Decoded Episode 01
April 26, 2022

Decoded: Developer to Consumer

The most overlooked buying center in digital commerce today is the developer. Before the SaaS era, developers were a key focus of marketing and sales initiatives for enterprise software, but today, it’s the marketer who often makes decisions for eCommerce. Decoded, our newest limited series brought to you by Spryker, aims to bridge the gap between developer and marketer as our hosts, Phillip Jackson, and Boris Lokschin of Spryker talk through current events, trends, and the platform wars.

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this episode sponsored by

The Metaverse: Innovation or Skinnovation?

  • The metaverse we’re building right now is not the metaverse we’ll all end up using…if we end up using the metaverse at all. 
  • Don’t worry about what competitors and enterprises are doing in the metaverse, worry instead about how you should break into this new world.
  • “The current Web3 and metaverse implementation that we see today feels like small teams of developers who have created something really unique and they're going direct to their own consumer. And that feels fundamentally different than what we have seen in the past.”
  • Developers used to need layers of translation, project managers, and program managers to get a job done. Today’s developers are going directly to their customers. We call this the Developer DTC.
  • People were always collecting items & attaching value to items. NFTs are not a new phenomenon. The technology enables this behavior in a new way. 
  • Unlike Web2 and the telegram, which were built as information-first technologies to which commerce added value, the metaverse seems to be about commerce before information.
  • “Low-code and no-code capabilities make it easy to kind of create a new generation of developers. Low-code and no-code unlocks a lot of potential in developers to spend time on sales and marketing and other things.” - Boris

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Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on Futurecommerce.fm, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Phillip: [00:00:02] Welcome to Decoded, a podcast by Future Commerce, presented by Spryker. The most overlooked buying center in digital commerce today is the developer. Now hear me out. Before the SaaS era, developers were [00:00:20] a key focus of marketing and sales initiatives for enterprise software. But today, it's the marketer who often makes decisions for eCommerce, and it's often based on what other competitors are doing. In this podcast series, we will address the chasm between the developer and the marketer. And [00:00:40] we're going to speak through current events, tectonic changes, ecosystem threats, technology trends, and the platform wars. And finally, we're going to build a bridge between the two. Developer and marketer. I'm Phillip.

Boris: [00:00:59] I'm Boris, [00:01:00] Co-Founder and CEO of Spryker.

Phillip: [00:01:02] And this is Decoded. The Metaverse is the buzzword of the day. But the truth is that people building and investing in the Metaverse right now, well, they're not building the Metaverse [00:01:20] that we all will wind up using if we wind up using it at all. And if anyone is successful in building a Metaverse, we haven't heard of them yet. They don't exist because the future takes a long time to build. Today's podcast will unpack the reasons why instead of [00:01:40] worrying what competitors and enterprises like Nike and Walmart are doing, how you should break into this new virtual world, and how businesses can get their digital presences up to date and build it from Scratch. Boris and I have deep thoughts on this based on our wealth of experience and decades of creating [00:02:00] the web that we all use today. The old world, if you will. The old world that uses old rules of product and eCommerce. Let's dive into how developers and marketers can recognize whether the Metaverse is innovation or skin ovation and if it stands up to the hype. In [00:02:20] this series, we're talking about the role of the developer. An old [00:02:40] style of a business many, many years ago went direct to developer to grow their technology platform and stack. I think about the old PayPal days. Certainly Stripe has built a business around developer engagement and developer ecosystem. In fact, a lot of the companies that are heavily capitalized these days really focus  [00:03:00]on developer. It's very interesting that this feels more like developer to consumer instead of business to consumer. The current Web3 and Metaverse implementation that we see today, like the moment we live in today, feels like small teams of developers who have created something really unique and they're going direct to their own [00:03:20] consumer. And that feels fundamentally different than what we have seen in the past. Does this role reversal feel interesting enough to maybe talk about the role of the developer and sort of maybe the duality of the developer/marketer relationship here that's [00:03:40] maybe a signaling of a return back to the importance of the developer in the conversation of commerce?

Boris: [00:03:46] I like the idea of the developer to consumer.

Phillip: [00:03:51] It's the new DTC.

