Blog

Merchants Are from Mars, Developers Are from Uranus - By Mark William Lewis

Mark William Lewis is the Founder/CTO of Netalico Commerce, an empathy-driven, merchant-focused eCommerce consulting agency, specializing in Magento and Shopify development, where his primary job responsibilities include: Choosing all the emojis in Asana for projects, posting cat pictures on the Netalico #pets slack channel, and tweeting way too much. 

The topic of his presentation is: “Thinking about communication as a developer, manager, or merchant in the ecommerce development process.”

Whether you’re a merchant, project manager, developer, or somewhere in-between, if you work in eCommerce, you probably have to interact with a member of one of these groups daily. And you might have thought at some point “It feels like we’re speaking completely different languages” because it seems like you told someone exactly what you meant, but they didn’t understand you. 

Misunderstandings are particularly rampant in this day and age where so much communication takes place remotely over the phone or text where you lack verbal cues or even vocal inflection. With poor communication, you might get the project done eventually but the road you have to travel to get there is disorganized and creates a distrust that makes it so much harder working together. Communication has a compounding effect over the life of a project or working relationship and is often the biggest factor in the success or failure of the project. If a project fails because of some sort of technical limitation or even just poor sales at the end of the day there are often no hard feelings. But if a project fails because of poor communication, it usually leaves a very bad taste in everybody’s mouth and will likely prevent you from working together on any project in the future or getting a referral.    

In my talk, I’m going to give you a secret Babel fish for translating developer-speak to merchant-speak and vice versa. (With the global development community, actual language might be a barrier, but that’s a different subject.)

Communication Paths

There are many different communication paths, each with their own nuances. If you approach communication from a place of empathy, you can make the road much smoother and enjoyable for everyone. (It might even result in some cost savings!).  

These paths include (but are not limited to!):

  • Developer to Merchant
  • Merchant to Developer
  • Developer to Manager/Intermediary to Merchant
  • Merchant to Manager/Intermediary to Developer

Developer to Merchant

I’ve been a developer for over 50% of my life now, so this is the communication path I’ve had the most experience with. It’s also the one I’ve had to improve the most because when I started as a developer, I was a terrible communicator. And in the past year, I also had the unique experience of having a stroke and having to rethink and rebuild my ability to communicate from scratch over the course of a few months. Through that experience, I was able to watch my communication methods evolve in real-time as I recovered. (Fortunately, I have a great team that took over a lot of the communication during my recovery as well as very understanding clients that weren’t offended by my terse emails and conference calls for a few months.

There are fantastic services like Commerce Hero that connect merchants directly with developers that can cut out the “middle man” of an agency. However without some coaching and instruction, some merchants and developers are going to find themselves incompatible with each other; and this has nothing to do with their technical skills or abilities, but rather their communication skills. To have a pleasant experience they’ll either need to find a developer or merchant that fits their communication style, find a project manager to act as a filter/translator, or learn on their own how to modify their communication to be more compatible with each other.

Let’s get into some real-world examples. Suppose a client writes this email to the developer:

From: Merchant

To: Developer

Subject: Urgent Checkout Isn’t Working!!!

Body: Customer service just got a call and a customer reported the checkout isn’t working. Help!!

10 years ago this might have been my response:

From: Developer

To: Merchant

Subject: Re: Urgent Checkout Isn’t Working!!!

I checked the site and everything seems fine.

Factually, this response might be correct because the checkout might actually be working fine and the customer reporting the issue just has some weird Chrome extension breaking their browser. But from a communication/empathy perspective, this is a terrible response because it makes the merchant feel like you’re not taking their issue seriously. However by the “urgent” subject line and amount of exclamation points, clearly, the merchant is very concerned. And instead of listening to their concerns, you’re invalidating their feelings and basically saying “Calm down. Nothing is wrong.”

So how could a developer respond with the same information, but in a way that makes the merchant feel like you’re taking their concern seriously?

First off, as soon as you get this type of email, immediately respond “I’m on it!” so they know whether you’re looking at the issue and they’re not just sitting there freaking out wondering if you’re even at the computer or taking a nap. 

(As a pro-pet workplace, naps are encouraged at Netalico and the biggest source of nap interruption is urgent emails)

The merchant is probably sitting there thinking: 

"Holy crap, this person can't checkout. Can nobody check out? How many sales are we missing because of this, and how much-paid marketing are we actively losing money with because of this?" 

