11 | Mic Pam: Ecommerce Development, Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce

11 | Mic Pam: Ecommerce Development, Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce

Today we spoke with Mic Pam who runs a digital agency that specializes in e-commerce solutions. Mic talks about the wide range of e-commerce platforms, shifting trends, marketing, and SEO solutions. 

About Mik Pam

  • Founder of Pin Agency
  • Director of Marketing at Waterbottles.com
  • 15 years of ecommerce experience


What’s good for your business is the first thing you have to really think about when you deploy a platform.

Mik Pam

Show Notes

Alright, today we have Mic From Pen Agency on the show with us. So welcome to the show Mic.

Thank you for having me. Thank you guys.

Yeah. Great! A little introduction Mic and I have known each other for let’s say 10 or so years. We actually worked for um, I guess were competitors working for the same clients and Mic took over working for the clients that I stopped working with and I think we did  some back and forth. And it was a crazy client we worked with, we won’t mention that name on the show but that can be um, a topic of another show. Working with..

That is a whole other show on it’s own.

Yess! Haha. Definitely but yea Mic runs Pen Agency. You know they do web development, marketing and they have a speciality in ecommerce and um, are ecommerce experts. He is also the director of ecommerce at waterbottles.com. So, yeah. Mic brings a lot experience with Magento, Shopify, A lot of different ecommerce big platforms. So we are going to dive deep into ecommerce today. And uh, yeah well come to the show Mic! Let’s jump into it. The first question would be tell us what are the big platforms that you are working with today or is it still Magento or a mix of different platforms now or?

So, um, right now there is a lot of uh platforms that have become uh, have evolved and grown into like real players. But I think to preface that uh, conversation you have to realize what these platforms are good for. Like um, the top, um all of the internet is dominated by, if you took a screenshot of what is out there and what people are using for ecommerce. It is night and day people use a lot of woocommerce. That is the WordPress specific ecommerce.

And free and open source. Yeah.

Free and open source but again with free and open source there comes a lot of cognizant?

Right.

If you take a snapshot of everything on the web that is the major player right now at this moment it’s WooCommerce. It’s was basically a plug in before but now it is its own platform that is integrated tightly into WordPress.

So, then if you go down farther into the top 1000 or 100,000 sites you will start to see the magnetos become a major player, shopify, websphere comes into play.

Then if you look at the top 10 you will see IBM, Oracle, Magnetos still there but you won’t see the woocommerce, open carts all those guys.

It’s what’s good for your business. That is the first thing you have to really think about when you deploy a platform.  What really fits.

So, yeah what we really deal with, Matt and I both have this set in common. That we deal with small to medium size businesses. On my end is mostly b2b, so I don’t get a lot of chance to use ecommerce but for our b2c customers in small to medium size businesses. You know a hand full of products, is that where Magento really shines or would you go with one of the cloud services?

Yeah. That is a great question but I would say Magento comes with a cost even when people say it’s open source. Magento developers buy on a baseline will cost you 2-3 times more than what a WordPress developer would cost you, even more.

The platform itself needs constant updating. Magento is a more involved platform. If you are looking at the small businesses that have a few products WooCommerce might be a good solution. Shopify has grown leaps and bounds. That is the number 2 player when you look at the screenshot of the platforms. First is WooCommerce, then shopify, across the board because of the ease of integration, the cost of entry is night and day compared to something like a Magento or a Websphere.

Yeah. You can be up and running the same day on the Shopify.

Oh yeah!. If you don’t have a lot of functionality, just have them worry about the backend. All the nitty gritty then you will have it up and running in a week.

So Mic what as far as the different types of businesses out there, can you give us a break down of manufacture would make sense for a Shopify or WooCommerce would be good for. Can you break down some of the different cases.

Yeah. That is a good question. So, basically if your want to publish a lot, if you are going to do content marketing you are probably already going to be familiar with WordPress. With WordPress and WooCommerce they just provide a very important 1,2 punch for these startups.

Because you have a functional ecommerce web form and content marketing system. It’s a minimal cost compared to the other platforms. You can get your feed to it. It is built on the strength of its community. That community made it what it is right now. It would be harder to find a bigger community than what is supporting WordPress and WooCommerce. That is how it has become what it is right now. Before we could barely put 100 items in there and it would start to give us data locks, server errors. Now a few thousands it can handle it, of course depending on your server infrastructure.

