hero image

Unprepared Ep 48 - Integrations and Building Your Tech Stack with Ryan Lunka

Timestamps

  • [00:00] - Intro
  • [00:34] - Establishing your Ecommerce company 
  • [03:44] - What to look for when building your tech stack
  • [07:26] - Challenges in building your tech stack
  • [08:40] - Insights about custom integration
  • [10:58] - Where to find Ryan

Resources

Key Points

  • When you’re building your own business, you need to have a set of technologies to build on to accomplish the things you need to do. 
  • In building your tech stack--especially when you’re just starting out-- keep in mind that there’s no single SaaS product that can give you all the results you need. It would be better if you would be the one to put together the systems that best suit your business.
  • If you’re going to assemble a bunch of best practice technologies to build your tech stack, they have to talk to one another correctly. Look for native integrations that are available in these products.
  • In building your tech stack, the hard work is about figuring out how to do it by hiring someone who understands how to properly apply the product to your business.
  • The secret sauce to building your tech stack is having someone-- internally or outsourced-- who is able to master translating your business’ needs in and out to those technical requirements.
  • Most of the time, not knowing your exact reason for building your own custom tech stack can be a very expensive mistake. Always know your reason first.

Transcript

Chase Clymer  

Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of unprepared. I'm your host Chase Clymer… screwing up the intro like always.

But this is a great one. This is the last one I'm recording in 2020, this won't come out till next year, but I've got a great guest on the show today. Ryan, welcome to the show. How are you doing? 

Ryan Lunka

Doing great, thanks for having me on. 

Chase Clymer  

You're welcome, also, so let's just dive right in here. Today we're talking about integrations and building out your tech stack.

There's a lot of stuff to consider. We talked about it a little bit before but I'm just going to hand it over to you and let you get the ball rolling and then I'll ask some question. 

Ryan Lunka

Sure. So really the place you want to start is when you're building out your e-commerce company, it's not just your e-commerce website.

You got a whole bunch of other technologies that you have to build around that or implement around that to accomplish all the things you need to do.Things like email marketing, things like your accounting and there's a whole long list of what those are. 

So I have a perspective on some things that I would bias you towards as you're evaluating which one of the many options you have out there to select given part of that tech stack. 

Chase Clymer

Absolutely.

Ryan Lunka

So I usually look for... you know I have a SaaS company or at least a cloud-based software company that serves some purpose in your e-commerce business that's gonna benefit you in a few ways 

One, it's getting a better uptime generally, because it's something that lives in the cloud and it something that you have to manage on servers. Or you don't rely on somebody to manage on servers.

And you're just going to tend to have a closer to 100 uptime in an environment like that. 

It also tends to give you more predictable costs because those are priced as just a flat subscription based on how much functionality you want or at least some predictable algorithm based on usage.

And that helps you either flatten out your cash flow or make it more predictable, or at least be able to understand how your costs are going to grow as your business does.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I mean I just want one thing to point out here. If you're young in the game and you're just getting into it. I'm just gonna burst your bubble there is no magic bullet there's not one thing that will do it all. 

Ryan Lunka

Nope.

Chase Clymer  

The reason being is if everything's important, nothing is important. So when SaaS companies take that approach and they try to do everything for everybody, it's usually a giant piece of garbage. 

Ryan Lunka

Yeah, they usually have one core product. That's probably a pretty good one that they built the business on. And then they build all these halfway versions of all the rest of the features to say "Oh yeah we did that too"  to try to convince you not to go to another vendor. 

Occasionally some of those secondary features that they have are useful and you can get value out of them.

Chase Clymer

It will get the job done.

Ryan Lunka

Yeah. And sometimes that simplicity is worth the trade-off, but if you really want a best of breed solution for email marketing, for instance, go to best of breed solutions for email marketing.

Don't necessarily rely on that as a second-tier feature for another product. 

Chase Clymer  

Here's a perfect example in the ecosystem right now. Shopify launched email marketing that is 1,000% geared towards startups to help them offset costs.

But if you are looking to use that Shopify you know marketing feature at a plus level at an enterprise-level brand, you're addressing a disaster. 

Ryan Lunka

Exactly, and I don't even think that Shopify intends more than that. It's enough to get you started and understand how to do email marketing to support your online business. 

And then they've got a full partner ecosystem of best practice vendors out there that can take you to the next level. They had to know way deeper functionality for that and when you're up for that plus level that's what you need. That's where you're at as a business. 

Chase Clymer  

You want to lend yourself towards investigating the solutions that are best in the breed. These are what I should be looking for when I'm building out this technology, I'm going to use this because once you make the investment you set things up the right way, the switching cost is almost detrimental. 

Ryan Lunka

Yeah, absolutely. One thing you can do that is sort of non-technical I think this is pretty useful is as you're evaluating all these technologies once I have overlapping communities or overlapping ecosystems tends to help. 

So if the support people and the implementation people and the executives and all these different companies know each other. They go to the same events they're running circles that helps because they're all familiar with one another and understand where they all fit together as a piece for you as a merchant.

But when you go beyond just the sort of “we're all friends here strategy”. Ultimately, if you're going to assemble a bunch of best practice technologies that aren't one big product together to build your tech stack, they have to talk to one another correctly. 

So, certainly, look for native integrations that are built on these products. For example, a lot of them are going to have a native integration with Shopify if and if you're building an e-commerce business on Shopify, then that's awesome. 

But you're also going to have to integrate so many things to your ERP or your accounting system to WMS's if you're managing warehouses or maybe your third-party logistics provider is. Sometimes even the marketplace and this there's a whole bunch of different things you need to tie together and make data pass between them. 

