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Step by Step Season 8 Episode 1
August 29, 2022

[Step by Step] How Can I Make the Business Case for My Brand to Invest in Experience?

Welcome to Season 8 of Step by Step. This season we’re partnering with fabric to discuss how brands can stand out from the crowd by investing in an experiential design. Tune in every day this week to hear from experts on how to unlock your eCommerce growth. Listen now!

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Is experience worth investing in?

  • Ryan Bartley is the Founder of Fabric, a leading modular and headless enterprise commerce platform helping brands and retailers innovate and scale.
  • Experience is not only your digital experiences and touchpoints within stores but also the brand touchpoints and the service level you give your customers.
  • “What we're hearing from all of the companies that we work with is really a concern about just what the next handful of months and what the next year looks like.” -Ryan
  • Start targeting your software and figuring out how to serve your customers in the best possible way
  • Is now the time to rip and replace legacy tech or is it time to optimize it? It can be difficult to replace, so you should be working on ways to optimize your tech stack, but also looking for ways to optimize your content stack.
  • “We at fabric personally don’t believe in the word customization, but rather in configuration. It’s your platform, not ours.” -Ryan
  • “It's intuitive that you should improve your experience and service level because you look at the competitor set in your groups and they're doing it, they're not messing around.” -Ryan

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Phillip: [00:00:11] Step by Step is brought to you by fabric. fabric is a leading modular and headless enterprise commerce platform, helping brands and retailers to innovate and scale. Learn more about fabric today at fabric.Inc/FutureCommerce.

Brian: [00:00:36] Hello and welcome to Step by Step, a podcast by Future Commerce presented by fabric. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:41] And I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:00:43] This is Season 8 of Step by Step and you are listening to Episode 1 of 5.

Phillip: [00:00:49] Yeah.

Brian: [00:00:50] In this five part series, we'll break down exactly what you need to do to make a sound investment in differentiated online experiences. And we'll bring it all to you Step by Step.

Phillip: [00:01:02] I'm so intrigued. You have my attention, Brian in "differentiated online experiences." {laughter} In this eighth season of Step by Step, we're going to answer the question "How can I make the business case for my brand to invest in experience? And this is like huge for us right now because we've been talking about this all year long with a bunch of themes that relate to some other podcast properties that we run at Future Commerce, including Visions. And so if you're like me, maybe you're excited about the opportunities that things like headless or composable or MOC or any other number of acronyms. These are things that theoretically provide some value in an ecosystem. But there are so many acronyms and so many choices. It seems like commerce just keeps changing. So if you feel overwhelmed about where to begin in your digital commerce experience investment, this podcast is for you.

Brian: [00:01:58] Yeah. I mean, have you ever noticed how many eCommerce sites are starting to look similar to each other? And we've talked about this ad nauseum, actually, and I'm sure if you're listening to this, you might even relate to this. Like "My eCommerce site feels similar to other people's, to my competitors." And so if you want to deliver a unique brand experience to your customers, but you're stuck with limitations of your eCommerce platform, you should probably be listening to this.

Phillip: [00:02:30] Yeah, and there are five episodes every day this week, so it doesn't have to be that way. We can get you set. We can bring you from zero to hero in this five-part series. And in partnership with our friends at fabric, we're going to discuss how brands can stand out from the crowd by investing in experiential design that unlocks eCommerce growth. So who's this podcast for this season, Brian? Who should tune in?

Brian: [00:02:57] There are a number of you out there that should really be paying attention to this. So if you're a growing or mid-size brand and you feel like your website looks just like everyone else's, just like we said, that's one good indication. Also, if you're an operator who has questions about how to move past creating the exact same experience as your competitor, this is also for you.

Phillip: [00:03:22] Yeah. Or maybe if you're like a CDO or a CMO and you're trying to chart a path for the next five plus years of digital transformation, or you're in technology and you're really worried about choosing the right platforms and the right technology partners. This is the series for you. It's a fascinating listen. I learned so much in the recording of all of these. We have some amazing guests lined up for you. So without any further ado, let's jump into this first episode of the eighth season of Step by Step, as we introduce you to our friend Ryan Bartley, who's the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at fabric, as he teaches us how we can make the business case for our brands to invest in experience.

Brian: [00:04:09] Today we are joined by Ryan Bartley, the Founder of fabric. Welcome, Ryan.

