Serving with a B2H - Business to Human Mindset.
Join us on the Fail Faster Podcast as we dive into the experiences and insights of Eric Erway, a seasoned product experience leader at cart.com.
In this episode, Eric shares his background and path to his current role, discussing his journey through various companies and the evolution of user experience over the years. Discover how Eric’s passion for human-centered design and agile methodologies drives his approach to creating seamless commerce experiences. Gain valuable insights into the challenges faced in integrating diverse products and the importance of user research in shaping successful customer journeys. Tune in to explore the intersection of old and new in the world of design and learn from Eric’s stories of successes, hiccups, and the unique advantages that make cart.com stand out in the market.
Vandana: Hey, Eric, welcome to the Fail Faster podcast. How are you today?
Eric: Good. Thank you so much for having me.
Vandana: Absolutely. It’s a pleasure. It’s a pleasure. Let’s start with your background, Eric. Let us know, you know, what was your path to this role and maybe more about you in the next maybe five, six minutes, please.
Eric: Yeah, absolutely. So my name is Eric Irve. I lead product experience at cart.com. So we’re a two-year-old startup based here in Austin, Texas. Our role really is to enable commerce. And so my role as part of that is very much part of our journey where as a commerce enabler, we’re often bringing together designs and products from often acquisitions or companies that may have had different but similar purposes.
And so our role is very much is to put essentially our brands at the center of the experience and put together a consistent set of journeys in support of that. And so I started myself about a year or so ago. So I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary here shortly. And we have a small but mighty team responsible for product design and research in support of larger engineering efforts, etc. And so, yeah, it’s been a journey itself, but it really kind of builds upon a lot of the experiences I had most recently at Magento and Adobe. So I was there for about eight years in both product and user experience functions.
Prior to that, I was at Dell for a similar amount of time, about eight years or so. But my experience goes all the way back to AOL. And so the You’ve Got Mail Days, I was a producer when that was a role, when people were webmasters and worked on the mail and instant messaging products back in Virginia and just have a lot of stories, a lot of backgrounds. And I think the premise of kind of what’s old is new again, often comes up, right? This idea of, hey, let’s really observe people really working and using our products. What can we learn from them? And so, you know, again, center design, even Agile itself, we’re all very much a part of what we were doing, in some cases, 15, 20 years ago, maybe with different terms, but really just kind of applying maybe what’s old then to what’s new now, has been a part of my own journey.
And I’m one of those people who just wakes up every morning, loves every bit about what we’re doing. I think people see that. And we’ve got a really great mission at CART. That has not yet really been seen in the market. But as you can imagine, we have a design system, we have a great product team. We perform a lot of research, we observe, and we learn a lot from a pretty diverse set of team members, but also different products with different perspectives from all over the world with primary locations, a lot of which are in Texas here, but also we’ve got a great team in Portland, team in Poland, as well, and a few others as well. So yeah, that’s just a little bit about myself. But I’ve been doing this for about 20 plus years, kind of a little bit between product and user experience.
Vandana: Awesome. Well, congratulations on coming this far and loving your job, you know, and still loving your job.
Eric: For sure. For sure. I love it.
Vandana: That’s awesome.
Eric: I’m very fortunate.
Eric: Yeah, I think it’s a great question. In many ways, the what hasn’t changed, and even the why, but the how has, right? And so the how and a lot of what we’re doing, some of which I think accelerated during the, I think, the throes of the pandemic, but the remoteness of what we do, I think, has allowed us to really span and change how we do things. And so when I think about that, I think about user research, which is, I think, the center of a lot of what we do and want to continue doing. We used to do that behind one-way mirrors, and we’d have these great experiences where we’d go through recruiting, we’d find a facility, we would have the team behind that, you know, looking at products at AOL or Dell or what have you, and really understanding how they’re using it.
And, you know, in some cases, you know, wanting to make change on the very first opportunity where we see there’s a correction needed or what have you, not looking at sample sizes, but really that whole experience of the team watching their products being used. Now, fast forward to today, we have a lot of both qualitative and quantitative information that helps us get to that. We have a lot of tools like usertesting.com, user interviews, of course, Zoom, Google Meet, what have you, that allow for better access to that. So that one-way mirror, that one-way view is now kind of one to many. And so you have a lot more people who can participate in that.
