I recently had an insightful discussion with Rytis Lauris, co-founder and CEO of the email marketing platform Omnisend, on the WP Minute+.

Even after nearly 10 years in business, Rytis described Omnisend as still being in “startup mode.” He credits staying bootstrapped with helping maintain their agility to pivot based on customer feedback, rather than getting bogged down in bureaucracy like many older companies.

Omnisend is a Pillar Sponsor of the WP Minute. Part of the sponsorship agreement is to host an interview like this, in an effort to have a candid conversation about their company.

We covered a wide range of topics relevant to any WordPress Professional, from competition to company culture to leveraging new technologies like AI. Here are 5 of my key takeaways from our conversation:

  1. Laser focus on a niche is critical – By specifically targeting ecommerce merchants early on, Omnisend set itself apart from more generic marketing platforms. Really understanding customer pain points lets you build solutions tailored to their needs.
  2. Community delivers long-term stability – Rytis believes platforms like WordPress have an advantage over solitary gatekeepers like Shopify thanks to open source’s distributed model where no one entity controls the ecosystem.
  3. Go where the customers are – Though initially focused on Shopify, Omnisend expanded into WooCommerce after seeing impressive organic traction there. Value creation trumps personal preferences.
  4. Startup mindset stems from leadership – Maintaining ambition and efficiency despite company maturity comes from the top. Rytis still drives Omnisend’s vision decade later.
  5. AI should enhance abilities, not replace jobs – Omnisend judiciously uses AI to help humans be more productive. But Rytis believes strategic thinking still requires human creativity and intuition.

Beyond the key insights, here are 5 reasons why you should tune into our conversation:

  1. We have 20+ years combined building digital companies so share informed perspectives on the industry.
  2. Gain insider knowledge of the WordPress vs Shopify ecosystems from someone operating within both.
  3. Learn how to scale your startup without sacrificing agility or customer centricity.
  4. Hear a thoughtful approach to leveraging promising innovations like AI without going overboard.
  5. Enjoy an insightful dialogue with the candid yet focused Rytis Lauris about business and personal growth.

Taking on a 40 billion dollar competitor

Taking on a 40 billion dollar competitor

[00:00:00] Matt: [00:01:00] Hey, Ritus, welcome to the program.

[00:01:30] Rytis: Hey Matt, thanks for inviting.

[00:01:32] Matt: You are everywhere, everywhere in the WordPress space, everywhere in the podcast space.

[00:01:38] Matt: Omni send coming into the WordPress space recently. uh, Um, a fantastic sponsor of the WP minute sponsoring other media outlets, my friends, colleagues, and frenemies in the WordPress space. So I appreciate that as a long time, uh, WordPress content creator. We’ll talk about that in a moment, but man, there hasn’t, there, there’s not a question you haven’t [00:02:00] answered yet.

[00:02:01] Matt: I was going through, I was listening to like. Audio books that you, that you are a guest, like I found like in the, in the abstract corners of the web interviews that you probably don’t even remember you’ve been on, uh, that I listened to. You’ve been everywhere, man. Is podcasting like. A mainstream thing for you to get the word out for Omni send it.

[00:02:20] Matt: Was that your idea or is your team like, Hey, you gotta get on a podcast and do this stuff.

[00:02:25] Rytis: Yeah, Matt. Uh, yeah. Uh, I’m, I’m great. I’m really thrilled that it seems for you that, um, everywhere we as omniscient everywhere, but, uh, it’s, uh, like the feeling we have as your motion or your search, uh, made this impression for you. So kind of a feeling and, and the metrics that we have. So the brand awareness is, uh, not And, and then globally and in WordPress ecosystem as well, and OmniCenter was focusing for quite many years as we’re not like new company, we’ll be celebrating 10 years in the market this year already 2024.

[00:02:58] Rytis: Uh, but I mean, it’s a startup path, so [00:03:00] it took us a few years, few initial years to really understand our product market fit. The, uh, about the question is like the podcast is the main strategy. It’s not, I would say it’s a supporting strategy. So it’s, it is, it is very important for us, but still kind of vast majority of our customers are coming.

