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The Product Shop – Episode 2: Accelerating E-Commerce Checkout with Shopify



Hey everyone and welcome to the second episode of The Product Shop. This is a show where we talk with product leaders to understand their journey and story when it comes to building great products. My name is Michael Nguyen. I’m a growth marketer here at Taplytics and my name is Kate McFarland, customer success at Taplytics and we’re your hosts for today’s show.

For our second episode, we’re joined by Mat Marr, Senior Merchant Relations Manager at Shopify, as we reflect on his perspective on how the Shop Pay app has accelerated consumer e-commerce checkout, how the relationship he’s built with merchants has helped define the apps product roadmap, and why Shopify’s ecosystem of products has helped pave a new e-commerce experience.

Now for those of you who are listening, Mat was previously at Taplytics helping enterprise brands drive their experimentation program and now helps educate and provide value for merchants looking to adopt Shopify’s Shop App.

So Mat to start off, why don’t you give the listeners a quick introduction about yourself.


I am a merchant marketer on the Shop team at Shopify. The Shop App is a two-sided marketplace. There are buyers on one end that buy products from merchants and then there are the merchants on the other end that list products on the Shop App to get purchased. Within the Shop ecosystem, there’s a bunch of other tools like package tracking, accelerated payments and other functions that we’re going to be introducing that will drive buyers to come to the app. 

Basically, we need merchants to push these tools to their buyers, to attract more buyers so that we can attract more merchants, and then they would attract more buyers, and then there’s this loop of going around. Kind of like how Uber doesn’t exist without its riders or its drivers. I stood on the merchant marketing side so anything merchant facing. How do we get more merchant adoption? How do we get more merchant usage? How do we educate more merchants about the value of Shop because it is a new platform and anything that sits there is within my mandate. 


Cool. So do you usually go after merchants who are in the Shop ecosystem to begin with to see if they’ll be interested in this Shop platform?


Shop is not something that you technically sell it comes with Shopify for free. It’s a differentiator compared to other platforms. Why would you sign with Shopify versus Squarespace or Wix or something like that? Well, we have a direct integration into an app ecosystem or a mobile app experience that can help you drive growth for your company because the way that we see it today is that a lot of shopping is going on in apps. 

As an example, Instagram just a couple of months ago added the shopping tab and they intentionally prioritize shopping within the app, which pissed off a lot of content creators. They’re like, this is no longer a content creation platform or sharing platform this is a shopping app. Twitter is introducing a shopping feature, Facebook’s already introduced Facebook shops to some degree.  Clubhouse even to some degree has introduced paying its creators through the app in some way or form, there’s some sort of commerce going on in apps today.

The way that we’re seeing it is that as shopping moves to apps, our merchants need a place in the app era of commerce where they don’t have to worry about not bidding on the right Facebook audience or having Facebook raise their costs because  Apple decided to take a stance on privacy or something like that.

One, it’s reduced app development costs, they don’t need to build an app. But two, decrease the reliance on these social media channels that basically charge them rent to have space on that channel. So at Shopify, we don’t charge them rent there’s no notion of paying to have a Shop App storefront. And that’s very different than listing something on Amazon, Etsy, Instagram because that’s all ad-driven.


Yeah. That makes sense.  So when the Shop app was released back in April 2020 peak COVID how did you get merchants to adopt that type of product on top of Shopify?


The Shop App is one part of the ecosystem. The way that we see it is there’s a buyer journey. For instance, you see a Facebook ad, you land on the product page, you figure out do I want to buy this? Then you check out and then you get your shipment notification, and then you reenter that same funnel. So as a customer that has shopped at your store before, the only way to get you back into Shop again is by one, spamming them with emails like, hey, come back, come back, come back. We have a sale, we have a sale, we have a sale. Or two retarget them with the same ads that got them to get back into the first place. Neither are ideal scenarios. I mean, email works right now for people and people are exploring SMS and other channels of communication to ping their buyer base to get them back in.