Yeah. That is interesting because I did, I have rescued some popular ecommerce sites out of the Word Press system because of how the database was getting killed with every page request.

This particular customer had a celebrity endorsement and every time the celebrity would tweet about it, his site would go down.

So at the time we switched him over to Bigcommerce because they were the biggest you know enterprise cloud player at the time and fixed all of his issues. That is where I said well maybe this WordPress, WooCommerce is not all it is cracked up to be and isn’t meant for anything with any type of volume. But you are saying now they have fixed all that?

I wouldn’t say they fixed all of that. It is not going to be at the level of these if you compare it to Shopify or BigCommerce that are Magento. Their more than capable to handle concurrent connections. These are like multiple users, looking at different pages, different sessions. It’s still going to be a lot of server dependency, how your server architecture load balancing, and that stuff. You still have to run through some hoops but from what it was 8-10 years ago. It’s really progressed a bit and I would if you had a few products, I would say 100 to 1000 products. This might be a good platform for you but if your sole purpose is to get your feet wet  in commerce, I think a path would be a BigCommerce or Shopify. Funny BigCommerce was really big back then, I don’t know why Shopify ate them up. There was nothing close back 4-5 years ago.

Yeah and I think the biggest change because I saw it in my customers. I built a bunch of BigCommerce sites and the biggest issue they had was how complicated the back-end was. They took out features but they also simplified it. So the actual store owners could better handle the administration and order processing.

Yeah. That is the one thing that really went, that store owners and administrators loved about Shopify. Was that it was intuitive, the back end was so intuitive. It took a little bit for the buyer to enter was really low. The floor was low. Yeah, they loved it. That is probably why they beat BigCommerce in.

Mic if you had one platform to pick when it comes to SEO. Let’s say your selling 500-1000 products and you want to go heavy on the SEO, which platform would you pick and why?

Ok. That is a little loaded question because I’ll always be a little biased.

Prior to a few years ago we were Magento partners. So we were doing a bunch of ecom stuff. For the start up it is a toss up between Shopify and WooCommerce. The thing about Shopify, it has extensions or plugins that the community has built. It has a good community behind it too that will do all the, change titles, update urls, your ability to change descriptions and stuff like that. But aside from that you don’t really have too much control on the technical level. It’s a shared platform. Let me give an example. We had to manipulate how each secondary or first share URL shown on our website. You would be a little hard pressed to do that on the Shopify website. So, that is the cons of going with the self-serve services. WooCommerce doesn’t give that much flexibility. But if you are a start up with a few hundred products it’s a toss up between those two. If you are a pure ecommerce go with Shopify. We are also Shopify partners just so that is clear.

Ok. You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes today, Mic.

Yes.

So, have you had any success in connecting either of those platforms with social media. For generating traffic or sales.

Yeah. More so more than social media. Everyone who has become serious in ecommerce most of them followed the path of the Omni channel sales. It is selling on multiple platforms. Getting different advertising. Even Facebook, you can consider it a platform. You can get sales through Facebook. Omni channel that is a different layer of ecommerce. That is more like the big websites like Websphere or even Magento if you can figure it enough. You have to make use of all the data, what you are spending and what you are relying on in these channels. It is a more involved process. As far as social media, there are some, before we had to ask developers to code in Facebook connect, page connects and stuff like that. It is fairly easy. It is like drag and drop, and it connects to your Facebook page. Your post, you can automate your products into your feed. Not that you would like to do that, it’s spamming but you can do that now. With greater ease.

Yeah and there is a ton of automation now, not only with social media. You mentioned that omni channel approach but email as well.

Yeah.

The latest news that Mailchimp and Shopify have seperated has that impacted you and any of your projects?

No, so Mailchimp is uh, again it’s what it’s used for. We used it for certain services. We started with Constant Contact. I am not going to say anything about them but we had like Mailchimp. We had, so what we wanted to create was uh, that thing escapes me now. They use to do landing pages, i forget what it is called. We don’t do a lot of, so we kind of host our own email because we have a service to make our own mailers.

Ok.

So yeah, we kind of. It’s all depending on the client and their budget and their goals right. They don’t want to spend too much on email marketing we refer them to like the Mailchimp. Campaign Monitor was another one that is fairly decent too. As far as reliability but Mailchimp is the one that is easiest to integrate on all the platforms.

