In this interview series, we are talking to founders, CEOs, and ecommerce business leaders about choosing the best platform for ecommerce. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Gellert.
What led you to this specific career path?
For me, marketing has always been at the intersection of business strategy and customer advocacy, which combines my strengths and interests. And I’ve always been purpose-driven—I gravitated to a role connected to financial technology that supports small businesses because of the long-term relationships you can develop and the benefits you can provide these businesses that are the cornerstone of our communities.
As CMO of Clover, I get to pursue all these passions: marketing, fintech, and small business.
What are three traits about yourself that you feel helped fuel your success?
- I’m focused and work hard to keep my team focused. There are always a million things you could do, a million things you can test to improve, yet if everyone is working on their own set of ideas, you end up with a thousand wildflowers blooming, which is pretty but doesn’t have the impact of a large redwood. I spend a lot of time helping focus my team, which means ensuring we spend time on things with the highest impact and get comfortable telling ourselves and others no.
- I’m a fierce customer advocate. Being financially driven and customer-oriented doesn’t need to be mutually exclusive. Since marketing tees up what the expectations of our product are, I am a constant champion and voice of the customer in executive decision-making.
- I love coaching and developing leaders. The best way to get the leverage you need to advance your career is to have a high-performing team. I have always spent a lot of my time providing coaching and feedback, ensuring that people on my team have actionable professional and career development plans, and steering people toward their strengths.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) employ the largest number of people in the U.S. and contribute to nearly half of our GDP. SMBs are a vital part of our economy—one that has often been underserved when it comes to technology.
Clover has always been committed to helping SMBs run their businesses better and grow. Small business owners and their employees have jobs to do, and we believe in a best-of-breed approach to meeting their needs through expanding our own solutions and those of our growing set of partners. And as we expand those offerings, we advance the Clover commitment to providing SMBs with the best tools tailored to their unique needs.
As an example, we’ve recently launched improved hardware. We updated our best-selling Clover Mini to its third generation, along with launching a refreshed Clover Flex handheld device. These are some of the fastest payment devices on the market, capable of running an entire business from a compact, space-saving form factor.
Additionally, we’ve rebuilt our mobile app, providing an overhauled experience that makes it easier than ever to accept card-present and card-not-present payments, manage and track business outside the store, and more.
What was the original vision for your ecommerce business? What pain point(s) were you trying to solve for your customers?
When Clover was originally founded, it was focused primarily on the in-store experience. We’ve evolved a lot since then and now consider ecommerce a vital component of an easy-to-use, seamless omnicommerce experience. We’ve had great success making the reality of omnichannel commerce accessible to all.
Specifically, we want merchants to be able to sell their products in their stores and online to their extended audiences using a system that serves as a single source of truth for payments, inventory, orders, and customers.
Additionally, in the realm of card-not-present transactions, we want to make it simple for our merchants to get paid. We have robust invoicing and recurring billing products available for all merchants, many ways to take payments on the go with or without our hardware, and an extensive suite of APIs and gateway plug-ins for a variety of ecommerce platforms and websites.
Tell us more about the Clover platform, key features, and partners you work with to serve ecommerce businesses.
The Clover platform is quite extensive in terms of native features and functionality. We have robust inventory management, order management, and customer management systems, making it easy to run a business based on up-to-date information. Pairing that with our partner network, Clover delivers true omnicommerce experiences for offline and online transactions.
For example, BigCommerce helps us serve businesses that need integrated brick-and-mortar and ecommerce webstore solutions, and SKU IQ helps deliver integrated inventory and order management capabilities.
When should an ecommerce business consider switching platforms? Which factors should drive a decision to make a change or upgrade?
Switching ecommerce platforms is never a small decision. For smaller businesses, things like ease of use and price are usually the primary drivers for preference. But as businesses scale up, they start thinking about things differently as their needs change.
Some platforms are naturally scalable to handle large traffic volumes, while others require a bit more technical input.
Merchants might decide that they want to expand into other shopping channels like TikTok, Etsy, Amazon, and Instagram, but their current platform doesn’t yet support that.
Other times, the complexity of the business drives merchants to look for better multi-storefront support and cross-border sales out of the box. Moving into brick-and-mortar sales from an ecommerce-only model can also drive the change.
At the end of the day, merchants want a platform that enables them to grow their business and continues to offer the right tools for their stage of growth. If that ceases to be the case, it’s probably time to switch.
Given the number of ecommerce platform options available, what are your top five questions you need to ask to choose the best platform for ecommerce?
From my perspective, the top five questions to ask to choose the best platform for ecommerce are:
1. Are you starting from scratch or working with an existing store/website?
It’s important to know how big you are thinking with your online business. Selling a few products here and there? You might be able to keep using your existing website and augment it through add-ons or custom development work. Looking to become an ecommerce powerhouse? You should probably be looking at self-contained SaaS platforms to get started.
2. Do you need to connect your offline and online businesses, or are you just selling online?
When you have inventory that you’re selling both offline and online, it’s important to have systems that talk to each other and keep things in sync.
3. How tech-savvy are you?
Some platforms are turnkey and don’t require much technical knowledge. Others, like open-source platforms, require certain skill sets to maximize functionality. You also want to know how serviceable a platform is. Find out how big the partner network is in case you do want to hire someone for help.
4. Do you have room to grow?
Is the platform you chose going to accommodate your expected growth? Look at what sort of volume you expect to do, how big your inventory will be, and the overall costs incurred when you scale. Is there enough runway for your intended growth over 5+ years? If not, that might not be the platform for you.
5. How do you plan to fulfill orders?
Order fulfillment is a very labor-intensive aspect of running an ecommerce business.
Ask yourself: Are you making your own products? Dropshipping? Mostly local? Shipping globally? In a competitive space where speedy delivery will make or break your business?
Some ecommerce players make it incredibly easy to operate shipping logistics at scale, while others rely heavily on partners. Ideally, you want to select a system that can meet your business needs should order fulfillment skyrocket.
Is there a specific feature or functionality you haven’t found in any platform that you would love to have? What is it, and why?
Livestream shopping capability is something I haven’t seen natively on ecommerce platforms yet. It is possible to experiment with social channels and other platforms, but I think livestream shopping is going to be something we see more of in the future.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The Clover website is a tremendous resource for small business owners. Aside from a thorough guide on Clover product offerings, the website offers resources to guide small business owners every step of the way.
The Clover blog and small business resource center offer ideas, insight, and best practices for growing a small business and overcoming everyday challenges owners may face.
And don’t forget to check out Clover Academy, a webinar series covering a range of topics designed specifically for small businesses.
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