some of these ideas from the physics and engineering side of your education and apply them to the, you know, I would say, allegories or metaphors of what we're seeing here in the industry is you have these large bodies, the Facebooks of the world who have incredible inertia, Apple who has incredible inertia, and consumer brands are sort of powerless to stop their motion. And so consumer brands tend to jump onto those platforms in order to find their customer. The problem is that you have a middleman at some point like a Shopify who has to jump in the middle in order to help that brand to transact. So you're really trying to have a relationship with the brand and the product, but you need something in the middle that helps close the deal. But doesn't it look a lot more like you have these other players like TikTok that are trying to close the deal at the moment of inspiration as opposed to pushing you through a website? And how does that change the relationship with the consumer, and why might that be detrimental for brands?

Rishabh: [00:08:17] Let's try to just sort of think through this in pieces. So the first part is when you have a privacy-centric Internet, the reason why you have to worry about all of the power being aggregated at those endpoints, like TikTok with TikTok shops, is precisely because the only way that you can be privacy compliant and give the consumer a good experience is by keeping the consumer within your ecosystem. Now going back to your earlier question around, like, "Hey. What are the ideas from, like, the natural world or from the world of physics that we can bring into marketing that can help us sort of see new pathways?" So one of the laws of nature that I think sort of flows into every part of how we sort oflive is this idea of the path of least resistance. And Fermat happens to be one of the people who observed this first in the real world. So when light refracts, so you know how it bends from air to water, And so you have that, like, funny thing of when you look at a pool, things look closer than they actually are. It's like it's because it turns out that light getting from point A to point B, it goes faster when it bends at the interface because of the change in index of refraction. Right? So he's the first person to observe this in the physical world. And so I was like, okay. This idea is everywhere. And the question that I had was as a marketer or as somebody interacting with consumers, what are these non obvious paths of least resistance that can actually give the consumer the experience that they need while still respecting the physics of each of the mediums that somebody is in at the point that they are in them. And so, you know, yes, one of the things that's going to happen is TikTok is going to have a within medium shop. But then the other thing that's going to happen is that brands still want to own the consumer relationship. There's a huge amount of value in being able to give somebody an interaction directly with the brand itself because you can communicate more about who you are as a brand on a property that you somehow directly own. And so that path will always be there, and it's just now we have to create non obvious ways of delivering that seamless experience to the consumer. And so that's how I would stitch those two ideas together in terms of how do we take ideas from physics. How do we think about what is changing in the world of marketing today and the world of brands today, and how do we give a great experience to consumers?

Phillip: [00:10:56] There's a Rabah kind of thing we're going to cover over the arc of this whole season, bringing new light or new ideas and shining light on people that are sort of often overlooked. And what I think you do that really well just in your natural community building and the way that you evangelize products and opportunities in the market. Maybe in a prior era, it was done through, "Hey, there's an attribution opportunity for brands." Brands can spend better. They can market better. They can double down on what's working if they can more accurately tell what dollars are affecting what outcomes. How is that changing now in a future where the cart gets closer to the customer? And how do you see that being fundamentally different from something like a static website? And then maybe you can pepper in where the FERMÀT opportunity is in that change.