So then you have challenges around the distribution of the insights, distribution of the data. And what I care primarily about is making sure that they’re actionable. You can do a lot of research, but research is only useful unless you do something with that. So I think, you know, I think the what and the why, again, are very much there. There are elements I do miss. I love the in-person aspects of watching, but gosh, you can get a lot more done very quickly and really scale and bring the whole team involved with some of the advancements that have happened really in the last few years around how you do it.
Vandana: Awesome. Well, that’s very well said. Yes, the how is changing and it’ll continue to evolve. Can we share, Luke, get into some of the stories, like where you were a part of some of the successes at cart.com, you know, the recent ones or some of the older ones?
Eric: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, I start maybe with the past and kind of go into the future. So, you know, I had the opportunity to work at Magento, which is now now a part of Adobe in what their primary business user experience might be, their admin, their core product. So the day to day piece of software that that any one of our customers will use any day to manage their store. And, you know, one of the things that we learned very much was how our software is being used. And one of the things we used to have is one of the greatest parts about Magento is that it’s infinitely flexible. One of the biggest challenges of Magento is that it’s infinitely flexible. And so what we found was our products were being used in new and interesting ways.
And in many ways, they weren’t necessarily designed for. And so a couple of years ago with Magento 2, we had an opportunity to sit in on some call centers for some for some sizable, you know, sizable consumer goods products that were using this in their call centers to help manage their orders. And we were surprised about the users. These are not personas we had initially optimized for, not really considered. And in many ways, we were starting to see some opportunities for them where the software, the experience didn’t work for them. And so, you know, the telltale signs of, hey, this is great. But then you would see them quickly open up a new tab and start creating an Excel document and trying to do their work in different places because the experience didn’t meet those needs.
And so we learned a lot in that process. And so and we learned a lot knowing that we and the fact that we didn’t fully, I think, appreciate all of the various personas and we optimized them around most common ones. But a software that was and a product that was infinitely flexible wasn’t maybe infinite enough, at least in our planning and design. We had some opportunities to change the product based on the observations that we had in the call centers and a product that wasn’t originally for that. But if you think about order management, there are a lot of people who would do that.
And so we learned a lot in that process on site in these in these call centers. And we’re thankful for the opportunity and the access to do so. So I think that’s a really good example where we took that, we turned it around and we made that experience a lot better and hopefully avoided more of those Excel moments where the product didn’t necessarily allow for allow for those those those use cases as much. So I think that’s a good example. I think, you know, fast forward to some of my current work at CART.
You know, having you know, having seen this, I’m based in Texas. And so having seen this rodeo before a few times, we kind of came in with the mindset of bringing research and really bringing the brand in at the very beginning and looking at the fundamentals. So, you know, when you have a handful of products that were never intended to to be developed or work together, you know, with this, we have this concept, concept of the graphene design system, which in many ways just almost bottoms up gives the various teams, you know, the basics of what those experiences might be at a very low level, very atomic level.
They can be repurposed and make incremental change towards the whole. So we basically solve the problem and continue to solve the problem for both ends at the smallest levels where we’re starting to introduce, you know, essentially new components and patterns that don’t necessarily need to be debated, like like data grids and, you know, data grids, date time pickers, things like that, navigational constructs to then the larger pieces that require a lot more research.
How do these products come together? What are the effective customer journeys? What what are we seeing in the data? Because a lot of the work in parallel was to was to to understand and integrate, you know, telemetry and other aspects so that we not only, you know, you know, had had hypothesis on how that we would solve for this, but then validate those in a way with the data, both quantitatively and, of course, qualitatively with user research as well. So, yeah, we start off with a design system, bringing research into the process and then also bringing design thinking into the process, which I had an opportunity to lead with quite a bit at Magenta and Adobe.