But they’re stuck in this loop. So where the Shop App comes in is there are different features to help push the buyer along that journey and so one of them is Shop Pay. Shop Pay is our accelerated checkout method. It’s the fastest converting checkout method online. So speed equals more checkouts and as a result, it converts. I think the last time I checked is like 9% more. 


I buy things within seconds, I’m like, oh shit. I actually bought that oh, it’s so quick. Yeah. Past the hesitation phase.


Exactly. And also who likes to put in their credit card information nowadays? The ultimate goal here is that there’s a buy now button and it just links to your Shop Pay and you’re done maybe one confirmation step to make sure that your shipping address is right, but that’s the goal there.

Shop Pay is like that first introduction to buyers and for merchants to offer a better experience the way I kind of see it as like a restaurant or a Starbucks offering tap. Everybody’s using tap, everybody’s using Apple Pay to pay for their food now. Shop Pay is that equivalent in the digital world. Now that it’s offered, it’s now expected to just accelerate through checkout that way, the same way that you just pay for your groceries or how you pay for more than just your groceries. Now clothing stores have adopted it so you kind of see the evolution of retail and now we’re creating that same expectation online. So provide a great customer experience from checkout. Now after checkout Shop Pay is the gateway to the Shop App.

So essentially after checkout typically a merchant will lose the customer. By lose the customer, meaning they have no communication between checkout and when they receive their order, in terms of them sending you an update. Maybe they will send you a few updates, but that sits in their email inbox.

I don’t know how much you guys go and click your emails nowadays, but like zero. Yeah.


When I go to check my orders, pretty much deliveries. Like it’s shipped, it’s on its way, and then if it’s been delivered. 


And when you go check those deliveries, are you going into the same email every single time?  Are you looking for that next email? And then if you go into that email, which website are you landing? Are you going to Canada post? Ups? 


I’m going straight to the Shop App. I click on that tracking code and then it redirects me to everything. All my orders are there. 


In the old world, it was like email to shipping couriers website that tells you it’s on the way or not. Both of which are not channels to re-engage your customers.  There’s nothing about that’s a branded experience. In the Shop App, if you notice, if you scroll all the way down, past your shipping notification, there’s a section where we suggest products for you to buy. And this is the first way into creating what we call a shoppable moment in the Shop App. 

The Shop App was originally built it was called Arrive and Arrive was to just track your shipments. 


It only could track so much right at the time. I think it was a couple of years ago when it came out. 


Yeah, and then we decided to partner with a lot of couriers and get more accurate shipping information it’s what people wanted.

In a similar sense. Instagram introduced the shopping tab, we introduced the shopping tab. Now the difference between this experience and an Instagram experience is that you’re going to Instagram to like, and comment on photos. I mean, arguably you could say that they’re shoppable experiences, but it’s not as directly correlated like I’m going in there to consume content and maybe I’ll purchase something as a side effect. Versus, I’m here to manage my payments.

I’m here to check on my order. I’m here to do something that’s actually e-commerce related therefore more likely to drive a commerce-driven action, whether that’s checking out a store, browsing other products, and eventually converting. It’s more directly tied to the actual goal of creating, shopping, and in the app.

Keep an eye out, more features we launch in this app. It will be kind of similar to how you would envision walking into a store and asking a rep for something like, hey do you have this in stock, or what’s the ETA on my shipment? Or can I update my card on file with you guys?

As you guys know,  in the mobile app world, there are a lot more different things that you can do than mobile web. I think a lot of people overestimate what mobile web can do and the different experiences that you could provide but I guess that’s something that we have yet to prove, and that’s something that we’re going to start building toward. 


Could you talk more about the vision and the market of why apps are going to dominate over mobile web from just what you’ve seen and how merchants have used apps more?


You want shopping or you want the experience to happen in one place. You don’t want it to happen in multiple places. So if I’m seeing something on Instagram, I’m like, I want that. You lose me the moment that I had to go and search that up on the web. Or you lose me the moment that it’s tagged in it, and then I click into it, and then I’m brought into a web experience. Then it’s a different experience. Now, this is all anecdotal, right? 

