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Everything You Wanted to Know About the Shopify App Ecosystem with Blair Beckwith, head of Ecommerce at Tidio and Founder at Railspur
Episode 2117th August 2023 • The Conversion Show • Erik Christiansen, CEO & Co-Founder of Justuno
00:00:00 01:15:31

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In this episode of "The Conversion Show" podcast, Erik Christiansen interviews Blair Beckwith, head of E-commerce at Tidio and Founder at Railspur.

Erik and Blair, with their combined experience of 20 years in the Shopify ecosystem, discuss their experiences and reflect on the changes in the Shopify app store over the past 10 years and what's yet to come in the next few.

Erik and Blair discuss:

  • The need for businesses to diversify platforms to truly thrive.
  • Brands aren't doing product-led growth correctly.
  • Anxiety and concern among app partners regarding competition from Shopify
  • Experimentation and impeccable products are key in today's dynamic ecosystem.
  • Is "freemium" still a sexy term?
  • Product-led growth, pricing models, and the challenges faced by developers.

Host: Erik Christiansen

Guest: Blair Beckwith

Sponsored by: 38 Proven Email Pop Up designs by Justuno

Tidio

Railspur

Transcript:

Erik 00:51

All right, folks. Today is a special day for the conversion show because one of the top questions I get asked personally is having been in the shop ecosystem for ten plus years, one of the first questions I always get asked is, hey, what's what's the check? What's the deal with the Shopify App Store? And you know, anyone who's in this world today is the show for you because you have combined 20 years exactly of Shopify App Store experience between Blair and I. I just looked it up March 19, 2013, Blair and I first emailed each other. So today's show, you saw the title, you know who's on here, Blair Beckwith, welcome to the show.

Blair 01:44

Thanks for having me. Eric, I was looking today, too, and I was I mean, I was thinking back, I think that we met in person maybe that summer in San Francisco. It was one of my first trips as a Shopify employee. Shopify was so small back then, I barely had a budget for a hotel. I remember staying in the Tenderloin and meeting up with you for lunch. You had a little office, and I think I want to call like the financial district. Was that what that area was called?


Erik 02:15

Yeah, we moved offices every year for a while and, we were probably on 2nd and Mission.


Blair 02:26

It was a little bit more like a corporate building. It was a little bit more modern. It was on a nonground floor. I remember taking an elevator. I remember walking with you to go get sandwiches down by the water.


Erik 02:28

I was trying to impress you, huh?


Blair 02:39

Yeah. Yeah, it was, man, it was a long time ago.


Erik 02:43

I do have to correct you because you said you were. It was early days as an employee, but technically, weren't you an intern?


Blair 02:53

By that point, I had graduated to full-time employment status. No. Yeah, I started. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we can get into all that we can get into. Well, for sure.


Erik 03:03

It's funny. Like, I'm trying to remember back the earliest memory, and in talking about budgets, you know, Shopify. I didn't have the budget for a hotel for you. We've always just seen as always been that way if I remember correctly, in Chicago Shopify didn't have a booth forever, and same with us. You know, people ask how did you grow Justuno early on? It's like, I would get an Expo Pass under Travis’s Ecomm store, Social Skateboarding for $70. And I would hit up every single technology partner’s booth.


Blair 03:44

Yup.


Erik 03:45

And meet with the, back then it was “biz-dev” people that was the title, to try to get into their app stores.


Blair 03:52

Yep.


Erik 03:53

That was the entire game.


Blair 03:55

That is such a that's still like the greatest hack that exists. If you've got friends or anybody who run a store that will let you buy a pass under their name for some of these events, it's like, Hey, do you want to spend 50 bucks to come as a brand or do you want to spend two grand to come as a vendor? It still works.


Erik 04:15

And then you invest. You invest in stickers and you put the sticker over the badge. So we're talking about growth hacking. Let's talk about the years of growth hacking in the Shopify App Store.


Blair 04:31

Things have changed. Yeah, for sure. You mean growth hacking for apps like just, you know. Yeah. In general. Yeah. I mean.


Erik 04:37

Well, it's obviously it's different now, but, you know, I felt so bad for you for long for so many years because I knew the politics you were dealing with. You know, it's like as soon as you start hitting a certain level, it's that there's this the politics are huge. So, yeah, go back to the days when everyone was hounding you for featured positioning, how did you deal with that?


Blair 05:10

I mean, there's probably like a lot to unpack there and I should probably talk to like my therapist instead of you. Right? It's it was finally it was there were parts of it that were fun. There were parts of it that weren't as you say, kind of eventually, as a company grows, you end up in more of a political realm naturally.


Blair 05:23

And I don't mean that in a bad way. I don't think politics are inherently bad. I think they're just part of part of work as a business grows. But pre-politics, it was a lot of just flying by the seat of your pants and making sort of gut instinctual decisions. And I think that has probably bled into who I am today even, I often laugh when I talk to people and say that I'm not the most data-driven person in the world.


Blair 06:02

I sort of came up in a world of limited data In the App Store, we didn't have a data analyst that was helping me make decisions. I had access to shared data analysts, and I was the bottom priority for any reports that needed to get made because the App Store didn't make any money. Right.


Blair 06:21

But it was when I was making decisions about who was getting featured and who wasn't and who should be in the App Store and who wasn't. It was a lot of like more instinctual. Okay, Do I think that this is going to be good for brands? Is this going to be better than the solutions that already exist?


Blair 06:41

Is this like attacking the problem in a new and novel way? Right. I think that's so much a part of working at a startup and Shopify was a startup at the time, right? Is just like, how do you operate in a world with limited data? Because the data is so rarely there.


Erik 06:58

You know, let's go back to 2013 and you know, for for listeners that aren't aware, pull up LinkedIn, Blair, back with you. You'll see that you know, Shopify wasn't always what Shopify is today and what was the environment, you know, what was the team structure, how big do you recall how big Shopify was back in 2013.


Blair 07:46

And 2013? I would guess it was probably about like 150 to 200. I joined in early. I joined in early 2012. So when I joined, they had just closed on the acquisition of an agency that was like 20 people and that got us up to 100 people. So when I joined we were between 80 and 100. And at that point, we were at least doubling headcount every year.


Blair 07:54

So jumping from 2012 to 2013 to hundreds, probably reasonable. I don't know if you can hear my cat in the background. I'm sorry about that. If that's a thing, maybe we can cut that in post.


Erik 08:13

I literally just hit mute on my because I've got two dogs here and our dog walker just showed up. 


Blair 08:23

And it was I mean, it was a massively different environment, You know, I think even like even like how I got started at Shopify, it was just like a thing that wouldn't be possible in later years. Right. Like, you made a comment about me being an intern but yeah, I, I became an intern before there was like a formal intern program. I became an intern because I emailed Toby and said, Hey, I hate I hate school. I want a job. Can you give me a job? I'll work for free, you know? And that was like that worked in 2012. I don't know if that would work. And like any year after that.


Erik 08:56

That's something I always respected about you when I first met you because you were still an intern status, I believe. Yeah, I could be wrong, but I myself, learned more in college through my internships than I did in college. And in 1998, I interned at Left Field, one of the first online interactive agencies. We’re taking Hotmail banners …. But everyone around me was one was a history major. Dylan, you know, the Eric like not no one studied what they were doing knowledge. And when I asked what should I do? the advice was do web design, it’s the future.


Blair 09:44

Yeah yeah.


Erik 09:54

It changes your perspective and gives you access to people. A company like Toby Jeremiah, they want to help you grow.


Blair 09:53

Yep.


Erik 09:54

Big learning lesson I think there.


Blair 09:57

Yeah. No, for sure. I'm like, you know I've got a I've got a two and a half-year-old now. I've got a I mean, I shouldn't say this because like, half my family doesn't know. A lot of my friends don't know, but I got another one on the way.


Erik 10:09

Oh, is this big announcement.


Blair 10:11

Big announcement. Please hold off. Please hold off releasing this until like at least a week after we record. So the chance to tell people in case I was listening.


Erik 10:19

You heard it here first.


Blair 10:24

I mean I can tell you right now it's going to be a boy.


Erik 10:29

As my friends call it. It's like the lottery.


