Test Small, Build Smart

The Beginnings of Thrive Commerce

Scott Bohrer had spent the better part of the last decade investing in startups. At SeventySix Capital, he developed an acute sense for understanding team dynamics and just how tightly correlated team adaptability and successes are. As noted in TechnicallyPhilly, Bohrer stressed “In startups, the team is everything. Business plans, competition and market conditions are always changing. It’s the team that is able to adapt and execute best that often wins.” With that perspective in mind, he bid farewell to SeventySix Capital to build his own team and enter the digital coupon space.

Assembling the Right Pieces

After meticulously building out the founding team comprised of cofounder Justin Chapman and retail integration guru Andy Schon, it was time to build the Thrive Commerce minimum viable product (MVP). And rather than dealing with the challenges (namely time-to-market and scalability) of hiring individual developer team members, Bohrer committed to bringing on a professional design and development firm that could not only implement a data-driven lean development methodology, but also integrate seamlessly with the Thrive Commerce founding team.

Bohrer’s first call was to was to Arcweb Technologies CEO Chris Cera.

Enter Arcweb Technologies

A deal discovery platform for online retailers, Thrive Commerce is a turnkey solution that plugs directly into a retailer’s website to empower retailers to increase revenue by capturing more traffic and increase conversion while lowering customer acquisition costs and affiliate commissions. But long before it arrived at its current state, the Arcweb Technologies team first sought the answer to one question that would indicate market opportunity and feasibility: Can we construct a deal page with copy that satisfies both humans and robots so that it ranks higher than the competition in search results?

The level of effort (and time and budget) required for a test such as this is far less than that of the development of a fully-baked MVP, let alone a finished product. Moreover, the results would be early data points providing insight into market opportunity and feasibility. So in close collaboration with the Thrive Commerce team, we got to work building out a series of experiments beginning with a dozen or so hand-coded HTML pages that included only the most basic features to support deal discovery and instead emphasized search engine optimized copy designed to outrank competitive pages. Once successful in predictably outranking the competition, these tests confirmed that we had a viable solution.

For the next experiment, it was on to analytics. We began by mapping the user’s deal discovery process, developing features that would collect deal discovery data and quantify how well individual deals performed. The resulting data set us up to build out user features that delivered a richer deal discovery experience.

Solutions

  • Architected a backend system that supports dynamic page generation, social sharing features, comments and deeper analytics

  • Developed responsive features to support mobile ecommerce.

  • Built out a multi-tenant backend architecture to support multiple e-commerce clients in turn-key fashion.

  • Streamlined the integration process and shifted the deal discovery architecture to leverage more dynamic content hosted by Thrive Commerce rather than the individual retailers.

  • Designed and developed a retailer-facing deal management and automation portal that improved the retailer experience while simultaneously reducing Thrive Commerce’s customer support load.

The Results

With the first MVP shipped in just two weeks and five iterative versions shipped in the first three months of the project, we not only evidenced the value and quantitative results of lean methodologies, but also successfully integrated with the Thrive Commerce team to the extent that the relationship felt about as far from vendor-client as possible. Ultimately, we helped them build the right product for the right customers by taking a data-driven, scientific approach that went from testing a single MVP hypothesis to a feature rich enterprise system solution —in just six months. As in every project, pivots were made as insights were discovered, but this approach prevented the entire team from going miles down the wrong path. For Thrive Commerce that directly translated to a quick but thoughtful time-to-market and budget efficiency.

We knew that outsourcing our MVP design and development work was the right move—but it had to be collaborative; it had to be more than just your standard short-term client-vendor relationship. When we decided to bring Arcweb Technologies on board, we knew that they were as committed and passionate about our company as we are. It was clear to us that the team we were bringing on to handle such a critical piece of our offering was the right one—and that remains to be the case.

Scott Bohrer, Co-Founder & CEO, Thrive Commerce

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