Rabah: [00:11:58] Yeah. Absolutely. No. It's a really interesting paradigm shift. So when I was at Triple Whale, we were riding the wave of iOS 14. When people have a problem, it's very easy to induce change and especially if you feel pain. What we're seeing now is with the proliferation of AI, in-platform metrics are actually getting to a place of drivability again. There was a legitimate time where you could not deploy paid media capital, especially at scale efficiently using in-platform metrics. You needed some other arbiter of truth to then drive from. So what you're seeing now is that visibility is coming back in, but to all the previous points Rishabh was making is there's a certain aspect of performance that's missing. And so what we're seeing in terms of we work with really great agencies, really big brands that are really crushing it, and we're seeing the through line for them is growth is essentially a function of 2 things, experimentation and optimization. So being able to experiment and have, again, kind of very much to what this whole kind of series is about, is having this scientific method where you have a thesis, what's that thesis, and then being able to marry this qualitative data. "I think this of my customer." "I've seen this from my customer," to some semblance of a thesis and again, scientific method where you're being able to test and test at a velocity that isn't expensive. What happened in the past where testing was so just arduous in terms of being able to spin up different experiences for different people, what's the offer testing, how do I hold these people out, all these things. And so that's where one of the reasons why, you know, shameless plug I joined was Rishabh and Shreyas were so ahead of that game, and now the market's kind of caught up to this opportunity where being able to experiment at scale and then use those experiments and learnings to integrate into your optimization function is really what we're seeing the pathway and the growth equation, if you will, start to shape up to be. And I think it's going to be that way because the privacy drum is not going to stop. Apple sees the privacy as a feature, which in all intents and purposes is a great business move. "It's a really awesome play where it's like, "Oh, we're helping you, but by the way, by helping you, we're kneecapping everybody else..." Where there's a fair point to be made where I don't know. Like, iOS 14 was very value destructive, especially in the SMB market. If you were big, you really didn't feel it as much because you just had so much firepower that you weren't really, you know, you lose a point here and there where if you were an SMB, it was existential to you. So what we're seeing is the people that are really reaching scale are using that kind of growth equation of experimentation times optimization and being able to run these loops quickly because, I don't know about you guys, but I've been in this game for a really long time, and I've not once been able to call the winning ad, the winning landing page. It's just it's always the, and Rishabh knows this too in science, stuff in science is never discovered where, like, "Oh, yeah. That's what I thought. Amazing." You know? It's always, "Oh, that's weird." That's when the stuff gets discovered or where it's just like, "That's weird." And then you dive into that.

Rishabh: [00:15:15] I remember this picture, and I feel like the marketer also has the same thing. I remember looking once at all of the vials of failed experiments because I was doing experimental physics in my PhD. And I was looking at all of the vials, and I kid you not, it was, like, a tower of boxes. So it must have been, like, 3,000 vials of things that "didn't quite work." But eventually, you get something that works. And it's like, you know, physics is super deterministic, and consumers are the exact opposite of deterministic. So I'm operating in such a deterministic world, and yet the empirical is actually the only thing that actually matters, and you just get humbled by this. You're looking at 3,000 failed files, but then finally, you actually understand something, and it's actually useful. And then you can actually sort of share that learning and it's the thing that works. And that's the same thing with funnels with consumers or experiences that you give to your consumers. Unless you're out there in the field doing things, it doesn't matter. Right? And it's like, you can have the best theory possible, but until you put it into practice, it's like the context of that practice is the only thing that matters. And therefore, the theory is sort of like, it's useful, but the context is everything, {laughter} even in the most deterministic of cases.

Rabah: [00:16:41] I went to school for economics, and that couldn't be on the farther end. Economics is basically just a bunch of smart people that did a bunch of fancy math that wanted a Nobel Prize. So my degree is a degree of arts. It's not a science degree, whereas physics is literally how the world works. And so I think what you're seeing because to Rishabh's point, he's so spot on where for people that haven't seen Oppenheimer, really good watch. But in the too long didn't read, Oppenheimer was this incredible theorist, but without his counterpart who could actually test the theories that he had, there would be no atomic bomb. The world just would be totally different. And so I think that's where you're seeing the best marketing teams right now either have, like, a dual-brained CMO that can live in both of these worlds of theory and then actual practice, or they have a dual threat where their leadership both has this theory kind of academia vibe, but then can translate that into real-world quantitative data to understand how their theory and thesis stacks up.