Blair 10:32

Yeah. One and one. You know, it's it is nice to get the full spectrum there, but no, anyways, like we're talking about like, you know, saving up for school, like, that's a thing that you do as a young parent. You put aside some money for your kids so that they can go to school. And I mean, we're putting aside money for but I don't know what that money is going to be spent on.


Blair 10:53

Right. Whether that's university or like a coding boot camp or by then who even knows, maybe there's gonna be like prompt engineering boot camp so that she can, like, wrangle A.I. to do her bidding. Right? Like, who knows? We don't know how that money's going to be spent, but I think it's almost like it's almost a certainty that it's not going to be spent on something like a traditional college or university degree.


Blair 11:14

You know, it's cause I do think, yeah, just the spectrum of experiences now that you can gain outside of that environment is just like so incredibly wide compared to even really just like, yeah, like ten years ago when I went through.


Erik 11:27

Yeah. Experiential education is invaluable. You know, we're starting to see that, that shift here too, in terms of like vocational like, yeah, skill set. Just as Shopify announced I saw Good Morning America, They really kind of did the first interview I’ve watched about that, you know more than two people in a meeting. he was speaking about look it's all about building a company and to build it you have to be building, you know, building a house.


Erik 11:50

You need to be putting up walls, putting in wiring. You can't be meeting half the day about doing this work. And that's where meetings kind of have gotten in the way. It's an interesting time we're in right now today, and you know, what is it, August 2nd, 2023, is that we're just in ourselves as we look at the Shopify App Store and generating leads and, you know, we ourselves are have really pared down and gone back to the basics.


Erik 12:05

And it's been really interesting looking at our own business and top of the funnel and product-led growth. And for Travis and I to still be in the driver's seat. Yeah and actually kind of a fun six months getting back to the basics of what got us here and so yeah I mean talking about and you know even you know our goal today is talk you know old school Shopify App store.


Erik 12:51

But you know, can you just share real quickly where you are today? Because I was checking out your site and I do at some point want to talk product-led growth and freemium and pricing because that is critical to the Shopify App Store.


Blair 13:03

For sure. I think we can I think we can talk a lot about history. I think we can talk a lot about a lot about growth in the ecosystem today. And that's sort of the lens that I have today is sort of growth in the ecosystem. I mean, really short version of what I did post Shopify was like consulting and startups, right?


Blair 13:33

I did like a lot of consulting with SaaS vendors in the space, investors in the space, and then did a couple sort of tours of duty full-time at startups. Today I am head of eCommerce at a company called Tidio, we are a customer experience platform for SNBs. I would guess that we actually have a very similar story to Justuno, we launched in Shopify around the same time maybe a year later or so, I think it was like 2014.


Blair 13:57

We are cross-platform. We've got an absolute monster of a user base, but we are a little bit below the radar, like we're not necessarily focused on the sexiest direct consumer brands out there. Our core is just like real, meaningful businesses no matter where they are, whether that's Shopify or elsewhere. I mean, e-commerce is really big for us, but we do more than e-commerce.


Blair 14:28

We do like real estate agents, we do like regional telcos through Europe. We have a huge range of customers, but sort of as head of e-commerce, I focus largely on Shopify and I work across our marketing team, our product team, our support team as like, I mean, I'm driving some initiatives forward, but I'm also just like the voice Shopify sort of actually in a lot of these conversations and helping the product kind of on.


Erik 14:59

The Voice of Shopify.


Blair 15:00

The Voice of Shopify.


Erik 15:02

That will be the title.


Blair 14:22

Oh, no, don't do that to me. Don't do that to me. So yeah.


Erik 14:31

You know, it's crazy. Being in this ecosystem for so long. When we started, how many, how many, what? 100? 200, 300, How many were in the App Store in 2013?


Blair 14:44

But in 2012 it was like 60. So it was like 60. It was a it was a very different time.


Erik 14:52

What is the number now? Do we even know?


Blair 14:54

I think we're up nearing 10,000. If not over 10,000. And that's after a lot of pruning, right, Like Shopify has been fairly aggressive in and getting rid of apps over the years.


Erik 15:05

Let's dig into that because it's…


Blair 15:08

A spicy topic to start.


Erik 15:10

Out of respect for Blair, I held back a lot and in reaching out and anyone who runs any app store, I feel for you. But you know, us being Justuno the first on the market and watching companies just straight rip off our product. which is more of the Magento world yet a lot of overseas brands and you know I respect that we invested in a Shopify because there was that care of Blair in there to curate and make sure.


Blair 15:46

As well as I could.


Erik 15:49:17

As well as you could, you can’t do it perfectly. So in my time, I think maybe two brands I've seen publicly kicked out of the App Store. We've got reviews just like Amazon critical to how you get displayed.


Blair 16:11

Yep yep based.


Erik 16:14

How you see, what were you aware of at the time and what did you struggle with?


Blair 16:23

When it comes to sort of the curation angle specifically.


Erik 16:26

And will people.


Blair 16:27

Yeah. Cheating and people.


Erik 16:30

You know people do you tell me privy has that many reviews.


Blair 16:34

Well, it's funny, right? There's like and I will say I'm, you know, very good friends with some of the privacy folks. I do look at Ben's awesome. Ben's awesome. There's like a whole spectrum, right, when it comes to cheating versus not right. And you mentioned privilege. There's no way they got all those reviews. Standards have changed. What is cheating and what isn't cheating is sort of increasingly less black and white, if I recall correctly.


Blair 17:04

Pervy was one who collected a lot of reviews through their onboarding process. Right? This is a very common thing to do at one point when a merchant installs app, helped them get set up, ask them for a review, sometimes even word it in such a way that it was implied that leaving a review was part of the onboarding process and they could not proceed with leaving a review.


Blair 17:31

Right. This was a thing that happened for a long time. It's obviously not the best user experience. I think we struggled for a long time to figure out how to make rules that were understandable or like make rules that covered cases like that, right? It's very easy to make a rule that says you cannot buy reviews.


Blair 17:55

It gets murkier when people say, What does that mean? What does it mean? I can't buy reviews. That's like not as simple a question as it seems at first glance, right? There are situations that everybody would agree with. Like if I go on Fiverr and there's a listing that says 100 reviews for $300, that is, I think everybody agrees buying reviews.


Blair 18:20

If I offer an example. Yeah, yeah. Like if I offer a $20 Starbucks gift card to every customer that leaves a review, is that buying a review? I think like most people would agree that that is buying a review. If I, if I say leave a review in the app Store will have a link back to your store which will give you SEO benefits.


Blair 18:49

Is that buying a review? You're sort of like you're not even offering something, you're just telling them that there's a benefit to them leaving a review. I think that's the type of situation where you get like incredibly murky and it is like very hard to come up with rules that have very clear lines. You know.


Erik 19:08

One, as we fast forward to the present day when there's a sea

Transcripts

Erik:

All right, folks. Today is a special day for the conversion show because one of the top questions I get asked personally is having been in the shop ecosystem for ten plus years, one of the first questions I always get asked is, hey, what's what's the check? What's the deal with the Shopify App Store? And you know, anyone who's in this world today is the show for you because you have combined 20 years exactly of Shopify App Store experience between Blair and I. I just looked it up March 19, 2013, Blair and I first emailed each other. So today's show, you saw the title, you know who's on here, Blair Beckwith, welcome to the show.

Blair:

Thanks for having me. Eric, I was looking today, too, and I was I mean, I was thinking back, I think that we met in person maybe that summer in San Francisco. It was one of my first trips as a Shopify employee. Shopify was so small back then, I barely had a budget for a hotel. I remember staying in the Tenderloin and meeting up with you for lunch. You had a little office, and I think I want to call like the financial district. Was that what that area was called?

Erik:

Yeah, we moved offices every year for a while and, we were probably on 2nd and Mission.

Blair:

It was a little bit more like a corporate building. It was a little bit more modern. It was on a nonground floor. I remember taking an elevator. I remember walking with you to go get sandwiches down by the water.

Erik:

I was trying to impress you, huh?

Blair:

Yeah. Yeah, it was, man, it was a long time ago.

