A recap of our AMA (ask me anything) with Jonathan Poma

Today, April 16th, Jonathan Poma, CEO of Rocketcode.io joined us in the #AMA (ask me anything) channel and answered a ton of great questions.

We are now doing #AMA sessions every week that feature top Shopify Experts, store owners and more. If you'd like to participate in the chat, join now.

Here is the transcript from the latest Talk Shopify #AMA Session.

tjmapes Let’s get started. It’s my pleasure to welcome our next guest Jonathan Poma of RocketCode.io!

Thanks again for taking time out of your day to answer some questions for us @poma. I’ll let you take it from here :simple_smile:

poma Hey guys

Really excited about this. I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of rocketcode.io — We’re a Shopify Expert and a certified Shopify Plus Partner. We build apps, and we do quite a bit of custom theme design and development, work with some exciting brands, and believe strongly in performance-driven design.

Feel free to ask questions about anythign, but in terms of some things that I think we do pretty well — we have a pretty buttoned-up Sales Ops process, we’re pretty strong with (though I hate the word/acronym) CRO. Feel free to ask away about anything. I’m not an engineer by trade, but if you have any really technical questions, I’ll probably serve ‘em up to @josh.

Ready when you guys are. Fire away :simple_smile:

tjmapes Are you a fan of Game of Thrones?

tjmapes 😄

poma Haha. Yessir, @tjmapes. Haven’t started this season though. Trying to get through Season 3 of The Americans. I get lost if I watch too many shows concurrently. Hah

matthew joined #ama

tjmapes What made you guys choose the name Rocketcode ?

80stees What do you guys do for Chubbies?

poma Haha. It really fit with the “Explorer” mantra that we carry internally, i think. That, and we could get a decent .co and .io domain for it

gavin Thanks for jumping on board, @poma! Would love to get a bit of backstory on RocketCode - did you start w/ apps, or were you doing client work first?

marissa @poma how long have you been a shopify expert/partner?

poma @80stees: umm…quite honestly, if it’s for their brand and it touches the internet, we do it. We didn’t design their theme, but we’ve enhanced it a lot in the last 12-16 months or so. We try to do a lot of value add work — see opportunities / relative inefficiencies, and help capitalize on them

poma @gavin: we started with client service, but always wanted to do apps. While I was at homage.com replatforming them to Shopify, I worked with an engineering team to build some really cool apps that did some pretty advanced stuff behind the scenes — Shopify was impressed, we/I ( @cab and @matthew ) are my business partners saw some cool opportunities, and so we found some great clients and started building apps

cab joined #ama by invitation from @poma

poma @marissa: We’ve been a Shopify expert/partner from near the beginning. I began that relationship during my days as Digital Director at Homage, where I led the homage.com migration to Shopify.

80stees Do you have a preferred testing platform of choice? If so, what is it?

poma @marissa: ^^context: since the beginning of Rocket Code, not since the beginning of Shopify :simple_smile:

poma @80stees: we work by and large on the Optimizely platform, but we also like Monetate, and we’ve had a bit of exposure to Qubit

poma there are lots of others, but none that we’ve worked with first hand, as of yet

gavin Thanks @poma. As someone making that transition myself, would be interested to hear more details on that - how long it took you, whether you just stopped doing consulting work one day and went all-in on apps, etc.

poma Haha, @gavin — any time, sir. There’s some nuance that’s probably worth going through offline from the #ama, but…what we’re finding is that, if we don’t focus very deliberately on app development, it can get lost behind the urgencies of client work. to really move with velocity, we find that we have to have resources exclusively focused on apps

poma something, candidly, that we’re still working on getting better at :simple_smile:

poma in case anyone needs some background music 👉 spotify:user:spotify:playlist:65y98W0UItf73DJKVgylTP

gavin Thanks! I can definitely sympathise with that. I'll probably try to pick your brains offlline some time in the future :simple_smile:. (edited)

tjmapes How is Perfect Promo, your first release into the app store going?

tjmapes Can you talk about building that, how long it took, some pitfalls if any?

