Be agile — as we know oh so well, times can change. Trends change, fashions change, competition emerges and markets reinvent themselves. Be agile, know your market and target audience and don’t hesitate to shift and innovate when the need arises or opportunity presents itself. Some of the greatest companies out there started with one idea and were agile enough to identify far larger opportunities along the way and implement new ones.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Highly Successful E-Commerce Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Roy Rosinnes.
Roy is a seasoned tech entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in building software startups, business operations from the ground up and leading large organizations in global companies.
He co-founded and led Shoppimon — a specialized AI-based e-commerce monitoring service for online stores — from zero to sales and growth through several funding rounds.
Roy spent four years in Tokyo as Director of Operations for Identify Software (Acquired by BMC Software), and later as Director of R&D at BMC software.
He holds a BSc in Computer Science and Philosophy from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Sure, happy to. I actually started my career as a developer in a hardware-based telco tech company. They needed a way to manage and configure their over-the-air telephony systems and I was the first developer they hired to kick off their first all-software project. We started developing a full-blown Network Management system from scratch and grew very rapidly. As the organization grew, I grew with it; I learned a ton about how to build teams, design software and manage projects as well as customers.
I then joined a startup company called Identify Software and moved to Tokyo to help build the territory. I was the only one “on the ground” and it was an amazing experience, personally and professionally. I learned how to manage sales, partners, and how to interact with R&D from a customer-facing position. Identify had an amazing monitoring product which helped the largest companies in the market understand their software better. It could record and replay running code in production environment — which was not something you could do at the time. It did require a lot of expertise though to operate, configure and understand — I guess this is what eventually led me and my co-founders to the idea behind Shoppimon. We thought — what if we had a product that’s smart enough to understand what it sees, know how to configure itself and then deliver insights on the data it collects? This is how Shoppimon got started.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
We realized that although monitoring systems are becoming the norm, they are all trying to be as generic as possible and encompass all possible software to help developers in whatever they develop. They treat all software equally — “we’ll monitor your transactions, you figure out what the data means and let us know what to track”. And although this makes sense, it falls short when trying to help professionals manage their business that just happens to run on software.
We thought “what if there was a monitoring system that is not generic but is rather built specifically for the business it is monitoring. It will be able to configure itself, automate the majority of the tasks and, most importantly, deliver valuable insights automatically”. Looking at the rapidly growing e-commerce space, we decided to build a “built for commerce” monitoring system. In a way, this brought me back to my time in the telco company building a Network Management System — an expert system — for a specific purpose. Shoppimon was that — for online stores.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Building a business from scratch is hard. You start out with an idea and you never know what you’re going to encounter as your business grows. Is my idea right the right one? Will I be able to fund it? Will customers like what I’m building? How will I compete? — these are just a few of the questions I used to think of on a daily basis. I am not a guy that’s lacking self-confidence — but trust me, it’s very hard not to doubt yourself when starting something new in the tech industry.
And trouble, pitfalls and hard times will always be there along the way — it’s just part of the process. Much like getting to work through traffic in the morning, you can count on things to not always flow as you’d like them to…
For me the way to get over these doubts was comprised of 2 main things; 1) A strong belief in the idea and the fact that this is how things should be managed in online businesses and 2) My coworkers, board members and investors. I was very lucky to have great people around me that wanted me to succeed and did what they can to help me get there. I had Shahar Evron, my co-founder, with me from the get go and I had some great, professional people in my board of directors.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Shoppimon today is a known brand name in the e-commerce space. We succeeded in building a great product that fits right into what great e-commerce stores need. We are able to help great brands achieve their online goals and we have amazing first-line e-commerce agencies as partners.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I remember one of the first times I pitched to a larger organization. I was excited as I discussed the product with their CEO and Head of IT. I could show them real valuable data and eventually I exclaimed “So, as you can see, using our product and the data we provide you will be able to solve your software issues!”. There was a short silence as the Head of IT and CEO looked at each other and then the Head of IT gently said “Right, well, we do solve all of our software issues now as well”.
I learned that day that functioning organizations have their tested processes and method in place and they work. What we bring to the table are usually new ways of doing things, maybe accelerating or automating certain aspects of the process, but more often than not — not replacing them. This is by no means a small thing — it can very well revolutionize the way our customers work. But you should always be respectful and understand the way your customer is tackling their challenges today.
I also learned that Sushi in Japan is much more delicate and should not, by any means, be dipped in Soy Sauce or it will fall apart. But that’s a different story.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe Shoppimon is delivering on its message — it truly is a system built for commerce and it understands it. Shoppimon is the fastest system I know of in delivering value — from launch to insight. The way it’s built, the automations we put in place and how we bring data into the hands of both business owners and IT professionals is not something that’s easily done. Shoppimon is making it easy and this is exactly what it was built for.