Erik:

I do have to correct you because you said you were. It was early days as an employee, but technically, weren't you an intern?

Blair:

By that point, I had graduated to full-time employment status. No. Yeah, I started. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we can get into all that we can get into. Well, for sure.

Erik:

It's funny. Like, I'm trying to remember back the earliest memory, and in talking about budgets, you know, Shopify. I didn't have the budget for a hotel for you. We've always just seen as always been that way if I remember correctly, in Chicago Shopify didn't have a booth forever, and same with us. You know, people ask how did you grow Justuno early on? It's like, I would get an Expo Pass under Travis’s Ecomm store, Social Skateboarding for $70. And I would hit up every single technology partner’s booth.

Blair:

Yup.

Erik:

And meet with the, back then it was “biz-dev” people that was the title, to try to get into their app stores.

Blair:

Yep.

Erik:

That was the entire game.

Blair:

That is such a that's still like the greatest hack that exists. If you've got friends or anybody who run a store that will let you buy a pass under their name for some of these events, it's like, Hey, do you want to spend 50 bucks to come as a brand or do you want to spend two grand to come as a vendor? It still works.

Erik:

And then you invest. You invest in stickers and you put the sticker over the badge. So we're talking about growth hacking. Let's talk about the years of growth hacking in the Shopify App Store.

Blair:

Things have changed. Yeah, for sure. You mean growth hacking for apps like just, you know. Yeah. In general. Yeah. I mean.

Erik:

Well, it's obviously it's different now, but, you know, I felt so bad for you for long for so many years because I knew the politics you were dealing with. You know, it's like as soon as you start hitting a certain level, it's that there's this the politics are huge. So, yeah, go back to the days when everyone was hounding you for featured positioning, how did you deal with that?

Blair:

I mean, there's probably like a lot to unpack there and I should probably talk to like my therapist instead of you. Right? It's it was finally it was there were parts of it that were fun. There were parts of it that weren't as you say, kind of eventually, as a company grows, you end up in more of a political realm naturally.

Blair:

And I don't mean that in a bad way. I don't think politics are inherently bad. I think they're just part of part of work as a business grows. But pre-politics, it was a lot of just flying by the seat of your pants and making sort of gut instinctual decisions. And I think that has probably bled into who I am today even, I often laugh when I talk to people and say that I'm not the most data-driven person in the world.

Blair:

I sort of came up in a world of limited data In the App Store, we didn't have a data analyst that was helping me make decisions. I had access to shared data analysts, and I was the bottom priority for any reports that needed to get made because the App Store didn't make any money. Right.

Blair:

But it was when I was making decisions about who was getting featured and who wasn't and who should be in the App Store and who wasn't. It was a lot of like more instinctual. Okay, Do I think that this is going to be good for brands? Is this going to be better than the solutions that already exist?

Blair:

Is this like attacking the problem in a new and novel way? Right. I think that's so much a part of working at a startup and Shopify was a startup at the time, right? Is just like, how do you operate in a world with limited data? Because the data is so rarely there.

Erik:

You know, let's go back to 2013 and you know, for for listeners that aren't aware, pull up LinkedIn, Blair, back with you. You'll see that you know, Shopify wasn't always what Shopify is today and what was the environment, you know, what was the team structure, how big do you recall how big Shopify was back in 2013.

Blair:

And 2013? I would guess it was probably about like 150 to 200. I joined in early. I joined in early 2012. So when I joined, they had just closed on the acquisition of an agency that was like 20 people and that got us up to 100 people. So when I joined we were between 80 and 100. And at that point, we were at least doubling headcount every year.

Blair:

So jumping from 2012 to 2013 to hundreds, probably reasonable. I don't know if you can hear my cat in the background. I'm sorry about that. If that's a thing, maybe we can cut that in post.

Erik:

I literally just hit mute on my because I've got two dogs here and our dog walker just showed up.

Blair:

And it was I mean, it was a massively different environment, You know, I think even like even like how I got started at Shopify, it was just like a thing that wouldn't be possible in later years. Right. Like, you made a comment about me being an intern but yeah, I, I became an intern before there was like a formal intern program. I became an intern because I emailed Toby and said, Hey, I hate I hate school. I want a job. Can you give me a job? I'll work for free, you know? And that was like that worked in 2012. I don't know if that would work. And like any year after that.

Erik:

That's something I always respected about you when I first met you because you were still an intern status, I believe. Yeah, I could be wrong, but I myself, learned more in college through my internships than I did in college. And in 1998, I interned at Left Field, one of the first online interactive agencies. We’re taking Hotmail banners …. But everyone around me was one was a history major. Dylan, you know, the Eric like not no one studied what they were doing knowledge. And when I asked what should I do? the advice was do web design, it’s the future.

Blair:

Yeah yeah.

Erik:

It changes your perspective and gives you access to people. A company like Toby Jeremiah, they want to help you grow.

Blair:

Yep.

Erik:

Big learning lesson I think there.

Blair:

Yeah. No, for sure. I'm like, you know I've got a I've got a two and a half-year-old now. I've got a I mean, I shouldn't say this because like, half my family doesn't know. A lot of my friends don't know, but I got another one on the way.

Erik:

Oh, is this big announcement.

Blair:

Big announcement. Please hold off. Please hold off releasing this until like at least a week after we record. So the chance to tell people in case I was listening.

Erik:

You heard it here first.

Blair:

I mean I can tell you right now it's going to be a boy.

Erik:

As my friends call it. It's like the lottery.

Blair:

Yeah. One and one. You know, it's it is nice to get the full spectrum there, but no, anyways, like we're talking about like, you know, saving up for school, like, that's a thing that you do as a young parent. You put aside some money for your kids so that they can go to school. And I mean, we're putting aside money for but I don't know what that money is going to be spent on.

Blair:

Right. Whether that's university or like a coding boot camp or by then who even knows, maybe there's gonna be like prompt engineering boot camp so that she can, like, wrangle A.I. to do her bidding. Right? Like, who knows? We don't know how that money's going to be spent, but I think it's almost like it's almost a certainty that it's not going to be spent on something like a traditional college or university degree.

Blair:

You know, it's cause I do think, yeah, just the spectrum of experiences now that you can gain outside of that environment is just like so incredibly wide compared to even really just like, yeah, like ten years ago when I went through.

Erik:

Yeah. Experiential education is invaluable. You know, we're starting to see that, that shift here too, in terms of like vocational like, yeah, skill set. Just as Shopify announced I saw Good Morning America, They really kind of did the first interview I’ve watched about that, you know more than two people in a meeting. he was speaking about look it's all about building a company and to build it you have to be building, you know, building a house.

Erik:

You need to be putting up walls, putting in wiring. You can't be meeting half the day about doing this work. And that's where meetings kind of have gotten in the way. It's an interesting time we're in right now today, and you know, what is it, August 2nd, 2023, is that we're just in ourselves as we look at the Shopify App Store and generating leads and, you know, we ourselves are have really pared down and gone back to the basics.

Erik:

And it's been really interesting looking at our own business and top of the funnel and product-led growth. And for Travis and I to still be in the driver's seat. Yeah and actually kind of a fun six months getting back to the basics of what got us here and so yeah I mean talking about and you know even you know our goal today is talk you know old school Shopify App store.

Erik:

But you know, can you just share real quickly where you are today? Because I was checking out your site and I do at some point want to talk product-led growth and freemium and pricing because that is critical to the Shopify App Store.

Blair:

For sure. I think we can I think we can talk a lot about history. I think we can talk a lot about a lot about growth in the ecosystem today. And that's sort of the lens that I have today is sort of growth in the ecosystem. I mean, really short version of what I did post Shopify was like consulting and startups, right?

Blair:

I did like a lot of consulting with SaaS vendors in the space, investors in the space, and then did a couple sort of tours of duty full-time at startups. Today I am head of eCommerce at a company called Tidio, we are a customer experience platform for SNBs. I would guess that we actually have a very similar story to Justuno, we launched in Shopify around the same time maybe a year later or so, I think it was like 2014.

Blair:

We are cross-platform. We've got an absolute monster of a user base, but we are a little bit below the radar, like we're not necessarily focused on the sexiest direct consumer brands out there. Our core is just like real, meaningful businesses no matter where they are, whether that's Shopify or elsewhere. I mean, e-commerce is really big for us, but we do more than e-commerce.

