In our Judge.me Spotlight series, we focus on a Shopify Tech Partners Meetup attendee who's making moves in e-commerce. If you'd like to be featured, come to one of our events and email email@example.com with your details and what you believe makes your story special. This month, we sat down with Optizio's Dave Spanton, who told us about his journey into e-commerce.
Hi Dave. Let’s start at the beginning. Could you tell me a bit about Optizio?
Sure. We build Shopify apps. We have two public apps (Discount Kit* and Stackable Discounts), as well as custom apps: everything from service integrations to custom widgets and storefront components. We’re all software engineers. About three years ago, in the summer of 2020, David had the idea to start Optizio, and it was just him and Sammy to begin with. Gavyn and I joined the team at the end of that year.
Why e-commerce? What’s the story?
We first worked together building a custom e-commerce platform for Pizza Hut. We then worked together to grow a cloud platform at Nationwide. When David first had the idea to start Optizio, he was looking to take some of the e-commerce experience from the Pizza Hut project and do something with it. He felt that there was a lot of opportunity in the Shopify space.
I was interested because I’ve worked across loads of different sectors over the years, from finance to video and media. E-commerce is good because it’s fast. You get feedback really quickly. It’s basically the opposite of European finance in that sense. Things move at a snail’s pace in those more old-fashioned industries.
What were your first projects?
Before I joined, the team had decided to build a bundling app, based on some of the work we’d done at Pizza Hut. But they soon realised that the scope was too big to do what they really wanted. Engineers love to sink their teeth into something and lose a lot of time in it, but sometimes you do need to start small. They hit upon discount stacking, which was something you couldn’t do natively within Shopify at the time. The app’s called Stackable Discounts.
Last year, we got to work with some of the newer capabilities Shopify offers – functions and checkout extensions, for example. We built our second app, Discount Kit. David has moved on now, so Sammy, Gavyn and I are what remains of the founding team.
Did you receive any advice along the way?
Pretty much nothing! We had to work it out as we went along, but we had the experience to do that. That said, there is a good community around, and there are a lot of online groups you can join. There are meet-ups like the Judge.me Shopify Tech Partners Meetup. And people tend to be quite friendly. They’re happy to give advice.
Optizio was launched during the pandemic. What was that like?
When I joined Optizio, the coronavirus was still around, so in-person meetings were off the cards. Everything was remote. Now, meet-ups and events really seem to be getting going again, and it’s just easier to make a connection in person. You can accelerate relationships, you meet diverse people, and you’re exposed to new ideas. You can start joining dots and seeing opportunities you might not have seen otherwise. I learned about the new Google Analytics at your recent meet-up, for example. Normally I wouldn’t look for that kind of information. I’d be too focused on what I was used to.
What challenges have you faced since you launched the company?
The Shopify platform changes fast, so it’s always a challenge to keep up. We’re lucky in that we have a tech background and we know how to adapt, but you still have to manage your time and resources to stay on top of those changes.
The other challenge is that Shopify is getting more competitive. It’s drawing more and more people in. But that’s a good thing, ultimately. It’s a sign of success. And it means there are more potential partners. In the United Kingdom, everyone is really engaged.
Getting our message out there has also been difficult, simply because it’s not our background. But we’re learning more about marketing and we’re thinking of bringing someone on board to do a bit more of that for us.
How do you see e-commerce evolving?
During the pandemic, everyone was buying stuff online, so e-commerce went bananas. We’re seeing a bit of a pullback now. That was inevitable, and the economy hasn’t been looking good as well. But e-commerce is in a good way, and I think that the space will be in a very healthy way in the long run. It just gives everyone such a convenient way to buy things. There are opportunities for traditional retail in e-commerce, too.
Shopify is also evolving. They’ve been focusing on their point-of-sale systems, for example. We’ve been involved in that because they’ve overhauled their UI. We hope all that keeps growing.
Finally, what do you like doing in your free time?
I have three kids – they’re 12, nine and three – so as you can imagine, they take up a lot of time! I’m quite into motorbikes, too. I’ve got an off-road Enduro bike and another one that’s more of an all-rounder.
Thanks for your time, Dave.
*Optizio’s newest app, Discount Kit, is a brand new discounting app that works using Shopify Functions, so it functions just like native discounts.
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