Again, we’re just introducing shopping features right now.  We launched the native ability to finally check out in the app.  We launched the ability to pay in the app.  Before I think it was just a web pop-up or a web view. I think as we start to push more features out and drive the behavioral need of shopping in the app and browsing through the app, then hopefully we’ll see that shopping becomes a single experience versus the experience that’s created in like Instagram today. 


How are you getting users to download the app? What are the avenues to promote the app?  Through merchants, through purchases with merchants, cause I know some of my most recent purchases, I’m just on the Shop App right now.

When I went to the delivered notifications or tracking emails, some of them would lead to Canada Post and some of them would lead to the actual Shopify landing page to track it. I’m just curious as a buyer, how you get people to download it. 


There are two ways that buyers can find the app they use shop pay, and then they’re presented with options to download the app afterward, or at the very end of the checkout flow at any Shopify site.

There’s a button that says track with Shop, and so they have to turn this on. Basically, those are our two conversion points there. We’re going to be introducing more conversion points. My mandate at the very beginning was to make sure that all merchants had those two entry points turned on for their buyers because they can turn it off.

It could be off for various amount of reasons. But the goal is to have it on so that we can catch as many checkouts or as many buyers as we can and funnel them to the app so that the merchants can benefit from them later.


Yeah, that’s cool. I feel like I haven’t been maybe privy to that whole flow of download the app, but I’m curious for merchants who have found success through turning on those two, conversion mechanisms, what are the differences in stats for users who’ve bought through the Shop App?


So the interesting thing that we’ve seen, we know that Shop, App, and pay users are your best buyers. It’s funny, I was talking to a merchant and I told him Shop App and pay users are the best users.

He goes let’s just stop right there.  I am not surprised by that. You’re basically stating the obvious there’s somebody that goes and downloads an app strictly just to track packages. And then you’re telling me the exact same person is saving their credit card information so they could just check out across any shopping service. These are by default, the best shoppers period. So it’s no surprise that this is true.  He’s like, I don’t need stats to tell me that these are my best buyers. Like they are.  The question is. How do I take advantage of it? How do I tap into this market?

If these guys are the ones that are going to spend 10 X more, or however many X more on my store, how do we get more of those? And then again, that goes into fundamentally we need to build the foundation of shopping within the app so that we have to release state of checkout. We had to release native payments.

Then finally after that, we’re going to be building the tools so merchants can then engage that audience of their best buyers from within the app cause we’re so early days,  we amass a lot of buyers, but we didn’t have a lot of merchant tools to engage those buyers.

That’s the missing piece. So we’re building that product out first, but it’s about getting people to realize we’re building a legitimate audience here that you guys can tap into. But you guys might not realize that you turn this thing off, you probably should turn it back on to funnel more of your buyers in there because you’re going to be able to tap into them later.

That’s the interesting part of the early parts of my job, I had to convince people to turn on the thing, but they’re like so now what. 


How closely do you work with your product team?  Obviously, cause you’re working with merchants day in, day out, they have opinions, they have ideas, they have suggestions. So how do you inform product of what the merchants are wanting and looking for in this app?


It’s a little weird, cause my role is similar to product marketing, but not really. Product marketing is heavily involved with the product decisions and talking with the product team and they’re also tapping the shoulder of merchants. Where I fall into this whole puzzle is building the channels to distribute the content in which we activate our merchants, but these channels are built for a specific audience.

For instance, if we’re coming out with a product launch. In startups, it’s very much like you gotta publish on all the social channels. You gotta make sure that everybody’s sharing, but when you work at a place like Shopify, there are other avenues than the typical social media platforms, webinars. For instance, we have a large support team that we can potentially arm with sales, collateral, or a narrative that supports our product a lot better.  An example is someone will call in to support be like, how do I connect my Square POS to Shopify? And the support agent will go, oh, let me look that up for you.