Blair:

We do like real estate agents, we do like regional telcos through Europe. We have a huge range of customers, but sort of as head of e-commerce, I focus largely on Shopify and I work across our marketing team, our product team, our support team as like, I mean, I'm driving some initiatives forward, but I'm also just like the voice Shopify sort of actually in a lot of these conversations and helping the product kind of on.

Erik:

The Voice of Shopify.

Blair:

The Voice of Shopify.

Erik:

That will be the title.

Blair:

Oh, no, don't do that to me. Don't do that to me. So yeah.

Erik:

You know, it's crazy. Being in this ecosystem for so long. When we started, how many, how many, what? 100? 200, 300, How many were in the App Store in 2013?

Blair:

But in 2012 it was like 60. So it was like 60. It was a it was a very different time.

Erik:

What is the number now? Do we even know?

Blair:

I think we're up nearing 10,000. If not over 10,000. And that's after a lot of pruning, right, Like Shopify has been fairly aggressive in and getting rid of apps over the years.

Erik:

Let's dig into that because it's…

Blair:

A spicy topic to start.

Erik:

Out of respect for Blair, I held back a lot and in reaching out and anyone who runs any app store, I feel for you. But you know, us being Justuno the first on the market and watching companies just straight rip off our product. which is more of the Magento world yet a lot of overseas brands and you know I respect that we invested in a Shopify because there was that care of Blair in there to curate and make sure.

Blair:

As well as I could.

Erik:

As well as you could, you can’t do it perfectly. So in my time, I think maybe two brands I've seen publicly kicked out of the App Store. We've got reviews just like Amazon critical to how you get displayed.

Blair:

Yep yep based.

Erik:

How you see, what were you aware of at the time and what did you struggle with?

Blair:

When it comes to sort of the curation angle specifically.

Erik:

And will people.

Blair:

Yeah. Cheating and people.

Erik:

You know people do you tell me privy has that many reviews.

Blair:

Well, it's funny, right? There's like and I will say I'm, you know, very good friends with some of the privacy folks. I do look at Ben's awesome. Ben's awesome. There's like a whole spectrum, right, when it comes to cheating versus not right. And you mentioned privilege. There's no way they got all those reviews. Standards have changed. What is cheating and what isn't cheating is sort of increasingly less black and white, if I recall correctly.

Blair:

Pervy was one who collected a lot of reviews through their onboarding process. Right? This is a very common thing to do at one point when a merchant installs app, helped them get set up, ask them for a review, sometimes even word it in such a way that it was implied that leaving a review was part of the onboarding process and they could not proceed with leaving a review.

Blair:

Right. This was a thing that happened for a long time. It's obviously not the best user experience. I think we struggled for a long time to figure out how to make rules that were understandable or like make rules that covered cases like that, right? It's very easy to make a rule that says you cannot buy reviews.

Blair:

It gets murkier when people say, What does that mean? What does it mean? I can't buy reviews. That's like not as simple a question as it seems at first glance, right? There are situations that everybody would agree with. Like if I go on Fiverr and there's a listing that says 100 reviews for $300, that is, I think everybody agrees buying reviews.

Blair:

If I offer an example. Yeah, yeah. Like if I offer a $20 Starbucks gift card to every customer that leaves a review, is that buying a review? I think like most people would agree that that is buying a review. If I, if I say leave a review in the app Store will have a link back to your store which will give you SEO benefits.

Blair:

Is that buying a review? You're sort of like you're not even offering something, you're just telling them that there's a benefit to them leaving a review. I think that's the type of situation where you get like incredibly murky and it is like very hard to come up with rules that have very clear lines. You know.

Erik:

One, as we fast forward to the present day when there's a sea of 10,000 apps and our listeners are trying to understand how do I get exposure? You know, looking at Tidal it, I'm looking at your pricing page and it reminds me of our our old school model, which we're doing a review on right now in terms of, you know, bringing the product-led growth freemium really to the forefront is I view the I always viewed our free plans as a marketing plan.

Erik:

Because then more often than not, it's the freemium or very small assumptions that are going to be more willing to write a review.

Blair:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I was just true. Yeah, I think it's still very true. I think there are a couple of dynamics there that are relevant to write. Like, I think you guys are similar to us. We have like a live chat widget that on our free plan says powered by Tidio, right. And you I assume I like pop-ups have something similar probably they're powered by Justuno so like free users have like an inherent benefit there

Blair:

They're sort of like they are billboards for the service, which is awesome. But then, yeah, the review site is also big. I've we had this conversation internally just this week, right? We have like we've been sort of taking our foot off the gas of review acquisition efforts for a while and now we've got some of these like smaller yappy, your competitors coming up, getting a lot more reviews.

Blair:

And so now we got to take this a bit more seriously. And that's something that we've talked about is what is the value of a free user will if they don't leave a review? Not much is the answer and we need to leave them a review. I think one of the lesson, two of the ways that we have shot ourselves in the foot, but I think people could probably learn from is like we do not offer a live chat support to our free users because that's expensive.

Blair:

It's expensive. There's so many free users, they're typically the most demanding of support. But how do you get reviews? Yeah, you provide them really good support. And so we've actually by not offering our free users live chat support, we've actually deprived ourselves of a lot of potential reviews from those free users. So you got to balance those two things.

Erik:

So the Shopify reviews, Slack Channel here, it just, you know, is one that always gets me because I'll be active and then I'll pull it up and they'll be like six months since any like activity on like, oh.

Blair:

Yeah, you.

Erik:

Know the shop in the Shopify app listing.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

In me is as you look at, you know, growth of a business. Yeah it is. I view it as the number one billboard you know and and do you want to if you are driving on the freeway do you want a digital dynamic billboard that it's constantly being updated or just the old school flat one and more often than not I don't if we are guilty of it still to this day of overlooking the value of embracing that app listening.

Blair:

Yeah yeah. Just out of curiosity and I mean I don't I know that I'm not here to interview you, but I'm curious this might help like frame the discussion a little bit. How much of Justuno’s growth comes through the App Store versus non-app store marketing efforts for you guys.

Erik:

What I can tell you is it's dropped significantly every year for the last five years.

Blair:

That's the way it should be, honestly. Like, I think that's like we're similar, right? Like, that's us reaching, that's us reaching maturity. I think like for a long time it was a goal actually for companies, for companies like us to actually diversify growth away from the App Store.

Erik:

So one thing I learned, you know, at sierrasnowboard.com, which just blows my mind today is happening, are apps that are 100% built upon Shopify That scares the hell out of me.

Blair:

Mm hmm. Yeah.

Erik:

They Shopify owns your business. At that point, when any vendor owns more than 70% of your business.

Blair:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is a conversation that I mean, and we can just flip-flop throughout this conversation, talking about back in the day versus today. Right. This was a conversation that I that I used to have all the time talking to app partners. I wouldn't say I was completely in line with sort of the Shopify party line on this, but I used to say to companies like Justuno, I actually want you to build up on other platforms.

Blair:

I always want to be your favorite platform. I want you to prioritize building on Shopify above all else, but I want you to build on other platforms because it is not healthy for you to have 100% of your business on Shopify, that makes you like an unhealthy business. And if I want you to serve our merchants well, you need to be a healthy business and so go and build on BigCommerce go and build on Magento.

Blair:

At the time it was go build on, enter Spire, go build on the Villusion. Right. But it's but I always want to be your favorite.

Erik:

Yeah it's so amazing how Yahoo stores is on the market in 2012. Yeah and then BigCommerce was the big one coming over from Australia.

Blair:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erik:

I mean, so it has, it has changed. You've had to diversify. It's also y you know, you move upstream.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

But also I think what we're seeing this year is an interest now that you know, e-commerce making has more tailwinds. It's been a year of headwinds. Were SNB kind of come back.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

You know yeah, their martech stack shrunk. Now they're looking to expand and Yeah. And you know, one one question I had for you was this, you know talking about the politics is, you know, going to unite and all the events it it was always like our partner ecosystem is critical to Shopify.