Phillip: [00:17:56] Imagine a spring day, and you're walking through a sprawling green park. Ahead, a winding paved path meticulously planned by a landscape architect. Right across the middle, you see a well-worn trail carved by countless footsteps cutting through the grass. This is the shortest route from point A to point B, and it is what sociologists call a desire path. A desire path is a natural testament to human efficiency and preference. Now, translate that concept to the digital world and apply Fermat's observation. In ecommerce, just like in our park, users forge their own desire paths. But they aren't made of grass or dirt. They're made of clicks and choices and dwell time and thumb stop, and we observe it through analytics and heat maps. This desire path represents the most natural way that a customer interacts with online platforms, and it often bypasses our carefully designed journeys that marketers have laid out for them. Digital desire paths satisfy what we know the web to be today. But what does it look like tomorrow in a more personal and nondeterministic world, where every website and every experience, from the way that it is architected to the content therein, is personal and ephemeral and made just for 1 person, not by a human or by a marketer, but by a machine. Fermat's theorem of path of least resistance changes fundamentally in the era of AI.

Phillip: [00:19:50] In the nondeterministic consumer world, you have millions and millions and millions of opportunities to screw up a test with a customer because they don't behave in a controlled way. You're not in a controlled environment. Even though the website might be held as the control throughout the whole, most of the experience is pretty much the same from customer to customer. No two customers are alike. Even despite how much look alike we want to impose on people. Or is that true?

Rishabh: [00:21:37] You know what's insane to me? Is that the digital world, you have only one website. Never would you convince a brand to create the store to look exactly the same in a mall setting versus their flagship versus, in all these different settings. The merchandiser and the store designer would think that you're ridiculous for saying that a pop-up needs to look the same as your flagship needs to look the same as the airport store needs to look the same. I mean, that's ridiculous. Even if it's the same person going to all those different things, the context matters. And I think, the one great, well, they're not great. But the one impact of these privacy changes is it happened to be at the same time as AI. And so it is so obvious that we are moving away from a world of one website as the digital presence of a brand. It is so obvious. I mean, TikTok shops is obviously a version of where your brand shows up directly on platform. Same thing with meta shops. With AI, it is becoming abundantly more and more obvious that you don't actually need to go to the website. You just interact with an agent. And so just riffing off of what you were saying and sort of, actually, to one of your earlier points, the single website is I mean, it has never been the right way, but now it is a necessity for people to think about their digital presence as a multimodal experience.

Phillip: [00:23:09] There were these early experiments around personalization that as an old guy, also professed old guy in commerce, I remember, you know, a lot of the early portals like Yahoowere focused their differentiation around you can make it yours. A lot of the early desktop computing paradigm was how much customization you gave to the customer to make it yours, but we never did that in the ecommerce vertical. We never allowed the customer to make it theirs. But yet, we expect that customers feel like a brand is some personal outward show of themselves and a culture that they ascribe to, and that is, I think, the biggest opportunity that's coming in the future. So I wrote a piece a couple years ago when I first heard about FERMÀT, which might be 14 months by the date, talking about a nondeterministic future. Is there a future where we trust the algorithms or a computer or some sort of large language model enough to act as a proxy of our brand and to give just, you know, Jesus take the wheel and all that stuff. Like let an experience be generated on the fly for a customer that we did not pixel craft by hand, artisanally small batch, one output, one website to rule them all. Is there a future where that happens? And if that is a possibility, if it's even a possibility, how do we get there? What are the steps to get us there? And does that lead to better outcomes for the customer? Is that removing a form of friction where the friction is it feels impersonal or it doesn't feel like it's for me? Is there a next layer of almost, I would say, psychological friction, not necessarily actual tactical buying friction with the customers. This can feel more personal for a customer. But to date, you need to have such an intimate relationship with a customer. We've had all of the iOS 14 conversations, had all of the zero party data conversation. How do we gather that? How do we gather that? But with so many choices existing to have relationships with all of these brands, it becomes tiresome for a customer to keep repeating that beginning phase of a relationship over and over. So, with all of that said, writing that piece around a nondeterministic future gives me this insight to say, I think that there is a future coming when there is a one of one experience for me on an ecommerce shopping site. Do you see that coming, Rishabh? And how do we get there?