Oh yeah, there’s an app to connect. So she’d be like, have you heard of Shopify point of sale? This is why we built Shopify point of sale the reason why you want to connect these two together because the inventory doesn’t sync. And again, it’s thousands of conversations on a daily basis happen like this.

So support needs to be a channel. I basically set these channels up for product marketing to activate. So to answer your question,  yes, I work and talk with merchants, but I’m here to create little pockets for product marketing to send that narrative to, and then I can use that narrative to talk to merchants in that specific way so there’s the direct way, which is a one-to-one conversation. I talk with account managers I sometimes get hooked into conversations where I talk directly to the merchants and then there are indirect conversations, which is how do I enable the rest of the organization to say that same thing?

That’s where my job falls into the double role and that I basically am a tool for product marketing to use, to grow the usage of the product. 


Yeah. Because then we can see what channels you’ve built are performing best in terms of getting people to convert and start using Shop, which is pretty cool.


So currently users are going to the Shop App to track their packages. The next step is to drive behavior to go to the app, to make those purchases, and then track those packages as well. What are the growth pillars that are driving that behavior?


That’s all product. Product needs to drive that behavior. Like why did they introduce this piece of the product? Well, it’s probably to drive a certain behavior.  For instance,  the Andrew Chen article that I always referred to.

He introduced asking people to rate their ride because he needed more ratings. If you rated the ride good, and you went straight to the app store to rate the app.  Certain features will drive certain behaviors. Essentially product has a bunch of features lined up that they think will drive that behavior.

Why I’m hiring a community manager is because there’s something I’m noticing now in the market where word of mouth is more powerful now because people are more connected.

A single tweet can drive usage to your product. If you go and look at the Shop App Twitter account, so many people are raving about like, Oh my God, I can’t believe I get shipments, notifications like this, no more emails, and things like that. On the merchant side, there are people being like, holy crap, this is such a game-changing experience, I can’t wait to see what the next features are. So there exists these voices where people talk to people about your product.

Again, I don’t have any data behind this but my gut says that if you gather these people in a single place and they create an echo chamber of things that they like about the app. Like dogecoin or the same way that you’re creating a podcast around product managers or people that care about this certain thing. 


In COVID I think just generally where we’re shifting is so much more community-based and really specific types of communities. 


There’s a need for everybody. For instance, you’re going to target a very specific product manager that only cares about testing or something, but those product managers, don’t only talk about testing.  They talk about career growth. They talk about their journey into product.

They’re more interested in talking about that with other people. So how do you define the audience that you want to talk to? Understand that audience and then gather them into one place and get them to talk to each other and you can facilitate the conversation by passing information. You can give them special access like, create an experience for them, but it needs to be an organic thing where they all come together and congregate in one place. And again, it’s so much easier online that  I don’t think enough people are doing it.

To some degree, people are doing it with podcasts and maybe they’ll have a live podcast session where they invite everybody on Zoom and they do a live podcast. They do Q and A after, and that’s a form of community. 


Clubhouse does a pretty good job of doing that.


Clubhouse does a really good job of doing that. That’s an example of a channel of community, but the thing is not all your customers live on Clubhouse or not all your customers. Maybe it lives on Slack. Maybe it lives somewhere else, but you have to find out where they talk about things.

What did they talk about and how do you get them to talk about it more? 


Will this be the focus of your future community managers to kind of seek where your merchants are hanging out to find where they’re chatting. 


The more you’re able to be the cause around gathering these people in one place, the more likely they are associated with your brand being that thing that helps them gather that one place.


Yeah. That’d be cool cause every type of community is definitely nuanced like every form of social media. So Clubhouse, people are very different than Discord people or Slack people. So that’ll be interesting. 


Merchants don’t live on LinkedIn, they live on Twitter. I don’t have a Twitter account, so that’s why I need community.  


The big push for me to download TikTok was I’m going to be technologically illiterate.  Cause how people interact with the app is so, nuanced and specific and you don’t understand the humor of what’s happening in today’s world if you’re not on it. 


To your point, Kate like everybody needs to understand where people are talking. If you’re a marketer at least, right?  

