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How will ecommerce evolve: An interview with GoDaddy’s Greg Goldfarb
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How will ecommerce evolve: An interview with GoDaddy’s Greg Goldfarb

Goldfarb talks about entrepreneurs meeting the challenge of unprecedented change.

Ecommerce has been surging in recent years and COVID-19 has only served to accelerate the trends. With consumers increasingly confident about shopping online while they limit their in-store purchases, small businesses are adapting to the unprecedented pace of change by selling products and providing services wherever their customers are. Nowadays, that can be on a business website, an ecommerce marketplace such as Amazon, social media platforms or even messaging apps. For everyday entrepreneurs the challenge is keeping up with customers and their fast-evolving habits.

Greg Goldfarb, who is VP of Products and Commerce at GoDaddy, admires the resilience and ingenuity of small business owners. "It is amazing to see entrepreneurs figuring out the new context really quickly to adapt and survive."

In his role at GoDaddy, Goldfarb helps empower these small businesses by providing the tools to succeed online and sees how they are shifting their focus to meet the newest needs of their customers.

Protocol sat down with Goldfarb to talk about the rise in ecommerce, the impact of COVID-19 and the major trends emerging this year; how GoDaddy is delivering new capabilities to its 20 million customers worldwide; and how small businesses use those tools to continually attract consumers, sell their services and products, and manage their work.

Can you briefly explain how Covid-19 has fueled change in ecommerce?

Social distancing changed consumer behavior in a way that led to two major changes in ecommerce: First, we are increasingly seeing hybrid operations and businesses where both online and in-person interactions are happening at the same time. For example, curbside and in-store pickup have become more popular, as well as the shift to providing virtual customer services. More and more businesses are requiring you to book ahead, even to reserve a time to shop at a physical store.

The second dynamic is consumers' preference to shop online as much as they can for daily staples as well as discretionary purchases. We're seeing a big uptick in products ordered online that previously consumers would only think to go buy at a brick-and-mortar store.

What other factors are behind the rise of ecommerce?

We have hit the tipping point of consumer confidence that ecommerce will fulfill customers' needs in a trusted way, helped by the prevalence and convenience factor of Amazon Prime. The rise of ecommerce is also driven by what people are able to do from their mobile phones. A purchase is now just a tap away, much more convenient than thinking about hopping in a car and driving somewhere.

Another factor is how easy technology has made it to start and run your own business. People want to take on side gigs and the barriers to start a business online have been broken down.

There are amazing tools to fully set up a business online and we're seeing people take advantage of them to build businesses that look as professional and well-resourced without a ton of time or financial investment on their part.

Do you have examples of how businesses are adapting to incorporate ecommerce into their offerings?

It varies across different types of business. For product sellers that serve a local customer, we're seeing them leveraging online experiences to do it by encouraging customers to place orders in advance or coordinate for curbside pickup. We see this dynamic, not just with takeout pizza, but with everything from bakeries to local produce stands at the farmer's market.

We also see a surge in gift cards, both as they've traditionally been used and as a way for loyal customers to support the small businesses they love through periods of closure.

Services businesses have also seen big changes. Video-based services have meant businesses adapted pretty quickly. You now have Zoom-based yoga classes, tutoring online, consultations, all these have become video-based services.

Another area of adaptation is how we see businesses using tools for customers to book in advance online rather than just walk through the door. When Covid-19 first really kicked in, service bookings dropped dramatically but by the end of 2020, they were actually up year-on-year. It was quite a U-shaped recovery.

But with the increase in bookings there is a challenge for establishments -- they now need to manage the reservations. These bookings may be set up online, or via a call or text, and it can quickly become disorganized. Similarly, consumption is also being driven by so many marketplaces, it can be really complicated for a small business to manage that well because each has a different set of requirements. If you are selling across the multiple channels where consumers are, you can get out of synch and you lose track of whether you have the inventory to match orders. These small businesses need tools and systems that help them easily manage these all kinds of bookings, or all of the ecommerce channels they might list their inventory on.

Are businesses adapting as consumers change their online habits to shop at different marketplaces?

We have seen businesses aggressively expanding to sell across more channels. Their online presence is more important than ever to generate sales. Someone who was selling just on Etsy and their own website can reach more customers by making their products available in all the places people are shopping.

Instagram and Facebook are making major investments to create integrated ecommerce experiences, as well. We are seeing businesses leaning in to sell on Facebook and Instagram. Now entrepreneurs realize that from one place they can sell across multiple marketplaces. That is a novel concept in itself. You have one product catalog and all the tools in one place and you can be up-and-running on various marketplaces.

With an unprecedented acceleration in ecommerce, how does GoDaddy fit into the equation? How do you help these businesses keep up?

GoDaddy is the emerging leader to enable small businesses to sell everywhere. Today that is everywhere online, and soon will be everywhere online as well as in person and over the phone as we integrate capabilities from last year's acquisition of Poynt, which is redefining the in-store shopping and point-of-sale experiences.

As the world of commerce is evolving, there can be a lot of questions and complexity. Our customers want to be able to speak to people as they are evolving, so we've made big investments in 24/7 live customer support. It's not just about providing the product, it's about enabling customer success and that includes that you can call us any time.

How important will mobile experiences be in ecommerce this year?

It is only going to become more and more important. As part of our work to better enable our customers to be successful, we have introduced a lot of improvements for their customer on mobile. We have refined, optimized, customized the mobile experience enabling Apple Pay's tap-to-pay so they don't have to go through a full checkout. Contactless payments overall have been taking off due to Covid-19. We have invested heavily so that small businesses can get up and running with a new store as well as for an existing store or a booking service. All the high-frequency, core activities that somebody would do from the web are as easy if not easier from an app. There is no doubt that mobile is going to be increasingly important this year and going forward.

What main trends do you see emerging this year in ecommerce?

Increasing connectivity between online and in-person is an absolute trend we are excited about that we've discussed. Then there is the trend of conversational expectations. People are seeing each other less in person so messaging is increasing. Messaging is becoming more and more of a transactional and personal shopping experience. Another component of that experience is providing seamless and integrated payments that work across both scenarios whether somebody is buying online or in-person. It's exciting to see the innovation to support new ways of thinking about ecommerce accelerate as fast as ecommerce usage has over the last year.