Welcome to the Ecommerce Marketing Podcast everyone. I am your host, Arlen Robinson. And today we’ve got a very special guest,
Jen McFarland is the Founder of Women Conquer Business, is a digital marketing operations consultancy that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses slay technology overwhelm, streamline processes, and amplify their impact. She uses her project design superpowers to dramatically transform your marketing strategy and operations from a huge headache into a business-building asset.
Think of her as a patient and empathetic tech translator who geeks out on helping you find and use the right systems to bring your most audacious goals within easy reach.
She’s an uber-nerd who loves dad jokes, building seamless systems, and helping leaders find more joy in their work. She’s approachable, a goofball, and she swears on her right eyeball that she’ll NEVER get judgy or sanctimonious on you. No matter how “simple” your issue may seem, or how long you’ve struggled to conquer it.
Welcome to the podcast, Gen.
Thanks. I forgot about the right eyeball and dad jokes gotcha pretty funny dad jokes before they do the podcast.
You’Ll have to tell me why. I’ve probably heard heard the ball. I’m not a dad, but I have a lot of friends that are mine, our dads. And so I’ve heard a lot of them. I’ve seen a lot of memes these days about dad jokes, dad, jeans, dad shoes, all types of stuff. So you have pretty cool stuff, but yeah, I’d like to, of course. Thank you. Of course, for joining us today. I’m super excited to talk to you. We’re gonna be talking about something that really is what you do a lot of day to day, and it’s really kind of helping businesses get their systems together.
And I think it’s really more important than ever we’re gonna be talking about specifically with regards to ecommerce businesses, building out your ecommerce tech stack. And for people that are familiar with that terminology, you really a tech stack is really just all of the pieces, the nuts and bolts behind the scenes of your technology. When it comes to your website, your online shopping cart, your marketing tools, the integrations between these, your web hosting, all of this, how all of this fits together. How do you build it out properly to run a successful ecommerce business?
And so that’s really what we’re going to be diving into. But before we do get into all of that, I want us to tell us a little bit more about your background and specifically how you did get into what you’re doing today.
Sure. First of all, thank you so much for having me on your show. It’s a pleasure and an honor. And sometimes tech nerds get to talk about this stuff, too. And they can be really excited. So I’m just really excited to be here. So a little bit about myself. For ten years, I worked at the enterprise level as a business analyst. I was analyzing all of the systems business processes on a large scale, including researching software selection, data security, and a little bit of marketing as well.
It was maybe not as ingrained because my big enterprise experience was for the public sector, which is a little bit different as you know, from private sector. But believe it or not, when you’re implementing new policies, there is a little bit of sales that goes into that and a little bit of marketing that goes into that. It just is framed a little bit differently. So then for the last five years, I’ve worked with small to medium sized businesses as a digital marketing consultant, trainer and podcaster, including for Pros or Portland, which is the economic development division for the city of Portland, helping the Inclusive Business Resource network with new and emerging businesses led by people of color.
So the work that I do is really not just in Portland, but I have a strong tie to the community here in Portland, Oregon. And then I help a lot of service based businesses primarily, but then also a few brick and mortars that have an online presence and full e commerce customers as well. And that’s what brought me here. So a real techy nerd that also has marketing background.
Okay. That’s awesome. Yeah. You have a pretty incredible background going from the enterprise level types of dealings with these large enterprise companies, and then taking that experience, which I know you learned a lot with these enterprise businesses, taking that know how and then helping smaller businesses to navigate these really ever changing waters with regards to technology and just figuring it out and how to make everything work and fit together. Definitely some admirable stuff there. And yeah, thank you for sharing that. And, you know, as I had mentioned, you know, we’re gonna be talking about how to properly build out a tech stack, ecommerce tech stack.