Boris: [00:03:53] New DTC. Exactly. Let's misuse or let's use this term. I think [00:04:00] it makes a lot of sense, pretty much like D to C, like we see it in business when brands try to bypass certain stages and certain levels that are not necessarily adding value, but rather capitalizing on value that somebody else created. If you're a manufacturer or if you're a brand, you [00:04:20] own the product, right? You manufacture it, you own the brand exterior, etc. So for many, many years, you, of course, have the entire food chain of wholesale and distributors and retail. People basically trying to capitalize on the actual value, which is the product. And then some of them by adding value [00:04:40] or taking some complexity out. But many unfortunately are not. That's why they get under pressure nowadays. And why now, as technology enables the brands to go directly to consumers, they do. And for developers, I think it's pretty much the same analogy. If you think back like 15, or 20 years, this developer was not [00:05:00] a well-respected, so to say, member of the organization. You needed all these layers in between. You needed a project manager who was already more respected right back then. So because he was the one who could articulate what the developer does and talk to the customer [00:05:20] and shield guard...

Phillip: [00:05:21] That's right.

Boris: [00:05:22] ...the developer way. You needed...

Phillip: [00:05:23] The translation layer.

Boris: [00:05:24] You needed... Yeah. You needed people. You need a program manager above the project manager. You needed an account manager to talk commercials with the customer. You needed the salespeople, the marketing people to package what the developer was doing so the customer understands it. So you needed all these layers pretty much. D to C brands [00:05:40] need all these layers to eventually... Or needed all these layers. And they are now going away because technology becomes so easy to master. It was never easier to build an app. It was never easier to build a business. Everything is abstracted.

Phillip: [00:05:56] We are in the midst of a [00:06:00] tectonic shift in technology, Boris. All I see on my Twitter timeline is Metaverse, NFTs, Web3. But I start to wonder if that means that what we're building today isn't durable anymore. And I certainly get the questions all the time. What is your strategy around Web3? [00:06:20] What is your thinking today about the Metaverse as it stands right now?

Boris: [00:06:26] So I am personally super excited about Metaverse. I think this is very interesting, especially NFTs. I think it's going to be huge because if you think about it fundamentally, people were always collecting [00:06:40] items, there was always value attached to something which didn't actually have the value in itself as a product. From stamps to coins, to rare and or first LPs, to other physical objects. So this is not a new phenomenon that people  [00:07:00]are wondering nowadays why someone would pay like 100 thousand dollars for certain shoes.

Phillip: [00:07:07] Right.

Boris: [00:07:09] Or buy a digital property or...

Phillip: [00:07:13] Or bitcoin, even.

Boris: [00:07:14] A Bitcoin even. Yeah. But I don't think that fundamentally this is not a new thing.  [00:07:20]It's just that the new technology enables this now in a way which is super exciting. And we'll see where it gets us.

Phillip: [00:07:31] None of these things would be possible without a change in sort of the underlying technologies that power. It's one thing to create demand. I read this book [00:07:40] called the Victorian Internet and it talked about the utility... We talk about utility a lot within NFTs... The utility that the telegram provided in the 1800s and early 1900s. But the utility that cemented the telegram as [00:08:00] being worth the infrastructure investment and the physical hardware and the transcontinental investment was when you could transact commerce on it. But that came so much later in the telegram cycle. Same with the internet. It was about information before it was about commerce. The Metaverse seems to be about commerce before anything else. [00:08:20] I'm curious what your take is on whether that's the fundamental difference here, and that it started with currencies and it started with goods, digital goods. And whether that itself is a fundamental shift for us in the way that we think about new technology [00:08:40] changes.

Boris: [00:08:41] I personally think it is. Again, at the end of the day, it has pros and cons. I think the pro is maybe that it's clearly a sign that we are doing well enough as a society that we can spend time and money on [00:09:00] all these things and buy ourselves a virtual apartment and put a virtual painting on the wall and invite our virtual friends in their virtual sneakers for a virtual burger.

Phillip: [00:09:19] So [00:09:20] is the Metaverse hip or is it hype? One recurrent theme on Future Commerce in the podcast for the past year has been this idea that we have a plurality of identity. This is not a new idea or concept. We often fulfill different roles in our companies [00:09:40] and our family units, in society, and in our various communities. We self-organize around these roles, and our identities can be fundamentally unique and distinct in each of these roles. For instance, I'm a father. I'm also a developer. I'm also [00:10:00] a runner. I have a circle of friends for each of these. And the topics of conversation and the things that we think about and the things that we deem as important couldn't be more diverse among each of these groups. But I'm just one person, right? Maybe a digital future where we can be whoever [00:10:20] we want to be is more true to who we actually are. Is that really then a departure from the "real world?" Or is that a more authentic existence? And if a developer can help to bring that world into being and create that space for people to be [00:10:40] more authentic, is that worth taking note of?