Rishabh: [00:25:53] I think we have no choice. I mean, first of all, I think, you know, there's a saying where it's like the future's already here. It's just unevenly distributed. This already happens. And the place this happens is in B2B. It's called account based marketing. Every time I interact with a prospect, I know as much as I possibly can about them. I research them on LinkedIn. I try to figure out where they live. I go to them with a story that is for them and talks about their lives and talks about how in their lives, the product that I have is going to be able to help them in particular. And so it's like, "Okay. If we know that that's more effective, why don't we do that in B2C? Oh, it's too expensive. Oh, that's right. It's too expensive. Guess what has happened in the history of the world on innovation every single time? {laughter} It's like when something is too expensive, innovation is the way that we go from, like, too expensive to, like, "Hey. Actually, now this is accessible in this whole new way of doing things." Right? And what you're describing, which is how do we personalize, you know, now the tactics, so the ground up mechanism by which we actually do this. The tactical way this is going to happen is it'll start with Facebook because that's the entity that people already trust. And Facebook is already doing this. They already decide who to place the ad to. They already decide how to place the ad. They already decide the moment, the medium. It has gotten so almost hands off the wheel when you run ads on Facebook, where it's basically you hand over the asset. You hand over the budget, and then Facebook does the rest. So it'll start on the creative side, and then it'll creep its way into the website. And like everything in technology, there's this really good framework that I was taught. First, you put an approve button in the dashboard. People don't want to hand over the wheel, so you gotta let them click approve.

Phillip: [00:27:51] Sure.

Rishabh: [00:27:51] And then right next to the approve button, you put the auto-approve button. So once they get tired of hitting approve, then you do auto-approve. But you never sort of, like, start with, "Hey. I don't need the wheel."

Rabah: [00:28:03] Yeah. I have a ton to rant on here because you guys are absolutely right. So first off, I would argue this is already happening on Amazon. Everybody's Amazon homepage is unique to them. And where Amazon is also doing a really great job is they segment out where you are by product or by where you are in your customer journey by product. "So you've already purchased this. Okay. Do you want to purchase it again?" "Hey. I saw you looked at this. Do you want to see it again?" Where Amazon falls flat, and they definitely have a very strong brand, but it's a utilitarian brand. It's a they do something for me. It's transactional. I give them money. Prime membership is very awesome, but it to me is still a layer above a brand that you go seek out. That's why the last bastion on Amazon is luxury. If you control your distribution, you control your brand, and you'll never see Hermes. You'll never see LVMH. They just don't want Amazon to control their distribution. So with that being said, I do think that the website is an archaic, barbaric kind of spin off of the nineties where it was amazing. Like, I don't have to go to the mall or I don't have to drive to this place to go get the thing. I can actually go to this centralized website online and put my credit card in, and they just send me stuff. I think one of the biggest innovators here was Zappos, where Tony Hsieh, RIP, had this really brilliant idea where he knew one of the biggest frictions, and friction isn't always a bad thing, but one of the biggest frictions about buying shoes was sizing. I didn't know if I was going to get the right size. So he would encourage people to buy 3 pairs. Buy the size you think you're going to wear. Buy a half size down and buy a half size above, and don't worry about the returns. You keep the ones you like and you send this stuff back. And so I think that is kind of that type of thinking is what you're going to see. My personal thesis is that the website is not going away, but it's going to be relegated to a system of record, which is not a bad place to be. Shopify is not, I got some Shopee stock. It's not a terrible place to be. However, what you're seeing so, I've been using this example more and more. Our VP of Sales doesn't run the pipeline calls anymore more from Salesforce. He runs them from Gong. That doesn't mean Salesforce is going away. It just means Gong is meeting him in a place that is more meaningful. It's servicing insights that's more meaningful. Gong is accomplishing the job to be done in a more meaningful way than Salesforce used to. And so the reason I bring all that up is I think the next world that we're going to see, the next kind of epoch or the Cambrian explosion, if you will, is going to be constellation sites for people that are, everybody is a bit of a unique snowflake, but there are kind of groupings. I like to group people with jobs to be done, and then you can understand where they're at on their, basically, purchasing timeline. Where I think the wild card is, which is really interesting, is as media consumption changes, that's going to distort the way you get in front of people. And so with people more and more consuming TikTok, TikTok SEO is starting to be a real thing. And so being able to understand where do I place all my content, but at the same time, once they interact with that content, I've been giving people the mental model of a drawbridge. When you have a really disjointed customer journey, the drawbridge is almost all the way up. And the better that journey gets, the drawbridge goes down, down, down with content on one side and the purchase on the other side. And then when you really nail it, you almost put a turbo strip on that moat where you're just going to go shooo {sound effect} and just shoot over the purchase. Again, the one caveat there is luxury where luxury actually keeps the drawbridge up and makes you jump in the moat, swim with the alligators just to get the Birkin bag. But aside from luxury...

