SalesTechStar Interview with Ryan Douglas, COO at Digital River
Ryan Douglas, COO at Digital River chats about the most impactful ways in which brands can deliver (and measure!) their business ROI and customer metrics in this chat with SalesTechStar:
Welcome to this chat Ryan, tell us more about yourself and your role at Digital River, it’s been a long journey here! How has your role evolved over the years?
I joined Digital River in 2005, holding various leadership positions in software engineering, IT, and operations. I stayed close to strategy in every area of the company I worked within. Evolution is in our company DNA, and to that end, I’ve been focusing on evolving our products and underlying technology throughout my tenure. One of my earlier focuses was building a private cloud to create more efficiencies and scale for our customers. As CIO I moved us to the public cloud, it raised the bar on performance and resiliency for our clients. Our information technology team runs the software we create on behalf of our clients, so I’ve always had one foot in operations. This experience lent itself very naturally to being able to expand my career into the operations field as COO. For Digital River, information technology is a very central part of our business operations, and that’s not necessarily typical for many companies.
We’d love to dive into Digital River’s evolution as well during this time, how have you seen the company transform through the years?
Just a few years ago Digital River was selling off dozens of companies it had previously acquired, in addition to cutting back over $100 million in revenue. Our goal was to better serve our customers by transforming from a legacy technology company to an agile solutions provider powering eCommerce around the globe.
Digital River’s strategic foresight and vision ultimately positioned us perfectly to meet the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Over the course of the last year, our transformation can be seen in the numbers. During 2020 – the height of the pandemic, we increased total transaction volumes processed by 20%, brought client bookings up 45% from the previous year, increased transaction volume processed for physical goods clients by 48%, achieved eight consecutive quarters of revenue growth, and signed nearly three dozen new ecommerce partners to expand our reach across multiple ecosystems. We continue to see growth in 2021. In Q2 of this year we closed on a record number of client deals as more brands discover the value of Digital River to their ecommerce growth strategy.
As the ecommerce evolution continues post-pandemic, consumers will continue to expect more from brands, both in the B2C and B2B spaces. Ecommerce is inherently and unstoppably global, and our goal is pretty straightforward: we help brands be global, and we simplify the back-end process behind it. That was true when we started, and it’s still true today. Brands that do commerce today understand there is even more value in being global than there was before. They also understand that supporting commerce globally is hard. If you want to go global in a way that scales economically, finding a partner like Digital River is very important. We bring tremendous value to brands through our expertise and our technology to support payments, taxes, compliance, fraud mitigation, and trading patterns, so that brands can keep their focus on delighting their customers and growing their businesses. That’s the core of what we do — if we simplify global commerce operations for our customers.
Can you talk about some of Digital River’s most recent product/platform innovations?
Digital River burst into 2021 with new product and platform innovations that continue to develop into the latter half of the year:
In January, Digital River announced that its Payments, Fraud, Tax & Compliance Management solution would be available on SAP® Store, the digital marketplace for SAP partner offerings. This solution integrates with SAP Commerce Cloud, offering B2C and B2B brands the ability to grow globally at scale while Digital River handles the complexities of global commerce combined.
In March, Digital River kicked off enhancements to its connectors that support customers on the Magento platform, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and WordPress. These new connector versions include increased functionality for localized global commerce and additional back-end support for cross-border sales and local fees. Additionally, the latest Digital River connectors feature the exclusive Drop-in payment feature, allowing brands to quickly enable localized payment methods and begin accepting payments on their websites without customization.
In May, Digital River announced a new Partner Integration Program, giving technology providers across the ecommerce industry greater flexibility and support to access Digital River’s Global Seller Services. The program introduced a streamlined path for commerce and subscription partners to build integrations into their own platform, reducing the cost to connect to Digital River’s merchant of record model, enabling Digital River’s global payments, fraud, tax and compliance services.
In June, Digital River unveiled its partnership with TreviPay to offer B2B clients a seamless ecommerce check-out experience, with options for the buyer to pay on their preferred terms and expand its line of credit program with flexible net term billion options. As a result, Digital River clients can now offer this line of credit program in 14 countries to provide B2B buyers a more consumer-like experience, increasing conversion rates and brand loyalty.
In August, Digital River announced its partnership with Avalara, a leading provider of cloud-based tax compliance automation for businesses of all sizes. Through this partnership, Digital River and Avalara have created a complete global tax management solution, helping to eliminate the complexity of international taxes, as well as further simplify and accelerate cross-border ecommerce expansion.
As more retailers come online, spurring further movement in the ecommerce boom, Digital River will continue to watch the market and address its platform to meet the growing demand of consumers and merchants.
As a long time business leader at Digital River, you are already well integrated into teams and processes; however the 2020 and still largely ongoing pandemic in 2021 has been disrupting the way teams functions, think and act – can you talk about Digital River’s experience during this time?
We all take comfort in knowing that we as a world are going through this together, because we can learn from each other, share with each other, and support each other. That sense of community is a good thing.