[00:03:16] Rytis: Then we have a need for, uh, for email marketing, for marketing automation, SMS. As for us, we, uh, are not the first in the customer journey. The first in the customer journey is a platform, WordPress. In this case, mainly we work with those who sell online. So basically they, they choose WordPress, they choose WooCommerce on top, they choose agencies to develop, they choose sometimes agencies to help with their marketing activities.

[00:03:39] Rytis: Sometimes they do it on their own, depending if it’s a very small business or maybe a bit It’s a bit larger business that we have internal marketing teams and we do not outsource it. Uh, and then the, uh, in search for, for the solution to help, uh, to run their marketing activities and mainly OmniCent is for retention marketing.

[00:03:56] Rytis: So we have to have already some customers, uh, to send them emails to, [00:04:00] you have to have opt ins collected, et cetera, SMS messages, push notifications. So we are kind of, uh, not top of a funnel or top of a customer journey. Um, once the customer, the businesses are creating their websites, their online stores, et cetera.

[00:04:12] Rytis: So that’s why the main channel for us, uh, uh, then customers are looking for the best solution. So basically Googling, uh, asking charge a PT nowadays, et cetera. What would you

[00:04:23] Matt: You’re taking all my future questions. That’s

[00:04:25] Rytis: We can, we can, we can dig deeper into those questions. Yeah. But the, the podcasts and, and, and like this public presence of, uh, of myself as a co founder and CEO of this organization, it’s, it’s really like supporting a function, I would say. And some, some time ago, like, you know, our marketing team, we raised this issue for the marketing team that, uh, we have a lack of brand awareness.

[00:04:48] Rytis: And then we came with a plan that it is,

[00:04:51] Matt: Yeah.

[00:04:52] Rytis: we will sell you, you know, you have to be present.

[00:04:55] Matt: yeah, it’s funny because there’s a lot, uh, there’s a lot of stuff I want to unpack [00:05:00] their number one, you know, it’s funny to me, not funny, but it’s, it’s interesting to hear you because I’m, I’m the same way, uh, you know, Hey, we’ve been in this space for 10 years, but we still feel startup.

[00:05:11] Matt: Like most startups are like, yeah, man, six months, one year. And we’re already thinking like we’re, we’re something else, right? Where this mega corp or we’re not thinking startup mode. And there’s like all these, uh, like middle management comes in all these logistics, et cetera, et cetera. But it’s, it’s great to hear you say we’re a decade in, we’re still thinking startup.

[00:05:30] Matt: Because generally you probably think that because you’re bootstrapped, right? And you don’t have sort of this outside capital coming in and it’s a totally different mindset. I think that’s a mindset that a lot of folks in the WordPress space, uh, try it. Like they’re thinking, yeah, it’s only going to be a couple of years.

[00:05:46] Matt: And then I’m out, right? Like I’m out of this. I’m no longer the startup mode. No, this is something that when you’re not taking that outside capital, you’re living and breathing this stuff. And probably every day you, like you said, we’re still trying to get our name out. Like we want people to know about us.

[00:05:59] Matt: [00:06:00] And you’ve been hundreds of podcasts and you’re like, you still feel that way. So I don’t really have a direct question there, but I, you know, I applaud you for feeling like, yeah, like I’m still out there. I’m still working. I’m still making this thing happen. And a lot of people think it’s just going to go away after a couple of years.

[00:06:14] Matt: It doesn’t. And even if you took money in, you’d probably feel that you probably feel the same way times 10, uh, you know, of that feeling of trying to perform,

[00:06:21] Rytis: And, and, you know, I think it’s, it’s like on top of that, what I completely agree to everything you said. And, uh, and I think it’s just like a, your personal engagement, which is very important. It doesn’t matter if you took a venture or private equity funding can maybe later stages, et cetera, or you’re a bootstrap.

[00:06:37] Rytis: But basically how much of a personal involvement do you have? How much skin of the game do you have in your company? Yeah. So, uh, uh, There are some startups, especially like later stage that they have been, uh, sold, practically sold to, to like PEs and there are professional CEOs that being hired and not, not founders.