Phillip: [00:31:48] That's the fun part.

Rabah: [00:31:49] Yeah. Well, yeah, it's just really...

Rishabh: [00:31:51] The alligators are where the leather come from.

Rabah: [00:31:53] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:31:55] Yeah.

Rabah: [00:31:56] {laughter} Well played, sir. Well played. Yeah. We got the Florida guy too. The biggest and I'm heading to Miami, and the Everglades is actually a river. Anyways, I digress.

Phillip: [00:32:08] It's really wide.

Rabah: [00:32:09] Yeah. It's very, very slow moving, but there's a flow. The too long didn't read is the challenge with luxury is luxury is almost always a function of time. It's very hard to make a luxury brand yesterday where almost all these luxury brands are Hermes was 1837, LVMH, Louis Vuitton, all these things are very, very old brands. So it's very hard to jump the shark there with luxury. But, anyways, we're in the weeds. But that's my whole thesis is I think the how people consume content is changing, and that's going to have knock on effects to how people buy. And I think the website is turning into the business card. When was the last time somebody gave you guys a business card? I go to events all the time, and maybe one out of the last 100 events, I've gotten an actual physical business card. That's what I think the website's going to be where I've connected with people on LinkedIn. I've connected on people on Instagram. I've connected on people in text. I've connected on people in all these other ways, and that's analogous to the Constellation sites that I think people are going to start building to meet people where they are and give people the information that they need and the content that they desire at that moment in their customer journey.

Phillip: [00:33:19] Let's talk about this idea of a constellation site. So part of the argument would have been, Rishabh, in a prior era, you don't want to create too many points of entry for things that were attention aggregators like Google. Right? So one, I wouldn't want to fracture my brand into 15 different sites because of the potential risk of my brand being front and center when a customer is motivated and they were coming in spearfishing for the thing they wanted from me. How does that go away if sites are effectively ephemeral and they're generated on the fly for what you need in that moment?

Rishabh: [00:33:55] Okay. This is exactly... This is exactly the right question. So websites were in this relationship with search engines where websites basically gave birth to the search engine, which then led to the proliferation of websites, which then led to the proliferation of the use of search and so on and so forth. And so what we take for granted and forget why it exists is why does the website structure even exist as a point of aggregation? It's because when we first started the Internet, it's like, "Okay. We're going to create a website," and then search engines became so good that it could point us to that one website. And then we put cookies on the browser, so then there was this thing called the browser. And then inside the browser, we instrumented the browser to make it even easier to get to that point of aggregation.

Rabah: [00:34:49] Yep.

