I’m smack dab in the middle of seven weeks of seven industry conferences. And yes I’m still in Las Vegas. But this week I got the opportunity to check out Magento Imagine. This event serves as the eCommerce platform’s annual user conference. This year’s Imagine marked the eighth time Magento held the conference. But this year marked the first time since the company was acquired by Adobe. And it has become the commerce engine of Adobe’s Experience Cloud.
At the conference I had the opportunity to chat with Jason Woolsey. Woolsey serves as Adobe’s Vice President of Commerce. We talked about the combination of commerce and content and how that is impacting online merchants. And more importantly we spoke about the importance to the digital shopping experience. Jason also touches on some of the more notable announcements coming out of the conference. And he explained their potential impact on Magento merchants. This includes integrations with the Amazon Marketplace and Google Ads that allow merchants to manage their whole operation from within the Magento console. And finally Jason talked about the $9 billion opportunity to capitalize on converting on the growing mobile shopping transition taking place. And he spoke about how progressive web apps can help with that.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the whole interview watch the video or click the embedded SoundCloud player below.
A Career In Ecommerce Software
Small Business Trends: Maybe you could give me a little of your personal background before we dig into some of the other stuff.
Jason Woosley: I started my career as a Software Engineer way back in the day. Kind of migrated over to product management at some point. Went and got an MBA. And then really spent my time in commerce. HomeAway, moving over to Volusion where we worked on small business. I actually grew that business from about 8,000 stores to over 45,000 stores. I created a new product there called Mozu, which was an enterprise, commerce services play. That was divested into Kibo. And now Kibo Commerce actually sells Mozu as their flagship product. And then finally made my way to Magento and saw the light.
Small Business Trends: Maybe you could talk a little bit more about that combination that Adobe brings to Magento, and what Magento brings to Adobe.
Jason Woosley: When we first started talking through the due diligence, it was very clear that we were all aligned on philosophically where we wanted to take out software. We think that the future is microservices. We’ve got a lot of work to do to get there comprehensively. But we’ve already kind of started that path. So realizing that we were already fairly well aligned on what we were doing, I think has just opened the doors for us to really learn from each other.
And so what Magento does really well is the openness of our systems. And I mean that both internally and externally. So if you think about the internal development teams, a lot of times you have a team that’s working on something. And they don’t let anybody else touch their code. They just have one objective and off they go. But it kind of ignores the interdependencies of those development teams. So we’ve taken our open concept where we can accept pull requests from anyone in the community. And also internalize that. So now our internal teams can also accept pull requests from any other internal team.
Bringing Magento into the Adobe Fold
If you have something you need from a team, you can actually just go write it yourself. Submit the pull request and off you go. And I think Adobe is super excited about seeing that trickle into their development methodology. And of course we’ve benefited from all of Adobe’s maturity and the tooling, security analysis tools, all of the performance analysis tools, really giving us more insight into how we write better software. The combination has been truly fairly fantastic.
I’ve got to give Adobe a ton of credit, because they have come in really respecting the Magento community, and doing everything they can to continue the momentum that we have at our backs here, and expanding that into the Adobe ecosystem. So it’s terrific for the community as well.
A Win-Win for Two Great Platforms
It is an absolute win-win. When you think about that last mile of transaction that Adobe was missing in their experience engine, we’re very clearly able to fill that. Both in the small business all the way up to very large enterprises. And closing that loop means that we’ve now got the only tool set on the market that can actually address the customer journey from end to end. And that’s the capabilities that we’re so excited about putting in our customers’ hands. Is this real ability to take an experience that’s on-brand, to meet your customer at any point.
Small Business Trends: Let’s talk a little about some big announcements, and really I guess the one that stands out to me of course … I do a show called Watching Amazon, so I guess you know where I’m going with this one — the whole announcement around making it easier for Magento merchants to integrate and manage their inventories and stores on Amazon.
Jason Woosley: Yeah, Watching Amazon is something we should all be doing. One of the interesting things that happened last year is that the needle kind of moved over above 50% for the number of product searches that originate from the Amazon platform, which makes that an absolute juggernaut, impossible to ignore now. So we were super excited to announce Amazon Sales Channel, which allows our merchants to very easily sell on the Amazon marketplace.
Helping Merchants Sell on Amazon
It allows them to synchronize their inventory, their catalog and their orders. To do so very selectively with a lot of tools and techniques to help them make their experience on Amazon as on-brand as possible. We recognize that Amazon is a marketplace. You don’t get a lot of opportunity to differentiate yourself. But we certainly think it’s something you can’t ignore. And so creating opportunities for our merchants to participate in that incredible marketplace while still maintaining a best in class branded store front, we think is an easy answer.
