Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

3 Critical Steps to Selling OFF Amazon


Robert Giovannini

Robert Giovannini is the CEO of IronPlane, a full-service e-commerce agency specializing in platform design, development, and digital marketing. While in Russia in the 1990s, Robert created his first e-commerce website to sell handmade chess sets. He quickly realized the value of selling products online, and between 1999 and 2012 he developed multiple e-commerce and digital service companies.

Robert earned his master’s degree in international economics from the University of Albany and his bachelor’s degree in business and managerial economics from Cornell University. 

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [2:45] How Robert Giovannini discovered e-commerce and began helping companies sell their products online
  • [06:58] The pros and cons of different e-commerce platforms
  • [19:43] What are some advantages of selling direct-to-consumer products on your own website?
  • [21:33] Robert’s top tips for building a website for your business
  • [23:42] Robert talks about the importance of examining your business rationale for each website decision
  • [29:19] How split testing can improve your bottom line
  • [32:07] The typical clients IronPlane works with and how Robert’s team helps them succeed

In this episode…

Do you want to increase conversion rates and boost sales outside of Amazon? What is the best way to build a website to connect with consumers directly?

When building a website, it’s important to examine what is going to drive ROI and boost your business. According to Robert Giovannini, there is beauty to building a website. You have a greater ability to relate and build relationships with consumers by controlling the direct outreach from your own page. So, how can you take your business to the next level by selling off of Amazon?

Join Joe Valley in this episode of the Quiet Light Podcast as he sits down with Robert Giovannini, CEO of IronPlane, to discuss the crucial steps to creating your own e-commerce website. Robert talks about configuring your platform for flexibility and growth, why data analysis is crucial before building your website, and how to leverage split testing to yield better results.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by Quiet Light, a brokerage firm that wants to help you successfully sell your online business.

There is no wrong reason for selling your business. However, there is a right time and a right way. The team of leading entrepreneurs at Quiet Light wants to help you discover the right time and strategy for selling your business. By providing trustworthy advice, effective strategies, and honest valuations, your Quiet Light advisor isn’t your every-day broker—they’re your partner and friend through every phase of the exit planning process.

If you’re new to the prospect of buying and selling, Quiet Light is here to support you. Their plethora of top-notch resources will provide everything you need to know about when and how to buy or sell an online business. Quiet Light offers high-quality videos, articles, podcasts, and guides to help you make the best decision for your online business.

Not sure what your business is really worth? No worries. Quiet Light offers a free valuation and marketplace-ready assessment on their website. That’s right—this quick, easy, and free valuation has no strings attached. Knowing the true value of your business has never been easier!

What are you waiting for? Quiet Light is offering the best experience, strategies, and advice to make your exit successful. To learn more, go to, email [email protected], or call 800.746.5034 today. 

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:07  

Hi folks, it’s the Quiet Light Podcast where we share relentlessly honest insights, actionable tips, and entrepreneurial stories that will help founders identify and reach their goals

Joe Valley  0:29  

Hey folks, Joe Valley here, thanks for joining me for a another episode of the Quiet Light Podcast. Today’s gonna be a good one, we’ve got Robert Giovannini from on the podcast. And we talk about ecommerce website development and some of the pros and cons of it. This is his expertise, he’s been doing it since 1996. Through the top things we focused in on were How to Change platforms with little to no SEO risk. And actually plenty of organic upside. That’s something I hear all the time from people that are buying ecommerce businesses and want to go ahead and make changes or improvements to the website, Robert talks about how to do it with little to no risk. And in fact, in many cases, there’s lots of SEO upside. Second, we talked about the best and worst way to do a needs analysis before you have an agency or building your website or start building your own website, how critical it is to do a needs analysis. And the best and worse way of doing that, that comes from decade’s worth of experience in talking to clients, CTO CMOS owners, all of the same company looking for different things to fill their needs. He talks about how to get that all done before the talking to an agency or even doing it yourself. It’s how critical it is. And then back to critical. It’s how critical is split testing. And why it’s important to actually speak to your customer. I know crazy, right? actually pick up the phone and have an actual conversation with your customer. And ask them what they think and make decisions based upon real conversations. It was a very interesting podcast, I think it’s critically important for those that are thinking about changing their platform, building their platform or moving off of Amazon, not off of Amazon, but in addition to Amazon, trying to build a presence elsewhere. So they’re going to eventually be on the channel. Take a listen. It’s a shorter one. It’s only about 35 minutes or so. But it’s worth it. So listen and enjoy the podcast, as always. Hey, Robert, welcome to my podcast. How are you today?