Erik:

The app store was always was the first app store to make it true one click install. Now BigCommerce tried to launch it and said they did, but you know what? It wasn't a true one. It took them years and years to figure out and that's what allowed Shopify really skyrocket is how they, how they allowed the accessibility to all of these technologies to grow their platform.

Erik:

That was hands down, which changed Shopify and allowed them to leapfrog everyone else.

Blair:

I certainly want to think so.

Erik:

I without a doubt, because, you know, we even see it. You see people that come in, they'll add multiple apps to see which one's best.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

And that's where that, again, you know, time to value is so critical.

Blair:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erik:

With your app if because you have to understand put your mindset in that of a retailer go to the app store you either a partner maybe told you about it a friend or you're just searching in the app store for a specific need. That's that's the other thing about understanding the user in the App store, what is it like 80% of it is people typing in a specific use case to solve a problem.

Blair:

Oh, I mean, honestly, yes. If you wipe out the 80%, at least for us, I'm sure you're similar actually, where like there's by far the biggest percentages, people coming to the App store and searching for Tidio or searching for Justuno by name, these kind of like branded keywords. If you wipe out those, I imagine your number one keyword is like pop-up, right?

Blair:

Ah, the live chat, like they know exactly what they're looking for.

Erik:

And so they're presented with multiple and you know, that's when Blair gets email from me, Hey, why is someone coming up before me when they're searching for me?

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

With that, let's talk about something that's affecting companies like ours within the Shopify app ecosystem today. It's kind of a new thing. You know, recently Shopify has begun to enhance their core product offering and in some cases it competes directly with some of their app partners. You know, talking with other founders, is creating anxiety and concern for founders trying to build their company.

Erik:

They're wondering, you know, is Shopify going to build my app next, you know, which isn't necessarily fair or the whole story, but it's this view that I talk with people that you know, Shopify is almost cannibalizing their own app partner, you know, looking into their app store, figuring out what's successful and building it themselves. So as a former Shopify app store manager and current app partner, what's your take and how would you help reduce anxiety and and address this, you know, from your perspective?

Blair:

I think that's a relatively cynical take. No, let's get into this because this is a fun one and I got to be a little bit careful with what I Yeah, you know, because I got lots of friends there. Still. I don't agree with everything that Shopify does. I've been gone there from there for for six years now, though, you know, I'm not when I have a disagreement with something that they do, I try to understand that that disagreement is coming from a place where I have imperfect information because I'd been gone for six years.

Blair:

Right? The world has changed, the ecosystem has changed. So I'm always open to the idea that if I disagree with something, there are very good reasons to still do it. You say Cannibalize. Cannibalize is a fun word because it's a very there's I would say I mean, part hardened to the cannibals out there. But I like I think there's a certain negative connotation with the word cannibalize.

Erik:

What what did I say? I don't remember.

Blair:

You said that Shopify is increasingly cannibalizing partners. Right. And I think like, that's like a that's a complaint that I hear a lot. I don't think that it's I mean, first of all, I tell people as a rule, don't worry about that. When you see what Shopify has released over the years, they're releasing some really interesting products. But when they are competing with partners, they're releasing very interesting, very limited products.

Blair:

Right? Like even if we go all the way back to I think one of the first examples of this, it's hard to believe that there was a time when Shopify didn't have a shipping product, but there was a long time where they didn't have a shipping product and then they released Shopify Shipping and it doesn't compete with any of the big shipping players, right?

Blair:

Like it's it's a very simple sort of label printing operation and sure, it's grown since then. But I think like in my opinion, the main takeaway here is that if Shopify enters your space, they are going to enter your space with a solution that actually solves a big problem for you. They're going to take on a lot of these brands who you actually don't want to deal with because they've got no budget for a solution.

Blair:

There is big support that they're going to drag down your business. They might make your charts look nice because like up in to the right on the install chart, but they're not actually meaningful for your business. And so Shopify is going to take those away and that might make us a little bit sad, but it's probably for the best.

Blair:

The other thing they're going to do is they're going to shine a big spotlight on this is like a job to be done, right? You think like that is from a problem standpoint. There's like a lot of people who are not really like, aware of all of it, they're not like me and you. They're not thinking about all of the different ways to grow their business.

Blair:

They don't know that it's actually really easy to set up a pop-up on your store to collect email addresses. If Shopify releases a tool to do this, all of a sudden everybody who uses Shopify knows that that's a problem to be solved. And when they try, Shopify is like admittedly limited solution. They're going to run into some edge case and they're going to look for a proper look for a new solution to that problem They're going to land on just, you know, Right.

Erik:

I thought you said you weren't interested in politics because that was a phenomenal answer. Well, and it's true. You know, it's true. Shopify has always put their customer the retailer first. They've always said, how do we make it easier for our retailers to be successful?

32:06

Blair

Yeah.

Erik:

And, you know, I think my comments are just what I've seen over the years, I've seen recently, and it creates anxieties. Yeah. And but on the other side, you know look at what you said is 100% true. We love that the word pop up is understood. Now when we launched just, you know, we were laughed away. They say, why would I don't want to do that? Why would I sit on my site for, you know, 14 years? You know, there's still so much opportunity to improve the technology.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

And so when you want, you know, that's why just like with your companies, it's as we move upstream, you really small ones pull you down, you know your offering. So if we can allow you know for us like Klaviyo they've been really moving into the pop up space to CRM, you know, and it's great they make the word pop up synonymous with ecommerce with websites so that it is 100% adopted and then pick up the top and you know, work with that.

Blair:

Well, and that's another great example right even outside of Shopify, I don't know this space intimately well right? But like I do know that like if we look at Klaviyo, it's funny, Just as an aside, I don't think there's any company that has captured a problem space as effectively as Klaviyo has for email marketing, right?

Blair:

Like Klaviyo and email marketing, especially among larger brands like effectively synonymous in this ecosystem where Klaviyo is not as synonymous with as on us. And so there's like Klaviyo has an awesome product, there's a ton of plus brands that use Klaviyo for email but not smash, Klaviyo pop ups. Not a good solution for those customers, right? Because they want to be able to collect SMS and they want to send those phone numbers to Postscript.

Blair:

They want to send those phone numbers to Attentive wherever else. And so even there, I think it's like you say, a really good example of like video releasing pop ups. Ultimately a good thing makes it synonymous and also still leaves like or sorry, makes like a ubiquitous term, like, Right. It's like this pop up idea, but also leaves a ton of open space for you guys to add value.

Blair:

And I think that's like just super. It's super important. And I don't know how much these platforms are thoughtfully leaving these gaps, right? And they're doing it to be pro partner. I don't know how much that is true versus it's just like inherent to the strategy because that's the other thing that I tell companies to write is like whether you're like five, ten, 15, 20, 100 people, like if you can't compete with Shopify with their hundreds of priorities, there is like a hundred products being built inside Shopify every day.

Blair:

If Shopify was to put together a pop up tool, they're going to throw a product manager, two engineers and a designer at it. And like if Justuno can't compete with that, then maybe we just pick up our ball and go home. You know, it's we see this was we see this with Tidio and Shopify Inbox, right?

Blair:

I love Shopify Inbox. It's a great product. But we are nearly 200 people at Tidio and all we think about all day is building the best live chat and CX platform Shopify Inbox but can't compete with us. They can't like they're a small team inside Shopify. They don't get a ton of resources. We're going to build a better product than they are.

Erik:

So that that gets into best of Breed is kind of what we internally were. We made a decision years ago. Do we build email and SMS, or do we double down on conversion and, you know, and innovate? Yeah, That's the other thing is that, you know, as, as we grow these companies, we get caught up and operation mentioned 200 people.

Erik:

You know, there's a lot of operation, you know to be had and you know oh yeah product like growth again of like are we are we pushing the limits with technology.

Blair:

Yep. Yeah.

36:45

Erik

And it's you know someone's starting a company right now you advise different companies and you were hearing that it's hard, it's getting a lot harder and it's scary. And I think that is the politics it's that communicate and of Klaviyo of Shopify.

37:06

Blair

Yeah.