What we try to do pretty much across the board, is not take people out of their work flow. So If you’re in the commerce side of the house and you’re working on your orders and channels and campaigns, you want to be able to do that from one place. If you have to get out of your workflow, go into the Amazon system. That’s just another set of training, another opportunity for mistakes, and another set of systems you’ve got to find a way to stitch back together when you’re actually reporting.
We’d made that a piece of cake. And it’s actually out of the box capability. And you put in your Amazon credentials for Magento, and off you go. You can select products, catalogs, categories, campaigns, all that kind of stuff. Determine how much inventory you want to make available on Amazon, so if you’re really looking to drive more traffic to your storefront, maybe you don’t put all your inventory on Amazon, but still kind of drive some of that interest.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Leverage Them
Small Business Trends: Well it’s like, if you can’t beat them, leverage them, basically.
Jason Woosley: I think that’s exactly right. That’s very well put. If you can’t beat them, leverage them. And it’s going to be different for each merchant. Everybody’s got a different approach to how to deal with these things. But I think the important thing is that we’ll give you the tools and the flexibility to deal with them the way that you choose.
Small Business Trends: And then on the other hand there’s another kind of big company out there, Google, that’s driving a lot of traffic.
Jason Woosley: Absolutely.
Small Business Trends: And you’re also doing something with them. What’s that?
Playing Nice With Google
Jason Woosley: Yeah, well and Google again, driving still over 50% of traffic and revenue to storefronts. So that’s another important avenue. And when you think about demand generation really. That’s a tool that you want to operate just like a campaign from within the Magento admin. So we announced Google Ads Channel, which allows merchants to create a full Google shopping experience right from the Magento admin, essentially allowing you to optimize your targeted spend. Google takes care of making sure the ads are targeted and relevant, and you’ve got creative control right from Magento, and then of course you can measure all the efficacy of that ad spin as well.
Small Business Trends: One of the things about that is the ability to basically leverage Google’s AI to help you optimize your ad spend.
Jason Woosley: That’s exactly right. Google’s campaigns are incredibly intelligent, they leverage all the great machine learning work that they’ve done, to make sure that those ads do hit the targeted consumer in a way that gives them a better chance of having a positive brand experience with them.
Taking Advantage of AI
Small Business Trends: Just in general, with Magento now being under the Adobe umbrella, you get a chance to take advantage of Adobe’s AI platform, Sensei, right?
Jason Woosley: That’s exactly right. And we are bringing Sensei abilities to Magento Commerce. Which is one of the things I’m most excited about from the acquisition. Those enterprise tools that you feel are so far out of reach for the mid-market. But those capabilities apply just as much to small merchants as they do to large merchants. When you think about it, at the end of the day, your shopper doesn’t care whether you’re a big or small retailer. They care about whether the experience is positive. So bringing in the AI capabilities of Sensei into Magento Commerce is a no brainer. And we’re starting out with recommendation, very much looking into experience targeting very soon, so lots of great runway on what we do with Sensei.
Small Business Trends: One other thing that I know is kind of near and dear to you, is the whole Progressive Web App (PWA) space.
Jason Woosley: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been on the forefront pushing Progressive Web Apps, really since 2017, a partnership with Google to really bring those capabilities to Magento merchants, natively. We have a default storefront theme called Luma — that’s been terrific — gives you a ton of opportunities on the flexibility of using responsive web design. Now we’ve created a new theme called Venia, that is a PWA based theme, and it takes full advantage of all of the PWA constructs.
The Benefits of Progressive Web Apps
The ability to add a home screen, offline viewing mode, no over delivery of assets, so you’ll be highly responsive and actually getting smaller packages delivered to mobile devices, which is great for emerging markets where bandwidth may be expensive, or not broadly available, or the mobile device might be the only connected device. But also it makes the experience on every device snappier. And that’s something that we know the consumer expectations are rising. PWA is a terrific technology to go and meet those consumer expectations. And really provide those delightful experiences that every brand is looking for.
Small Business Trends: And you say this is really good news not only for the big enterprises, but also for the SMB folks?
Preparing for the Move to Mobile
Small Business Trends: I think a stat that you mentioned in your keynote was, is it 75% of consumers are shopping via mobile device?
Jason Woosley: Well over 50% of traffic is now being generated from a mobile device. Which is great news. But the opportunity to close the gap on conversion between mobile device and a desktop device is about nine billion dollars. So making those mobile experiences seamless, and as transactable as possible. That’s a nine billion dollar opportunity on the table, and something we should all be chasing.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.