We have many stories that demonstrate this where Shoppimon managed to uncover information that was not prevalent to our customers, sometimes even at the POC stage. One that stands out is of a major global brand that, while updating their product database, accidently deleted 80% of their product listing. Everything was working fine but 80% of the products were suddenly out of stock. Shoppimon alerted to the missing stock and our customer managed to identify and fix the issue quickly and efficiently.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I don’t have a magic tip or a method. In the end it’s simple — do what you love. Make sure you hire people that are good at what they do (of course) but are also fun to work with — you’re going to spent a lot of time together and the people around you will have a major effect on your quality of life and stress levels. And remember, you’re doing this because you want to, you believe in it and it’s fun (ok, not ALL the time but as a whole). If one of these things stop being true — stop. Change direction. Make sure you get back on the “Want to, Believe in and Having Fun” track.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Oh, there are many along the way, from Arik — my first manager that first hired me fresh out of university, through Gadi that showed me Japan, Avi that taught me how to manage and navigate larger organizations and of course my current team at Shoppimon — Shahar, who I already mentioned and Eldad and Ran my co-founders. I am grateful to all of them for what they taught me and for sticking with me through the ups & downs of our journeys!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
Indeed, these are challenging times to say the least … Consumers are changing habits, in-store traffic is low to non-existent and people are becoming more frugal and thinking twice before spending. There is an opportunity here nonetheless and, as times & social distancing suggest, e-commerce capable businesses are well positioned to grab it.
As businesses around the world struggle to survive the crisis, the first thing any responsible brand should do is talk to their suppliers, partners and sellers. You need to make sure you and your partners are well prepared to take on these challenging times together without dropping the ball. Make sure you are all on the same page, you need to know if anyone along the chain of production, supply & distribution is struggling (maybe you can help them, maybe you need to find alternatives or backups). Cover your basic bases.
As far as your online business is concerned, this is a great time to make sure things are ticking nicely and that you have no glitches in your offering. Traffic tend to increase due to the accelerated shift to online sales and businesses need to make sure that they are capable of handling it and, in case something brakes, are able to respond quickly and efficiently. So …
Make sure you implement the right monitoring and alerting tools. True, I am biased and think Shoppimon is one tool you need to have :), but seriously, whatever system you are currently using or implementing — make sure you’re continuously in the know in terms of how your site is performing and alerted on issues that requires your immediate attention. This is no time to lose precious traffic or reputation.
I’ve also seen online stores rethink their marketing and purchasing funnel and trying new channels to bring in new traffic. Some vendors are “upping their game” by revamping leading product pages and either expanding to new products (cleaning, sanitation, sports clothing & equipment) and dropping some product to focus on what’s necessary right now.
Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
This is very true, online stores are abundant and the big boys — Amazon, Walmart and AliExpress — have set very high entry standards for online retailers.
To be successful in this competitive landscape, you need to know your offering and why you think people should buy from you. If you’re in the e-commerce business — you probably know that already. It can be any number of things that set you apart — special brand, pricing, exquisite service, quick delivery or location. Whatever it is, this is your ‘Raison D’être’ (reason for existence) and this is your most potent weapon in competing. Put this forward, advertise it and make sure people are aware of it. Amazon & Walmart have endless offerings and are great at many things, but retailers and products, much like people, come in all different shapes and sizes and your audience is probably looking for something only you can deliver or, at least, do it better than the big boys. Find that and double down on it.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Often times you see entrepreneurs and new business owners alike dive in head-first without fully thinking about what they need to put in place before opening their (virtual) store doors. Don’t get me wrong — there’s a lot to be said for diving in head-first and many of the greatest inventions or businesses would probably not exist if their founders stopped to think about all that can go wrong. But that’s not what I’m talking about; I’m talking about what you need to know when you start bringing in traffic — that stats, tracking mechanisms, monitoring of your stores and customer behavior etc. Make sure you have the data you need to make decision and that you are collecting it from the get go — this is one of the most common reoccurring regrets I see in new businesses. And trust me, I’m no exception… I’ve probably done this multiple times when launching new products to features. I’d like to thin though that, slowly but surely, I am learning … 🙂
In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
I would say the in-store experience and store quality. Again — I may be biased as this is what I see on a daily basis with Shoppimon. But I do believe that a LOT of thought and budget goes into bringing traffic into the store and, often times it seems that the store itself, both the in-store conversion funnel & the overall quality of the online experience, is somewhat of an afterthought. This is a real shame and we’ve seen it happen over and over again. Say for example you launch a huge campaign with a nice investment of 50k dollars and drive good traffic into your store. The ads and landing pages are a great success and traffic is directed to your leading products. Maybe you’re even getting some nice results in terms of sales. However, if your product page is not up to par and ready for the traffic, you may well be missing high percentages of this traffic you’ve worked so hard to bring in. Maybe 20% of potential buyers are dropping off because your leading product page “has the hiccups” and is not loading or loading extremely slow for 1 in 5 shoppers. This means you just overpaid for your campaign by 20% …
As I said, we’ve this happen. The bottom line is that you need to care about the bottom line and for this to work you must pay as much attention to quality and health of your store itself as you do to the campaigns and traffic you’re bringing into it.
Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
I’d start with monitoring tools as this is my business. Make sure you have the right tools at hand to really know how the store is doing. And make sure you are alerted to issues you need to know about before shoppers are affected.
I’d also recommend choosing a leading e-commerce platform to build your store on. This ensures a lot of partners to help with all aspects of the store as well as a higher quality of a well-tested platform.
Other tools you need in no particular order:
- Google Analytics — for seeing your traffic and how users are behaving
- MailChimp — for email campaigns, newsletters and customer retention
- Stripe or Authorize.net for payments
- Oktopost for social media management
- Veeqo for businesses that require Omnichannel Management
- YotPo for loyalty and referrals
- Optimizley for A/B testing and optimization
- And Shoppimon of course… :) — For monitoring and knowing exactly how your store is doing at all times.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
At the risk of repeating what I mentioned before — pay as much (or indeed, even more) attention to the user journey and conversion path within your store as you do to bringing in traffic. Make sure your store is snappy and quick — that’s the first, most basic thing you need to cover. Make it fun and informative, try and make it more like a game, like buying candy. If your users are greeted with an existing experience visually, if they learn something, if they have fun while navigating your store — they will come back and they will convert more. Find your voice and your niche and deliver an experience that is simple, exciting & fun for you. Your shoppers will feel the same.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Very true, this is key in creating a successful business that customers love to come back to and tell others about as well. There is not magic to it really — you need to be absolutely focused on what your customers need and your unique voice. You will not cater to everyone — that’s ok — but your customers are kings and queens and should be treated as such. Invest in a super high-quality service and you will see the benefits in no time. Make sure your products are of the highest quality and meet your customers’ expectations. Replace products that fall short — in terms of quality or price — and make sure you keep innovating. If you repeatedly come through on service, product quality, price and innovation — you will build a name for yourself and a loyal customer base.
One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?
This is always a tricky one as it hits close to home and it’s very hard to keep your cool when someone is saying negative, sometimes unfair or outright wrong things about the business you spent so much time & effort growing.
Once you bang your head twice or thrice on the table and calm down a bit, try and understand where the review is coming from. There is usually a reason a reviewer is giving a bad review and, even if wrong or unfair, it is worthwhile to try and understand that. Be fair and transparent, if you can do something to fix it — do it and write a public response that you did so. If you did something wrong or missed the mark — apologize and fix things. Let people know that you take them seriously and their concerns are your concerns. If you think the reviewer is off the mark, gently say so and be firm about it. Not everyone will be a fan but everyone reading will see where you are coming from and why you think this is fair.
In short — be attentive, sensitive, caring but firm. You have a business to run, you want your customers to be happy and they should want you to be successful as well.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Build the right team — there is no way that I know to scale a business on your own. Putting the right team is place is crucial. You’re going to drive this thing together and you want the best people for the job on your side. Hire people that know their job better than you. Hire people that you would like to see every day when you get to the office — because you will. And you are going to spend a ton of time with these people so you quality of life — not just business — depends on it.
- Find your voice — you are bringing something new and different to the table. It’s better and unique or would not exist. Be clear about it, understand what it is and who you are as a business and find your voice, style, sound and visuals. People can see when you’re consistent and genuine and they respect that. This is why you are here in the first place.
- Partner up — find the right partners to help you run all aspects of your business. Be it an e-commerce agency to help you build your site, choose the right platform & tools or a marketing agency that fits your need whom you trust. Your partners will be guide you through it — no successful ecommerce business I know got to where they are today on their own. Choose your consultants wisely.
- Be agile — as we know oh so well, times can change. Trends change, fashions change, competition emerges and markets reinvent themselves. Be agile, know your market and target audience and don’t hesitate to shift and innovate when the need arises or opportunity presents itself. Some of the greatest companies out there started with one idea and were agile enough to identify far larger opportunities along the way and implement new ones.
- Enjoy the ride — because it’s simply not worth it if you don’t!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I actually really like Initiatives of Change. I’d start on their “Effective Leadership in Times of Crisis” seminar but really, anything they offer or inspire you to do is great.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!