We are planful, and as a global company, Digital River was prepared to come into the pandemic with technology and processes already in place to take our teams fully remote. We refined the technology we needed to refine, and our teams have been functioning well and delivering for our clients as we always have. While we miss the face-to-face interactions we could have in the office, we also gained something important. The technology we are using has given every person inside Digital River the chance to fully participate – to be seen and have a voice in real time. That’s a very different experience than sitting on a call where people in a meeting room don’t see your body language or facial expression. Now, everybody sees and hears at the same time, globally – including our partners and clients.
The digital world is the new foundation for us, and everything else is additive. Our facilities, where we can meet together, will add to that digital experience. We are still working through the technology to ensure that it’s a good experience for everyone, and to that end we lean on our community to find out what is working and what isn’t. The bottom line is, if we are the experts in going global for our clients, we must be global ourselves, and this is helping us live up to that ideal. Of course, there are still stressors as we continue to face the pandemic. Life throws curveballs: you use the good in those experiences to get better, and that’s what we’ve done.
As an Operations leader, what are some of the things you feel COOs and other C-level executives need to be more of as the world prepares to live with the uncertainty of Covid-19 and its variants?
I have been with Digital River for 16+ years, but even for industry veterans like myself, the past year has forced leaders to adjust their methods for best supporting employees through these ongoing difficult and stressful times. As uncertainty continues, I encourage other C-level executives to adjust their leadership strategies to focus on empathy and flexibility.
The pandemic has impacted both hiring and retention, meaning that leadership principles and goals need to pivot to meet the present needs of employees. Despite the developing challenges as the Delta variant picks up speed, technology presents the opportunity for increased collaboration across global offices. Technology allows everyone to have a seat at the table, and C-level executives should utilize this unsung hero of the pandemic more. Digital transformation gives folks valuable skills that are in high demand, and leaders no longer need to be in close proximity to their employees to see this. What is the challenge arising from this? Creating a company culture that values flexibility while preserving excellence. This is a culture that many people are seeking right now. It is becoming as important as many traditional benefits, such as salary.
In addition, technology can act as a veneer to improve efficiency and help people outside of your organization– for example, here at Digital River, our processes allow our partners and clients to have many more options available to them to get help in a self-serve model. This customer-focused, self-serve model requires technology designed to make it easy to consume knowledge, view data about product efficacy, ask questions, and receive help regarding many aspects of our offering.
A few sales technologies (or other technologies!) that you’ve often relied on to track business progress and team updates?
In today’s age we need collaborative tools, and for that we’ve made great use of Microsoft Teams. Many growing companies also need operations tools for workflow – something that helps connect all of the different paths that go from the customer to the organization. ServiceNow is something we use to accomplish that. Additionally, we use Salesforce to help organize our customer relationships.
These platforms help us organize our business processes and add discipline that enhances the value of the interactions with our customers. We also seek feedback from our clients through practices like net promoter score surveys, business reviews, and satisfaction surveys after support cases. Lastly, we use the public cloud to bring the highest fidelity scale, and performance for our clients. We want to get to the place where our customers are delighted, and these tools help us do that well.
I would also suggest to companies to pursue the technologies that help you scale up and deliver a great product to your clients.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see ahead that you’d like to highlight?
We all know eCommerce is growing tremendously. Brands need to think about how they will be able to meet their customers’ needs in one, two or three years – not just right now. Some brands will do that with a DIY approach by building their own solutions. For others, they plan to achieve scale by seeking out partners. We are constantly thinking about how to serve our clients in the years ahead, delivering our global seller services on whatever platform our clients choose for their online stores. Taxes, compliance, fraud, payments – those aren’t easy to master on a global scale, and it might not be the first thing a brand thinks about. But part of scaling up means your site delivers for customers every day, including large events, such as Black Friday. It means that your commerce experience is exceptional when eager customers flood your site for an exciting product launch. That is what we think about every day, and it is what we help our customers achieve.
Some last thoughts for sales and operations leaders in tech –
Technology should be used to satisfy your customers, and what we are seeing is that our customers want a lot of choice. They are very self-driven. They want to be able to get the answers they need where and when they want it, often on a 24/7 basis. Emails and phone calls are not where most customers are headed. They want to go to a portal where they can find the information they need at their fingertips. Instead of sending an email and wondering if someone is looking at it, a customer wants to be able to file a case they can track and follow its progress. If they interact, they want to do that in contemporary ways, such as an online chat, or a text through which they may get on the spot help. Any brand that wants to have a powerful customer experience should be able to meet this standard. Use technology as a valuable veneer through which your customers may best unlock the value of your talented people and the services you provide. Do this well and you delight your customers.
Digital River provides API-based Global Seller Services, Order Management and Commerce services to leading enterprise brands.
Ryan Douglas is the Chief Operating Officer at Digital River, a completely integrated solution for all the back-office functions of e-commerce. Digital River enables businesses to sell across the world with a single connection to the platform of your choice.