Boris: [00:10:48] I think the answer is time will tell. So we will see whether there is enough demand. It's pretty much like platforms like TikTok. If you think about what's going [00:11:00] on there. And I'm 36 years old and I already have hard times figuring it out and seeing myself there and posting it. So I think we all understood. Linkedin and Twitter well and Facebook well, and then comes Instagram and Snapchat. And I don't personally... I would have a hard time understanding why someone would want to [00:11:20] send pictures with a rainbow coming out of someone's mouth. {laughter} But still there is demand for it, right? Hundreds of millions of users think that there is value in it. Whatever value means to them. So at least enough value to invest their time. And I think this will be the same here with Metaverse and with NFTs [00:11:40] and the like. I mean, big corporates try to have the first-mover advantage, you know, figure it out and see whether this is just a spike in the trend. It might go away. And this guy tells me that, you know, he took $100,000, which is a lot for him in his savings. And he bought a [00:12:00] small property and built a virtual burger store. And he now sells these virtual burgers. And he was super excited about it. And I asked myself, hmm, he could have maybe built and opened two or three more restaurants. But he decided [00:12:20] to sell the virtual NFT-based burgers, so to say. And so he understood the concept. And he understands the scalability of it and he understands the reach and he understands being first to market. He understands all of this, either intentionally or just...

Phillip: [00:12:39] Successful [00:12:40] businessperson. Successful entrepreneur.

Boris: [00:12:42] Exactly. Right. So, yeah, he might just feel that there is something, but it's super interesting that it's not just digital companies or it's not just us to understand this. It's really down-to-earth entrepreneurs and business people who decide to invest in a virtual [00:13:00] burger store instead of a physical one. And I think the bad, the flip side of it is definitely that it's also maybe a sign of the society going in the wrong direction. I mean, imagine... It reminds me a little bit of these Matrix movies, [00:13:20] right? I mean, imagine a world, and if you combine what happens now with Corona people sitting at home afraid of making social contacts, not meeting anybody, desperate, sad, small one-bedroom apartments and spending their entire money, but looking very good in their virtual world, having a very nice [00:13:40] avatar, well-dressed, cool apartment, everything is cool, and spending all their money while the real world is dark and gray. And so I think we need to figure out as a society how we can leverage this technology best. Obviously, we figure it out. So back to your [00:14:00] telegram example, right? We figure out how to use it for the sake of good maybe. But we need to figure out what to do with this new opportunity. You can have infinite access to computing power, scalability, [00:14:20] AI, algorithms, search, whatever this is, and I think this changes the role of the developer, and also low code no code capabilities make it easy to kind of create a new generation of developers. I mean, my kids are six and eight and they started [00:14:40] doing computer cloud and computer science. So the first class they took was based on a language called Scratch. And which basically is Scratch gives you pretty much like the program that Apple has with the Swift.

Phillip: [00:14:51] Right. Right, exactly.

Boris: [00:14:52] So it was a no code or low code editor, so to say. And within 60 minutes they were able to program a robot who was doing something and [00:15:00] talking and playing with a ball. And I was excited. I was like, this was 60 Minutes, you know, he is six years old. It's the first time he's basically telling a machine, a computer, to do something and it works. And you get instant feedback right. And I think this unlocks a lot of potential in developers to spend time on [00:15:20] sales and marketing.

Phillip: [00:15:21] Right, the things that actually drive adoption.

Boris: [00:15:25] Exactly.

Phillip: [00:15:26] You're making such a really powerful point for me because I think about what it used to be like to be a developer. If you get started writing code or when I got started [00:15:40] writing code, I said, "Okay, I want to write code. Where do I start? And I'm going to find a how-to guide." And, "Okay, well, first I need to install, I don't know. Python or PHP." Let's say that because for me that's kind of where it started. So [00:16:00] I needed to install this programing language or something to interpret that and do something with it. But that doesn't come installed by default on my machine. So I have to install Homebrew to be able to install that. But you can't install Homebrew until you install the command utilities for Mac. It's like it becomes this Russian [00:16:20] nesting doll of problems to solve that requires you not to focus on the problem or the interesting part of the work that you're trying to do but on all of the runtimes and the layers between you and the code and the thing that interprets or compiles the code. None of that exists anymore. I think about your [00:16:40] example, Scratch, my kids do the same. It's Scratch code they have even like these pluggable blocks, the logic blocks.

Boris: [00:16:48] Just move them around and reorder and rearrange them and learn...

Phillip: [00:16:55] Control logic. They're learning how to do these things, but they have a runtime [00:17:00] that's already solved for them. Effectively that's what blockchain is. The worst explanation that I have heard for people that have made a bull case for the Metaverse or any blockchain-enabled technology, is blockchain is this ledger that's immutable. And I think that is the most nerdy [00:17:20] developer way of describing a solution to a problem that is common. In reality, it is this global distributed compute platform that requires no one to have to stand up infrastructure for you to be able to create something and put it out into the world and other people use it.