So you want to look for technologies that have open APIs that enable themselves to be integrated into other systems. Then you're gonna have to evaluate integration providers out there that can provide services and or software and where to make all that stuff talk to one another, and there's a lot of things we can get into there about how you evaluate the right partner for you. 

Chase Clymer 

Yeah, I mean just because the software has an open API and they see that data is available...I guess to someone that isn't actually savvy they might just think it's a quick point and click and point and the data at the right place and it is not that simple

You need a data architect to manipulate that data, to transmit that data appropriately, in the right way or format, the right amount of times. Is it real-time? Is it every 15 minutes? 

There's so much stuff and that's talking about 1 piece of data and you gotta do that for a hundred pieces of data that you want to send. They need to send the data back if that data means something. 

There's gonna be two-way sync, one-way sync, and that's kind of the world that you came from and now also still in with being an integration specialist, right?

Ryan Lunka

Exactly. So, the open API is important, but it's a prerequisite, not a solution in and of itself. So when you have a bunch of best practice systems that you want to assemble in your tech stack, they have open API's that I have the ability to talk to other ones, you're gonna enlist the services of either what's called an integration platform as a service provider, or IPaaS as what you'll hear pretty often.

And those can be everything from Workato to Celigo to even ones that handle simpler use cases like Zapier, and those are some big logos in here but there's a long tail of ones available. And or you're going to enlist the services of either your agency if they do this work, or what's called a solution integrator.

This is somebody whose job is to be that data architect, and provide professional services to help you understand what did it needs to go where you need your business cases to automate the workflows and the business needs, and then help you implement all that on one of those integration platforms. 

Chase Clymer 

Yeah, I mean I oftentimes think that the hard work in automation or data mapping, and all that stuff. The hard work isn't actually doing it, the hard work is figuring out how to do it. 

It's what actually needs to happen here because it goes back to the viewer just being stupid, and they only do exactly what you tell them to do, and they don't think about things.

So if you tell it to do something the wrong way, it does it a thousand times. It's just gonna break it. 

Ryan Lunka

Exactly.

Chase Clymer

So I think the hard part is actually hiring someone that understands data structures and how data needs to be transferred, and the different types of databases and different types of languages that these databases are manipulated with.

That's where the actual solution lies, not the technology sometimes. There are 10 automation out there that do the exact same thing. 

Ryan Lunka

Absolutely. 10 years ago would have been a different story. But we're in a nice place today where the technology for taking data out of one API and putting it into another is pretty darn good. There's a lot of really strong options on the market that meet all kinds of different use cases.

The secret sauce is having somebody either internally or somebody that you outsource to an SI or somebody an agency, who is able to master the art of translating your business needs in and out of those technical requirements so that you can tell the thing to move data in a way that actually does what you want it to do. 

Chase Clymer 

Absolutely. But now I want to carry out this whole entire conversation with the type of business we're talking about where you would probably want to approach building a customer integration, through an open API.

Do you have a sales number where you should do an X amount of year where this would make sense and actually be worth it? Or like kind of a volume or just where they're at in their business life cycle?

I just want to say startups don't need to worry about this halftime. (Laughs)

Ryan Lunka

Yeah, if you're doing to start up and somebody if you're a startup and you're saying we need a custom integration back so we need to custom build this thing my immediate reactions.

I'd say why because you don't have a really really strong reason. Maybe it's something you're doing that's totally proprietary to do that custom that early in the business, then you're probably making an expensive decision. 

Chase Clymer 

An expensive mistakes sometimes. 

Ryan Lunka

Exactly, exactly. Now I'm not gonna say is 100% of the time, but it's pretty darn close to 100% of the time.

You know as you grow to, you know, making a million in revenue, maybe even a little higher 10 or 20 million in revenue, you may start to find reasons that you need to have custom-built integrations for some of these things. 

You have to remember as an e-commerce merchant unless we're doing something very very unique, this is a business model that's been around digitally for, you know, 20 years and in the analog for hundreds of years. 

The chances that you are reinventing retail in some way that justified some really really heavy technology investment that's totally custom to you are actually still pretty small.

So I'm pretty heavily biased towards look for best practice tools that have done this many times before I've seen many permutations of what it looks like and can help you get the job done. 

Chase Clymer 

Yeah, you hit the nail on the head right there. I think that the only thing that, you know, when you think, say you said like 10 and $20 million marks...in my head it's like yeah those guys are doing omnichannel and then a real-time data, moving between their Amazon and then there, you know their API that fires off the walmart.com and retargets into their actual Shopify store.

You don't need a real-time, which you know usually is an off the shelf when you're using three different API's with a database that manages all your variants in a weird creepy way like everyone's does various differently so that's usually what the thing is. But now we're just feeling really down the rabbit hole. 

What would be a good reason for someone to reach out to you? What are you best at and why should people reach out to you if they need help. 

Ryan Lunka

So, I actually liked that you brought up the need for that solution integrator or that data architect role in the projects because that's really where the complexity of these things are. 

So, we offer services and products to actually make that part of the integration project easier, we don't have an integration platform, we are solving a bigger problem which is, how do you make it easier to actually make it through these projects successfully. 

So if you are an agency or you are a software vendor in the e-commerce space and you're looking for help figuring out your integration strategy and how you play in this world where your customers and merchants have to assemble a textbook tech stack. That's something we help with both in terms of technology we excel in the services that we offer. 

And certainly, if you're a merchant, we're not typically working with merchants as our customers but if you use advice for what you're looking at or how to be thinking about some of these things.

Absolutely, feel free to reach out to us, and then we can help at least point you in the right direction if we don't want to work for you. 

Chase Clymer 

Awesome, Ryan thank you so much for coming on today and sharing all of your insights. I'm sure all of your contact information in the show notes, and I'll talk to you soon. 

Ryan Lunka

Great, thank you.