And again, it really is easy to say it’s all about the customer. And very often, you know, you need we all need to take a moment and really make sure that their impact and their world is made easier with every step that we do. Yeah, awesome. Yes. And so these as you are as you are automating and bringing these these holistic experiences together for different brands, what are some of the hiccups that you are seeing in the process? Yes, I would say the hiccups often are around the in some cases, I would say maybe classify that as the how right.
And so it’s often easy to get hung up in the technologies and, you know, how something is created, the basics like, you know, and sometimes the unglamorous parts of our own experience, but are really important things like like identity and log in and sign on and in key experiences that are often your very first at the start of any particular journey, whether you’re a new or an existing customer. So it’s really so the hiccups happen are pretty typical, fairly typical when those start. But one of the nice things about Card is that that we kind of anticipated that with a lot of investment in technology that happened, you know, really in the in the year prior to to to my arrival. And so those those those challenges were less so the case than what I probably would have anticipated.
And but, you know, there are there always going to be discussions around the front end. There’s going to be hiccups around like, OK, she would use this component versus the other. But we’re fine. It’s just data research insights often help demystify or kind of really bring people to the to the right perspective in mind. That’s that’s where, you know, ultimately the customer doesn’t care if it’s built in React or Angular or if it’s done this way or that way.
They’re just trying to solve a problem, especially in the enterprise. You know, they don’t have a lot of time to learn new things. They may not even want to learn new things. They’re just trying to solve a problem that will help them grow and scale their business. So, yeah, we’ve seen a little bit more on the technology side. But that’s I think that’s probably to be expected when you have a handful of companies that have never never intended to be working together at one point.
Vandana: Right. Right. So coming, you know, to this stage, just you guys are very, very new. Right. Two years, as you said, what are some of the advantages like that you are harnessing or what are some of the thinking behind making this brand unique and giving that experience, which is different from from your competitors? Like what what’s what’s that passion in the zest behind everything?
Eric: Yeah, that’s a that’s a great question. I think for us, I think our ability to move fast is in many cases, having done this a couple of times is unparalleled to my experiences and many other situations. So I think our ability to react, our ability to understand and really make positive change towards solving that, I think, is one of our biggest advantages.
I think for us, we know exactly where we want to go. We have a longer term, longer term vision around automated commerce. But, you know, the market continues to change. There’s a lot of great capabilities that continue to be at our fingertips, like generative AI and other aspects that are going to allow us to accelerate that vision.
And so our advantage to move fast and really be crisp on what that looks like is super important. And then, of course, the experiences and the experiences and, you know, the various companies that have become part of CART over the past couple of years, like Data Feed Watch, Seller Active, you know, just to name a few, they have their own customer base, they have their own needs, they have their own legacy and successes.
And so learning from those successes, both in terms of the product and the product design themselves, but also how they go to market. And so, you know, when you think about things like product led growth, there’s a lot of a lot of opportunities to learn from each other, take the best of it and again, come back to kind of CART like speed and bring that to market as fast as possible. So I think those are our biggest advantages for that.
And we just have a really we have a sharp team and we’ve got a lot of folks who have a lot of a lot of ambition. They have a lot of experience. They have a lot of diversity in that experience. And so there’s a lot of problem solving that happens very quickly and then we move on. And then so for that, you know, again, compared, you know, in relative to my experiences of the past decade or two, I think I think for me, I find it really exhilarating.
I think for a lot of folks, too, they feel like we can kind of race to the solution and race to those solutions for those customer needs as quickly as we can. So that’s what I like about it. And I think it’s one of CART’s biggest advantages in an area where that’s an unsolved unsolved problem for the market that often has to pick and choose various solutions on the on the market. We’re in many ways all in one. And so you can we help solve that piece for you.
Vandana: Awesome. And how are you capturing like these are different brands that are multichannel, right? And they are in different locations. They are different catering to different people, age groups, generations, whatnot. How do you give them the the end customer? Because you’re potentially probably thinking B2B or is are you also thinking, I mean, you have to think B2C, right? Even if you’re dealing with B2B. So talk to us about about unpacking that. Like, how do you go about this?