Robert Giovannini  2:34  

Thanks for having me here today. Appreciate it.

Joe Valley  2:36  

Good to have you here. Can you give the audience a little bit of background on what you do? And your history? That kind of stuff?

Robert Giovannini  2:42  

Yeah, you know, it’s kind of a funny story. It started back in 96. With in Russia with a chess set that came across the chest that I absolutely loved. And, and I thought I think front page was the tool you can use at the time to build an e commerce website. And even before I mean, you know, step ahead of HTML, but you know, certainly not like it is today without platforms. And there’s certainly no Amazon Marketplace at the time. And I got on like crazy this day. And we’ll pay pal I don’t even think we had a security certificate in week. No, I don’t think so. I think it was a year later. And sure enough, about a week later, the ski slope in Vancouver bought it for $10,000 sight unseen. And I was like, well, well, I got something here, you know, ecommerce. And I had no idea, right? And so. So with my wife, we started just buying containers and stuff on a Bali and Russia and bringing them in. And that began my journey into ECOM. And over the years, we started to get asked to build sites and that’s where IronPlane was born out of. And that’s been our focus is helping companies share the same passion we have getting their products online and selling them.

Joe Valley  3:45  

And you’re a fellow Mainer, too, right. You’re in Portland, Maine, and I’m originally from there, as the audience probably knows, given the amount of LL Bean shirts and name shirts that you’ve seen me wearing over the years. We just did discuss folks as we’re recording this. It’s an early May and it’s a balmy 45 degrees and sunny finally, yes,

Robert Giovannini  4:04  

it is. It is it’s a balmy 45 and had an up to 46

Joe Valley  4:08  

tomorrow. I think this is this is why I live in North Carolina. I love Maine. We’ll be back up in the UK for a couple of weeks in July. Alright, so IronPlane is an E comm website development company that helps people that have products to sell or services to sell, build on different platforms, everybody defaults to Shopify, but that’s not what you focus on focus on as much and you try to get your current b2c or b2c customers to try to get them to go to Amazon as we discussed and and I try to get people that are just selling on Amazon to go b2c. So we’re both trying to serve different masters but at the same time trying to help the client. What are the benefits in your view of trying to get some of your existing clients to move over and also sell on Amazon? It mean

Robert Giovannini  4:59  

no Looking at Amazon or any of the major marketplaces is a no brainer in terms of you want to be where the people are, I mean, where they’re gonna see your product, learn about your product. You know, so often I’ll hear a client say, Ah, but I gotta pay Amazon to do ABCD, things like that. Okay, but if you really look at your cost of acquisition for any customer, right, it is probably going to be quite a bit less to be on Amazon and pay your what I think it’s 15% now or whatever, it’s been a while it’s constantly

Joe Valley  5:26  

changing. They’re adding fuel charges now as well. Oh.

Robert Giovannini  5:33  

It’s a you know, you sit there and you just go, if you really look at this, though, is it not worth it to just expand your brand footprint? And if somebody’s not heard of you, chances are they’re gonna go there to look for you anyway. So to me, that’s a no brainer. And whether it’s Amazon, Walmart, eBay, or any of the marketplaces, either domestically us or going abroad, I think it’s a low risk way, just six, expand your market.

Joe Valley  5:55  

Do you do that at IronPlane? Do you also help people sell on Amazon? Or are you just focused on building out an amazing website for them where they can? No,

Robert Giovannini  6:05  

we certainly do. What? Typically they’ve asked us? No, we definitely do, because we ended up working with our clients over many, many years. And so as you can imagine, the product data is is gold if you’ve got it structured well. And so whether I’ve got that coming from a PIM, a product management system, or coming straight out with a Magento is sometimes is the PIM for some folks that data can be so repurpose easily into your various marketplaces. And we help them leverage the various tools or build custom integrations, if needed to get that data out the orders back in and make sure everything’s synchronized. So certainly, that okay, it’s a big part of what we do. Gotcha.

Joe Valley  6:44  

All right. You just mentioned Magento. You don’t work on Shopify stores, you focus on Magento and WooCommerce.