Rishabh: [00:34:49] And we just take all of this for granted, and it's I mean, I love this question because we get to do a little bit of actually, why are we taking all of this for granted? And the practice is that, again, in the physical world, we would never do this. But in the digital world, we got so used to search and cookies that we could just aggregate. Aggregate, aggregate, aggregate, aggregate. Now that you can no longer track and search is under threat, you have to disaggregate, disaggregate, disaggregate. And the reason is because of what Rabah was saying, you need to be able to show up where you are now, there's a separate issue, which is technologically, it is massively painful to manage a disaggregated presence. Massively painful. But I think that that is the job to do. Right? That's the job for companies like us, and I hope a very large number of others where we are basically going to be able to enable people to reasonably manage a disaggregated showing of how they show up in various places. And by the way, this is not mentally burdensome. Brands do this every day when they go to retail. Right? How do I want to show up in Target and Best Buy and Kroger's and, you know, all of the places where I show up? What are the things that I'm negotiating for? Why am I negotiating for them? What shelf space am I negotiating for? Am I negotiating for an end cap? Am I trying to do something special in the store? Am I not? So this sort of thinking is already very, very normal in commerce in the physical world, and we're just going to have to be able to apply that at scale in the digital world.

Phillip: [00:36:30] I guess that's where I'm coming back to this, you know, the broader idea of how our behavior has been altered because of the way that discoverability worked in a prior era in the Internet. And when we don't have any of those, what I would call them is, like, they were great. So maybe at one point, they were, like, affordances, but maybe they're an encumbrance now because it prevents us from being innovative. And being innovative in the next era is, like, kind of giving into this thing that we've already learned in other channels like TikTok where why can't I have a more personalized experience where it's truly just for me based on my behavior and not where I can control the inputs based on the way that I interact with content in my shopping journey. It should tailor itself to me rather than me having to go in and, like, flip a bunch of switches and have a lot of control and fine grain control. That's a power user behavior. I think people are actually pretty aware of how to train algorithms now. I think we all do it instinctively based on our behaviors every day. It's only a matter of time, like you said, before that just becomes the website, and shopping website at that, becomes the next phase for innovation. Is that phase for innovation through FERMÀT and what you're building right now? That's, I guess, the question. How do you enable this idea of the path of least resistance and all of these things that we've talked about up to this point right now? How specifically?

Rishabh: [00:37:59] Yeah. I think I mean, the role that we're trying to play is we want to make it very easy, like Rabah was saying earlier, to enable experimentation and optimization on development of those varying consumer journeys. Right? So the very first bottleneck, if you want to do this, is the pain of developing multiple sites. It's like, how do you?

Rabah: [00:38:22] Infrastructure.

Rishabh: [00:38:23] Yeah. Infrastructure. It's like the very first difficult question that you have is like, "Okay. Phillip, Rishabh, Rabah, sounds amazing. Makes perfect sense to me that I would want to have multiple experiences. But it takes me, like, 6 weeks and a developer, and I get a landing page out of it." It's like, you know, at this rate, we're going to be in the future and nothing and I'll have, like, 10 landing pages. So this is not that useful. So this is the exact painpoint that we're trying to help with is how do we enable you to stand these up at scale? Each one takes seconds essentially or minutes to stand up, and then you can very easily understand the consumer behavior and then allow it to adapt to that consumer behavior. So we're building that infrastructure and that tooling, and then I hope that there are other companies that enable additional questions or additional features on top of that. So it's like, "Okay. If..." So I'll give you an example. "If Phillip interacts with FERMÀT Store 1 in a certain way, what is the behavior that that should cause on my SMS campaign?" And it's like, "Okay. Let's get the post script guys on the line and call them and say, "Hey, guys. How are you thinking about this world? What are the types of experiences that you're now going to give to the consumer in that SMS relationship?'" So it's going to take an ecosystem to build out the full version of how this actually looks in the future, but the part that we're going to do is we're going to simplify the ability to actually create multiple consumer experiences very, very quickly, very fast that you can test.

Phillip: [00:40:02] Love it.

