Ventura Web Design & Marketing got a chance to talk with Jimmy Duvall, newly appointed Chief Product Officer of BigCommerce. Jimmy has over 20 years of ecommerce experience from companies such as Yahoo!, Magento, eBay, GSI Commerce. As CPO, Jimmy leads BigCommerce’s product organization, managing all aspects of product management, design and strategy.
VWDM: Congratulations on your new position at BigCommerce. You have a long history in the technology field with a very specific focus on ecommerce. Can you tell us briefly about the path you’ve taken and how you’ve landed at your current role?
JD: Thank you, I’m quite happy to have joined the BigCommerce team during such an exciting time. At BigCommerce, we have such a great opportunity in our industry to have a lasting impact on commerce and help retailers build differentiated shopping experiences that enable them to grow their brands. My personal journey has been relatively simple. I’ve always gravitated towards roles and companies where I believe I have an ability to make have a difference and where I can continue to grow both personally and professionally. BigCommerce gives me both and so much more…
VWDM: You have previously served in ecommerce related roles at Yahoo! Store, GSI, and Magento. Most recently you were VP of Product at Hootsuite in a role that didn’t seem to be directly focused on ecommerce. Why are you coming back to ecommerce and why did you choose BigCommerce?
JD: Making the move back into the ecommerce industry feels very natural. The challenges small to medium businesses face are unique, and there’s so much more that can be done through technology to support their continued growth in an increasingly competitive retail environment.
VWDM: You have spent much of your career studying the art and science of ecommerce. Merchants big and small have literally made hundreds of billions of dollars via tools that you were instrumental in creating or growing. What excites you most about this new opportunity at BigCommerce and about the ecommerce space in general?
JD: I’m most excited by our opportunity to help clients scale effectively by providing a platform and tools designed to spur growth without adding technical complexity. So much of the growth and innovation in our space has been limited to either the biggest of brands or those smaller retailers that must “own” their own technology and have become developers instead of retailers. BigCommerce was founded on the premise that retailers are at their best when freed to focus on retail, not technology. Providing robust tools that enable brands to grow and prosper without the need to re-platform is our guiding philosophy, and my role is to help take it to the next level.
VWDM: Given Ventura Web Design & Marketing’s nearly 20 years history working on the Yahoo! Store, we have to ask you about your experience with that platform and how it relates to your current role. As you know, the Yahoo! Store was once the leading ecommerce platform. It lead the Internet Retailer Top 500 list by a long shot. No other ecommerce platform was even in the same ballpark while you were the leader of that product. Having lead the rapid growth at Yahoo! Store during its pinnacle years, you certainly bring quite a bit of valuable experience to BigCommerce. What similarities and differences do you see between Yahoo! Store circa 2006 and your new role at BigCommerce?
JD: So much has changed in the last 10 years. Mobile commerce, as one example, was in its infancy 10 years ago. Regardless of technology advancements, the fundamentals of what businesses, large and small, need to succeed remain unchanged. First and foremost, retailers need a robust open platform that delivers the capabilities their shoppers need, supported by a partner that can support rapid growth. Additionally, the most successful brands value vendors that put a premium on innovation and help them stay ahead of the competition, as well as an established third-party ecosystem that can help customize the solution to their precise needs.
VWDM: BigCommerce is very proud of its robust custom theming engine, Stencil. What can you tell us about the current capabilities of Stencil, and what improvements do you see for Stencil in the next one to two years? How do you convey the power, flexibility, and value of Stencil to the average merchant who doesn’t have a background in programming?
JD: There are so many different ways that today’s shopper interacts with retailers before making a purchase. I’ve found that it’s a very different experience from even a few years ago. The level of consumer research and consideration is so much higher, from the mobile experience, across tablet and desktop, and even offline. It’s a much more sophisticated buying funnel, and engagement is key. So retailers need to stand out from their competition by offering an immersive and dynamic shopping experience, especially in their storefront. Stencil enables these wonderful experiences and is the toolkit that allows retailers to fully express their brand and product story.
We’re seeing impressive adoption and results with Stencil but we’re not standing still. We’re continuing to invest heavily in Stencil, particularly in the areas of content merchandising. Also, expect to see more capabilities that make it easier for non developers to customize their storefront. We’ve done a lot of work in 2016, with more to come for the rest of the year and into 2017.
VWDM: How does BigCommerce standout in the crowded marketplace of ecommerce platforms? For a mid-market merchant, currently selling anywhere from $500,000 to $5-10mm, how does BigC stack up against the competition? And for merchants currently on another platform, is now the right time to switch to BigCommerce?
JD: There are dozens of companies that market ecommerce platforms and services, but a very small number have the ability to support fast-growing and mid-market brands. Historically, BigCommerce’s customers were small and emerging businesses that wanted an easy and intuitive platform to help bring their products to market. Many of these are now established businesses transacting tens of millions annually through the platform. Through this evolution, we’ve also worked closely with customers to build capabilities that are critical to the mid-market — things like robust APIs, an advanced theming engine, integrations with leading ERP and shipping solutions, etc. Because BigCommerce is a SaaS platform, as we enable features for one of our larger customers, every other store on the platform benefits. This “democratization” of ecommerce functionality is core to our strategy and a big reason why brands choose BigCommerce.
VWDM: What do you think is the one key component missing in ecommerce today for small to mid-market merchants? What is going to be the big game changing, Amazon killing, out of this world feature that levels the playing field for small to mid-market merchants?
JD: When more than 50% of all product-related searches originate on major marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, I believe most small businesses accept that selling on multiple digital channels is a critical part of an effective retail strategy. What we find is that managing inventory and listings across both a branded store and multiple third-party channels can be incredibly labor intensive and expensive for many of our customers. With our launch of Channel Manager this year, our desire is to build native integrations that simplify this process and help our clients reach customers across whichever channels they choose to shop from, while maintaining a single source of truth for inventory, listings and other product details.
VWDM: For the young millennial who hopes to one day hold a leadership position similar to yours, what advice would you give for her career path, education, and work/life balance?
JD: Know what you want and be prepared to put in the hard work to get it. Your career and personal life are a series of trade-offs – if you know what you’re optimizing for (at each phase) you can make a conscious and informed decision about how you manage your time, career progressions, and personal/life goals. Make it happen!