Robert Giovannini  6:51  

Why ecommerce? Magento and Bigcommerce? Yeah, that’s okay. You know, for the longest time I, when we first started the company, we worked on a lot of different platforms. And we realized quickly, and this is going back quite a few years, that to get really good, we had to dive in on one system. And when we looked at the various systems, and this is going back in 678 years ago, we looked at Magento, for us, for all of its faults and issues was by far the most scalable, customizable platform, and at the time, reasonably priced. Not that there was a cost of the open source, but there’s always a cost to maintain these things. Total Cost of Ownership was very, very good. So that’s where we focused our energy. And we became one of the leading smaller but leading by reputation agencies building out Magento quality Magento sites over the last two years, with Magento being bought by Adobe and getting and going to Magento to the total cost of ownership has definitely gone up. And I think it’s, I think you want to be on a Magento if you’ve got the complexity that warrants a platform like Magento, or you got other reasons for not wanting to be in a SASS tool. But if your business should be in the SAS, like a Shopify, or Bigcommerce that we looked in, we said, Okay, which one are we going to focus on? Yeah, which one can we would generally stand behind. And we looked very closely at both tools. And we really came down and big commerce just because we felt that it’s API’s and as tech stack, which is a little more geared to companies that are growing and maybe have some more custom needs, and want to not be as me too, as not nothing wrong. Shopify, you can do a lot in Shopify, but we just thought that the tech stack and Bigcommerce allow for that little more flexibility and growth.

Joe Valley  8:35  

So what size companies should consider Bigcommerce Magento versus Shopify? In your opinion?

Robert Giovannini  8:43  

It’s a great question, when we get asked that, I don’t actually base it on size of company, it’s really about what are your business needs. If you’ve got $100 million dollar your company with 10 skews and no complexity and they’re not integrated in complex ERP systems. You could be on WooCommerce. Practically speaking, you’d be on Shopify, you can be on anything at that point, because you’re not a, you’re not going to have a hard time switching, which is something you got to consider if you’re ever going to need to move off a platform. I want people to be thinking about that ahead of time because of a platform changes or the cost metrics change in it. And you’re stuck in there and you can’t get off for six to nine or 12 months because you got such complexity. That’s a reason maybe not to be on a SASS platform, okay, like a Shopify or even a big commerce, which is why you’d be on a Magento or custom bill. However, you got real simple products. You know, a SaaS tool is fantastic at that point, almost no matter the size. And so because you have the flexibility and portability,

Joe Valley  9:40  

it helped me answer this question. This is something that always comes up, you know, we’re selling a business, quite like selling a business to someone. And let’s say that there’s, you know, 30 or 40% of the revenue was from their own website, the balance might be Amazon, but the the website is is kind of dated hell it might have been dealt in Dreamweaver for all we know, you know, in WordPress, what? What are the real risks of losing SEO? If you do it the right way, if you make the change of the, you know, the domain and the new site, not changing the domain, but changing the platform, what is the real risk, if you do it right of losing organic rankings,

Robert Giovannini  10:30  

it’s very small. I mean, there’s always some risk as you can’t get a one to one, sometimes 100%. But with your redirects, if you’ve done a really good job at looking at all of your existing URLs, and you’ve mapped them all to new URLs, and the URLs replicate, to a large extent, where they came from, meaning it’s not, it’s not enough just to go, Okay, I’m gonna make sure I point this URL to this one. But I got to make sure that my SEO is going to stay the same, because it’s going to a page that’s very similar in content structure, and SEO optimization. But if you’ve done that level of homework and build, it should be a fairly small impact. And if anything, chances are if it’s a real old site, it has not been SEO optimized, and all the pages that have been SEO optimized and yours anyway. And so you should get a bump from just doing things new and better. And so

Joe Valley  11:23  

now, the domain names remains the same in this situation, but we’re moving it over to a new platform. That’s right. Seo. Right. Right. Good, good. Good. That’s right. All right. So really, someone’s gonna use Magento, or big commerce when they’ve got more complexity to their business, not necessarily revenue. What kind of complexities are we talking about? What are the what are the advantages over big commerce versus Shopify? For instance, if I’m, if I’ve got a SaaS business, so recurring revenue and different options and things of that nature, I’m an example.