Rabah: [00:40:04] And the other thing too, I thought it was just such a brilliant point you brought, Rishabh, is that before, if you think of kind of when I grew up in the nineties, like, there was a shared zeitgeist. There was a shared consciousness or at least in the country. People had, like there was a show that everybody watched. I think the Cosby Show or something like that was the most watched or maybe it was a Seinfeld finale out or whatever, but it was 30 or 40,000,000 people tuned in, which is like a monoculture. Exactly. Yeah. There there was there was something that was kind of holding the fabric of society. It was one piece of fabric. Now it's like 58 pieces of fabric where you can't just own one thing. And I think that's one of the reasons why SEO, why the website is a little bit of an outdated idea is because you used to be able to find the gold mine and just mine. Whereas now, there are all these little disparate value pockets that you have to go search out and seek. And so, honestly, the way I see it is being able to go to the flea market and instead of at the flea market, you have one booth with one salesperson, aka your website and your offer, now you can have multiple booths with multiple salespeople that have different pitches for different things, for different ways that people might consume these things. And so being able to cover more area because that's how people are now consuming content, that's really going to be the only path. Unless you have some semblance of a destination website or unless you're buying some sort of destination website where you can hover up that consumption, I just don't see any other path outside of being able to spin up these constellation sites at a very low cost to then test and optimize against. It's just going to be a really uphill battle because you're just not going to be able to fish in one pond anymore. And I think that's the biggest difference in bifurcation in the previous era to the new era where some people might do TikTok. Some people might do YouTube. Some people might do YouTube, but it's on their TV. Some people might just sit there. Like, what happens when somebody gets in a feed aggregator where I can put my Twitter, and now I'm just aggregating all these things? There's no way to really nail down these people, so you're going to need different pitches and different customer journeys for different channels, for different types of people, for all this and building the infrastructure and then ideating the experimentation, those are really two uphill battles where I think there are two paradigms in life. There's more money than time and more time than money. And if you have more money than time right now, it's much easier just to come to us and say, "Hey. Here's a bunch of money. Can I borrow the infrastructure and rent it from you? And then can you help me ideate my experimentation plans and just go?" Versus building it by yourself, supporting it by yourself... It's a nonstarter for almost everybody.

Phillip: [00:42:55] I was really tapped in. I promise. But when you started making analogies about a flea market, I was like, "When was the last time this guy's been to a flea market?"

Rabah: [00:43:04] I used to live there, bro. I used to do trading cards. Pogs, I was a hustler

Phillip: [00:43:08] Stop.

Rabah: [00:43:09] I was a hustler.

Phillip: [00:43:10] Alright. Pogs?

Rabah: [00:43:10] I grew up on in the hood. Come on.

Rishabh: [00:43:12] Do you know how many people who are probably going to listen to this even know what the word pogs means? Five percent of the people listening to this.

Phillip: [00:43:21] As we'll know who Pierre de Fermat is at the end of this too.

Rabah: [00:43:25] {laughter} It's a good over/under. Who knows what a pog is or who knows Pierre de Fermat?

Phillip: [00:43:30] We'll have a quiz at the end. I'll make an overwrought analogy and one more allusion back to the life of Pierre de Fermat, which is you talked about the facet of time, Rabah. And I think, Rishabh, you mentioned this too. Over the course of time, we're experiencing this change and some of it seems to be inevitable, so we have to adapt to where we're going. I think one of the things is there are legacies that were left to us in the current era of how the world was built before we all got here, and we are all kind of just dealing with the technology that we have. So we're trying to iterate on top of that. This is really common in mathematics where you have somebody who has an insight, like FERMÀT, who writes this thing in Arithmetica, which in the 1600, you know, it's this very famous book that is its own antiquity, writes this last theorem saying, "hey. I have this conjecture. I have this idea that I observe something to be true, but I have a proof, but it's not written in the margin of this book here." And then it takes 300 years for it to actually play out for it to become true. Is there a possibility where this thing that we're all talking about right now effectively is our last theorem, that we have the sense of where things are going, but we may not be the generation to actually see it out yet? Are we creating a bridge to a new form of a technology, or are we literally just is this the next iteration? Because it could be that there's something bigger because I keep hearing about, I don't know, the metaverse or spatial commerce or there's something that's this next transcendent paradigm, and we're over here talking about websites. So I'm curious what your far future thinking might be as to what the era, the 100 years beyond us, and how does that future commerce experience look based on what the world is that we are making conjectures about right now.