Think about the first person that made a sale on Instagram.  They posted a product, somebody probably DM’ed them. They went back and forth and then the person probably sent them an e-transfer PayPal being like  I’ll ship it to you just trust me. There’s such a disconnect in that experience, but the first person that took advantage of it was probably the one making bank and then that’s why Instagram invented Instagram shops to solve that problem because they noticed a lot more people were doing that. So think about it that way. It’s the same way that people are like, oh, if you’re not on TikTok, then you’re not going to be reaching your future audience.

It’s the same way. If you’re not on Shop, you’re not going to be reaching your future audience because this is where people are going to be shopping.


How often are merchants wrong or right about where their most ideal community and buyers are.


Merchants actually have a really good idea of where they are. They’re like, oh, yep, they’re on Instagram, and on Facebook, these channels work, these channels don’t. Do they know where else they live is the question, and are they keeping up with the trends?

Are they keeping an eye on things?  With so many things happening it’s very easy to get left behind. Sure you might have mastered Instagram and Facebook, but now there’s TikTok. If you’re not on TikTok, well, there’s Clubhouse. If you’re not in Clubhouse and there’s going to be the next thing.

You’re already two platforms behind and then people go well, it’s working right now, but they’re not doing enough to experiment on the other things to expand their new channel. 


I feel like we talked a lot about product, but I think it’d be cool to talk through your transition into where you are today. How did you find yourself in merchant marketing at Shopify? Coming from working all these different jobs at Taplytics and even at Shopify moving from a different position? 


You know, that thing that you read about in all the startup books, it’s like, oh, I rode the rocket ship up, I had this vision back then. It’s this vision of wanting to ride it. So going to sales in Shopify was that choice of like, I just want to see it done there.

Then that journey led me to understand more about different problems. there’s a lot of different problem sets, not only at a big company but within a very widely used product like consumer product almost.

You can see a lot of things that can happen within the products that need tending to, and so naturally bleeds into okay, we need a sales effort to help with this part of the product or the marketing effort to help with this part of the product or we need operations to optimize this part of the funnel.

The cool thing is cause we’re very open internally. What I figured out was I want to be the guy that solves different problems and so where that brought me was I can keep on slinging Shopify point of sale or I can figure out what do you need? How do I get it to you? Are you in, are you are not? 

The move to solution engineering was more of there are more problem sets here in terms of how do we solution sell like defining that?

Or how do we help merchants move from retail first to Omni first?  There’s a lot of challenges in that technically. There’s a lot of things that I dove into that were really specific prompts, even to like partnerships, to like who we send a merchant to help them move their store online. Which is the best partner for that? There’s a bunch of things that we didn’t know, and there were problems that you can just dig into. And so that led me to understand the problem framework and wanting to just solve problems.

After solution engineering, I ran into the role at Shop and now I look at job posting as problem sets. We don’t have a merchant-facing function today. We need a merchant-facing function today. Merchants are leaving us. We need to build a merchant narrative so we need someone to go and tackle all things, merchant facing.


So you’ve gone into your roles by understanding the problems that need to be solved and taking that ahead.


Yeah. I have a very strong point of view on that.  People that apply to jobs and being like, I need to be a marketer. I need to be a growth person. It’s like. You know they’re hiring for it.

Not because they just need somebody to create social media blog posts. You create social media blog posts to drive engagement to then drive revenue.  There’s a math equation there. The same way that you hire a rep  like a BDR, to create 30 opportunities a month that will then drive X amount of demos that will then drive the X amount of closed ones.

It’s a math equation. You need somebody to be hired to solve a specific problem. If you don’t know the problem that you’re trying to solve you’re gonna fail the interview. You’re gonna miss the mark because here you are pitching I’ve done X, Y, Z.

Well, great, but that doesn’t solve my problem. That’s my point of view on the problem set and that’s what I look to now. Yes, they call me senior merchant relations manager, but in reality,  it doesn’t really matter what the title is, as long as  I’m solving lots of problems.