poma Perfect Promo is…good. It’s a great learning experience.

poma I think we tried to, perhaps, do too much at once.

poma explanation forthcoming

tjmapes 😛

poma so - we do a great job with UI and UX of our apps. that’s our bread and butter.

tjmapes fyi: Perfect Promo Incentivize your customers to buy more with perfect promotions.

poma We, however, sought out a really complex problem that we wanted to solve. and, more or less, we do it pretty well...

poma but, the issue is that, i think, our app asks for some pretty sophisticated users, and that’s not maybe the mainstream shopify user

poma and then…the biggest promo “problem” that store owners want solved is BOGO …and we tried to do much more than that

raul @poma thanks for doing this ama! What’s your take on the future of Shopify and the platform (especially for its partners) in light of the recent IPO? (edited)

tjmapes do you have any other apps you plan on releasing?

poma all of that said, we’ve gotten some really great feedback from early adopters, we have some really great things planned for the app and its product roadmap…and we’ve installed intercom.io and are using that to make customer service core to our app, and giving quick and easy access to our team that’s operating here internally

poma @raul - presuming you mean the future of Shopify…and so — I think it’s a bright future, and I’m really excited for everyone we know there. I think it solidifies that Shopify is here to stay and that @tobi and @harley are committed to building the best commerce platform (not just ecommerce) in the world.

poma @tjmapes: in a word, yes…we do have more apps we plan to release.

tjmapes :simple_smile:

poma ^^ some much simpler apps than the logic-driven app that Perfect Promo is

rickydazla lol this is great @poma re: Shopify's theme settings panel / editor, you once said "don't get me started". Or words to that effect. I would love to hear what meant by that, possibly in ref to Homepage Pro?

mattfromsauce Do you have any plans to build your app onto another platform?

poma @rickydazla: so…yeah. Shopify has already made some nice improvements to theme settings…but yeah, we see a big opportunity to do things better there.

marissa @poma: where does app inspiration come from ... client driven or do you have ideas from elsewhere like secret e-commerce fairies whispering in your ear 😄

poma @rickydazla: for example, theme settings don’t allow you to schedule homepage assets, URLs, CTAs, etc. to go live — you have to manually upload. if you have a carousel, you can’t easily drag and drop, you have to replace each individually…that might be getting into the weeds a bit, but if you’ve used theme settings on the reg, you’re probably a bit familiar

poma @mattfromsauce: not at the moment. we’re keen on remaining focused and being very deliberate. right now, our focus is on enriching the Shopify platform and its ecosystem

poma back to @tjmapes: Per our learnings with Perfect Promo, we’re excited to focus on a range of hyper-targeted apps. These apps will provide greater value in and of themselves. We also see great potential to offer a unified, rich experience for those customers that use more than one of our apps in combination. That’s where we see exponential power potential for Shopify users. (edited)

poma @marissa: lots of our team has spent time client side and used Shopify and other stores / back ends…and I come from a background of custom software development. I think our ideas, lately, stem from trying to solve really acute problems for store owners…and doing so in a really elegant way with a clean and intuitive admin user experience.

poma more for @marissa: We glean inspiration from lots of channels. Our clients, like Chubbies, are a big source for sure. We also enjoy looking across industries to find crossroads of ideas that yield true original concepts. We try to iterate our ideas quickly; we can definitely do a better job of that. (edited)

ephrem @poma In your thinking about incentivizing customers in the buying process (with Perfect Promo and maybe other work), have you guys spent much time looking into game theory? If so, can you talk a little about ways you've incorporated that?

rickydazla @poma do you have any plans to white label those things?

poma @ephrem: no game mechanics yet. to date, more founded in consumer psychology (things like price anchoring, etc.)

poma @rickydazla: explicit plans…no, not so much. interest in exploration, absolutely. we’ve talked at length with @jamie and some of the Shopify Plus team about opportunities like that

chrishoughton @poma following on from the earlier question - do you think broad focused apps can work in the Shopify app store, or do you think you have to go down the "laser focused" approach?