[00:06:55] Rytis: So they are, uh, from my point of view, they are a bit more relaxed and then that’s [00:07:00] when the company starts to become the corporation. Uh, not by the best mean of it. Uh, and yeah, a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of middle management, et cetera, comes into play. Um, and yeah, so I think it’s still kind of about the mindset.

[00:07:12] Rytis: It’s very important to keep this mindset. So, and two very important details here are first is still ambition to grow quite fast, the, to conquer. Uh, other areas where you have not been present, et cetera. And the second is about, uh, keeping you as lean as possible and then very efficient and very lean organization, et cetera, and not building too much of a hierarchy in the company, et cetera.

[00:07:36] Rytis: So I think it’s, it’s just, and if you are lean enough. that that means that you are fast usually to make decisions, to make some turnarounds if they are needed because they are needed in any organization and any business that you do. Sometimes what you did like last year could not work this year anymore, uh, and you have to, to, to, to make a shift, you know, and, uh, how, [00:08:00] how fast and how flexible and how adaptable are you in, in those situations.

[00:08:03] Rytis: So I think that’s, that’s one of that’s. Those are other indications that you still run and operate and think as a startup. Doesn’t matter of the age, uh, of organization,

[00:08:13] Matt: do you remember back when you were running your digital agency and servicing customers? When you were a younger entrepreneur, uh, do you remember the days or did you ever have the days where you’re like, yeah, product sass software. I need to be there. I want to get there. It’s going to be this easy ride. I can’t wait to pick the color Porsche that I’m going to purchase.

[00:08:32] Matt: Like, do you remember those days where you maybe thought it was going to be instantaneous success or everything would be great, but not to put you in a bad position. But like 10 years later, you’re like, I’m still here growing this business, man. Like I thought it was going to be done like six years ago.

[00:08:46] Matt: Did you ever have that thought back in the day?

[00:08:48] Rytis: I still don’t have Porsche or Ferrari, so. And you know, there was a funny situation that, uh, um, we kind of like reviewed our pricing and for some of our customers, it decreased a little bit. And one, one, uh, [00:09:00] unhappy customer just replied to our, um, announcement email that, uh, I, I wish you all your success. CEO will buy a new Lambo for this, so, so I did not do that.

[00:09:11] Rytis: Uh, but, but yeah, in general, in general, um, of course it’s, it’s, Bill Gates, uh, once said, and I really love quoting this, that, uh, people usually overestimate what they can achieve in one year, but they underestimate what they can achieve in 10 years. Uh, so I think it’s a really applicable to any startup and to OmniSend as well that, uh, even.

[00:09:29] Rytis: We look back, like we, we use OKRs as a planning methodology. So each quarter we review it. Sometimes we succeed, more often I would say we fail with those plans, et cetera. And then the numbers and metrics are looking red. But then you look back a little bit retrospectively, like for 12 months, months back at least or Three years, five years, 10 years from 10 years perspective.

[00:09:55] Rytis: So like the achievements are just amazing. And the journey you, you, [00:10:00] you made is, is amazing. So, so back in the days, really SARS was something that we were keen on building because myself and my co founder, we are from Lithuania. And then the vast majority of OmniSend is, uh, team is based here. We do have remote colleagues.

[00:10:15] Rytis: We do have 20, like five ish people in the United States as a vast majority of our customers are in the United States. We do have in the UK and, and, and remote colleagues, et cetera. But, um, but still, so being kind of like, uh, from. a country with a small market, uh, basically you had two options. I’ve ended, this is running a digital marketing agency.

[00:10:36] Rytis: It’s, it’s all about like selling your, your hours. And this is not scalable too much. It’s scalable to some extent, but no, not too much. So kind of building a SaaS was always, uh, I mean, not always, but there was a desire to build a potentially a SaaS. So that seemed to be a bit easier business or at least more predictable as you do not have to.

[00:10:55] Rytis: to fight for the same customer again and again and again. I mean, yeah, of course you have to, [00:11:00] you have to always deliver the value for our customers as we call ourselves not bootstrap, but customer funded organization, because this is our customers who make a decision. We don’t have any long term contracts.

[00:11:11] Rytis: Yeah. So this is our customer who make a decision each month. If they believe that Omniscient will create value in the coming months, month for them. And that’s why we pay us in advance for. At least one month. And, uh, yeah, so sauce was kind of like, uh, uh, compelling business idea and, uh, and another reason that you can build it globally.

