72: Robert Douglass talks Content, Community, and Commerce with Drupal

Robert Douglass, Director of Products at Commerce Guys, the originators and maintainers of Drupal Commerce sat down with me this week. We talked about how content, community, and commerce relate and help each other and why Drupal is the best platform to provide you with the digital elements of your users' experience of your online presence. Commerce Guys, in partnership with Acquia also has the support mechanisms that you need to succeed with Drupal and Commerce: from architecting your site, to training your developers, to the ongoing enterprise support that you would need for a serious store in the long term.

Why is Drupal Commerce so great?

"It's principally great because of the strengths of Drupal. You get the flexibility to create the web presence that you want to reflect your brand with a full-fledged commerce system behind that. You've got this cohesive experience between content, community, and commerce."

Content + Commerce

The majority of the early internet commerce experiences, "just resembled a catalog of products," but it was only revolutionary in terms of the access to goods the internet was adding to a classic shopping model. "But the modern web experience is much richer and people expect a lot more. The way they use the internet has evolved quite a bit. People spend a lot of their time online learning, expressing themselves, figuring out what their tastes are, looking at the world around them and interacting with it. The retailers online who are having success tie into that overall experience, the rich experience that people have with the online world and ways to build brand-recognition and buy in," to turn readers, visitors, or fans into customers.

It's not about 'I'm going to go shopping now, where's the next online store?' Retailers need to "take the customer on a journey that might introduce a concept or an idea (or a trend, fashion, look, or a device) ... in some way that really builds the case for its desirability ... and then offers the chance for retail." You can see this trend connecting the "real" world and the online world, too, with the advent of things like QR-codes and instant downloads and content delivered via bluetooth or near-field-communication from a poster to your smart phone. All of this goes towards creating comprehensive brand experiences and opening doors for people you hope will become your customers.

Community + Commerce

"When people say 'community' or 'social engagement', what they're really talking about is the ability for a person to communicate with others – your tastes, your activities, express who you are – and take this natural desire to define who we are and interact with our friends and to let the natural buying signals percolate out from that."

"If I check in somewhere, there can be two reasons I do that: either I want people to be able to find me or I want people to see where I've been so they can ponder my exquisite taste." :-)

Referring to Drupal's wide-ranging integration with practically every aspect of today's social web from Pinterest to the Open Graph and beyond, "Most eCommerce systems are still struggling with the concept of how they get to content management to begin with and don't have social functionalities built in. Drupal's got that built in. Drupal is inherently social. We've always been at the forefront of every new innovation on the web like that." If you are running Drupal and have the Open Graph enabled, it allows you to be in control of what check-ins to your locations, stores, or events look like on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and so on. "That's a really great example of how being able to control your content, and being able to tie into communities can aid the commerce experience."

What else do I get choosing Drupal Commerce?

"Drupal is an optimal collaboration platform, community platform, sharing platform ... People build all sorts of sites on Drupal that utilise user-generated content. There's a natural fit for user-generated content to lead to situations that can end in a purchase." Being in a virtual group of friends and peers getting excited about something (music, clothes, books,) is a more conducive environment. If the platform is able to facilitate this dialog and introduce the right product and the right moment during the conversation, there's a higher likelihood of it actually converting than by using intrusive methods. We're not talking about ad placement, "To even call it ads at that point would be to misrepresent the possibility. If you are able sell a CD or a book, and you are also able to facilitate a discussion about that CD or book. People can come either to buy the CD or discuss it or after they've discussed it, then they have the opportunity to buy it. This doesn't need to be a function of advertising; one leads to the other. For all of the things that people are interested in marketing, that's a win." That discussion on your site is great for search engine optimisation, too, and, "It helps consumers make informed, confident buying decisions that they'll be satisfied with in the long run, therefore building trust in you as a merchant."

Where do I get all this in one place?

The 'perfect storm' of content, community, and commerce coming together in an organic way, "You can only get that under one roof with very few systems and Drupal is the forerunner."

Commerce Guys, in partnership with Acquia has the support mechanisms that you need to succeed with Drupal and Commerce: from architecting your site, to training your developers, to the ongoing enterprise support that you would need for a serious store in the long term.

Commerce Guys

Learn more about Commerce Guys' three main products, that can help you bring this story to life:

  • The free and open source Commerce framework includes the Commerce Kickstart distribution you can install with a gorgeous example eCommerce store.
  • The Commerce Marketplace has the enabling technologies to help you succeed with Drupal Commerce including payment-, shipping-, marketing solutions
  • Commerce Guys' cloud hosting for Drupal Commerce solutions is nearing public beta.