Robert Giovannini  11:57  

Yeah, I think two things one product configuration to the front to the end user. So do you have dependent logic between options, so I have green, but it only comes in these four fabrics, and purchased a great one and this left arm, right? And but if I choose this, it’s got this fill and these configurations, and it all has to be interdependent

Joe Valley  12:20  

clothing, furniture? Yeah, I

Robert Giovannini  12:23  

think I think furniture is always a great one, because there’s so many moving parts. And so that’s the front end how you present to the consumer and a final price that’s being built up, right. And then from the back end you whether or not you’re showing these options, you’ve got if it’s cost plus, and it’s tied into an ERP system, and what material raw materials are available, and how all that feeds through to build up, the pricing that you’re showing on the website and what’s available and inventory are backordered, those kinds of complexities quickly can get you, you might be able to pull it off in Shopify and even big commerce, but you’re building a lot of architecture to pull it off. Whereas if you’ve got either a custom build with microservices or a Magento, which is I put sort of in the middle, you got a platform, but you can do a lot of customization. You can make it work, and you can make it work fast and efficient for the customer.

Joe Valley  13:13  

So you know, before we started recording, I had to move my my Todd Snyder back over there in the corner. He’s partnered with LL Bean. So I’m buying some of this clothings Todd Snyder would be something that would be absolutely not on Shopify, because they’ve got all sorts of different sizes and colors and variations.

Robert Giovannini  13:32  

They’re interdependent is really the key. I mean, certainly you can have size color on Shopify. But if this size is dependent on for other options that you chose, I say if that interdependency, conditional logic basically, that you can, I mean, as I said, you can usually figure out a way but it can get complicated. And so and not efficient for your website, then you’re starting to look at things like I not only product configuration, but are you integrating with ERP systems, and to what extent are those ERP systems able to fully connect in with the product database and the order management system of the of the SAS platform?

Joe Valley  14:15  

I’m gonna I’m gonna call you out on the acronym what is ERP stands for

Robert Giovannini  14:19  

enterprise resource planning in planning

Joe Valley  14:22  

SRE it’s fun to do that. I sometimes don’t know what it stands for, but it’s some it’s fun to do that because sometimes we use them so much people can’t go well, it means resource planning, and they get they don’t I

Robert Giovannini  14:33  

hope I had that right. No, it’s something else but a production or systems, right? You know, whether that’s QuickBooks, which can be the most you know, usually the baseline for most people, like QuickBooks Desktop is firstly difficult to integrate with systems.

Joe Valley  14:52  

It can integrate it with Shopify store,

Robert Giovannini  14:54  

you can but it gets hard and the deeper you want to integrate it right, the higher Dirt is

Joe Valley  15:00  

why would someone use QuickBooks Desktop versus QuickBooks Online? Is there more to it? No. Okay.

Robert Giovannini  15:07  

Have it you know, that company you’re talking about that has a website? They haven’t updated in five years? Yeah.

Joe Valley  15:14  

Folks, come on, you can log in. You can’t log in from anywhere in the world. Unless you’re logging in your computer. This is not going to my PC days, folks. This is just go to QuickBooks Online. We Yeah,

Robert Giovannini  15:25  

yeah. We restored that. Have you

Joe Valley  15:27  

been successful in advising and having any of your clients move from just selling on their own stores to selling on Amazon?

Robert Giovannini  15:37  

Just selling on Amazon? Or? Yeah, sorry, adding Amazon? Over the years? Certainly, certainly, I have a harder time getting them to move into other marketplaces. But it would be an example of another line like Walmart or even like an eBay or I mean, anywhere, you know, that you can push your product for me from my perspective, and I use marketplace here very loosely, I think from the the jargon, but you know, anywhere I can push my products that I have out and grab an order, right? I mean, I always wonder why,

Joe Valley  16:09  

from what I’ve read from what I’m reading and hearing through people that I believe in, you know, selling a Walmart is the next big, big thing after Amazon, eBay. Yeah, that was, you know, a decade

Robert Giovannini  16:23  

ago. But yeah, I but again, it doesn’t cost you anything to be there.

Joe Valley  16:28  

I guess that’s true, I guess it’s your time and energy and know how you have to figure it out. But that’s what good agencies are for. And I don’t look, I’m gonna say it here on the podcast, for the record for people that are listening, selling on Etsy, those are non transferable stores. So keep that in mind. You cannot transfer an Etsy store period. Now, interestingly, I, there’s probably a way to do just about anything, and you can trick and fool the system, but you can’t do it above board. And we’re certainly not going to sign off on it, if you want to do it on your own separately with with the with the buyer of your business, have at it, but we’re out. So just just needed to say it for the record. So in those examples, where over the years, you’ve had people that have listened, and said, Alright, I’m gonna jump, I’m gonna go ahead and also sell these products on Amazon, what kind of success rate Have you seen? Right?