The solution set that I develop is very, very specific to my experiences that I’ve had in the past. So like, everything at Taplytics where I did outreach, account management.  You have a unique point of view based on these experiences. And that’s the unique solution that you bring to that problem set, and you go look, this is my solution to your problem and you either like it, or you don’t.

And if you don’t, then you know, I move on and if you do, then I get hired for that role. That was my approach going into this senior merchant relations manager that turned into merchant marketing. That’s turning into a merchant marketing lead, and it’s this thing where you have to be sure about the thing that you’re solving and that you’re excited about that problem every day.

And that you can just keep on providing solutions or understanding the problem and then providing a unique point of view on things that no one else has. And obviously, get buy-in from everybody else that it’s the right way to go. 


Yeah. So keeping your eye out in your current job to have different problem sets within the org that you can solve even within Shopify your role kind of evolved as well. 


Obviously, you have to understand, are you still energized at solving this problem?

Then you look into why you’re not why you are. And if you’re not, then that’s when you start to look around. I guess I kind of got tired of the solution engineering problem.  It was turning into a role where like, you’re an SE you’re going to be a level one SE level two level three, and I was like, do I really want to go deep into this?  I didn’t really think I wanted to. 


Yeah. Like pivot go after something. 


People often throw strategy around and they’re like, oh, I want to be part of the strategy. I want to just plan shit. In order to plan this stuff, you have to have a unique point of view on how that thing is going to be done. The only way to get that context or get that understanding is actually doing the shit. 

I have a very specific way I reach out to people. I have a  very specific way of following up with people. And that’s based on my whole entire sales experience where it’s like, you send 10 emails and you got the shit done. You get a yes or no based on it.  You can carry that forward no matter where you go.

So a win-back campaign is essentially the same thing as a BDR outreach.  Thankfully, my boss was okay with that approach. And was like, that’s your unique point of view on how you’re going to solve that. Go solve it that way. This is my gripe about people that want to strategize but have never done the thing.

Don’t get me wrong you could do the thing and be really, really bad at it and still have a good strategy around it. Because guess what, if you learned what’s bad, then at least you can prevent not going in that direction. So that’s fine too. You might just have a ceiling on your growth in that role, but those who have never actually done the thing.  Imagine somebody being like, I want to strategize that around your sales funnel, but never done sales before.

What’s the problem. Just make a hundred dials you know, it’s a math equation.  They’re sitting there on their Excel spreadsheets, punching in these numbers. Like if only we get  10 more dials out of our reps,  we could definitely hit our numbers. You have no understanding of what actually goes into each dial.

 You have no understanding if somebody says no to you what do you do? Or if somebody never gets back to you after a demo, what do you do?  Just demo more? Nope, there are other strategies.

Again, you get into those generalists leaders and then you get into the specialists. That’s where specialist leaders can definitely help. But that’s my rant on strategy.


So anyone who is applying to become community manager for Mats team,  please listen to this podcast. So you know how to interview and impress your future boss.  It’s a prime opportunity to learn.  One of our most recent hires when I was doing the interview process. Out of the bat started asking questions about what makes your day hard? What problems do you face? And they flipped the interview entirely. I think that’s a cool approach to take.

It gives you more data points too and what you’ll experience and run into in that position, but also ones that you can help fix potentially. 


And also are they following up and trying to understand more or are they just asking because it was like 10 best ways to ask the right questions.


Yeah, good to be relevant.  


Mat, thanks for hopping onto this episode.

Appreciate you sharing your insights into the whole Shopify world and what you’ve been up to around merchant relations, but looks like we’re at a time.

Once again, we want to give a big shout-out to Taplytics for letting us host this segment. Hope you guys enjoy this episode with Mat and his insights at Shopify, but if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us on our LinkedIn or directly on our website.

Stay tuned for the next episode where we host Zhi Hui. Director of Product at Top Hat and her journey that starts in Singapore, eventually ending up here in Toronto, Canada leading one of the most sought after education softwares stay tuned.