Eric: For sure. I heard an interesting phrase this week. So I was at the Forrester B2B summit this week here in Austin. So in kind of in our backyard. And so they they kind of challenged the notion of B2B and B2C. And they said, well, what about B2H? And I thought that was fairly provocative. And, you know, CART is very much B2H, too. And B2H is business to human, right? And so we serve the needs of both B2C and B2B. We have products like our storefront that does a really great job at solving for some of those needs.
And ultimately, our businesses are successful when their businesses are successful as well. And so if you are one of our customers and you have active channels in Amazon and active channels within Facebook and others, you know, we win when you win for that one as well. And so it’s kind of very, very much a B2B orientation. But our customers are having to solve, you know, solve for their needs as well. And having empathy on both sides, I think, allows us to get to B2H, which kind of barring from that as well and solving for that.
Vandana: Awesome. I love that. B2H. Yay. What are some of the interesting things that you’re working on, Eric? I mean, it sounds like your world is so full of, you know, next-gen technologies, bringing the right stuff in and super fast-paced, right, with being a marketplace. What are some of the interesting, passionate things that you are thrilled about?
Eric: Yeah. So for us, I think it’s really having a nice blend of both run the business and change the business priorities as not just a product design team or product experience team, but really a larger software organization. So for us, we’ve got a healthy mix of that. So as recently as this week, we’ve introduced a handful of tools that allow our brands to start to think about their journey on Amazon, start to create things like URLs and start to think about product descriptions and other areas in a way that they may not have as well.
And so having that, you know, so I get excited about, you know, opening our products up to even a larger audience than maybe we’ve had in the past. And so for us, those aspects get me excited because that means we can bring more data and validate that very quickly into the process. And then we’re working on some longer-term concepts. We’ve got to, of course, everything has to have a codename for it. We have a codename for that.
And we’re working on some long-term concepts that will continue to bring this together in a way the market hasn’t seen yet. Again, so, you know, if you look at our journey in just two years, I think we’ve done a really great job of starting to bring together disparate products that are around analytics, channels, storefront, even fulfillment, but the work is hardly, you know, hardly done, right?
And so we’ve got a lot of work to do to bring more automation, as you’d expect, generative AI and other aspects that just, you know, shorten the cycles for, you know, for the marketers, for the brands that have to manage and navigate all this at any one point. We know they want to spend more time with their business and less so with the operation. So let’s go and do that.
Let’s let them worry less about that. Let’s make some suggestions based on what we’re seeing. And one of our biggest assets is the data, you know, for a lot of people who are less familiar with CART, we’ve got over 5,000 customers globally. We process over about 5 billion in GMV and, you know, we also have fulfillment, which is a big part of our business as well, which is over 5 million in square feet.
So this end-to-end piece where we have a lot of data that we can help brands that may not have access that or help brands in the selection process and help brands, you know, take a set of products and be able to promote those across channels, like Amazon, Google, and others, becomes really powerful. And they spend less time worrying and, again, finding their solutions and partnering with us on really just growing and scaling that business.
Vandana: Yeah, I love that. I love the approach that, you know, let them spend more time with their business than on the operations, yeah, to make them successful. Anything else that I haven’t asked you, Eric? This has been such an insightful episode so far.
Eric: You know, I don’t know. You know, I had a chance to listen to some of your other episodes here, and so I’m trying to think of any curveballs you had or anything. I think we’ve covered a lot of it, and, you know, we kind of went through some successes, some failures. You know, there’s, yeah, I think that covers a lot of it, but I think the big takeaway for me, as I often say, is, you know, what’s old is new again. There’s a lot of, I think, a lot to learn about the history and how we’ve done things.
And so when people see and hear, you know, the opportunities, again, around AI and others, you know, embrace it. You know, learn from areas that we probably thought of as an industry 10 plus years ago. Think about the experiences, the questions, challenge those, but know that we’ve probably solved for some of these before in the past, so apply that to what you’re seeing. And so I think that has served me well, and I think would serve kind of your listeners as well as well.
Vandana: Well, thank you so much for joining us today. This was really interesting, and I wish you all the good luck and lessons in all that you’re trying to do and about to launch.
Eric: Excellent. Thank you so much again. I appreciate your time, and thank you so much for having me.