Robert Giovannini  17:18  

I mean, they immediately see, you know, more brand and more sales. I mean, I don’t know that any of them have been experts at Marketing on Amazon. And that has certainly changed over the years. And we’re not experts in that aspect of it. We know a lot of folks that are good at that, and will point people in that direction. But it hasn’t cost them anything to be there. Realistically, I mean, some development, right? Keeping up with the modules depends on where they’re doing their order management, but you know, they can because you got to keep everything synchronized. But

Joe Valley  17:49  

if you guys are not experts, let me give a shout out to my Amazon guy, Steven. Pope, sorry, Steven BrainCraft. How many Stephens in my life, Steven Pope over at my Amazon guy, folks, if you haven’t visited them, and considered having them manage your Amazon Seller accounts? Take a look. They’re very good at what they do. Alright, have you had any success in people that are selling on Amazon coming over to your platform Magento or Bigcommerce, and really making headway in selling direct to the consumer off of Amazon? Because that’s, that’s the challenge, right? It’s, you know, 50% of all shoppers go to Amazon, like you said, you want to go with the people are, and there’s lots of agencies that can help you successfully sell on Amazon, if you’ve got the right products and the right reviews, images and all that stuff. You know, but you’d be then taking somebody that sells pretty much exclusively on Amazon, which probably means it’s not a very complex business, you know? And, you know, would they would they come over to you? Do you have any scenarios like that? Or is that something that you haven’t seen a whole

Robert Giovannini  19:02  

lot of yet? I have not. If I’ve seen it, I don’t know, I’ve seen I mean, you know, we get called to build new websites, I mean, we get two major kinds of clients, right? Those that are rescues, which is probably 70% of our business, they already have a platform or an E commerce site and they need some help, or we’ve got the people that are want to build something new, I would imagine a percentage of those have been selling their products on Amazon and now want to build their website. I’m not I can’t think of one off hand where we’ve done that directly. Certainly we would have integrated with their existing Amazon you know, making sure the orders and everything is synchronized and probably create a new way for them to manage that holistically. But you know, if you can sell on Amazon, you can sell direct to consumer I mean, there’s there’s no question I mean, you’re gonna you’re gonna have to, there’s only a few more things you got to pay attention to you. I mean, your return on adspend and all these good things, but given the gift to advertise on Amazon now as well. You’re kind of playing those Same things, the beauty is that you now have far more ability to tell your story to get your brand out there and to have customers relate to you, as opposed to you via Amazon. And I think for valuation, any company, that’s that’s got to be important because over the long term, I want to build a relationship with my customer, I want to be able to sell them more things later, I want to be able to bring them back often. And so whether I’m doing that through social media, or email campaigns, or direct reach out how I’m doing that, I think you have a far better way of doing that with your own site.

Joe Valley  20:37  

Yeah, and to address the whether it’s more valuable or not definitely more valuable. If you own the customer, you’re gonna get a little bit of a bump used to be a significant bump if you had most of your sales on your own site versus Amazon. Now with the FBA aggregators and the multiples coming up on an Amazon platform, excuse I’m trying not to say Amazon businesses anymore, there’s what I’m struggling with, with businesses that sell their products on Amazon, the multiples have come up, they’re not equal to, you know, your own website, sales, where you’re on the customer, but they’ve definitely, definitely come up. So So in building, so many, you know, customer product oriented websites over the years, what what are the top recommendations you would give to somebody, you know, over a cup of coffee, or a beer in terms of building out their business, their site,