Well, not Shopify anymore.

Yeah. Shopify.

I am starting to dealing with that now. So it will be interesting how this disconnect between the two companies impact my work because we have got the Shopify ecommerce site. We have the Shopify storing, data and user data. Then we have the Mailchimp marketing campaigns that go out. So there may be a few manual processes that may need to be added into our new solution.

We found Campaign Monitor on this level as decent. If you can take a look at that.

Yeah. I’ll take a look at that.

So Mic where do you, as far as the future of ecommerce do you see any big changes happening in the next five years? I guess probably more automation, AI stuff. Where do you see it going?

No. If anything we should all have already realized that ecommerce is the future. It has already shut down a few big box stores. You know you’re looking at one of my favorites is Toys R’ Us.

Back in the day there was only one place to go.

Now you can be very gradulate with I want this with pink ribbons and you know. You can just Google it and you will get that exact item that your heart desired. So ecommerce has, some people call it etail but it is ecommerce. It is the future. It is what all our big brands have invested a ton of money to just be the best to give the user the best shopping experience. We have seen some. There is one site I think it is Zappons. They have experimented a few years back on, not It’s an Amazon platform that sells shoes.

Zappos yes. Their personalization was top of the game. Because they store your data. They kind of know what you are looking at. So if you are looking for running shoes they will only serve you running shoes ad that are specific to the style that you were looking at. Say you like other shoes they will show you those specific shoes. You know, it’s not rocket science. If we give you a selection of exactly what you want then you will most likely buy from them.

So those are the types of things that are not just being developed. Their deployed and happening now. We can see that even the ads have become very personalized. Back in the day we would use if they use this keyword then send them this ad. Now there is a lot of personalization. There is categories,  like-minded buyers. There is so much to go through.

Yeah. Now, I look at some stuff on Amazon then a week later I get an email of ten things that are what I was looking at on Amazon. And you know, some of them are on sale now. So it’s like.

Yeah exactly.

It’s all the tagging and remarketing. And now Amazon is getting a bit more aggressive with it and like you said Mic the personal information. So now I got an Amazon Echo in my living room that is probably listening to me because what my wife are talking about in the living room ends up in my inbox or as an ad on Amazon.

So Mic have you ever had to optimize or purchase anything through a voice assistant?

I have not. I tried it with Amazon but up until the point of are you sure and I didn’t go through with it. My kid always you know, kind of pranks me. He tries to try all these crazy stuff. He knows I get alerts. The first time I saw what the, but I got smart to his tricks. But there is a cool story though. My partner and I were talking about Whiskey. I did not search for it. I did not Google it. We were talking and chatting the next day I have ads for the exact brand. Even my Facebook. It’s creepy but its like can they really hear what were talking about but its correlation. It’s just kind of scary for what is out there but it is good for marketers. They got more work.

For us. You know, I know you guys have had the same experience. You get a new client. You research them and then you are bombarded with all their ads and competitors ads.

Alright Mic, so yeah. What else can you tell us about ecommerce. A friend of mine reached out to me that has a  have a jewelry store and they are selling jewelry online. They asked me what are we doing wrong here. So what do you tell a new person that is online with ecommerce. What advice do you give to someone who is brand new to get the ball rolling. You give them a ton of advise but maybe we can address that on the show.

From personal experience. Beverly Hills Jewelry reached out to us a couple of weeks ago too. Their brick and mortar store is doing decently but they get 0 sales and 0 exposure. Of course these clients will tell you we want to get more, I think it is our job to let them know that we need to manage your expectations. I have told this guy we can do it but it is going to take x amount of time. X amount of resources because you have to show them these are who you are going up against. Research “custom made jewelry” you are going to go up against Custom Made, which is like the #1 store online. And if you look at their backlinks they have so much backlinks and authority. The closest you will get in within a few years time is 2nd or 3rd but to get there you will need to expand a bunch of resources. Put money into content marketing. I would tell them straight up there might be more channels more appropriate for what you want. If you want a 10% increase in online sales. That is doable. That is realistic. If you want 20% increase we can get there but of course the very first thing you do is look at their site and you can almost right away see it’s built to look good. It’s not built for search. Those are the things you point out to them. I feel like with a lot of clients they think we do magic most of the time.