And so when you’re thinking about doing all of this, whether you’re maybe you a start up business, R, e commerce business, or maybe you’ve got your business, you’re up and running. You’re already been doing for a while, but you just kind of did everything on the fly. Somebody recommended something to you. You said, okay, let me try that. I’m gonna just go head, get a Shopify account. I’m going to go ahead and use this web host. You just kind of figured it out. You kind of put things together, but you didn’t really think about properly organizing this whole stack.
And how do these things fit together? So when you’re building and optimizing all of these things, think is the most important thing to keep in mind when you’re looking to get all this stuff together.
Yeah. And I don’t want your listeners and the viewers on YouTube to kill me for this. But the most important thing to look at are the three to five year business goals for your company. And I know people are going to say there’s a lot of uncertainty out there with code 19 and everything else. The truth is, we’ve always lived in a world of uncertainty, so you need to put that aside for just a minute and really dive deep into where it is that you’re shipping is going.
It’s okay to start off by taking all of these suggestions, but if you continue to do that throughout the lifecycle of your business, you might not be around as long as if you really dive deep and think about where it is that you’re going, what it is that you want to create. These things include where is your revenue coming from now versus where you want it to be coming from in three to five years so that you can be building towards that. And then your tech stack is no different.
You don’t want to be building out a tech stack that really supports a servicebased business of what you’re really building is an online business. It doesn’t make any sense. So it’s really important to have those kinds of alignments in place. How do your customers differ now from what you want them to look like in a couple of years? What industry are you in? And are you using the best tools for your industry? There are certain industries, for example, real estate or consulting or a restaurant or straight up online business.
There are certain products that are really built for those specific industries. So the more clarity you have around these types of things, then the easier it is actually to build out a tech stack that will really support that when there’s business confusion and people don’t know where they’re going or what they want, then you do kind of end up with this Hodge Podge, and you end up with double data entry everywhere. You end up with a lot of issues and problems that just frankly, wouldn’t exist if you really put the time down to write down what is going on now versus where you want it to go.
And then that doesn’t even get into, like, how does work move through the business now. And what would you like to see it do too many times people just toss in automations without really thinking it through. Is this really going to lighten the load or does this just make it a more jumbled, confusing mess?
Yeah. Very true. Yeah. I’m glad you did mention that. We got to say what people are thinking like, I want to know, what do I do? What do I do before you get into the the hardware, the software, and all these tools, you really do have to understand really, what your three year to five year goals are for your business, because that really is going to dictate what types of things that you implement. I think it’s more important than ever that you look at that first these days, just because there are.
And as you know, there’s so many options out there when it comes to I the pieces for this tech stack more than ever. I mentioned to you before we started recording, we kicked things off with our business as I affiliate software, our main company, Omi Star Interactive, back in the year 2000, and things were a lot different. There really wasn’t that many options. As far as all of these software as a service tools. Most of the time, when you needed to have some functionality created for you, you had to have it developed custom.
When you’re dealing with web host, it was a whole of different animals. There was no such thing as this cloud hosting. You had to get these servers to do all of this configuration. So it was a totally different animal. But these days, because of all of these options, you definitely want to make sure you’re clear where you’re going before you even think about implementing any of these solutions.
There’s a blog that I follow called Chief Martech. And every year, the blogger catalogs how many marketing products there are on the market. It’s up to 8000 different marketing products just for marketing that you can have in your tech stack that didn’t exist when you started your business.
I sure did it.
And it just creates more and more confusion for people. And the difference between enterprise and a small to medium sized business is at the enterprise level. We spent a phenomenal amount of time talking about functional and technical specifications. What is it going to do? How is it going to move through the organization? And then that was probably the biggest shock when I became more of a small to medium sized business consultant. Is everybody’s like, well, I just want it, like, make it happen. It’s like, why? And so it’s kind of a shift that in the last five years, I’ve really had to make to really, in some cases, kind of guide the business owner through kind of the steps of really thinking this through on a more holistic level, because not only are there 8000 different options out there and growing like, there’s probably five more marketing tools out there on the market since we started talking.