Robert Giovannini  21:32  

if you’ve got multiple stakeholders, and doesn’t matter, really even how big your company is, but you’ve got a sometimes we’ll get called, if we get called by a CTO, we know we’re gonna get this set of things that they want our website we call by marketing, and ecommerce marketer, we’re gonna get these things. And if we get called by the owner of a company, we get these things, whoever is responsible for pulling that together, step one, is that needs analysis, and you got it, you got it, and you don’t want to be, you don’t have to go too technical. But you got to know, what does the owner want to see out of this website? Is it that they care about their story and their brand? Or are they really looking for new business? Right? What is the CTO looking for? You know, is it compliance is it all these other things that are going on or security and was the marketing person was the salesperson, your end consumer, that’s going to drive what it is you need your website to create? Right? And then when we start to sit down with people on how to build out a website, once we have that laundry list of items, then we can say, Okay, well, what’s the priority here in the next six months, three months a year, because that’s going to start to lead us down the path of what you need and don’t need or what’s the one I have versus must have. And because it’s so easy to kind of have a conversation later today. We love this client, and they came to us and we want to, you know, we want to upgrade our site where they’re on enterprise and all these things. And they wanted a new front end design. And they want to incorporate all their stuff from WordPress and everything else, the front end design being the look and feel or what somebody can see. Right? Yeah, you know, the clients gonna see. And we always tell people look, you can do something that’s very theme, turnkey oriented, or you can go completely custom, every pixel, right? It’s a but this, this has a very steep cost in terms of time and money. And there’s usually a nice medium in there. And sure enough, you know, the budget came back probably 3x, what they wanted and the time and we said, well, you know, let’s cut this out, let’s cut this out. None of this is going to drive business. This is all vanity stuff here. And this is what’s going to drive business. And I don’t know where they’re going, they still may go for a lot of the bad because the brand is so important. And the story is so important. And I get that, but I really don’t think they’re gonna see an ROI on that. I think that is just more about story, which can be okay, depending on your company, but we want people to really think through what it is they’re looking for, and why and, and if they’re really business oriented, what is the business rationale for every decision, because that will help you to tighten up the budget and get you started. The other thing and this is an I imagine there’s similarities with Amazon type businesses, too. You don’t need to load like an Amazon, you don’t want to load a million skews day what you want to learn the business you’ve never been in it before. Same thing here, new platforms, upgrades. There’s a big learning curve better to crawl, walk, run, always, let’s just do a phase one, we everything else can be done. But let’s get you to a point where you can be taking orders or whatever we’re defining is the minimally viable, right solution. And then because you’re going to learn so much more, and all these ideas you thought were good over here, you know, thank heavens, we didn’t do them because now you realize that you don’t need any of them. And now you want to just do you want to go in this direction. And so it doesn’t have to be fully agile, but it allows you to be a little more nimble. Let’s say

Joe Valley  24:44  

I liked the idea of being nimble. And obviously you are probably data heavy in terms of data and analysis. Is this working? What’s the cost per, you know, 1000 the ad spend row as Whatever it might be, that you’re studying, you gotta pay attention to that. And I would imagine split testing landing pages as

Robert Giovannini  25:05  

well. All stuff that you do. Yeah, yeah, I mean, we got a whole when we talk about front end, right, which is UX and conversion rate optimization, and all that side of the business, when when we have our back end, which is all the operational type things, you know, making sure it’s integrated their, their ERP systems and their order management systems and their pins and whatever else, their product information management systems, these things are, you know, we’re looking at both sides of that equation at all times.

Joe Valley  25:33  

What are some of the biggest mistakes that some people make in terms of going off and building their own website?

Robert Giovannini  25:41  

It’s a good question. I think gets back to where he’s talking about too much. They want to do too much too quickly. You know, really distill it down. At the end of the day, I always tell people, I mean, I always tell my PMS, when they’re talking to their clients on a quarterly basis or strategy, find out what the current goals are, because everything we recommend should be based around what their business goals are. And really, during the day, it’s one of three things it’s get more clients to my site, get them to spend more and get them to come back. Now, if it goes beyond that, we’re getting out of the core ecom things, maybe more to marketing or brand and things like that, but 90% of our clients, really, at the end of the day, want to see one of those three metrics, improving, if not all three. And so when we start, when I tell clients don’t make the mistake of thinking that having four committees look at where your logos placed up on the header, there is going to improve your bottom line, it’s not going to, it may feel good, we may justify a lot of great brand analysis. But at the end of the day, it’s not likely to make a difference. And so we take I’ve been I’ve been an econ since 96, as I said, and God knows how much I’ve spent more money than I ever cared to, and wasted more money than I ever cared to on all kinds of website things and trying to make my product sell and thinking, Oh, I gotta do this, I gotta do that. And really, at the end of the day, a fast, easy to checkout site, which is why Amazon is so powerful if I can find the product, and I can check out quickly. And there’s some validation on there that I’m making a good decision. I think he got it. And then everything else is great. I had I had a conversation