Ryan Bartley: [00:04:14] Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

Phillip: [00:04:16] It's a pleasure to have you. And we hold you in very high esteem. fabric is, I think, one of the companies that are singlehandedly changing the way that people are thinking about commerce and what the next generation of commerce is. It's a pleasure to be partnered with you in this series. We're going to try to answer a big, hairy question today. We're going to make the case and we're going to ask you to help us make that case. Ryan, experience is worth investing in? When people say "experience," it's a bit of a loaded term. What does experience mean to you over at fabric?

Ryan Bartley: [00:04:43] The good thing is at fabric, we get to work with a large selection of companies all the way from direct to consumer businesses that are scaling, omnichannel retailers, B2B businesses that are selling to other companies, and many different verticals and categories. And so as we get to have those conversations with the brands and the retailers and the companies, [00:05:08] for us at fabric really thinking from a customer perspective, the experience is both not only your digital experiences and your touchpoints within stores, but it's all of the brand touchpoints and it's also, more importantly, the service level that you give your customers as well. So it's not just what I go click on on the site, but what is the kind of offering that I offer my customer? And all of those, when you sum it up at the end of the day, become the experience level for your company. [00:05:43]

Brian: [00:05:43] That's a great way to summarize experience. I think this is really, really important. And as we're looking at how to invest in that, we're doing it at a time, and I don't want to place this series too much in a moment in time. But as this is being released, I think this is really, really important. It feels like the macro environment that we're in has been kind of out of control over the past few years, sort of swinging wildly around.

Ryan Bartley: [00:06:11] Unpredictable.

Brian: [00:06:13] Unpredictable.

Ryan Bartley: [00:06:14] You could say unpredictable.

Brian: [00:06:14] Unpredictable is maybe an understatement. {laughter} COVID, to supply chain issues, now overstocking and inflation. And how the dollar is stacking up against other currencies by the time this is actually published. It's been a wild, wild moment. And so I'd love to hear from you kind of to set the stage before we really get into investing in experience we have to talk about the context that we're coming to this from. And so I'd love to hear from you and your customers. What kinds of concerns and fears are you hearing from your merchants right now in these unknown times, these unpredictable times?

Ryan Bartley: [00:07:04] Yeah, well, I can tell you, in the best environments, really, retail is very hard. It's a dogfight almost every day and every quarter to serve your customers and give them that experience that I talked about, both online, in-store, and as the kind of service level that you offer. Now you layer on a whole bunch of external events, like you mentioned, a lot of headwinds and that unpredictability. And so what we're hearing from all of the companies that we work with is really a concern about just what the next handful of months and what the next year looks like. Prior, you could kind of predict and plan around a large back-to-school event and a Black Friday and Cyber Monday kind of peak in sales if you're in the consumer business. Now, it's totally up in the air. We're hearing mixed messages from every one of our retailers about just their demand. Clearly, they're constrained with the supply. And so I think this is a moment where everybody's really trying to figure out what to do just in the next handful of months, but also like, how do I start to orient myself to all of the shocks that have happened all the way from the beginning of COVID through now? And many, I would say companies are expecting this unpredictability to continue over the next handful of years.

Phillip: [00:08:36] Well, unpredictability is right. And one of the core considerations that come up is sort of this idea that the customer has expectations of your brand. And they're not always expectations that you set with them. They are expectations that others have set. So when we're thinking about sort of the unpredictability, there are more options now than ever before. There are other experiences that are informing that aren't even necessarily commerce experiences but are informing customers' expectations. So that probably means that having a ton of optionality in the way that you build in the way that you buy software is fairly important because you've got to be flexible. We don't know what the world is going to look like in a couple of years. How do you position yourself to be able to deliver on that promise for your customer over at fabric?

