This is a series of in-depth interviews showcasing entrepreneurs and their organizations who are members of tech community Silicon Halton. Silicon Halton is a grassroots technology community located in Halton, Ontario, Canada.

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As a prominent member of the Silicon Halton high tech community, and the founder and CEO of the RedBit consulting and design company, it’s safe to say that Mark Arteaga knows a thing or two about designing winning digital products and launching successful eCommerce sites. In order to tap into Mr. Arteaga’s knowledge and gain some insight into how RedBit continues to innovate in this growing digital marketplace, I sat down for a one-on-one chat with one of the brightest minds in the business.

Thanks for joining us today, Mark. Before we start talking about the more complex side of the business, why don’t you take a moment to give our readers a quick overview of what you and your team do behind the scenes at RedBit?

Essentially, we’re a team that creates custom software, both for startups and large enterprises. Going a little deeper on this front, RedBit specializes in consumer-facing and business-oriented mobile apps that drive revenue and help companies reach new audiences.

We also have an eCommerce division that helps customers get up and running via the Shopify platform. As far as previous clients go, we’ve offered support and training to everyone from the smallest startup to digital giants like Microsoft.

I’m glad you brought up Shopify in that breakdown, as it’s often the “go-to” eCommerce platform for both established and emerging brands. Could you tell us about the main problems that brands face when integrating with this portal, as well as how RedBit helps these issues?

The biggest problem I see is that people think they need to spend enormous amounts of money to get up and running on this platform – and that’s just not the case. At RedBit, we offer what’s called the “Kickstart” package as a cost-effective way to get things up and running on Shopify. The idea behind this approach is to get a site on the web in an efficient and expedient manner so that the client can start collecting data and optimize from there.

Without having access to the data that comes with having a live site – Google Analytics, site heat maps, etc. – it’s impossible to truly enhance and improve the consumer experience; something that actually stands by itself as a major problem on this network. In other words, gathering data efficiently and as soon as possible is vital to having a winning branded site.

Once you have a digital product up and running, what are the phases or steps that you and your team lead a client through to optimize and enhance this offering?

To answer this question, it’s probably best to explore the customer intake process from the beginning. That way you and the readers following along can get a better understanding of how all of the development pieces fit together to create an optimized app, site, or other digital product.

It all starts with the customer interview. During this conversation we figure out the needs of the client, and then pair them up with a service package that best fits the project. This includes the aforementioned “Kickstart” package, as well as the “Creative” package for clients that already have an established portal or product.

At this point we start collecting content and framing out the architecture of the page (a first-time website is a great example, so we’ll use that moving forward.) It’s interesting to note that coding the actual site doesn’t come until much later; we want to make sure that the content is worth consuming, as it is the most important piece of the puzzle and leads to the most failures when not properly implemented.

Once our team is satisfied with the content, it’s time to build the website itself. This includes setting up the eCommerce platform, testing it extensively, and working through multiple iterations to ensure quality and consistency. After doing all of this, the site is ready to go live and then undergo optimization and improvements based on customer and performance feedback.

So what happens once you have these metrics and other performance indicators flowing in through the eCommerce portal?

As we gather these measurements and feedback, our team of developers and design specialists start discussing how to bring in more traffic and improve the website based on the user experience. It’s an iterative process, so the concept of “optimization” never truly ends if you’re serious about maintaining a strong digital presence.

Oddly enough, the story told by this incoming information often shows that our clients need help not with site improvements, but rather with broadcasting and promoting their domain via marketing outreach and other related channels. Simply putting up a site and expecting customers to knock down your digital door isn’t a viable plan of action.

What kind of advice do you offer to clients that have a great website, but need help on the marketing side of the success equation?

It really all depends on the client. Based on the products and services offered by this brand, developing a content strategy that emphasizes quality blog content and the building of strong backlinks is often the correct call. However, working with Twitter ads and other social marketing tactics, as well as purchasing impressions on Google’s ad network, all have their merits.

Regardless of the channel, having strong customer testimonials is perhaps the biggest factor in generating traffic and conversions as a site looking to establish itself. The word of a satisfied client means more than virtually anything to a prospective customer, so having these selections on-site, showcased in ad content, and any other marketing program is vital to the lasting success of the website.

Are there any other testing and optimization tactics RedBit likes to incorporate into the client experience? Something that maybe other development and design firms might not be willing to do?

One of our favorite ways to really get a feel for the end user experience is by going “incognito” and purchasing a product. We won’t inform the client of this beforehand, so our staff has a chance to go in as a prospective customer and uncover weaknesses and points of strength that deserve even more attention.

The interesting thing about this approach is that it’s not just a way to sort out customer pain points or site issues, it also brings a “real world” feel to the development process. For instance, we found that one client was struggling with U.S.-based customers and exorbitant shipping and tariff issues, so our end user-based insight helped them come to the conclusion that different shipping options – or even setting up a base of operations outside of Canada – could be the right call.

We also offer up suggestions regarding the unboxing experience and other, less obvious, parts of the customer experience. Some clients already slip in handwritten “thank you” notes and other inclusions that really promote a strong relationship with the consumer, while others need this insight to bring this experience up to par with other industry leaders.