But beyond that, you only have so much time and so much money, and you need to amplify the value much more at a small to medium sized business level. So it’s really critical to kind of put a little bit of time up front so that you can save yourself the time and money in the long run.
Yeah, very, very true. And I can imagine a lot of what you’re doing, like you mentioned is people are approaching saying, I just want it, I want it, I want it to work. But a lot of them know what you’re doing is probably getting these businesses to kind of pump their brakes a little bit, assess their needs, assess their goals, and they’re gonna go from there. Now, once you’ve kind of gotten these businesses to pump their brakes, assess their goals, get everything clear as to where they’re gonna be three to five years, where they want to be three to five years.
What are some components, really that you see that you usually recommend of an optimal tech stack? And really, what are some resources that you recommend in that comprise this optimal tech stack?
So you’ve mentioned a few of them already throughout the conversation. So in a traditional ecommerce online business, and this could be a brick and mortar selling products online or just straight up selling products online, there are a few things that are really critical. So you want to get a really solid email marketing platform, for example, Omni Sen Clavia something like that that will really support all of the cart functions and everything that you need and will also help you with communicating offers and specials on all of that.
You also need to have some good productivity software. And by that, and that’s a staple across all industries. And by that, that’s like G Suite or Google Workplace as it is, so that you can have your calendars and all your documents so you can save all of your branding materials. And that more professional branded email account, because we found that customers are nine times more likely to trust a company. Or and if they have a branded email account, like, how simple is that? $6 a month, you’ve just catapulted your customer trust by nine times, then you need a website and for a traditional ecommerce site.
And this is the thing that’s so crazy to me. There’s so many all in one type of packages out there, like even mail chimp is seeming to go down that road more and more now that they’ve opened up a store and a website option. And really what you want is that an email or a website platform that is really geared toward ecommerce mail chip is a great email marketing software, not necessarily for e commerce, but it’s a solid product. I don’t recommend it for, like, a store.
You want something that will support all of your SEO needs, and that will support all of the product functions, showing things like customer reviews and things like that. So that could be a Shopify BigCommerce WooCommerce WordPress website for most business owners that you’ll probably have to have a developer the other options, or maybe a little bit easier. Then you want to think about things like how are you getting the products into the hands of the customers? Are you using Drop shipping? You might have to think about that finance and payroll, how you’re going to sync up your inventory and then last and certainly not least, would be things like social channels.
How are you leveraging all of these platforms to also do the sales in the social domain? It’s a little bit different. If you have a service based business, you want to have more tools around things like customer relations management, perhaps HR and payroll payments look a little bit different for a service based business, as opposed to e commerce, which would probably all flow through your website. You may use something different for payments. Certainly you would use things like Stripe and PayPal. But then you might run payments through something like QuickBooks or some sort of invoicing or proposal software for things like that.
Online payments. So you want to have, like, a whole list of things that you are doing all the functions of your business. And then it’s almost like like a Spider that everything talks to each other. So you’re creating this seamless integrated system. So for example, if you have a traditional ecommerce online business Shopify, maybe the heart of your system like everything is coming and going through Shopify. So then it’s critical that everything you choose for email marketing, dropshipping, finance, and so on. Those things I’ll have to connect and communicate seamlessly with Shopify, or you’re dead in the water.
You need to kind of really think that way for a consulting, your servicebased business, you might be using square QuickBooks, whatever it is you need to have a solid central product that then we’ll talk to your website and talk to your appointment software, all of these different pieces. And then if you have a restaurant, you want it to talk about things like delivery, restaurant management. There’s a whole different type of inventory for food products, so you can be sure that you have everything that you need.
So you can see that there are certain things that ever everybody everybody needs email marketing, a website and productivity software. But then the other pieces may change a little bit based on what industry that you’re in and the exact functions that you want to do. And you might say, Well, I don’t need to worry about drop shipping right now, but wouldn’t it be nice if you had a platform that, as you grow into different things, you can add Drop shipping as an option. If you go with some of these all in one services, or even like a mail chimp or something like that.