Ryan Bartley: [00:09:34] Yeah, it's a great point. I think there's been an explosion of really software capabilities over the last five or ten years and those enablement functions that you have to kind of figure out what matters at what time frame for you as a company. And we highly recommend at fabric, because we are a modular platform, you can use some or all of our platform and it really depends on your business and where you're at with your digital transformation. So in many cases, we're telling companies, "Hey, transition over to new and better and more modern software, but don't do it in a full big bang that takes you 12 to 18 months because your customer is not waiting. They're expecting more out of you." So really get targeted with your software investments and say, "What is the problem I need to solve to serve my customer in the best possible way?" And so that can be an area of challenge or it can be an area of opportunity. And so it's really a deep conversation that you have to have with yourself and think about like, "How do I grow my business? What is the practical next step to do it? And how do I do this in a way now that I can do it almost in a Lego-like fashion to build on or change the capabilities or add to the capabilities I have in the right kind of sequence in order?" So we spend a lot of time with companies really just dissecting what's your business plan, where are you at, what are your fears and hopes, and what are your current state challenges either process-wise, people-wise, or technology? "What's constraining your growth?" is a pretty fundamental question that we talk to each company about.

Phillip: [00:11:24] I want first when I say this, I want you to know how much I love our ecosystem. My career in 20 years has been spent in helping build businesses eCommerce, first as an engineer, then is a strategist. I don't know that I've really met too many folks in that 20 years who have a really well-defined plan and a roadmap or a playbook for implementing experience. What I've seen a lot of are folks who look towards platforms to broadcast where they're going and they just buy into that or analysts to forecast where they should be. How do you at the end of the day, we all have to make decisions of our own accord and we appropriate budgets accordingly. But I believe that we're very top down in the way that folks build out game plans. I think it's very analyst and platform focused. Is that what you see in the ecosystem or are we evolving our mindset in the way that we're charting through the next couple of years?

Ryan Bartley: [00:12:28] Yeah, I think that's spot on. Historically, people are really looking for that thought leadership, and the best brands, the companies that we see that are kind of going away from the pack and really becoming leaders in their category or vertical, do something very simple and first principled. They think about their customer and then they work backwards from that customer. And so you have to do some soul searching. What are we as a brand? Who are we best serving? Who is going to be our audience? Because today, just if you take a step back and think about macro eCommerce, I now as a consumer have so much access to information, to many different brands, and many different price points. I have control as a consumer. And so you as a brand have to really think about like, "Why am I special? Why would they purchase my product that may be more expensive or maybe this?" It has to be differentiated. And so in a lot of cases, what we're talking to the best brands, they're really thinking about why do we exist in the world and how do we differ? How do we continue to drive that differentiation? And then they back into the technology.

Brian: [00:13:40] And then they back into the technology. That's good. And when they're backing into that technology, are you finding that that means that they're realizing their customers don't really care about what technology they're on? And so it's better just to rely on sort of pre-built tools and invest in the things that really, as a brand, are their core competencies?

Phillip: [00:14:08] But Brian, their shopping cart system has a community. They don't know that. Oh, sorry. Go ahead. {laughter}

Brian: [00:14:15] No. That's sort of where I'm headed. Sorry. I don't mean to lead the witness too hard here, but actually, let me put it another way. You mentioned costs and doing things more efficiently to achieve those goals. And I think that's where we talked about the macro conditions right now. That seems like a really big focus. And to Phillips's point, that is kind of a top down approach. There is sort of a balance between operational efficiency and working backwards from the customer and sort of traditionally those things have been maybe a little bit at odds. And so how do you help merchants and where do you lead them when it comes to that, "Is now the time to rip and replace legacy tech, or is it time to optimize that tech?"

Ryan Bartley: [00:15:13] Yeah, especially as you grow as a company and you become an "enterprise, you see teams kind of evolve where they're building internal capabilities and having developers that are doing that. And in many cases, that was required five and ten years ago when there wasn't this kind of API first developer-led solutions that solve for all the aces of commerce. Like at fabric, we solve for a wide selection of what I think are just the fundamentals of commerce, all the way from content to product management to pricing to promotions to inventory management, to order management to product sourcing. And so those to me are now capabilities that you can get off the shelf. And you should be asking and this is what we do with brands and companies is we say, "Hey, are you investing all of your resources in what you can be best in the world at? What is your core IP?" In many cases, building a shopping cart is not going to be your core IP. There are some pretty basic paradigms now in the world around cart management and how you orchestrate all those services. It is not easy, and hence the reason why [00:16:26] we built fabric is to provide those tools that only the largest companies in the world, like Amazon and Alibaba, have been able to build internally. And so I'm giving you as a software promise, the same level of shopping cart capabilities, as an example domain as Amazon may have. However, you need to be thinking about where should I be spending my resource and talent? And in many cases, when we go back to experience, I would contend that they should be focused on really their brand story and content. And so we're seeing this big movement of the leading brands that are investing almost like a content provider to be able to tell their brand story and to be able to merchandise that effectively. And so moving your investments from developers, building in-house kind of infrastructure to moving them over to help them really solve that experience layer is a key trend that we're hopeful about. [00:17:28]