The reason why we do this is because you really need to “wow” the end customer. It’s definitely extra work, but it helps get a brand noticed on social media, review sites, and other consumer-driven portals. When paired with the analytics sides of optimization, these little additions create a strong “one-two” punch that can spread the word about a brand across the web in a big way.

It is amazing how important it is to be relatable and “human” with your brand, especially since the online world is already packed to the brim with great websites and other digital offerings.

It all circles back to the customer testimonial point from earlier. Regardless of whether you have a traditional testimonial or a viral image that’s going wild on social media, having happy customers share the word about your brand is an essential piece of the process and something that RedBit places a lot of emphasis on as we support our clients.

On that note, do you have any client success stories you’d like to share with our readers that showcase this process in action?

 

Actually, I have one that fits into this conversation perfectly. This story focuses on One To One Manufacturing a Canadian based manufacture of fitness equipment.
With One To One, we recently helped this client relaunch with a new website via Shopify. Before this undertaking, the brand didn’t really have access to any analytics or site ‘measureables’ so bringing them up to speed with a modern platform that has access to this insight is paving the way for the decisions that will ultimately lead to increased traffic and more awareness within their target audience.
The lesson that we helped the team over at One To One learn – and many clients before them – is that having a stunning or beautiful website isn’t enough. You also need a steady stream of data if you’re going to build a site experience that wins over incoming visitors.

What about the process of bringing clients that previously weren’t tech-oriented into the digital world? I know from some of our other discussions that this is a major part of the RedBit approach.

That’s exactly right, Chris. We call this process “digital transformation” and it covers virtually any instance of our team helping traditional brands that have avoided using technology to streamline and enhance both customer-facing and employee-oriented experiences.

A good example is the pest control vertical. When you think of pest management and removal services, employee apps, brand-wide portals for collecting and processing data, and other technology-related assets generally don’t enter the picture. However, the pest control services that break the mold and adopt these technologies and digital products in the near future are the ones that will truly leave the competition behind.

The big key here is that this adoption lowers the support costs and other expenses that come with providing quality services. Any time you’re able to take paper out of the equation and offer a digital report to a customer via email or another virtual channel, it has to be seen as a major win.

For the companies we’ve specifically helped in this vertical, another big key is data-oriented triggers. As thresholds regarding client service calls, unique incidents, and other interactions with customers go off, these triggers keep all of the relevant parties notified and on the same page; something that a traditional data management system could never hope to match.

Considering the scope of this change, I’d imagine that this isn’t just a one-time connection between your team and the client, right?

One of the worst things that can happen with the development of brand-specific portals and systems like the ones I outlined above is simply saying, “Here you go!” and walking away from the client. Making this kind of transition in-house, or going to market with a custom software or app, requires a significant amount of support.

That’s why we help promote adoption and bolster marketing initiatives on behalf of these clients. It’s not something that many other developers and digital product designers will commit to, but we feel that this unique take on customer support is necessary for the software, app, or eCommerce portal in question to truly have a chance at succeeding with the end user.

How do you frame the need for change and help get the wheels in motion for this kind of digital transformation?

Generally, we start with a bit of research and planning. We’ll sit down with the customer, stakeholders, and even end users from time to time to get a feel for the pain points of this organization and its audience. During this phase we also try to get a feel for what kind of digital product or app the client needs – both in their own words and from our perspective.

When the client is ready to take the plunge and go digital with their organizational infrastructure or services, what’s next?

Once we’ve figured all of this out, we shift to the design process. This includes considering the optimal user experience and the flow of the software – something that holds true for virtually any product, from web applications to mobile apps and everything in between.

After this point we start the build of the digital product. Depending on the preferences of the customer, this could mean launching a minimum-viable product or running through a couple of test phases before a larger release.

Much like our approach to helping customers with their eCommerce needs, constant iteration is a consistent theme in the development process. Working through several iterations not only enhances usability and optimizes the product based on the needs of the client, it also helps cut out the “fluff.” You’d be surprised at how many features the average organization requests, only to find that they actually don’t need most of these inclusions and prefer a more streamlined and efficient product.

Moving back to the “big picture perspective,” what are some of your plans for the future? What kind of goals do you have laid out for your organization over the next five or 10 years?

I’d say that we’re really looking to solidify our partnership with Shopify and expand within this market. RedBit has a great connection with Shopify (we’re both essentially based out of Toronto and Ottawa) and we think there is a growing opportunity to bring even more clients online via this platform.

Being an entrepreneur for basically my whole life, the idea of helping others get started in the world of eCommerce really brings me great pleasure, and I think a strong connection with Shopify – and our multiple client packages and services – is the best way to blend the personal and professional side of this endeavor.

Additionally, RedBit is also a premiere Xamarin consulting and training partner, so we help customers build iOS, Android, and Windows apps. We still plan on remaining on the cutting edge of this development front, even though we’ve started to place a greater emphasis on the development of our relationship with Shopify over the past two years or so.

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve covered a ton of ground in this conversation and learned a lot, not just about the unique concepts that drive the RedBit team, but also about the world of eCommerce and digital product development in general. Thanks so much for your time Mark and I look forward to the next time we sit down for a chat.

I appreciate the opportunity Chris and it’s been my pleasure to take a few minutes off and provide some insight into our process. Hopefully we can do it again sometime!