Erik:

To say exactly what you just said a few minutes ago, like, hey, look, this is how our view of how this in, you know, present day, how we think the healthiest way for everyone to continue to be successful.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

And so it does bring in the freemium model if you're in the Shopify app store what why do why would someone use your freemium product when the consolidation of your tech stack? I mean, digital marketers are managing 20-plus apps right now.

Blair:

It's too much. You know, I think that's like it's like a very interesting segway from like best in breed to like that problem because I feel like it is like it is a fork in the road for companies like ours, right? Like you have to in my opinion, do one of those two things to survive in this market today.

Blair:

Right? Is like you need to ruthlessly focus on one thing and become the absolute best in breed solution with a few features that the customers that care about having the best in breed tool for that problem will buy. Right? I often say right, like at something like take like a just, you know, versus privacy thing like they can have 99% feature overlap between the two products but it's like that 1% difference that is going to make the sale for the best customers. And so you need to win best of breed if you're going to go that strategy or consolidate well.

Erik:

So then on the other side, and this is what the market is, is you have the big players, the Klaviyo, the Shopify, HubSpot notoriously bad for this of they need to show growth to.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

And they need platform adoption, they need to get, you know, clients stickier and they know they can get away with plugging in an inferior product which will keep, you know, keep customers on in a bay like HubSpot where we use their knowledge base in their live chat. And honestly, I think it's trash.

Blair:

Now, but it's good enough.

Erik:

It's good enough and it's operationally like it's getting us through. I know we're missing deals because we have an inferior live chat product.

Blair:

Yeah, well, you should check out Tidio, but not so it. No, no, that's definitely a thing, right? I think the the consolidation in the space is necessary because this is something that I think maybe is tough for, tough for some people to hear. I hope I don't lose friends over this. Everybody cares about having best-in-breed tools for different areas, but nobody cares about having best-in-breed tools for everything.

Blair:

Right? Like I if I am if I'm a brand, there's 20% of the jobs to be done that I have that I want best-in-breed tools. And my friend has 20% that he cares about having best-in-breed tools. But I bet there's like very little overlap between me and my friend. There are a ton of jobs to be done for a brand where good enough is good enough.

Blair:

I'm trying to think of a good example here. Like, I mean, I, I worked with a reviews platform for a while and that was something where like, there's a lot of brands that just don't actually care all that much about the reviews platform, and that's okay. There's companies that are just starting out with some marketing and I mean, I don't know at this point how advanced Klayvio's SMS offering is.

Blair:

Maybe it is best in breed, but let's just assume it's not. Klayvio SMS is good enough. I'm not it's not worth each of these tools has an added cost. And it's not the financial cost, it's the cognitive load cost. Right? These brands are small teams and there is like I mean, I think it's very common, I don't know what the word is, but you have to be ten times better to displace an existing solution.

Blair:

And a lot of these solutions that are best in breed, I frankly are not ten times better and the good enough is good enough.

Erik:

And even if they are, you have to showcase that value.

Blair:

Yeah, you have to tell the story about it in a way that people care about, right? That's where I think like that's where I think the like I've never said these words before, so this is like a very half-formed thought. Feel free to push back. But like I think when people hear product-led growth, they, they sort of like hear product and then they forget about the growth.

Blair:

Like you can't just like build a great product that's like, there's more to it than that. You need to also build a very effective story around that product because you need to show the value and people aren't going to dig for the value.

Erik:

So I heard product-led growth, the term, you know, about six months ago and you know, these terms are thrown around...

Blair:

There's always a term.

Erik:

Around all the time and it's so focused, you know, and a month ago my wife mentioned to me, you know, it's all about PLG right now. I pulled it up and I'm like, oh, yeah, we've been doing that for ten years.

Erik:

We always had a free plan when we launched on Shopify in 2013. But what's healthy about is it's all about just reinforce sourcing, and inspiring us to keep going and adapt to present day. You know layered on top of that is a lot of like Donald Miller stuff which is like understanding your customer and their needs and there's the other side of it is emotional buying is how is this can help me as a professional go into my team you know and that's where the value comes in ROI is value If you use this the here's the weekly report we're going to email you of the success you've brought to the team by implementing this product.

Blair:

Now you Yeah it's so funny just to hear that like PLG is the new term and you're like, We've been doing this forever and it's yeah, it turns out like freemium I guess just isn't as sexy a term anymore. So you have to rebrand freemium as PLG.

Erik:

I love you're going back to your pricing page. I think our most successful time in the app stores is when we had our entire platform broken into add-ons. And you have add-ons right now.

Blair:

Interesting. Yeah, we're thinking about this quite a bit right now because I, I mean, full disclosure, I think that our pricing is a little bit confusing and there's a lot of there's a lot of conversations. I think the add-on model can be can be a little bit confusing. I don't know what the best answer is, but that is that is where we are right now.

Erik:

Well, with video, I mean, literally your add ons, if it looks exactly like ours. And the number one reason we switched office was agencies were like, this is way too confusing for us to set up for our clients, you know. Yeah. But it gets you know, it's all about breaking down your customer base.

Erik:

Know, for standing, you know, for us, 80% of our customers are just want to do lead capture. You know it seems stale this growth like what's the next best thing I can do. Yeah and you know like with Photoshop, everyone uses a different 10% of Photoshop.

Blair:

Yeah. Yeah. I think that's like, that's a very real thing for us too. And like you mentioned sort of you mentioned HubSpot and like the good enough problem, right? Like we take, we take a bit of inspiration from HubSpot. I think HubSpot has built. I mean obviously, I think anybody who says that they wouldn't love to have founded HubSpot and led it to whatever valuation they're out is lying right there like an admirable company. But I think like.

Erik:

We’ve been customers with them for eight years.

Blair:

Yeah, yeah, I think they're the kings of good enough products. And I mean, I want to build better than good enough products, right? I want to build a great product. But we also think that there's like there's reason to reason to consolidate. And we, you know, we started off with live chat, then we launched ticketing. That's a very different thing.

Blair:

It makes sense to do the sort of add-on model. We also were early in on what we call chatbots. This is a confusing thing right now because like what we call chatbots are more like of like a choose-your-own-adventure through a conversation. That's what, that's what chatbots used to mean.

Blair:

Now of course with AI and everything, the chatbot term has been sort of co-opted and so that makes our pricing maybe a little bit more confusing because we now have an AI-powered chatbot called Lyro that is out there as a feature. And so yeah, I think pricing is I don't think anybody's going to pricing.

Blair:

I think pricing is just like so, so hard across the board. There's no, there's no good answer for the model often. And then within that model, I mean price point is then like the next decision and I think there's like I think if anything, most companies just don't do enough experimentation there.

Erik:

So my brain is just teeming with everything you just said. And thinking back to the Shopify App Store. Yeah, you know, the what's here's a hard question for you. Is the Shopify App Store dead or not?

Blair:

Yeah I you know I hear this narrative all the time. I have been known to like, you know, get into the odd Twitter spat. I may be like I may be allergic to it or too much. I maybe say the wrong thing. Sometimes I'm a bit of a Twitter addict. I see this all the time.

Blair:

I mean, short answer, no long answer. Like, depends how lazy you are, right? Like, I think if if your goal was to build and launch a barely good enough product and then do are we led to swear on the show.

Blair:

Do fuck all to market your product and expect Shopify to hand you growth on a platter. Then the App Store died in like 2013 2014. There were people who made a lot of money by building a barely functional product, releasing it, doing fuck all to market it, and having Shopify handle growth on a platter. That was the thing.

Blair:

It's become less of a thing over the years. I'd say it ended in 2014. Honestly, I think that was probably the state of things until like 2016 2017 and then it started to drop a lot. Like things have really fallen off a cliff recently. It’s no longer a “If you build it, they will come” situation like that.

Blair:

Those days are so long gone. And I think it's funny, there's a lot of things that sort of come together, I think, to create this narrative there's like I think some of the get rich quick folks sort of got their hands on Shopify as a concept a while ago, both on the brand side and the developer side right on the brand side.

Blair:

That manifested as like all the dropshipping courses from all of these people telling brands how you're telling regular Joes and Janes how easy it was to make money through Dropshipping on the developer side, some of the like, and I definitely don't want to paint with any like broad, broad strokes here, like some of the less, some of the less savory and creative aspects of like the Indie builder sort of segment who wanted to just like spend 2 hours building an app and then release it and get thousands of dollars a month in revenue forever.