What magic?

Like you can get us there in three months. I said I can try.

I would say for your customer. Just trying to target their audience. Not trying to hit everyone but try to find a brand that is also trying to target the same type of audience and then make a lookalike audience and target them. This simple formula has worked time and time again. I am doing the same thing for my fitness clients right now. I am making a lookalike audience and now I have them.

Perfect. Also the lowest hanging fruit is your best ambassadors. Right. So you look at their circle. Their circle will most likely be interested in your stuff too. It’s much less money too. Just follow the low hanging fruit and exceed their expectations.

That is great, thank you. Thank you.

So what tools are you using? We love to hear about tools that people are using in online marketing. What tools are you using everyday?

We have some. First of all like when we look at competitors or prospective client. We do a preliminary audit like what kind of architecture their site has, their ranking. So, the basic Screaming Frog is a really useful tool for marketers and developers too. To find like duplicate content, duplicate tags, duplicate broken links. I would really recommend for what it cost Screaming Frog has been really indispensable. Another tool online which is called Siteliner. Siteliner.com, it is a free tool. It is web based. You put in your domain name and it will scan however much it can scan then it will tell you uh, if there broken links, page size, load time, words per page.

I am going to my site right now. I have used it before but it has been a while.

It still works! It will show you how many links and inbound links are you getting. It can download the site map. Then it will tell you where the duplicate content is. Those are like the easy wins when you are doing a technical audit.

10% duplicate content.

Don’t take it for what it is. It is just a reference. But yeah it will give you a lot of good insight on a project you are working with. Then you have the tried and tested SEM Rush and HREFs. Stuff like that, you can cross reference these things and you will see what needs to be updated or fixed on your website.  Trust me there always is something to do on the website.

It is never ending. You get those parts that all of a site that a site is not mobile friendly because the buttons are too close.

Yeah, too close. I hate that one.

Do you use any project management tools.

Yes. For the product management team we have Jira. And were trying to move over to more time based. So we use, we try to use agile where you have two week sprints, so at the end of the two weeks you can prioritize, assign task based on what is most important. We use that. We have used the Google Suite, a lot too. Were trying to mess with something called Jam Board right now from Google. Have you guys heard about it?

No.

I have heard about it but I don’t think I have used it or seen it. Yeah tell us about it.

So JamBoard is like a digital whiteboard but it first introduced like a hardware product. It is expensive like $5000.00 bucks for the hardware. But you can actually use your tablet. You can skype clients and just jamboard ideas. You can buy a big tablet and use that and open it up. It’s pretty cool. It’s like an interactive whiteboard.

Oh nice!

That is great.

Yes. So you can basically, you’ll have your tablet going and they can see your notes and what you are doing?

Yeah! They can erase what you wrote, check mark it. It’s a pretty neat tool, its very interactive, it’s fun and clients seem to like it.

I wonder if it works with a wikim tablet. Like you can write to a virtual board even though it’s not visual to you. Huh.

It might yeah.

It seems like it should. We should give that a shot.

You can see your doodles.

I am guessing it comes integrated with Hangouts.

Yes.

Great thanks, Mic so much! We could go on and on. We will have you back on to talk about how to deal with crazy clients. I am sure Jeff has some of those too.

We can talk about crazy clients. We can talk about proposal processes. We can talk about all sort of agency stuff that we deal with.

Nice well Mic why don’t you let our audience know where they can find  you.

Yeah so we just recently moved offices were in Glendora. You can visit us at PinAgency.com, or send an email at info at pinagency.com if you have any requests or violent reactions.

(Laughter)

But thank you so much for this opportunity and I will still get in touch and hopefully meet with you guys soon.

Thank you Mic, very nice to meet you.

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About the Author
Jeff Byer has been designing identities and building websites since 1995. He is the CEO and co-founder of Print Fellas LLC, and the President at Byer Company, a division of Jeff Byer Inc, a web design company in Los Angeles. Jeff has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. He is a certified Project Manager by Franklin-Covey and has qualifications in Photoshop, Illustrator, HTML, PHP, JavaScript, MySQL, SEO, Bing Ads, and Google Ads. Jeff Byer is a co-author on 5 US Patents related to content management systems he has created on the internet.

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