Phillip: [00:17:30] Let's just take one more step towards that because typically there's a portion of the organization who sees a legacy tech investment as an asset. This has been a big point of contention between the old guard of eCommerce platforms and the nouveau cloud-managed model, which is I'm actually leasing software, someone else's software. I'm not really building an asset. But if it were on my IT infrastructure and I have my own IP against it and then I've built something, it's an asset on the balance sheet. This has been a core differentiator of some of the mindsets around the older retail businesses and their adoptions of cloud platforms. What's your perspective on that? Is that mind shift sort of going the way of the dinosaur?

Ryan Bartley: [00:18:22] I hope so. And I think to some degree it is there's still some old school thinking about "I've built it and I want to keep my kind of castle of things I've built." However, with the rise of the Chief Digital Officer and really I would say the evolution of the CIO, CTO role to be more business oriented, we're seeing those leaders really step forward and say, "Hey, any software I build is an asset." However, it's also a liability because we know that software is expensive to maintain. If you have your own developers, they're costly and there are a lot of things that go around with it. So again, focus your energies on the things that are going to differentiate you and then frankly buy things off the shelf that are not largely differentiated or buy the modern tools that give you the configurability to configure to my business needs as opposed to the kind of old school antiquated technology where you basically have to use the really evil word that we don't like at fabric, which is customization.

Phillip: [00:19:37] Why? Why don't you like the word customization?

Brian: [00:19:40] Yeah. Oh, pull on that thread.

Ryan Bartley: [00:19:41] Yeah. Well, thinking about us as a software platform, we serve many different companies and many different business models. They have different processes. They have different policies. And in the past, the industry, the software industry, especially for commerce, has built kind of these platforms that are really constrained and contained. And everybody has to hire software developers to customize them, to make them do the things that they want. We at fabric felt like we shouldn't be building constraint software. It's now a modern area. And what we've done is we built configuration basically in our entire stack. So you as a business can say, Hey, I want it to work this way. Here's my policy, here's my process, here's my team design, and here's how I build my workflows internally. And we give them the tools to effectively configure that with either low code or no code tools. So it becomes your platform, not ours. And we're not dictating how you should run your business or make those trade-offs where you have to hire those expensive teams to change that really frustrating software.

Brian: [00:20:52] I feel like you hit on something else really important here, which is business process, which is another sort of juxtaposition with software, especially as you're migrating from one software to another coming off like legacy software to modern software, low code or no code software, sometimes it feels like you have to modify how your business runs to do that, actually. And that could actually be a good thing. Oftentimes processes that are in businesses are there because legacy software required those processes to be in place. But there is a change management component to this as well. How do you help businesses think through what processes are worth keeping and maybe having to do a little bit of customization to get there versus throwing something out that was a process and replacing it with a piece of software or even just eliminating that part of the business altogether?

Phillip: [00:22:02] Dang, Brian. He just sells software, man. Why are you making him answer for the customer? It's crazy. {laughter}

Brian: [00:22:06] I mean, I feel like this is why fabric was created. This is just getting right to the heart of the issue, Phillip.

Ryan Bartley: [00:22:12] Yeah, I mean if you look at my background and the team's background, we have a lot of operating experience. I was at three companies that did over $10 Billion in eCom, so I was on the front lines as a merchant and marketer and inventory planner, and order manager. And you hear me talk a lot in this section, not about the technology and the bits. I'm talking about what is your business and who does it serve and what is your core differentiation? And I think you hit on a really great point that in the past a lot of companies have been constrained and they had to build their processes based on the constraints of the software. That is the tail wagging the dog in my thinking. And so as we talk to companies who are looking to evolve or change, we really recommend that they take a step back and think about why is this process how it is. Is it because of that technology constraint? Is it the best way to solve for the customer? And what I hate to see is when they bring forward legacy processes and try to rebuild them on a new technology stack. This is a moment where you have an opportunity to simplify, to standardize the things that could be just best practices, how the industry is serving at a service level, and things like returns. You don't need to have a seven page returns policy anymore and configure or customize software to do that, you can take a step back and say, "What are the basics that a customer needs to be able to manage something that doesn't fit them or doesn't fit their needs?" And if you can't explain that in a paragraph, then you're probably doing something very, very wrong and you're spending more money on that dreaded customization than you need.