Joe Valley  27:22  

with somebody a few weeks ago about bounce rates, and how to keep customers on site and, and engaged lot of people just immediately offer if they go to checkout, or if they go to leave the site, you know, a pop up that says, wait, wait, wait, we’re gonna give you this coupon and you can save 20% today. And if then then leave, then they’re going to get a 25% or 30 or 40% email following up with further discounts. What are your thoughts on that type of? I don’t know, I want to, I want to say desperate conversion rates, you know, what, what are your thoughts on doing those types of

Robert Giovannini  28:01  

things? Somebody is if your price is within market, and somebody’s leaving at that point, I’m not sure I would you have to test that for sure, no question. But I would test it right and see what’s gonna give me more more money at the end of the day. But just discounting my price immediately, just tells me that I was going to overpay you five minutes ago. And I think that’s a disconnect. Now. Now the next time I come back to you, I’m going to I’m always going to assume there’s a 20% discount on this product. And I’m overpaying if I don’t get it. And so I it’s not my personal strategy that I recommend, I think you could test it, but I would test it against something like follow up emails or, you know, text us with a question or other ways to engage the customer. So they can, if they’re leaving, they got a question. It’s either about your price, which maybe probably not, or something else is drawing him away. I’d much rather find a way to build that relationship and possibly write immediately when this to SMS or email or a live chat, then just doing the pop up for 20% off this might

Joe Valley  29:15  

you just use the word testing probably 10 times response. Talk to me about how important it is and how difficult it is to implement split testing and how long you’ve got to let it run before the real data reveals the

Robert Giovannini  29:31  

better option. I think unless you’ve gotten a lot of transactions per day or per month, true testing is not real. I mean, you’re not going to get true statistical relevance. But do I think you can get a gut feel for what’s going on and validate it? Certainly trying something and seeing if there’s a risk, any response is going to tell you more than not testing and so I would get a benchmark If, and I would test one thing, and until I sort of felt like I had enough of a gut instinct of what’s happening there, certainly you’re doing 10,000 transactions a day, you can probably do any amount of testing you want to do and feel somewhat confident that it’s going to yield results. But most econ clients, you know, 1020 100 orders a day, you know, you can start to do some testing there, you’re not gonna do a lot of testing, you’re not gonna test granularly. But you can certainly test an offer. The other day, I would just call my customers, and I call my influencers, I would talk to my vendors, I would kind of go out of more from a psychographic with the awful word, I usually have

Joe Valley  30:40  

a conversation with a customer.

Robert Giovannini  30:45  

It’s like, yeah, you know, and I think so I think that, you know, you can do your UX stuff, where you’re tracking what people are doing in your hot jars can tell you where people are clicking, I think that’s great. I mean, you’re gonna know pretty quickly on Hotjar. You know, if everybody’s always looking here, and nobody’s ever scrolling down to the bottom of your page, that’s gonna tell you don’t put anything down on your pager, right? Do I think changing a button from red to another shade of red? You’re gonna need an awful lot of visitors to know if that’s a discovery relevant?

Joe Valley  31:15  

Yeah, I was thinking more about landing pages or pricing on your product and color variation, things of that nature. I guess more pricing if somebody changed their pricing or, you know, tested free shipping versus 895, that

Robert Giovannini  31:28  

kind of stuff. Thank you, I think your markets dictating that more than what you’re going to do. I mean, if your home markets offering free shipping, and you’re not, yeah, yeah, no chances are you You are losing something unless people are loyal to you. Right? And then which case the free shipping is, you know, the shipping may be irrelevant. I wouldn’t want to give up margin before I really explored some of these other things.

Joe Valley  31:54  

Gotcha. Talk to me about the typical IronPlane client, how do you guys work with size, shape, color of you know, products in SAS content, ecommerce, tell me about your clients and how you guys work with.