Erik:

That one still drives us nuts today. Is that just, you know, this one app? Yeah, you get in it's a full suite of yeah, we could break into 20 5000 different apps Yeah. Is that still are people I mean, essentially what you're saying is what people need to hear is that you can't just roll out not better product right now and think you're going to make money.

Blair:

I think that's I, I think that's true. And when you I don't think the one app versus many apps really has all that much to do with it. I think it's more just like the quality bar is just much higher. I mean, I used to sell developers on the idea of building for Shopify by telling them like, take a few weekends, crank out an app, like make it super simple.

Blair:

So your support that's not high. You don't really need to do much marketing because we'll just feature your app and then you'll get some reviews and that'll get the organic flowing and you'll just you'll be good, right? This is back in the day how we talk to developers about it. And now you see some of the like I mean, the developers that are starting today and are or I shouldn't even use the word developers, the people who are building on the Shopify platform today that are seeing success are like in a couple of camps.

Blair:

There's like this guy, Gil Greenberg on Twitter who you should check out if you care about this stuff. He's like an approximately one-man shop. I don't know if he's hired anybody recently, but he's building a 100% Shopify app called Checkout Blocks. And he is just like he is building an impeccable product. The key is he's meeting and he's even elevating the quality bar now and he's not cranking it out over a few weekends, right?

Blair:

He's building this like a full-time job for a year to build an absolutely brilliant experience that still works. The App Store is not dead for him. The other segment is like the whole, like massively VC-funded crazy product of the last few years, zero interest rate phenomenon. Companies that have just raised a bunch of money have built really great teams.

Blair:

They're building on Shopify, but they're generally not building through the App Store or not distributing as much through the App Store, at least organically, because it's just there's not that much to do in the App Store as like it massively VC funded company if you wanted to spend dollars to grow which is what you do when you raise that much money, there's just not that many places to deploy those dollars, even with ads and everything in the App Store.

Erik:

Now, that was a really interesting update when they launched the pay-to-play in the app Store.

Blair:

Yeah, interesting is the word. Yeah, for sure. Interesting.

Erik:

That will help weed out.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

It's like and we're willing to pay and invest and now right now we're in a bid in the data for their latest.

Blair:

The home page ads. Yeah Yeah. I'm curious to see how much those cost at the end of the beta too. I haven't seen a bunch of crazy results from that, but no, I think a lot of people hated on ads when they came out, but I think it's like fundamentally a good thing.

Erik:

When they backed it up with the 200 K.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

You can give back. Yeah, of course, Shopify Plus kind of knocked that out for us because we then had to pay the full amount for the first two.

Blair:

And anyhow yeah you're like you're like a Shopify Plus certified partner?

Erik:

Yeah. We were one of the first ten.

Blair:

Nice.

Erik:

What's so cool about Shopify is their ability to embrace partners like ours to do beta programs.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

You know and, and I think, you know, I think what's needed is in what we're kind of doing today is taking an assessment of where we are today. You know, what has the App Store evolved to What are the positives? How do we continue to be successful? And you mentioned Gil and Checkout Blocks. hat is true product-led growth, where he's building something that he's probably listening directly to other retailers to figure out what problem they have. That they needs a specific focused fix solution.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

The Secondary thing though that alarms are you know the updates to Shopify checkout. Yeah. And then locking that down. Yep. Now how does that affect him and also the risk and this just goes into the communication I think maybe you know Shopify could work on is you know don't be you know there's a lot of risk to founding a company. You know there's big there's more fear today to start to invest resources because of a competition, be the market and consolidation of technologies, spending. But see whether or not you're your partner is going to build become a frenemy. There's a lot of risk right now.

Blair:

Yeah, for sure. I think you can generally lump that under like what? What the cool kids these days call platform risk, right? And it's a I don't mean to diminish it as a factor. I think it is something that everybody should think about, but I think you are far more likely to die because you didn't grow than you are to die because Shopify killed your business and I think that's where I think like anybody started a business on Shopify selling to Shopify brands like through the App Store over the last like ten, 12 years has like I mean, I, I threw this example out on Twitter last week or something. It was all it on Shopify Interactive.

Erik:

It's X.

Blair:

Sorry X, got me. No, there was a, there was a Shopify. Oh, it was Shopee's native product bundling that got announced last week. And I just use that as an example of tweeting out. Like I literally ten years ago people would ask me, I want to build a product bundling app for Shopify, but I'm worried that Shopify is going to build it.

Blair:

And I would say, don't worry about that right now. The people who took that advice had ten, 11 years to make massive amounts of money selling their app on Shopify. Some of them did like Bold, for example, everybody knows Bold one of their first apps was a bundling app. I don't know the numbers, but I expect that app has made millions of dollars over the past ten or 11 years.

Those apps are still not dead because you can compete with Shopify and stuff like this. But even if they were dead, you just had ten or 11 years to make a ton of money through selling your app. I think. I think those people did okay by not worrying too much about platform risk and not using platform risk as an excuse to not build.

Erik:

Well, you know, you have to be empathetic to Shopify as well in a sense. You know, we mentioned when we first met it was Yahoo shopping on the market. You know, Magento was the had the biggest floor space. And I see it's like Shopify has to evolve. Yeah. Hold their position.

Blair:

That's I think that's something that I think people don't think through properly before they criticize Shopify with some of the things that Shopify gets criticized for, especially by partners these days. You know, you hear a lot of you hear a lot of people. I mean, I'm sure you feel this way often like Shopify is not the partner they used to be.

Blair:

I don't get any sort of personal attention from Shopify anymore. I think that people don't think far enough down the chain of what that criticism means or what the alternative to that criticism is like. Shopify has 10,000 partners now. It is literally impossible for Shopify to pay personal attention to every one of those partners. It cannot be done.

Blair:

The extent of the personal attention would be you asking for something and then saying no, which is not like the basis of a healthy relationship. And and so, yeah, I do think, like it's hard to say that, oh, that's like one $200 billion company or whatever it is now deserves our empathy. And it's not necessarily that they deserve empathy.

58:47

Blair

e really big now and it's not:

Erik:

The you know, how we know it's not 2013 and something that I love is that Shopify is talking about conversions.

Blair:

Yeah, it's been really funny to see how Shopify has started to change their language and how they talk and I mean, don't get me wrong, I laugh a little bit when you get Mackenzie or whoever to look at your checkout and say it's the best. It's really easy to sit here and laugh. But no, it's like they're playing a different game now than they were.

Erik:

But, you know, going back to me as a partner, I'm thrilled by it. Yeah, because they're helping to educate their retailers of how important conversion is, which for us, we've been trying to shout at the top of the roof about it and no one cares.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

People are starting to take a look and it's going to take this vision of Shopify to educate these retailers. So it's only going to help our business if people actually are focusing on it.

Blair:

Yeah, I think that is the healthy approach. I think it's another sort of asterisk on the ‘is the app store dud question’, right? The Shopify Appstore will not die if you are willing to adapt to the changing relationship you have changing the dynamics of the Shopify ecosystem.

Blair:

If you can sort of just not expect the world to stay the same around you, I think it will always continue to be. It'll continue to be the best place to distribute your tech for the same. I mean, you sort of alluded to this earlier, right? Like because Shopify has always done what is best for their customers for the merchants, right?

Blair:

Not always, but in the context of this conversation and like product and technology, they have always, I think we can confidently say done the best or done what they thought was the best. And that's what keeps the App Store, even if those decisions might hurt an individual partners scenario like situation or experience, it is still ultimately beneficial because it helps the platform grow.

Blair:

It puts the merchants there. It gets them to the App Store to look for the solutions that were selling the laptops.

::

Erik

In my head is Shopify Plus, which I thought was the greatest move without their code base because you know our experiences retailers why we shifted off of this counterpoint softwares because if we wanted a change to our product page, it took three weeks to get a quote ten times what it should be. And it's going to be three months at a time. Like, can we just have access to the code base? So I know it touches all these other stores. You can't.

Blair:

Yeah.