poma @chrishoughton: hmm. in terms of a sample size, our n=1, and we have a few more ‘big’ ideas we’ll test…but i think we’re so enthralled with the learning that is happening on our end that we want to get more out the door quickly in the coming months…and so, just in terms of volume of opportunity, that will mean more ‘laser focused’ for now

gavin Could you give us an idea of (a) how many active installs of your app you have; and (b) how many hours a week you spend on support?

poma http://img.pandawhale.com/87179-Jim-Carrey-typing-furiously-gi-uStL.gif (511KB)

ephrem @poma Regarding consumer psychology, what are some of the sources you've found most helpful?

poma @chrishoughton: that said, I see this question as a “chicken and egg” paradox insofar that both are valid and valuable. There is clearly big potential to provide multi-layered apps that begin to integrate and amplify the power that singular apps provide. Do we get there by first providing the “framework” or the collection of specific apps? I’m not sure we know yet. But we’re exploring the opportunity from both ends, which we feel good about.

poma @gavin: nearly / approaching 100. less than we wanted, but not an insignificant amount, i suppose. it’s a number that’s growing every day. in terms of support — it’s relatively minimal right now, though that’s on the intake side, we make sure our phone number is available and that it’s answered...

chrishoughton @poma completely relate to what you're saying - our app (https://apps.shopify.com/sauce) has a fairly broad scope compared to most, it took us quite a while to get to the stage where people "got" what it is we do

Say hello to a more social customer experience.

chrishoughton @poma definitely doable though!

gavin Thanks, I think 100 AU is an awesome achievement :simple_smile:. What are you using for support (beyond Intercom)?

poma @ephrem: Oh goodness. A bunch. We adore studying other tech startups like Dropbox that provide subscription-based price models. We look closely at content marketers and those that provide information products. We are big fans of Freakonomics and similar shows that delve into the “psychology of economics.” That’s the tip of the iceberg :simple_smile:

poma @chrishoughton: yup! that’s awesome. I will def check it out. and awesome, i have mad respect for those trying to solve complex problems 👊

raul @poma can you give some insight on what are your plans for Launchpad (more than what's on your homepage 😄)

poma @channel: Keep ‘em coming, y'all :simple_smile:

gavin This might be more of a "techie" question, but: what's been your biggest frustration from a development standpoint with Shopify?

poma @raul: so…yeah, full-transparency, we have a lot more coming with our website…it’s just a bit behind, so you’ll see more there soon. in terms of what we have in store — we’re really big on enriching the shopify community - for its brands, its experts, its partners, app developers…whatever. we want to contribute, and we believe that a rising tide raises all ships. the launchpad is something we hope can become a place to share knowledge, best practices, insights, etc.

poma more for @raul: LaunchPad is the origin point for a big vision we have around the Shopify Experts community and enriching that community in ways that not only foster more togetherness but also help everyone benefit from shared experiences.

poma @gavin: i’ll let @josh and @ryanas chime in too (engineers on our team)…but i think, it’s definitely an acute pain, but that you can’t test the billing API for your apps on a dev store (rather: only on a paying / subscribing store) is a bit…backwards. but i’ve shared that feedback with some of the team, and they agree…so hopefully not for much longer

poma @gavin: what else…i’d love for more than Plus stores to have access to checkout.liquid and, would kill for a better discounting engine...

josh ^ billing was definitely a bit awkward. I think (at least specific to perfect promo) - when somehow manipulating a theme, trying to not completely override someone's styles but at the same time retaining some control.

tjmapes What are you guys developing in these days?

poma High level: Laravel 5 + Zurb Foundation for web and for apps…lots more detail there in terms of JS and stuff that I’m sure I can’t do justice myself (edited)

ephrem @poma I want to echo @gavin's question above that I think may have been missed: What are you using for support (beyond Intercom)?

poma I’m not the guy(s) doing it, but we’re pretty big fans of Laravel - from the features and support to the community - i think we’re always looking and definitely open-minded, but, at least for our own builds, we’ll probably be in the laravel camp for the foreseeable future

poma @channel: Any business ops questions from folks who are/want to become Shopify Experts? // or questions about processes with clients > sales, design feedback, etc. etc.