Brian: [00:24:50] Back to the customer. What I'm taking away from this is the reason you invest in experience is your customer. And so if that means taking away and reducing, that's what you should do. But if it means adding, which is something we haven't talked about as much yet, but adding... Let's talk about the reverse. Where does the money go now? Like, let's pretend for a minute that you do want to really differentiate. It's not just about optimizing what you already have, but you want to stand out from the crowd. And that's something that we're going to dive into further in this series. But what kinds of investments are the right investments for the customer and how do you at fabric advise your customers to think about this?

Ryan Bartley: [00:25:45] Yeah. Again, it's where you're at with digital maturity, and kind of what are your business goals? And we see some common patterns kind of emerge. There will be a pattern where clearly you have an investor, you have legacy experiences, meaning digital experiences. Your mobile web may not be optimized because you built it ten years ago for desktop and you have to rethink that experience. It could be around that experience layer around content and how do I tell a brand story? And so all of that means kind of the front-end experience. And so we see a lot of companies start there and that's a good place to start. So you kind of eat your legacy tech over time, replace your front-end serving layer, your front-end content management layer, and then you continue to kind of call into your monolithic or antiquated services. The next, and we call this Pillars of Pain. That's how we talk to customers. You may have three pillars of pain. Let's dig into this. One pillar of pain is that experience layer. The second pillar of pain is really around What do I sell? What are the products and services that I actually offer? And are they too constrained or too contained? And so at fabric, we have a couple of capabilities that we offer. We have a marketplace platform. So if you think from a merchant perspective, retail is insane. I have to effectively with supply chain and building a product, I have to think about what the world is going to be like in two years and what my demand will be for that product and service. That to me is crazy. And so with our marketplace product, effectively what you can do is you can test new products and test new categories without owning that inventory. So you can simply connect to different providers or suppliers of products. And so, for example, we have a company that is a furniture and home goods retailer and they want to test out, they believe they have the authority to test a kids category for kids furniture and ancillary things around it. They don't want to go buy $100 Million worth of inventory and make that bet. However, they can connect with software to all their suppliers that have the inventory in their locations and simply present it and see the kind of demand. And so that's a really good strategy, how do I build an asset-light model to test new products and services? And then last but not least, the third Pillar of Pain we see is more deeper in the kind of commerce ecosystem around how do I manage the lifecycle of an order? And that goes from do I offer our customers, buy online pick up in store? Am I offering ship from stores so I can optimize my inventory? So everything around order management and service of the order is something that's been highly constrained because of the software. Most companies, you don't want to touch or order management system or you've band-aided that thing over time. And so that's something that we see a lot of companies say, okay, this is the time where it's constraining our business growth. So experience layer, product and services layer, and then order and services layer are the three that we see companies kind of start at.

Brian: [00:29:09] Pillars of Pain. I think that's...

Phillip: [00:29:17] In any other case, I would have named the episode title that. I don't know if we're going to get away with it on this go-round. I do think there are certain areas of pain. And I think that's because the buying center is for each of these sorts of software implementations are so siloed from each other and, as for everything, so I'm an engineer by trade. I come from engineering and it's like there are 12 standards. You approach a particular problem area. There are 12 standards. They all differ from each other. So what are you going to do? You're going to create one unified standard, and now you have 13 standards. And that's how the world works. Adding a C-level executive with a fancy title that's supposed to unify all of these buying centers doesn't seem to have fixed the problem at hand. And having multi-solution software suite DXPs doesn't seem to have fixed the problem either because now what we have is a bunch of inorganic growth tack-on solutions. What is the solution?

Brian: [00:30:24] What does that even mean?

Phillip: [00:30:25] Is it tearing down silos in an organization? Is that wishful thinking?{laughter} I have no idea.