[00:11:30] Rytis: And, uh, that doesn’t matter because it’s, it’s, it’s a product and doesn’t matter where you’re based. Doesn’t matter how funny your accent is. Uh, that’s after all those like small things, uh, doesn’t matter that much in comparison to selling, let’s say, uh, human hours and, and, and professional services. Uh, but did we believe that it’s going to be a easy success?

[00:11:49] Rytis: I wouldn’t say so. And you know, look, it took us two years to start earning something

[00:11:54] Matt: yeah, yeah,

[00:11:56] Rytis: after the product launched to the first money. [00:12:00] The US two years and we saw kind of a good reaction. Customers are installing, but nobody’s willing to pay for our service. Mm-Hmm.

[00:12:07] Matt: I, I, I ran, just so you, for your context, I ran a digital agent, a WordPress agency, ran it with my father for a decade, 10 years. We started in 2000, end of 2007 ish into 2008 is when we started the, the organization. Um. So anyway, I ran that for 10 years, but I remember like just getting into the WordPress space and being like, Hey, this customer stuff, this agency stuff, like you’re one check away from going bankrupt, right?

[00:12:31] Matt: If project doesn’t pay you, they forget to pay you. You’re, you’re just like waiting for this. Um, you know, this is early on in, in my digital career. And I saw word, I was in the WordPress space. We’re building WordPress websites. And I was like, plugins, themes, this is the way to go. I want to build this product because surely this is easier than, you know, picking a color blue for somebody’s website.

[00:12:55] Matt: And they’re just like going back and forth like, I don’t really like that. Oh, we brought this to the board. [00:13:00] They don’t like this color. And it’s just like, Oh God. Um. But early on, I was a super fan of Mixergy and, and you were on the show in 2019. You had stated that, uh, you were doing about 6 million ARR back then.

[00:13:11] Matt: And I remember just being enamored with the guests that Andrew was bringing on being like, yeah, like I want to build, I want to get into the software space because this does seem like the promised land. Um, but certainly not easy. Uh, and I learned, and I learned my lessons there, uh, as well, starting product companies. Andrew said something, go ahead. Yep.

[00:13:30] Rytis: Yeah, but I think it’s kind of like to add to what you said, I think is running an agency and maybe some of the listeners who are running agencies now maybe struggle with that and then dreaming about or thinking about, about like launching their own products, plugins, themes, et cetera. I think still running an agency is a very, very good school and lessons that you have to learn because this is where you are actually.

[00:13:53] Rytis: Uh, being forced, probably that’s the right word, agency job force is used to always reflect to [00:14:00] customer’s needs. And of course, once you start building like a plugin, so in our case, OmniSend as a SaaS, et cetera, it’s, it’s, it’s a bit tricky that you should not fulfill all, all of your customer requests and all of your customer needs.

[00:14:12] Rytis: Because if you would, because you have tens of thousands of maybe hundreds of thousands of customers. Uh, you cannot, uh, fulfill all of their needs. So you have to start group to start building and to start understanding what is actually behind it. Of course, you get rid of all this bullshit that you mentioned about, Oh, okay.

[00:14:29] Rytis: Make my logo bigger. There is that iconic video about joke, make my logo bigger. Oh yeah. Just the, the, the, the, the tone of the blue. I don’t like, yeah. Completely agree. I’ve been bad and bad and I believe a lot of listeners, uh, maybe in, in such situations on, on the daily basis. But, but in general, it really puts customer centricity in, into your DNA,

[00:14:52] Matt: Yeah.

[00:14:53] Rytis: uh, yeah.

[00:14:53] Rytis: So I think it’s, it’s a, it’s a very good, good, good, good lesson to, to, to go through a very good school

[00:14:58] Matt: So back [00:15:00] in 2019, when you were on the show with, with Andrew, uh, at Mixergy, he opens up with, guys, this is a quote from the transcript. I probably listened to this episode too, uh, back in the day, but he opens up with, guys, how many freaking email marketing companies are out there, right, as his opening question.