Robert Giovannini  32:07  

So they tend not to be industry specific, as much as I’ve always tried over the years to be very specific to a vertical, you know, people come to us. And so I think they tend to be one of two major camps camp one is an owner operator, they’ve built their business, they may have been on other platforms before Magento, or they’re on Magento, chances are, there’s been an issue and they need to fix, they’re not happy either with their agency, the relationship fail, or the site has never worked the way they expect it, likely corners were cut. And so those who are rescued, they come in and they’re there. And we have to do a lot of building of trust. I mean, as an agency, we’re kinda like the car mechanics of the world, you know, it takes a long time for you to come to, at least for me to come to trust my car mechanical, mostly because I don’t know a lot about cars. I’m a woodworker, I don’t know anything about engines and things like this, right. And so I think a lot of folks who are owner operators don’t know a lot about the underpinnings of a website, and they just assume that it’s always gonna be expensive, and they don’t, it’s a black box. So a lot of what these people are doing is looking for somebody they can come to trust, and that has the business side. For it, you know, the floor. And this is why I think we’re a little bit different. I came out of business, I didn’t come out of coding and development. And so when I’m talking to them, it’s like, what do you what do we, what’s our goal here, business wise. And then let’s back into that, because there’s always various technological solutions, but really the technologies to fall by the wayside. So the owner operators, common their sides of business, if they they’ve been in E commerce, they can be a startup, because they know what they’re getting into. But typically, they’re at least 5 million a year. And I’d say it’s a broad range. But you know, up to 100 million a year, we’ve got some far bigger, we got some far smaller, the ones that get below a million, chances are an agency is going to be too much for them to bring on and manage the website, depending on their margins and what they’re doing, how fast they’re growing. And they probably necessarily unless they’re growing quickly, Magento. And tools like that are going to be expensive to maintain, you gotta have a real definitive business case to go there. The other side of the equation is i is typically your larger, let’s say, your distributors, your manufacturers, that got complex products, they’re probably selling in multiple markets, direct to consumer, they’re selling to distributors, they probably have sales reps, the omni channel, if you will, and and usually then we’re working sometimes with the ownership, but usually it’s the tech, the CTO and the technology side, or it’s the marketing side, depending on who has ownership of the website. And those companies tend to be if they’re not bigger than 100 million or 50 million. Their complexity is there. They’ve got bigger ERP systems and other channels and everything else to kind of talk to each other. And they also be compliance needs.

Joe Valley  34:54  

Oh, yes, compliance very important, of course. Yeah. Well, that’s coming that’s coming more and more To play with the larger transactions that we’re working with, there always seems to be compliance people on the on the private equity side, never used to be that, you know, four one $2 million transactions. It’s very aiming

Robert Giovannini  35:14  

over a million. We’re seeing our website.

Joe Valley  35:17  

Very interesting. Robert, how do folks how to folks get in touch with you? How do they reach out to you and connect?

Robert Giovannini  35:26  

Certainly, I’m They can find me on LinkedIn, I’m always happy to continue the conversation. Whether you’re just starting an E commerce, you’ve been around, you got some ideas. I love talking about this stuff. And then frankly, we have shaping e commerce with IronPlane, which is our new podcast and YouTube channel where we all have our folks who’ve been with me for years and years and years, they’re a lot smarter than I am. And they just talk about these issues. And so you can get a sense, you know, just real people talking about in depth.

Joe Valley  35:55  

Fantastic. Any last thoughts, any last bits of advice you want to give people that may be moving, let’s say off of Amazon, or in addition to Amazon, they’re moving on to build their own sites, any last minute thoughts or recommendations want to get them?

Robert Giovannini  36:09  

Well, directions, do it. You’ve got this product, you’ve got this business, leverage it fully. I mean, that’s, that’s where the multiples come in. And so if you’re already selling on Amazon, get your own site, go in and get into all the other channels, social channels and everything else you can get them into. And likewise, if you’ve got a D to C site, no reason why you shouldn’t be on Amazon, and everywhere else.

Joe Valley  36:29  

Excellent. Excellent. Robert. I was almost gonna pronounce it wrong. Giovannini I got that wrong. Good night.

Robert Giovannini  36:38  

You got it. All right over Giovannini

Joe Valley  36:40  

tell you what I just terrible with this stuff. I write it down. For folks listening. I always ask the question how to pronounce it. And I wrote it down. I did joven Giovannini in my chicken scratch, so I pronounced it that way. Anyway, I got it. I got it. All right. From IronPlane. Thanks so much for your time. I appreciate it. We’ll chat soon. Thank you appreciate.

Outro  37:03  

today’s podcast was produced by Rise25 and the Quiet Light content team. If you have a suggestion for a future podcast, subject or guest, email us at [email protected]. Be sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.

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