poma @ephrem: We use a combination of Intercom.io, HelpScout, and good ol fashion email and phones (yes, believe it). Our Perfect Promo knowledgebase is on HelpScout; we plan to build this out much more extensively as PP becomes more enriched, and as we build and launch more apps — we run emails through helpscout, as do we our helpdesk

bjutla How big is your team and how many clients do you work on concurrently?

bjutla considering you are developing/supporting your own apps as well?

poma @bjutla: team’s 10 right now. concurrent clients….12-15ish

tjmapes what are some of the websites you visit most? (edited)

rickydazla What apps / software do you use for team management / comms / invoicing / accounting / receivables etc.?

poma @tjmapes: producthunt.com for sure. it’s my browser tab in chrome. awwwards.com, pttrns.com, dribbble.com. ummm….

tjmapes what about CRO blogs? any good ones?

poma @tjmapes: whatever’s in my feedly.com — gimme a sec to grab some of them

poma @rickydazla umm….in no particular order (except that we LOVE slack)…harvest, ten thousand feet, getflow.com, xero, google apps, droplr.com, dropbox.

poma @tjmapes: fastcompany, 99u, always on medium.com, pjrvs, signal v noise

tjmapes Thanks

tjmapes so many great resources out there now

poma @tjames always on optimizely blog, hbr, avc….man, there’s a CRO blog that I love that i can’t find because i apparently have two different feedly accounts and the one on my computer is not the one i want

rickydazla googling

tjmapes 😄

tjmapes ha

tjmapes ditto

poma @rickydazla: Google Docs also, Appear.in integration into Slack for video conferencing

rickydazla fancy! One of my clients just bought a 3D camera and we’re going looking towards holographic conferencing

raul @poma: what advice would you give to a Shopify Partner just starting out (and yet to become Shopify Expert) to spend his energy on how to attract future clients?

poma @raul - man. this probably sounds really basic, but:

business side: don’t overpromise. i’d find a way to make sure you meet commitments. offer freaking exceptional customer / account service. be incredibly responsive. be human, don’t be an asshole.

technology side: i think we push the limits of what shopify is capable of. we’re always exploring, we’re always tinkering. it’s helped us impress clients, uncover future opportunities.

people side: hire people you trust. hire people smarter than you. set clear expectations for people... (edited)

andy joined #ama

poma @raul: what else…always be honest and proactive. own your mistakes. build good rapport and invest in good relationships because, ultimately, you will fuck up — and then the question becomes, have you built up enough good will so that you don’t lose those relationships. it’s all about relationships. all about people.

tjmapes It’s been about an hour, feel free to keep asking questions until @poma has to part ways. Thanks again Jonathan for joining us today!

poma @tjmapes: et al. let’s do 2 more minutes of questions, and then i’ve got to bounce. but beyond that, feel free to DM me too :simple_smile:

josh 👏 👏

dlazar @poma... be nice if you could describe just one issue where the Shopify API is broken and it holds you back.

tjmapes 🎸 rock on

rickydazla @poma: thank man, looking forward to launchpad and future greatness. @dlazar lol 🔪

rickydazla thanks

dlazar @rickydazla: As you know, there is no current public way to see all the outstanding issues with Shopify, so why the heck not use an AMA with other developers...

poma @dlazar - hah. umm….recently, there’s an API that’s in Beta that i can’t name, so I guess this is expected, but it requires you to “Start” a payment session…and we didn’t need / want to start a payment session. We’re working with Shopify to modify that API to allow us to work around that requirement. so that’s one — that same API also has some issues with applying more than one gift card.

rickydazla @dlazar: you could do something like this

poma @dlazar i’m sure @josh can talk about a whole lot more…he lives in the APIs much more than i do :simple_smile:

poma alright, all — it’s been great. thanks for the time. ping me via DM with any questions. thanks so much for the opportunity chat with y’all. @tjmapes thanks for having me

tjmapes Thanks @poma! you rule

raul @poma: thank you for all the great answers!

poma is signing off 👍 (edited)