[00:15:16] Matt: And this is a testament there, like, obviously MailChimp was back, was out in 2019, it wasn’t that long ago. So, um, There was a lot of competition. There still is a lot of competition.

[00:15:26] Rytis: Mm-Hmm.

[00:15:26] Matt: You said if we’re, if we’re not building it for everyone, right? Cause everyone would come to you and say, I want this thing that MailChimp has.

[00:15:33] Matt: I want this thing that I don’t know, uh, another competitor might have. And you’re saying, no, we’re focusing on let’s say e commerce connections only. First thing I see when I log into OmniSend is connect your store. Immediately putting somebody into the mode of, Oh, I need to, I probably need to be selling something to get the most value out of Omni send.

[00:15:54] Matt: It’s not, I want to start an email newsletter for my soccer club or my football [00:16:00] club, as you may refer to it as, um, it’s not that it’s something specific, hyper specific for customers. Did you know that right out of the gate? Did you go specifically into e commerce? How come you made that decision so early?

[00:16:12] Rytis: Yeah. So a few assumptions. So, yeah. So you’re referring to, to Andrew and Mixergy podcast, so you, we were at, uh, like 6 million ARR. So currently we’re a bit more than 51. So we grew quite, uh, quite some,

[00:16:28] Matt: Considerably.

[00:16:29] Rytis: Yeah, in that area. And yeah, and I think it’s kind of like this customer centricity and the focus is, is one of the things that helped us a lot.

[00:16:38] Rytis: And it’s one of the first assumptions when we started building the product, they get like referring to those agency days. So some of our customers were selling online. Among all the variety of customers we’re serving and we kind of identify that there were two main assumptions So first one is that those who sell online we basically have entire customer journey happening [00:17:00] online That’s why you have more breadcrumbs You have more touch points happening online with your customer and this more data exchange is happening That’s why you can automate More of your marketing activities, and that’s why your marketing messages could be more relevant for your customers.

[00:17:16] Rytis: And this basically kind of like our vision up until today is really to make marketing relevant as organization as a tool and Like sending more automated emails or SMS messages or whatever push notifications those free channels that we support now With a very relevant content is what really embodies our vision and that’s what makes us really happy That’s each year there are more and more Uh, automated messages send in comparison to bulk emails, and it really drives more and more revenue for our customers.

[00:17:47] Rytis: So that was kind of first assumption that digital those who sell online, we have this, uh, unfair advantage in comparison to soccer clubs, as you mentioned. And the second was second assumption was that e commerce in [00:18:00] general will be growing because once we launched the ones we launched the in the u. s. Uh, like Around 16 percent of all retail was happening online on only 16%.

[00:18:12] Rytis: Now it’s like 21, 20, like 4%. It’s something COVID accelerated a lot. So it’s, it’s growing, but still it’s kind of one fourth or maybe one fifth of all. entire retail. So that’s what did not change with OmniSense since the very first day. So, uh, and again, I mean, sometimes people ask, Oh, I like super smart or are you lucky?

[00:18:33] Rytis: I think it’s a mix of both. I mean, not definitely

[00:18:36] Matt: You’re smart. I’ve listened to a lot of hours of you talking. I

[00:18:45] Rytis: great to be here and then to talk with you. Well, you have a lot of this contextual questions. So, uh, So what I think it was like very important that our assumptions could could prove right or could prove wrong. They proved to be right, which is great.

[00:18:59] Rytis: Yeah. So [00:19:00] basically as focusing in the niche and those who’s for like to focus product for those who sell online, actually what made us unique in comparison to male chimps of the world, those generic email service or marketing automation service providers. So that’s what kind of defined as in the market.

[00:19:17] Rytis: And we basically focused to that. Uh, to that specific market niche, which is big enough and fast growing enough to help us, uh, grow as an organization as well. Um, yeah, so that was kind of like, and this is the only thing that did not change on since the very inception of OmniCent. On the other hand, just to add on it, the definition of e commerce by itself is changing.

[00:19:39] Rytis: And if only like back in 10 years ago, there was. 90 percent of e commerce was basically selling physical goods. Now, uh, just an example, uh, like booking a doctor appointment is e commerce. It’s the same online transaction because entire, [00:20:00] almost entire customer journey happens online. Uh, there is a discovery phase that is happening online.