Ryan Bartley: [00:30:31] We see the companies that are best positioned invest in digital leadership and I always joke that you can't get a degree from a university in eCommerce. It's still a pretty nascent industry versus like I can get a supply chain degree and that's been studied for hundreds, if not thousands of years. And so I think it's up to a company to really think about who is the single-threaded owner that can kind of think about business and technology and bridge those gaps internally. So we see the rise of the CDO, which I think is a kind of band-aid to really you as an executive leadership team being aware and understanding technology. Before that was kind of the realm of the CIO and the CEO deferring all decisions to the CIO. I don't believe a CEO can do that anymore. They have to be aware and understand really the choices that they're making because, at this point, it's now not a small portion of your business where eCommerce used to be five or 10% of your business when it's 50% of your business. And we work with apparel retailers especially, that 60 to 70% of their business is online and their CEO comes from retail, physical retail, background. That just doesn't add up to me. You have to evolve your skills as a CEO or a leader in a company to be now digitally aware.

Brian: [00:32:08] And I would also argue that there are probably two other factors in this. KPIs, right? Like how to put KPIs, aka how do people get paid. Exactly. And then...

Phillip: [00:32:27] Incentive structures. Incentives.

Brian: [00:32:28] Who actually signs the checks? Who's in control of the budgets? And that's the other thing. I think there's probably an empowerment issue here. But to your point, Phillip, you could have a CDO, but if they're not the actual buying center, then what does a CDO play in all of this?

Ryan Bartley: [00:32:54] I can tell you that if I see a CDO who doesn't have budget authority, I tell them to leave that job because it's a waste of time and they're a figurehead that really can't have the authority. And it works to some degree. Obviously, you got to have a strong relationship, cross-company relationship. You can't do everything within one center of excellence. You do need technologists as you grow as an enterprise, and you do need the merchant and marketing organization to be aligned as well. So commerce and business, in general, is a team sport.

Brian: [00:33:34] Something we haven't really talked too much about. It's kind of been worked into the narrative we've been running down is where data fits into all of this and where do you where do we get that data? How do we leverage that data? Where does it play into decision-making processes, especially when it comes to making decisions about investments around experience? Where have you seen merchants best utilize data and where have you seen them fail to use data that's an opportunity for them?

Ryan Bartley: [00:34:12] Yeah. From an investment perspective, I think the companies, back to your point, I think the companies that really think about their KPIs after they've solved for strategy, customer, what are the kind of input metrics that I can change or I need to change to drive my business? And those in the digital realm can be things like site conversion is a great input metric. If I change my experience layer to smooth out or better enable customers to discover, that should change my conversion rate, which should ultimately impact my kind of profitability of the company if I do it in the right way. So really focusing on KPIs and the data around the KPI and customer helps inform these kinds of financial decisions. I also think that the area of opportunity that many companies are missing the mark on is frankly the influx of data that they have to kind of consume. And you can imagine being a merchant in a company, you're hearing from customer service, you're hearing from your supply chain and logistics teams or partners. You're hearing from the marketing team, the merchandising team, and the CEO who's looking at a category that may be impacted over the last couple of weeks. And you have to take in all of this different data and make informed decisions. And it may be conflicting data, as well. So [00:35:52] what I tell companies and where we see the best groups are, it's not about making the perfect decision in many of these cases. It's about making a fast decision. And we see a lot of companies kind of constrained because of all this information that basically paralyzes them. You cannot be paralyzed when customer sentiment and predictability is out the door. You have to firefight and make those decisions. And even if you're not 100% right, it's better than not doing something at all. [00:36:27] And the case I'll make for that is we build software that has at or above the levels of capabilities that internally at Amazon has. And if you look at how Amazon manages pricing, for example, and their first-party merchandise, they are making pricing changes based on algorithms multiple times a day. And for many different kinds of inputs that are happening because they've automated this with software. Then you go sit with a retailer and they may make a pricing change every couple of weeks based on some news or some report that's lagging. And so you're looking at a two-week window where they have the opportunity to make a decision and they're not doing it because of the lack of data or too much data. And they're going to miss the mark with that customer dramatically versus making quick decisions and making quick adjustments. And that's what I would contend. Amazon's algorithms are not always right, but they're fast.