And maybe they even tried the checkout and it worked for them but that's even more confusing because they can't pinpoint what's going on and you, the developer, are the only person who can help them.

So after you’ve been able to investigate the issue, here’s a better response:

Hey Merchant,

I just did a test order on the checkout and it went through (see screenshot) so there doesn’t seem to be a global issue, but there may be a customer-specific issue that they’re running into. Would it be possible to get a bit more details or a screenshot from customer service so I can try to reproduce it? As soon as I’m able to reproduce it I’ll be able to dig into it a bit more and get to the bottom of it!

 Thank you!

-Developer

 This response can be broken down into this simple formula with the catchy acronym, ARVAR:

 Acknowledge - As soon as possible, let the merchant know you’re looking into it.

  1. Reproduce - Try to reproduce the issue with the information you’re given (which might not be very much).
  2. Validate - If you’re able to reproduce the issue, confirm with the client that you’re seeing the same problem. If you can’t reproduce it, acknowledge that there might still be an issue and provide some proof like a screenshot or order number that you completed a test successfully.
  3. Ask - If you’re not able to reproduce the issue, ask for more details that you think will help you reproduce it. This also helps train clients in the future to give you better information upfront, reducing the back and forth and ultimately being able to solve the issue quicker.
  4. Reassure - Sandwich your response with some reassurance that you’re taking the issue seriously. Especially if you’re not able to reproduce it because otherwise, it can seem like a denial that there’s even a problem.

 

To Be Continued At….  MageX 2019 - Experience Commerce

Come to MageX September 12th and 13th in Austin, TX to hear the full version of this talk where we’ll dive deeper into Developer to Merchant communication and as Merchant to Developer communication as well as hear many more amazing speakers!

Simplicity is Key for Mobile Experiences

When it comes to eCommerce, it’s usually recommended for merchants to offer more features and options for their customers. Retailers are constantly being encouraged to do more: sell through more channels, offer more payment options, create more unique content, and keep up with more of the changing trends. However, having too many options on your mobile site might end up causing more frustration for shoppers—and decreased sal

Read more

Mobile Optimization: Big Opportunities for Small Screens

Benefits of Mobile Optimization

The immediate advantage of optimizing your mobile site is that your customers will have improved, personalized shopping experiences. When your site isn’t responsive or, at the least, mobile-friendly, users might have to zoom in to read the text or try to tap minuscule icons to browse your site. One report showed that 60% of mobile users who encounter these kinds of problems will quickly exit the site.

Read more

Optimize Your Mobile Checkout Experience

Mobile shopping has become increasingly common in the past few years, and according to researchers from Statista, the trend will continue to gain traction. Mobile shopping accounted for 23% of total eCommerce sales in 2017, and this number is estimated to rise to nearly 54% in the United States by 2021. However, despite the fact that 82% of Americans have used their mobile device to browse stores online, mobile conversion rates are much lower than other digital shopping platforms. Retailers need to start acting now to accommodate consumers’ changing behaviors, and Magento is here to help.

At this year’s MageX conference, there will be a panel of experts to discuss their top tips for mobile optimization. Attendees will have the chance to hear from Rob Long, speakers from Paypal and Evangelist, and other special guests as they learn about the benefits of shopping cart experiments.

Read more

10 Reasons Why You Should Choose Magento in 2019

Adobe announced that support for all Magento 1 platforms will end in June 2020, so now is the time for retailers to begin transitioning over to Magento 2. This version includes plenty of benefits that will help merchants keep up with the technological advances occurring in the world of eCommerce for years to come.

If you’re still on the fence about upgrading or changing your eCommerce platform, here are 10 significant advantages that Magento 2 can offer:

  • An open-source community. Magento Community and Magento Enterprise are both open-source, so you can have complete control over the customization of your website. You’ll never have to wait for new features to come out; you can simply change it up whenever you please.
  • Improved speed. According to a litany of tests conducted on Magento 2, developers found that sites running on this platform are capable of handling well over 1 million orders per day. Since customers expect pages to load in less than 2 seconds, speed is incredibly important for eCommerce success.
  • Responsive designs. Mobile commerce is rising exponentially around the globe, so having a mobile-friendly design is essential. Magento 2 is mobile-friendly right out of the box, and there are countless responsive themes to choose from.
  • Seamless integrations. Magento 2 has hundreds of extensions available through the Magento marketplace, and the platform also allows merchants to configure their own APIs using REST, SOAP, or GraphQL.
  • SEO capabilities. Magento 2 is specifically designed to be SEO-friendly right out of the box to ensure that retailers get the attention they deserve! 
  • Flexibility and scalability. If you want to make omnichannel selling a breeze, Magento 2 has you covered. It’s capable of handling multiple stores, languages, inventories, and currencies without making you feel confused or frustrated. Everything can be managed efficiently directly from the admin dashboard.
  • Magento support will cover the entire code base, and if you decide to use the Magento Cloud version instead, they will also cover the hosting. This is much better than any SaaS platform on the market today. 
  • Business intelligence capabilities. Magento 2 makes it easy to gather, access, and analyze valuable eCommerce data just using its built-in functionalities.
  • All-in-one B2B solution. Magento Commerce provides all the B2B tools you need to set yourself up for success, and it covers the API for your B2B specific features.
  • A thriving community. Magento has the largest open source community in the industry, where thousands of contributors collaborate and create innovative new tools every day. You’ll always have access to the latest cutting-edge technologies, even if you’re not a developer! 

Read more

Magento Developers: Get Certified to Earn More Money!

This September, the MageX conference will attract hundreds of Magento experts and enthusiasts from around the globe for 2 full days of workshops, presentations, and collaboration. The event will provide a plethora of learning opportunities for all attendees, but it will also give developers the chance to prove their Magento knowledge and become officially certified.

Benefits for Certified Developers

Although developers don’t necessarily need to earn a Magento certification to have a successful career, becoming certified definitely helps them stand out from the crowd, as Kevin Jarvis states. Developers who have the initiative to complete an exam can:

  • Display their expertise. Magento certifications aren’t easy to come by. They require developers to have a deep understanding of the platform, so clients and employers will have more confidence in the abilities of a certified developer over an uncertified developer.
  • Establish their professionalism. Those who want to move up in their career can show potential employers how dedicated they are to their work by passing a certification exam.
  • Show their passion. Developers who truly enjoy what they do should earn a certification to prove that their creativity and skills are equally matched. Clients will feel reassured when they work with a passionate developer because they’ll know that their website will function flawlessly and look great!
  • Earn a higher salary. Providing their credibility can easily help developers negotiate a higher pay for their services and stand out to hiring managers.

Read more

Get a Sneak Peek at Mage Demo!

If you’ve attended an Adobe Summit before, you’re probably familiar with the famous session that’s fondly referred to as “Summit Sneaks.” During this live event, brilliant developers and innovators have the chance to take the stage and show off their latest achievements in brief, entertaining demos for the audience.

These “sneak peeks” are incredibly fun and inspirational, so we wanted to host a similar event specifically for Magento enthusiasts. That’s why we’re excited to announce that Mage Demo will be returning this September at the MageX conference!

Read more

Why Third-Party Integrators Need to Attend MageX

Third-party integrations are essential for countless Magento users and open-source Magento projects. Thousands of people rely on integrations such as Dell Boomi, Apigee, and Celigo to customize their online stores and create unforgettable customer experiences. Companies such as these can experience numerous benefits by choosing to showcase their solutions at this year’s MageX conference.

Third-party integrators who choose to attend MageX will have the chance to share their professional insights, learn more about the latest eCommerce trends, and form multiple connections with potential clients and business partners. If you’re still on the fence about coming to this incredibly valuable and insightful conference, consider the following benefits of attending:

Learn from Experts

Third-party integrators will have the chance to interact directly with Google, Adobe, and Paypal team members, as well as Magento core architects and other technology vendors at MageX. At this 2-day conference, attendees can soak up knowledge from some of the most brilliant minds in the world of eCommerce by taking part in these various learning opportunities:

Read more

What is Magento Merchant Documentation Day?

This September, the MageX conference will attract hundreds of Magento enthusiasts, merchants, and developers under one roof to learn all about the latest eCommerce technologies and solutions. This event will feature dozens of workshops, sessions, and expert speakers, but attendees are particularly excited about the chance to take part in the first-ever Merchant Documentation Day hosted by Magento!

 

Read more

Copyright © 2019 MageX