Rishabh: [00:45:34] I actually think that we're on the other side of that with the Internet. And the reason I think this is one of the frames that's very common right now is, like, even Larry and Sergei knew when they started Google that eventually you just wanted the answer. And this was just a stepping stone to getting to that end outcome of where the Internet is going. And by the way, I totally agree that the medium of, like, a flat interface where, you know, you're looking at a site. I think that this is, like, completely not how we're going to interact with the Internet from a medium perspective. That much is very clear. I think that structurally though, I would even suggest that it makes it even more obvious that a single interface with which you are interacting is highly unlikely. And so having infrastructure that allows for multiple interfaces against which you can interact is going to become more important when things are spatial and not just two dimensional. And so the reason I think that we're on the other side of this sort of chasm, like, you talked about with Fermat's last theorem of where somebody says something and then there's a huge amount of time and development that needs to happen before you can get on to the side of that is because, like, Larry and Sergei called their shot. They said, like, "Hey. The Internet is going to be a place where you can just get the answer." And you know, I believe them. And we are so close to that with AI. And so when you think about it in that sense, the job of the brand becomes you have to really continue with the consumer where they are, and not push back to "everybody needs this particular education in order to buy my products." I don't think so. People are going to come from a different set of contexts and experiences and you're going to have to answer the questions they have and supply them with the experience they want. That is where the Internet converges and that is the solution therom for us at FERMÀT Commerce in the long term.  

Rabah: [00:48:00] Yeah. Newton/Einstein physics. Right? Because Newton, like, it made tons of sense. Equal and opposite reaction, yada yada, like, the whole thing, and then it didn't. And that's just kind of the way of the world. So I think I'm with Rishabh, we're on the other side of it. Where I do think it ends, and I think the biggest headwind here and I think Shopify tried to do this, and then they divested from deliver, and then they put another 400,000,000 in. But I think zero click commerce is the path. I think you just send me stuff that I like and I keep it and then I send stuff back. The problem is the headwind there is logistics. But I think once somebody cracks logistics, like Amazon is pretty close to that, I think zero click commerce is going to be the I don't think it's a, again, an epoch or, like, I think it still fits in this the kind of Einstein style physics that we're in now. But I think that's going to be the show is zero click commerce, where you just know enough about me, and you've built enough brand equity and trust with me. Somebody either bankrolls like a Goldman or something where you have some underwriter and you just send me stuff. And then if it doesn't work, I send it back, and you have the logistics and economies of scale to make that work. I think that is going to be one of the end games that comes out of this, especially with AI. It's going to be zero click commerce.

Phillip: [00:49:20] Great book to read, as required reading. This is your homework class. Check out Trekonomics by Manu Saadia. It's about the economics and economic societies of Star Trek and how economists think about such fiction and that it's not so fictionalized after all. Things like the replicator really screw up capitalism. It's a really interesting idea though as one thing to hold true and one thing I think we can all take for granted here is I think it's human nature to consume. Human nature is dependent on our dissatisfaction and our wanting to make both our world better and the world better, and we're always looking for new and interesting and fresh ways to do that. I think FERMÀT might be the next thing that helps us to get there. Next time on Decoded.

Rabah: [00:50:26] You're exactly right. But I wanted to just jump back to that previous point where I think it's so important to distinguish between the creation versus the marketing and selling and branding because they are both really important. And one of the things that I think was so magical about Apple was that Steve Jobs had Wozniak, who was the creator but couldn't sell, you know, a glass of water to somebody dying of thirst in the desert because that wasn't his thing.

Phillip: [00:50:56] The Greek philosophical question about the ship of Theseus that if over time, this ancient ship was replaced piece by piece, board by board, you know, nail by nail, is it still the same ship or is it a different ship? And Liebniz, you know, in Liebniz's law would probably argue that there is no true equivalency, that two things cannot be truly identical.

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