[00:20:04] Rytis: There is like social proof collection phase, like the reviews are very important. Uh, the, the, the, the social proof is very important, et cetera. Uh, the booking of appointment happens online. In many cases, uh, many cases, payment for the service happens online. And instead of just delivering the parcel. to you, or you going to the doctor, to the barber, uh, to, to the messageur, et cetera.

[00:20:29] Rytis: The only, this part is different. And then after, after, after service journey again gets online. So you are being asked to leave a review. How did you like it? You are being reminded, maybe it’s time to, for you to visit again, et cetera, et cetera. So very recurring bookings are happening online, recurring payments that happen online.

[00:20:48] Rytis: So basically just definition of what is online retail, what is e commerce is, is, is. Being brought in nowadays and, uh, OmniSend is adapting to this as well, adapting to this as well. Uh, [00:21:00] yeah, so we are currently serving in those who run online bookings, who sell, uh, digital goods online, etc. It’s not only physical, physical stores and a lot of best practices.

[00:21:11] Rytis: They are very similar on another in those cases.

[00:21:15] Matt: want to frame a pretty hefty question. I’ll try to articulate it as best as I possibly can. Um, we look at social media. We look at algorithms, filtering out content, content being censored. You know. I think I and maybe a lot of other marketers in the year, well, we’re in 2024, I almost said 2023, but we’re now in 2024.

[00:21:35] Matt: People are still saying, hey, the best line of defense for your business is still going to be owning your content on your website. And owning an email list, because hopefully with air quotes, when you want to send someone an email, it’s going, you’re going to get that customer versus making a post on Facebook that you don’t boost or that you don’t promote, right?

[00:21:55] Matt: So you have a thousand fans on your Facebook page, you make a post, 80 [00:22:00] of them see it, unless you boost it, then 300 of them see it. Now I see, and this is just my theory, I’d love for you to unpack this if you possibly can, that for you and OmniSend. It might not be about. How do we compete against MailChimp feature to feature?

[00:22:15] Matt: How do we compete against XYZ competitor feature to feature? This new thing in the marketing space is good. We should go after it. I see email as my God, you’ve got to deal with spam laws, governments. Deliverability, and that is a very powerful space, you know, I’m not in the European market, but in the US market, you think of like, uh, you know, people going to the government and, and, and, and talking to Congress, you know, and you into it, leveraging billions of dollars to say, you know, we’re the best place.

[00:22:48] Matt: To deliver email, not these other little competitors, and that is, that is where I think your battle is fought. Maybe not now, but maybe in the future. What, what are your thoughts on like [00:23:00] competition and fitting into governments and, and, and multicultural systems that you have to span across?

[00:23:07] Rytis: So probably, at least to what I would digest from your question, there are two, two, two different aspects here. So one is like, again, social media or other channels. So once we start, and it’s probably a very illustrative example, once we launched Omniscient, we were We’re trying to fundraise and we are looking, going, uh, after some VCs, et cetera, but like everybody was looking at us like, what email?

[00:23:31] Rytis: Come on. I felt like, you know, I was pitching a leather shoes innovation. Come on. It’s it’s it’s done deal. It’s like MailChimp, the rather constant contact like giant company back in the days already, et cetera. Um, but yeah, so email, uh, proved to be very resilient and proved to be the most effective retention channel for anyone who sells online.

[00:23:53] Rytis: So to our customer’s experience, it’s kind of like 15 to 30, 35 [00:24:00] percent of their revenues coming through email. Uh, so it’s, and it’s like Return on investment is by far the best. So by far the best. So basically, yeah, uh, and owning this, some, some, there is kind of circulating those sexy, uh, terms like first party data, zero party data.

[00:24:18] Rytis: Sometimes it’s being called, but basically it’s owning the relationship with your customers. Yeah. To what, to what you’re right. Because if you use like Facebook, Instagram, Tik TOK, whatever, Amazon, if you sell through Amazon, you do not own relationship with your customers. So I

[00:24:33] Matt: and that’s my, and that’s the one thing I just want to just interject. That’s the, that’s the connection right there is Facebook, Instagram, TikTok. They go, Oh, you want access to the customer? You’re going to, you’re going to pay us 30 percent tax on top of that. And I see Gmail, AOL, Yahoo doing the same thing to email Gmail, obviously much more aggressively with like auto filtering and their things.