::

Erik

And that plus, you know, allowed them to listen to their customers and adapt. And that's another game changer for, their company.

Blair:

Well and like if there was an agency involved in the mix on the other platform where these changes couldn't be made and when they could be made, they were super expensive, I bet that agency would be really pissed, right, if the ground shifted under them and stopped them from being able to charge a bunch of money. But it was it was like the pro-merchant decision and it worked out better for everybody, even if it was short-term, and painful.

Erik:

Justuno got early into the shop App Store, first into Shopify Plus. Where is the present day first?

Blair:

I hate you for asking this question because I don't know that there is an answer. I would rather give what is now the super cliche answer, which is that the AI stuff feels really huge. Tobi did a partner AMA yesterday and I sort of asked about Sidekick which they just announced, which is their AI-powered assistant inside the Shopify admin and I just sort of highlighted to him like, Huh, sounds a little bit like something you used to have called Kit that some of us remember from back in the day.

Blair:

One of the coolest things about Kit was that it could not only sort of have an understanding of what was going on inside of an app, but also be able to like, take actions inside of that.

Erik:

Up on that note, have with Mike Perry Have you tried maple yet?

Blair:

I have and based on the state of for example my kitchen I should probably try it again.

Erik:

I haven't posted that he's looking for some users to beta test something I think.

Blair:

Yeah, we could use some organizational help for sure.

Erik:

You just mentioned Tobi. What was that session?

Blair:

I mean that was, that was Twitter spaces. It was yesterday that would have been August 1st. If you go back and look through his tweets, anybody who's.

Erik:

Gotta get on the apps.

Blair:

Yeah, sorry access X, X Spaces and all sounds 18 plus.

Erik:

You know the mentioning that they've changed, they've done a lot of updates, headless that we wanted to go into. I think building deeper into the actual interface, getting built into Shopify itself, the app seems to be.

Blair:

And that's something that, from what I understand and I'm trying to think if there's anything in here that hasn't been announced yet that I probably shouldn't talk about, there's things that were certainly announced like, there's like new abilities to embed inside the Shopify admin. I forget what the feature is called, but you can now you can appear not only just as an embedded app, but you can add UI controls into various areas of the Shopify admin in a really interesting way.

Blair:

It's honestly like not too dissimilar from something we had ages ago. I think it was called app links or something. But yeah, there's like there's recently been new new ways like recently like in Shopify editions this past week, new ways to embed yourself further into the Shopify experience. And I think that is really interesting from like a, if anybody's been following, like the built was built for Shopify program where you have to meet certain certain additional requirements to get a little badge and be eligible for different promotional opportunities and stuff.

Blair:

I think that is interesting implications for that. I think that's another really good example of like why, you know, is the app Store. That is a bad question, right? It's like.

Erik:

Question, I'm such a bad interview. It's more where is.

Blair:

No, it's what is.

Erik:

Today? How do you be successful today?

Blair:

Yeah, no, it's actually a good question from like interviews. I was I think it's like a very good conversation. I think it's a bad question to be asking like on Twitter from a position of I'm mad and sad that this isn't easy anymore. Right? I think it's a whiny question from a lot of people. I don't think it's a whiny question from you.

Blair:

Yeah, I think it's just another good example of that. Like as Shopify kind of increases the surface area of like integration opportunity that lets us build more embedded, more interesting experiences. But those experiences are inherently harder to build because there's just more to build, right? And it's and I'm not a developer, right? So I don't know how much work any of this actually is. People smarter than me take care of that.

Erik:

Well, you're still in the game.

Blair:

Yeah. You know, I was going to say I'm still in the game. You're still in the game? Tidio is still in the game. Justuno is still in the game. I think that's something that I've been thinking about a lot lately is like, time in the game, just living to fight another day. I think of it like there's like common investing advice, right?

Blair:

It's not timing the market. It's time the market and I think that is like so much of life is if you just play the game such that you can keep playing eventually you will win. It's just important to not die. And I think I think me and you and our companies have both probably done a pretty good job of not dying. And so that is something to celebrate and probably bodes well for our futures.

Erik:

Well, I think, you know, and in ten years working together, these last ten years have been a fascinating time for a lot of people. And, you know, we we got to remember that the e-commerce world is still new.

Blair:

Yeah. Yeah.

Erik:

There's still so much opportunity out there.

Blair:

There's so much.

Erik:

It's kind of cool being ten years in and looking around, we're starting to see a lot of the people we grew up with the last ten years, where they are. How many people have their own companies.

Blair:

Very cool company.

Erik:

So cool to see. It's also awesome to see like, Toby and Harley are still driving.

Blair:

Yeah, yeah, that's it. I think like, I think that's something that Tobi talked about in the same. Yes, I think cause it's really interesting, right, one of the really great benefits to being a founder-led company and these later stages is that founder-led companies typically have the ability to pivot very quickly.

Blair:

Right. you see this even with Zac over at Metta. Right. Like he's able to I mean, for better or worse, he's able to plow billions and billions of billions of dollars into VR and then flick a switch and pivot to A.I. when that's the next hot thing. Right? And I think, like, I saw this with crypto, right?

Blair:

I think like a lot of founder-led companies, very dumbly leaned into crypto too hard. You know, I think it can be good and it can be bad, but yeah, no, really, really awesome to see. Like Toby still steering the ship there. And Harley, I mean, Harley was my first kind of sort of real boss at Shopify, so I always have a always have a special spot for him.

Erik:

Well, seen him out on the road so much right now.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

Working with retailers, like going to them. Yeah that's he's kind of inspired me. also, I do the podcast to try to get affected Yeah you understand what retailers are going through.

Blair:

Yeah. No for sure. I think that Harley is probably one of the all-time greatest storytellers and hype-men for companies right? I think that like almost any company would feel very fortunate to have anybody even remotely like Harley in that position. Yeah. Watching him, watching him do the road show stuff and being in front of people is definitely very special.

Erik:

Well, we've gone over time.

Blair:

But of course, we have.

Erik:

A special guest player.

Blair:

Appreciate it.

Erik:

Who knows if anyone is listening.

Blair:

Who knows? We'll see. Yeah, we were kind of a little bit all over the place there. I hope. I hope there were some nuggets here. I mean, I didn't even ask you whether most people listening to this were app developers or brands. Probably a bit of both, I imagine.

Erik:

Well, we're like the year 2013 with the podcast, so I don't have those demographic data.

Blair:

I love it lately. Who needs data?

Erik:

Yeah, who needs data? What I can tell you is that a lot of people are still trying to navigate the Shopify ecosystem.

Blair:

Yeah.

Erik:

And, you know, just it's so good to talk about this stuff, I'm inspired. I need to get sitting in on this partner summit things.

Blair:

Yeah yeah yeah, that's something that I think is like I mean I thought about this from like a content production standpoint is like my question of like is this like is the audience was mostly brands are mostly partners I think is like a valid question for like content strategy at large. But I think one of the things that I have noticed and appreciated over the years is a lot of a lot of the merchants on Shopify who are very into Shopify as a platform and they actually care a lot about a lot of the partner-facing content.

Blair:

They want to know what's coming down the pipe. They want to know how apps are thinking, what apps are building. We used to talk about 360 partners, Shopify partners that do a bit of everything and care about everything. And I think there's this concept of a 360 merchant too, right?

Blair:

Who like they are super interested in their tech stack and they are always trying the newest tools. And so I think there is a substantial amount of overlap in what sort of content is interesting to those two groups. And so I hope there is something here helpful. Whoever was listening and you can send your feedback to my Twitter DMS if you hate anything. I said I don't check them, but no, I do. I'll read it all.

Erik:

Blair, what is your X handle?

Blair:

My X handle is just “Blaire Beckwith”. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to do this, man. Eric didn't talk about it, but if you are interested in Tido go check out tidio.com/friends. That's it.

Erik:

You can plug all day long. Anything that Blair is involved with is probably something awesome.

Blair:

I appreciate it, Eric.

Erik:

So please check it out. More coming down the pipe here at the conversion show. So definitely subscribe as well. And let's think Blair for today. I hope everyone enjoyed it and take care.

Blair:

Thanks, Eric. Cheers.

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