Boris: [00:17:38] Basically commoditizing a [00:17:40] super complex piece of technology, making it simple and accessible so that other people can start innovating on top of this platform. Like in the early days, people build programing languages so that other people could build something based on programming languages. Then, you know, people build applications and then other people build an ecosystem [00:18:00] around applications to monetize the actual application. So it's pretty much the same thing. And again, what will it look like? I don't know. We will see.

Phillip: [00:18:13] I had written a byline recently for The Drum that talked about we [00:18:20] are in the midst of a cycle change that creates the greatest opportunity for a reskilling of a workforce that technology has ever seen and hasn't seen really since the iPhone created an app store that caused a bunch of people to have to learn Objective-C. This [00:18:40] changeover of people from all corners of technology and cloud ecosystem to now become solidity developers or what have you. And they're now deploying this functionality and utility on a blockchain is a fundamental shift in the way that we think. And [00:19:00] there's no concentration of technology. No agency ecosystem. Really, what we have are small independent operators that are pseudo-anonymous. You don't know who they are. They're a Twitter avatar, effectively.

Boris: [00:19:14] Okay. Yeah. Democratization, let's call it.

Phillip: [00:19:16] Exactly.

Boris: [00:19:17] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:19:18] And that small, that ecosystem [00:19:20] I find to be the thing that's missing before we can have more experimentation and more adoption. So we have toys right now. We need something that's more advanced than that. And that takes time to build. I've been doing eCommerce for, let me say 18 years, maybe. Look [00:19:40] at how long it's taken us to have all of the infrastructure needed to be able to build that. Think about all the legacy software that exists in the world. If you have the SAPs and the Hybris of the world, this is now we're at the beginning of a new cycle. [00:20:00] Is it not 15 years away before there's a real enterprise business value or some sort of like large durable consumer base that is always looking for digital goods and looking to transact digitally in the Metaverse? I guess that's the question I'm asking.

Boris: [00:20:18] People thought the same about Bitcoin [00:20:20] and the same about crypto, right? And now there are hundreds of thousands of different cryptocurrencies. And I think no one argues that crypto is here to stay. All the large banks from Jp Morgan, Goldman Sachs, are all actively now managing portfolios of crypto for their customers. This was never, [00:20:40] I don't think people would have imagined that this would happen. This would happen so fast. But again, they are not doing it for fun. They are doing it because there is demand. So even their large customers like pension funds and family offices, they are apparently asking for this asset class. And by the way, this is what [00:21:00] to your question, this is what ultimately might or very likely will create commercial opportunity. Because there will be people, not just for developers who will monetize their skills by building this and providing this. But also for brands, of course, and for the companies and maybe even for maybe the next generation of commerce vendors, commerce technology [00:21:20] providers like we are today. I think now it's we are more in the experimentation stage, the technology, and the underlying infrastructure is there. So now people will hopefully pretty much like with the Internet in the early days. People will figure it out. Is it more about websites? Is it more about commerce? It's about everything. And it definitely [00:21:40] will be interesting to watch. I would personally be not surprised if in three or four or five years from now, again, the next generation of, for example, commerce technology will be focused on providing infrastructure in the Metaverse. And not to enable like we do it today. Right? Enable like B to B, B to C, whatever customers to sell their [00:22:00] more or less physical products or services for physical products in the real world.

Phillip: [00:22:06] Thanks so much for listening to Decoded. You can find more episodes of this podcast and all Future Commerce podcast properties at FutureCommerce.fm. You can also subscribe to our newsletter, which comes out three times a week [00:22:20] at FutureCommerce.fm/Subscribe. This special series of Future Commerce is brought to you by Spryker, the commerce platform to futureproof your business. Hey, it's a challenge right now in 2022. You have to be about more than [00:22:40] just selling online. The market is shifting and new technologies are changing the game every day. And that's why innovation and agility should be at the top of your list to be able to stay competitive. And that's why the Spryker Excite Conference is so exciting. At the Spryker Excite Conference, you'll gain pioneering insight from [00:23:00] industry leaders. You're going to learn about how to win new and future commerce projects, and you'll be inspired by the amazing speaker lineup and fellow attendees. If you want to learn more and register for the event, go to Spryker.com/FutureCommerce to learn more [00:23:20] and register. And we'll see you in June in Nashville at Spryker Excite.

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