This week, we sat down with our eCommerce Partner Manager Ryan Bloms to discuss his role, the evolution of partnerships at Codal, and why he loves what he does. Keep reading to gain insights into what it’s like to be a partner manager.
You’ve been working at Codal for some time. Let’s start by talking about that. If someone were to ask you what makes Codal unique, what would you say?
"In 4 years I rarely recall hearing being told no. Your voice is heard! Ideas for improvement, project plans, and direction. And in the digital agency landscape, where organizations get bogged down in the process, Codal sets ourselves apart and allows us to thrive!"
Why would someone want to work at Codal?
"Codal is a collective group of problem solvers. We have a reputation for winning and taking on complex projects that other agencies don’t have the experience to deliver. So anyone coming in who wants to be challenged (in a good way) and be proud of the work you produce, Codal is the place for you!"
Your move to formally becoming our eCommerce partnership is relatively new. Can you tell us how the partnership division began?
"In the past 4 years, partnerships was always a third hat that I naturally wore. At the time, it wasn't getting a lot of attention and our focus was on other projects. As soon as we started getting more traction with platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce, the partnerships with those platforms brought in a lot of additional revenue and opportunities. That was when Matt (Codal COO), Keval (Codal CEO), and I really saw the value in partnerships.
With that being said, in a way we are using eCommerce partnerships as a case study. Seeing ‘’what worked, what other areas we could go after, and what makes sense. We were already in the eCommerce space in these partnerships, but we invested a lot of time and money in growing those relationships and saw a huge return on investment. Now, we’re exploring new partnerships and being strategic to make sure we have the team or plans in place for how we are going to tackle new projects."
What is your main goal as the partnership manager?
"My main goal is understanding the entire ecosystem. To make sure that Codal’s name is out there and it's not just BigCommerce and Shopify that know our name. I want to make sure the little plugins we have only used a few times have Codal top of mind. I want to make sure they think and believe that Codal is way cooler than everybody else! I want to become friends with them. It's not just about sales and winning deals. They are people too and they want to work with people that they like. I think that is absolutely one of the biggest reasons we have become so successful in the BigCommerce partnership. Now, it's just about replicating that everywhere else."
How do you measure success as a partnership manager?
"I think the biggest thing for me is that we are all one big team here at Codal. I see the hard work that our project managers, developers, designers put into these projects. If I can help take some of the weight off by answering questions and being able to help them save time on top of everything else they are doing on a project, that’s a huge measure of success for me. And obviously, partnership falls into the sales structure but we don't become the partner of the year unless we can deliver on these projects so it's a full team effort."
Are there any specific partnerships you’re working on building out right now?
"One of the first partnerships we are looking at is becoming an official Amazon Web Services (AWS) partner because we do use them a lot already and there is a formal certification process that goes along with it. Beyond that, there are a lot of different ideas being thrown around. It's just a matter of being strategic and picking which one we want to go after and what’s going to give us a good ROI."
How did Codal get involved in eCommerce projects or where did we see the value in getting involved in eCommerce and why?
"eCommerce started at Codal before I got here. I think it started in 2016 and I got here in 2018. We already had a head start but we were doing a lot of smaller projects. We initially got into the space because of our custom software background. Codal was hired to do some specific backend eCommerce projects for companies whose design agencies could not implement on-premise ERP solutions.
That’s when Matt and Keval realized if we can do the most complex backend portion of an eCommerce project and we have a design team, why can't we do the whole eCommerce site?
There was a retail conference here in Chicago called IRCE. Matt and Keval got a booth at this tradeshow to explore the eCommerce space and it just so happened to line up with the Shopify Plus platform launch. With this brand new offering they unveiled, they were looking for agencies to join their partner program to build out eCommerce sites and become a partner.
Codal was one of the very first Shopify Plus partners! We were in that original group of agencies that were welcomed into the partner program. That is where we truly got our start. But with any partner program, it is hard to get those first sales. We had to convince merchants that we have the ability to do this eCommerce development and explain that we would work with them to make exactly what they want.
