In our Behind the Shop series, we take a closer look into the people that have been building your favorite online stores.
The ecommerce and online shopping revolution rages on. We usually only encounter the storefronts, so we asked ourselves: who are the storebuilders behind the scenes? And what can they teach us about building the perfect online store?
This time around, we talked to Gary Carruthers, Managing Director & co-founder of Shopify Plus agency, Underwaterpistol. Gary started UWP with his wife, Nicola, their agency focusing on being data-driven and passion-fuelled when it comes to providing services ecommerce brands need.
Hi Gary! Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Of course! I’m the Managing Director of Underwaterpistol. I originally started in the industry as a web designer, and the agency grew organically from that. I have been working in the industry since the late nineties.
Outside of work it’s all about synths and music for me. As soon as I’m off the keyword, I’m onto a KEYBOARD.
What’s the biggest agency challenge you struggled with recently?
That would have to be growing pains. Whenever you scale, it can cause disruption in both good and not so good ways. The biggest challenge would be managing that.
And what steps did you take to overcome this challenge?
Leaning on the team and making the sure team was strong in the first place. We’ve all got each other’s backs to try and manage (scale), so we make each transition together.
More about Underwaterpistol. Why do people come to your service and how can you help them?
We’re in the Shopify Plus space providing brands with a ‘one-stop shop’. We offer deep knowledge and expertise in the various fields we cover, from development to design to digital marketing.
UWP prides itself on being creative and data-driven. Could you share your thoughts on how these can go hand in hand?
We’ve made sure we have a creative team that has a solid understanding of interpreting data. If you have just one or the other, the results will fall flat. But if you’ve got a good grounding of analysis and that creative layer that complements the analysis, you’re going to see much stronger performance.
With the advent of the cookieless era, data collection that respects the customer and zero party data are hot topics. How are you helping your customers implement these practices?
Our paid media lead, Tim Hamstead, champions this. Tim's answer to the question is the following:
Since GDPR came into force in 2018 and kicked off the focus on first-, third- and zero-party data, we’ve considered both the letter of the law and the actual intent behind our approach when implementing changes.
We help clients recognise that the cookieless era means they need to evolve how they target customers and report on their digital marketing (using a new combination of data and channel specific behavioural metrics).
Importantly, though, it offers an opportunity to improve customer relationships by focusing on displaying a clear value exchange between the customer and brand.
You recently mentioned that your focus for 2021 would be hiring wisely. How’s that working out so far?
It's working out very well. We identified a few key posts that we wanted to fill, a) because of new skills and channels we wanted to branch into, and b) because of the business growing larger and new clients coming on board.
Can you suggest 2-3 people from your own extensive Shopify network every agency owner and merchant should follow for inspiration? And why these people in particular?
We look to merchants for inspiration more than the industry ecosystem. The nature of the merchants we’re dealing with now means they inspire us as much as (we hope) we inspire them.
Everyday, there are thousands of people venturing into ecommerce. What’s your biggest piece of advice?
Prioritise strategic planning before you even guess what animal you want to be in a year’s time, two years time, five years time.
Starting a business is such an organic process that, suddenly, you’re years into your career and it’s not ticking the boxes you wanted to tick. So take a breath, and try to envisage what you want to be, where you want to be, what the team will be like, and plan accordingly.
Interested in participating in our Behind the Shop series? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.