Phillip: [00:37:27] This is like for me, this is catnip for Phillip because there's a total shift. You want to talk about the vibe shift, Brian Lange? The vibe shift in our industry has gone dramatically in the space of a year, maybe two at the most, from data-driven insights and analysis paralysis and RFPs to we're trusting gut-level instinct. We're going to do MVPs and we're going to get out the door quickly. And that is a massive heel turn. I don't know if we can credit the McKinsey ten years and three months...

Brian: [00:38:08] Lies.

Phillip: [00:38:08] I don't know. I don't know what to give... It's a lie. I don't know what to assign or attribute that change in perspective, too. But this is really where we are, is we're going to have a lot more data-informed. Yes, but gut instinct level decisions and time index decisions on time and speed to market than in any time in the past. And I feel like there's a willingness and also an economic environment that favors the brave and people who need to just trust their instincts and get to work because we don't have time to waste.

Brian: [00:38:43] It's really inefficient and more expensive to sit in those kinds of situations. You can do that when times are good. When times are like, "Oh wow, we need to stand out. We need to move quickly. If we don't, we're going to get left behind and we're going to waste the bunch of money sitting around." I think that's actually, I think to both of your points, that is actually going to be a skill set that certain orgs need to learn going forward. When is enough data enough? When can you trust your people to know what the right thing to do is without any additional information or analysis of that information?

Phillip: [00:39:23] So there are two things, and I'll actually turn this into a question here rather than our musings. Thank you for bearing with us there, Ryan. The question then would be if we could learn constraints and we could learn to be slow because of legacy software, can we learn to be nimble and throw off constraints based on the new generation of software decisions? Ryan, what do you think?

Ryan Bartley: [00:39:46] I hope so. And I think that paradigm shift happens because you're starting to see what has always been done in software kind of permeate through the rest of the company because companies are investing in that digital leadership. So I started my career as an engineer. The first thing I do if there's a new idea or a new plan is I launch a POC on the same day versus historically, like you said, companies don't trust their teams and they're having trouble making decisions. That's why you go to a three or five month RFP. Well, that opportunity cost of that five month window means that you're not serving your customer well. So it's better if you can use those software kinds of tactics to say, "How do we get something out the door that we're actually going to get the right customer signal on the demand? Is it going to work? Yes or no? And do I have enough data to do it?" So really, I think, I'm hopeful, but I do think that it's an evolutionary thing where it frankly is going to take kind of the old school thinking to retire and move out and the new wave of people who have been digitally native to lead companies. And I think then you'll see it really take off.

Phillip: [00:41:02] So let's circle back and let's make sure that we did our jobs. At the outset here, the question we were seeking to answer is how can we make the business case to invest, for a brand to invest in experience? What ground might we have missed, Ryan? What should we have asked in this interview?

Ryan Bartley: [00:41:20] In many cases, it's intuitive that you should improve your experience and service level because you look at the competitors set in your groups and they're doing it. They're not messing around, they're not sitting on their hands. And I love Jeff Bezos' kind of thought here and he's like, the customer will always want more, they never want less. And that's a kind of a first principle, right? I always want better service, better selection, faster delivery, all of those service level things. And so as a company, intuitively, you have to know that you should be investing in it. What I would contend, too, is companies should have a really strong relationship between the technology and the merchants, the front line kind of people who are building these things, and the finance organizations to be able to quickly model these. It's not easy, but if you get that relationship with the finance organization to say this is, you know, we have grounded this in the basics of kind of business management, then it unlocks everybody to get on board as well, too, and start to build those experiences much more quickly than sitting on their hands.

Phillip: [00:42:33] Ooh! Straight fire. It was a great way to end it. He's spitting bars today. Ryan Bartley, Founder of fabric. Thank you for joining us for the kickoff of this season of Step by Step. It sounds like it's going to be an amazing set of conversations and what a great way to get us started. Thank you so much for all your time.

Phillip: [00:42:54] Thank you so much for listening to this season of Step by Step. You can find more episodes of this podcast and all Future Commerce properties at You can sign up too to get invited to any of our events that we have coming up. We have so many amazing events, everything from happy hours and get-togethers around conferences to our salons. You can get on the list and you'll get our newsletter that comes out twice a week. The Senses that's everything that you need to know about how brands and people intersect and how commerce happens. That's called The Senses.  Comes out twice a week. You can get that and more, including your invitation to all of our events at Thank you so much for listening. Remember, the future of commerce is what you make of it. Commerce will shape the future and we can shape commerce.

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