When I joined in 2018, we had a handful of these first project examples and were just hitting our stride in eCommerce. We started to work with more integrations and bigger brands and it took off from there on the Shopify side of things. After about six months to a year later, BigCommerce approached us to be a partner, so we took that leap and became certified partners with them as well.
I really see where we are positioned in the eCommerce landscape against other agencies right now. With winning Partner of the Year, we are a sleeping giant that just woke up because we have so many great examples. We are OG Shopify partners. We are the Partner of the Year at Bigcommerce. I truly think in the very near future we are going to have to turn work away."
After winning BigCommerce Partner of the year, what kind of success do you see coming from the award?
"Becoming Partner of the Year at BigCommerce, that's no small feat! One thing I learned in growing our BigCommerce partnership is it’s important to have the right team that can support it. We were set up very well from a design standpoint, but our project management staff had to learn the different nuances between the different eCommerce platforms.
The effort is worth it though because there are going to be a lot of opportunities. This means we can be selective of what projects we want to take on. We’ll be able to work with the biggest and the best types of projects; which is really exciting!! Instead of hustling and grinding to make a name for ourselves, I think that our name is out there now and we can truly take on projects that are interesting and a good fit for us."
How would you like to see Codal’s eCommerce practice expand as well as, how will bringing in Hannah Collins help us expand our eCommerce expertise in the UK?
"I think US Codal eCommerce is set up for success and I think the only thing we would want to change is having more on-shore developers. We have seen a lot of merchants asking for on-shore talent and I think growing that side of our team is a huge goal! BigCommerce and Shopify are exploding throughout Europe. So the fact that Codal already has an office in the UK gives us such an advantage and with all this press we can market it.
Growing out the BigCommerce partner program in the US was a three-year journey! But we are already set up for success in the UK, having an office there and boots on the ground for the last seven to eight years. Plus, we have a story to tell.
Bigcommerce is fairly new in the UK, I think they opened their office about 2 years ago. It is super exciting because we heard that and they advised us to work with them and get in at the ground floor over in Europe. They are able to accept 14 different currencies and meet all of the different European regulations. It is super exciting to see how we are going to be able to grow this out.
On the Shopify side of things, they are investing a ton of money into growing their presence. We want to capitalize on that and add a ton of product offerings to the Shopify Plus platform to compete in B2B spaces. There is a ton of potential there because Shopify is such a big name and we have such a good relationship with them."
What is the best eCommerce platform and why?
"Oh this is an easy answer, it is whatever is right for the merchant. And, I truly mean that! Each merchant has a unique need and we try to take an agnostic approach. We really try to understand the business side of what they have operationally, financially, and with integrations. With an eCommerce front-end, the opportunities are endless. Again, no matter who we are talking to we are going to evaluate what the best fit is for them."
What is the future of the eCommerce industry in your opinion?
"It is such a large question but there are a lot of companies out there that do a ridiculous amount of sales and they don't know what they are missing out on if they were to move to a newer platform, redesign their site or add subscriptions.
In the world we live in now, tech and new products and solutions can help grow businesses so much more. There are a lot of companies that don't even have eCommerce functionality and that is a future! How do we get these companies that are traditionally just in-store or manufacturers that only sell B2B? There is a future for eCommerce everywhere. It makes businesses faster. It's automated. Unfortunately, it eliminates the need for certain jobs. But if these companies invest a little money to bring these experiences online, they will succeed in the long term."
Future stuff like VR (virtual reality). Walmart is coming out with shopping via your VR headset on, but that is too far out there. You could talk about the future of eCommerce for a long time, but I think we as consumers and buyers expect so much from the companies we are buying from. At the end of the day, it is all about the customer experience and how to deliver that to your consumers. Lots of exciting stuff in the future!
Are you interested in joining our team? Check out all of our open positions here.