That may not even be an option for you. So you really need to think broadly and about again. This goes back to really thinking about where your business is headed before diving in on something that sounds like a good deal or your buddy used or anything like that. Otherwise, you may end up painting yourself into a corner and then it just gets really expensive to back yourself out.
Right. Got you. Yeah. I’m glad you mentioned the fact that it’s a good idea up front to categorize these types of technology solutions. You to mention, of course, for the online store productivity solutions, the accounting, financial management. When you look at it like that, it does kind of simplify things. It makes it a little bit easier to understand what you need, what tools you need to have in place and get the right solutions to kind of go under each of these categories. So for sure, because it’s a lot.
And then a lot of times you have to be mindful of the fact you mentioned with Shopify and the integrations with other solutions that you got to make sure. Okay. Let’s say half Shopify and you are using QuickBooks. Can you easily get your QuickBooks our Shopify data, import it into QuickBooks? Do they have some type of plug in or the third party solutions to make that happen? And so it’s those types of things that you have to be mindful of before you really get need deep into these solutions because I talk to some small businesses all the time that get our solutions.
And one of the consistent things that I see is that a lot of businesses when they start using they’ve been using a particular platform for a certain amount of time. It’s a huge pain to try to switch. Let’s say you’re using the Wix platform and then for whatever reason, for whatever reason, you have to switch to a platform like Shopify. Yeah, I got the cringe with the Wix. Well, they’ve come a long way, believe it or not, though, I know a lot of people, especially tech people cringe with Wix just because it is a I guess you could say they’re of the whole no code movement, basically, which is allowing people to get these websites and build them on the fly without having any technical coding experience.
And as a true tech nerd and I have a software development background, I’m more of a traditionalist and is used to those traditional solutions where everything is coded hardcoded and a lot more flexibility. But I’d say this day and age the Wicks of the world square spaces of the world. There’s definitely a place for it for people that are non techy that don’t have the money or the resources to pay a developer to build these things. And so it does give people an entry into the ecommerce world.
It does. And Wix is getting better. But they’ve had a significant amount of time to work on their coding and their SEO, and they’ve been very slow to do it as a contrast. Square space is great. I mean, they have made leaps and bounds over where they were a few years ago. I’m not. I mean, I don’t know that everything has to be hard coded. I certainly support a lot of people who aren’t very tech savvy or comfortable tech. And the problem that I have with Wix, and I think it might be shifting is a lot of businesses tend to outgrow it, and it’s not portable, so you can’t just migrate your data.
It is a rebuild if you have to go somewhere else. And those are some issues. It’s it’s a problem. And if you’re on an older version of Wix, the SEO is terrible. The coding is awful. But if you’re on a newer theme in Wix, then it’s better. So it’s a platform that I’m hoping that they will overhaul for years. I’ve always said, well, Wix has really good commercials. That’s the best thing I could say about it. I think it’s changing a little bit. It’s still not something in my ecommerce website stack.
I mean, for me, it’s Shopify WordPress with WooCommerce or square space. If you have a site under ten products or your service based business, it could change.
Yeah, I totally understand. And I agree with you, which is definitely come a long way from when they first started, and they have grown and there’s a lot more you can do with it. And I understand what you’re saying as far as having to grow from a platform like Wix. So those types of no code platforms and then having to switch, it’s really difficult. You really almost do have to start over because there’s so many things that are just native to their platform, and you got to think about it.
It is intentional. They do that purposely, of course, because they don’t want you to go anywhere. They don’t want to lose customers. They want you to be customer for life for the life of your business and not think about having to switch to something else. So from a business perspective and business decision perspective, that I think the route where the wires of the world, that’s the reason I think they’ve decided to go that route to make things kind of just so native to their platform. So that’s just kind of where we’re at one other question I wanted to ask, because I know people are really thinking about it as far as an e commerce business that really wants to focus really in on driving as many sales as they can.
That’s really kind of their core focus. Or maybe they’re in a position. Maybe it’s a better question is they’re in a position where they are expecting maybe influx of sales. Let’s say maybe for whatever. Somehow maybe they got an appearance on Shark Tank. So we’ve actually had some ten customers and people that are familiar with the show ADC show where you can pitch to the investors. When those shows air any business that’s feature feature, they see an explosion, typically of sales, whether they get a deal or not, because people hear about the business, they like the product.
They go online immediately. When the show airs, they start Googling it and saying, how can they buy it? And so usually these businesses experience a huge influx at that time. So if you’re in a position where you think maybe I don’t know if you’re going to be on a shark tank, or maybe you’re going to have some national advertising or expecting a big spike. Are there certain things that you need to be mindful of as far as your tech stack to be able to handle, like, explosive growth like that, that could be like an overnight explosion of sales?
Absolutely. And what I’m about to suggest will help you in the non shark tank times as well. What we found since COVID-19 there are a few things foresters finding that digital marketing penetration is exploding since 2019, the end of 2019, and then into 2020. What has happened with so many people being online all the time is not only e commerce, not optional, but it also means that customer expectations have really elevated to new heights that we haven’t seen before because we had several months or a year of many people sitting on their phones all the time engaging with different platforms.
We saw over 50% of people buying most of their items online, which was unheard of even, like, two to three years ago. So one of the ways that you can optimize your tech stack to really handle an explosion of customers or regular flow of customers is to optimize for the customer experience. So that means making sure that it is as easy as possible to buy from you on your phone, on your computer, on a tablet, and then setting things up around. Of course, like all of the all of the automation around cart abandonment, reminding people to make the sale, asking people for reviews because we know that 70% of people trust a review just like it was pulled to them by a friend.
So there’s so many different components that you can use to really automate it now from a volume perspective, which was the other part of the shark tank scenario. That’s where we get into things like, Where is your website hosted? You have limits in your hosting that will prevent you from handling a big spike. How big is that spike supposed to be? Is the hosting? Is it dedicated? Is it shared hosting? Like, what are some of the factors that could be preventing you from managing the spike?
And worst case scenario? Your website goes down, so you need to look at the different things people love. Things like Bluehost for $2 Bucks a month that might not be able to handle a shark tank scenario.
Kind of unlikely that it will be able to correct. The best thing that you can do is build out that tech infrastructure. And if you’re unclear, this is a really good opportunity to reach out to your service providers, whether it’s your hosting different infrastructure pieces for how the work moves through, to make sure that you have the pieces in place, because the worst case scenario is you’re on Shark Tank and all these people are hitting your website and it goes down because you never load tested it.
That was one thing that nightmare scenario at the enterprise level is we knew that everybody would come on a certain day, and we thought that we had done adequate load testing and it melted down all of the servers and just brought every everything to a grinding halt. And we were like, manually managing, like, hundreds of thousands of payments and matching them up. So you don’t want to go into that scenario either, because it’s a nightmare. So what you need to make sure of is that everything is optimized to handle not only daily average transactions, but more volume that you might be expecting.
So those are a few of the ways to really to really do it. It’s both the customer experience and behind the scenes infrastructure.
Yeah. Then that’s great advice, because you mentioned that you got to do these things and get these things in place, regardless of whether you’re about to go on Shark Tank or whether you’re about to get some explosive national global advertising and things like that because you have to be prepared, really, because you never know. You never know as being a business owner, being out and about and you never know who’s a customer. You never know what relationships those customers have. They could have a relationship with a famous influencer.
They tell their friend about your brand, and then the next thing you know, you’ve got hundreds and thousands and millions of people go into your sites. So the bottom line is always be prepared, regardless of what you see in the in the coming future in a few few years. So you have great advice there. Now genes, we get ready to wrap things up. I want to just kind of close things out with a funnel question based on your experience, the business that you’ve dealt with, or just let you know of in general, if you can kind of outline or give some examples of some businesses that have created really an optimal tech stack.
And what does it really look like?
Sure. There’s a local business here in Portland. It’s entirely online business called Thunder Pants USA. It’s Women Underpants Lead Under Pants, and they have a Shopify centric online website. They spent a great deal of time working on researching and implementing. So to the extent where they got all the way drilled into the fact that they know that their customers or their ideal customers are looking for underwear. That doesn’t cause wedgies. Now how they got there? I don’t know. But what they did was they’ve optimized all of the text everything.
So it’s geared and dialed into their ideal customers. Then they use Omni send and a host of plugin. Some are paid and some are free to facilitate everything through the entire customer cycle, coming from gift cards, reviews, looking at the inventory, making sure that they’ve updated, doing the abandoned cart cycles, everything that they need to go through their entire customer journey so that they’re following up with people. They’ve even dialed it into. The fact that their customers don’t seem to mind popups. And they’ve implemented pop ups.
So it’s really what they did that really made their tech sac work is throughout the process, they’ve been asking their customers what they want, what they like, what they don’t like, and then taking all of that information and then feeding it back into the customer experience in the business. And then as they look at things like their revenues and site hits and follow through all of the purchasing, then they’re using that information and feeding it back in to do a continuous improvement.
That’s very successful for them.
Yeah, I can imagine that’s an awesome case study there. Thank you for sharing that because you mentioned the key thing there is that they threw out their process of creating their tech stack. It was more interactive where they got a lot of feedback from their current customers. What types of things did they like? What don’t they like? And that can be done a number of different ways from surveys from your customers support staff or from your sales people in the store online, asking questions just from any interaction that they have with customers so that they can get feedback.
And then that really can help you make the right decision. So we have a great piece of advice there. Well, Janet, it’s been awesome talking to you. I have definitely learned a lot. Creating a tech stack is very important. And believe it or not, I don’t really think I’ve ever had anyone on the podcast before that talks specifically about creating a text stack. We’ve talked about other various components, other software tools, you name it, but not really a tech stack. And then we have what that looks like.
And so I appreciate you coming on. And hopefully this goes a long way with our list lines and our viewers. Thank you. And lastly, before we let you go, I always like to switch gears here just so our audience and listeners and viewers can get to know you a little bit better. You don’t mind sharing one closing fun fact that you think our listeners and viewers would be interested to know about you.
Sure. My husband and I were in the US Peace Corp. We lived in Kazakhstan for two years as teachers, and we had an absolute blast in case of all places, and we miss it every day. And it’s just a neat experience that I encourage people to do if they feel adventurous.
I gotcha gotcha. Well, that’s awesome. That definitely is a fun fact these days. You don’t hear too many people talking about Peace Corps, but when I was in College, I had some friends that did some activities with the Peace Corps. And yeah, I mean, I think it’s unfortunate because now more than ever, I think volunteerism through Peace Corps is probably more needed than ever because of just really the state of our world right now. What’s going on? Not only with the COVID-19, but just poverty worldwide. And you name it.
I mean, I could go on and on and on to depress our listeners, but maybe this will be something to motivate them. If somebody has thought about getting into the peace core is a definite lead, they’d be glad to have you. I know that use a lot that can be done, and it’s a lot of need out there. So thank you for sharing that. That’s awesome. And lastly, before we do let you go, if any of our listeners want to reach out to you and pick your brain anymore about creating that optimal text stack for the e commerce company, or isness what is the best way for them to reach you.
Yeah. So you can reach me through my website at Women Conquer Biz dot com or find me on LinkedIn. I’m really active there as well.
Okay. That’s awesome. Great. Thank you, Jan. And I definitely encourage people to look you up on LinkedIn and then reach out and take a look at your website to see how you can help them. And thank you again today for joining us today on the e Commerce Marketing podcast.
Thank you so much for having me. This has been really fun.
Founder of Women Conquer Business