[00:24:54] Matt: And I see them going, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. All these people have email and they’re getting, and they’re making money off it. No, [00:25:00] no, no, no. We’re going to need to find a way to filter this. And I, and I think this legacy type of technology is very difficult to do that too. Try as hard as they might. I think it’s still very difficult.

[00:25:11] Matt: Um,

[00:25:11] Rytis: hmm agree, and I think it’s kind of like email addresses like similar to a physical address Yeah, so when however your Post company etc is be like charging you for the service, etc But it’s still like this is what you own and this is what you have all the freedom to own and this is a free It’s very similar to WordPress Because this is open source in general, because like Gmail, Yahoo, uh, Microsoft, uh, et cetera, they are just inbox service providers.

[00:25:43] Rytis: They do not own the protocol by itself. And this is the key difference to, to, Facebook, uh, to Google in general, that because of the, uh, private protocols, they are closed ecosystems. And then email as a protocol is ecosystem is open. [00:26:00] Yeah. There are dominating players, which have, because we’re just kind of like similar to, to, to, to WordPress.

[00:26:05] Rytis: And, but it’s easy again, it’s still the, the, the ownership, it belongs to the people, um, to, to the owner of email address. And. I would say what is very important to add here, and I don’t see any, any how those companies being able to, to, to really monetize or to start charging for, for using any email yet with those filters, I would say, cause like from our point of view, initially when there was an in Europe, there was this GDPR, which came into power when 20, um, uh, uh, uh, uh, 16, maybe ish on 2017, et cetera.

[00:26:37] Rytis: And then there was a Californian act, uh, similar to GDPR, which basically, okay, it’s, it’s, it’s only technically, um, uh, like, you know, applicable for California. But basically if you, if you sell statewide national nationwide, you in the States, you have to comply with this. Uh, so basically. There was a little bit of, of scariness here, uh, because we thought, okay, maybe it [00:27:00] will make a negative impact, but in opposite, I think that made a positive impact because it forced businesses to really follow the best practices and follow the best rules.

[00:27:09] Rytis: And for, for services like ours, there is a bit less fight to fight. against the bad actors. Because, you know, there are really, really like criminals. There are scammers, phishers, et cetera, who try to steal the data. They understand that we do, um, uh, bad things and they want to do that. And this is the work we do.

[00:27:26] Rytis: And this is illegal and it’s criminalized. And there are good practices and there is kind of a gray zone. So there were a lot of companies that would, okay, I mean, yeah, you know, the holiday season is coming. We have this list, which we acquired, maybe not legal, et cetera, but okay. I’ll just do once.

[00:27:44] Matt: no one will notice

[00:27:46] Rytis: Yeah, no one noticed or maybe at least I will get like a small fine, you know, for first thing, et cetera.

[00:27:52] Rytis: So that’s worth risking. All those, all those regulations by maybe implied like by the governments, they just [00:28:00] regulated this and there were, there are way fewer. People are businesses who are in this gray zone. So I think it’s kind of in general that that is a positive thing for, uh, for the consumer because they are less spam because your inbox looks way better now.

[00:28:15] Rytis: And even kind of like the Gmail you refer to, even though they have this promotion tab, but that’s okay. If you send a promotional messages, they end up in promotional tab and a lot of people open promotional tabs. and they read those emails and they buy and that’s okay. And you know, and sometimes us marketers, because we subscribe so much because of a professional interest, we think that everybody subscribes as crazy as we do.

[00:28:43] Rytis: But if you are a doctor, if you are a pharma, If you’re a policeman, you don’t subscribe to every newsletter, you subscribe to the few, which you really trust those brands, which you wait for those emails to come in and you buy from, from, from, from those emails. So, you know, we should not, sometimes if we’re marketers, we should [00:29:00] not apply, uh, our behavior to all of them.

[00:29:03] Matt: because we ruin everything us marketers, you know, we just we’re the ones that ruin it all When did you make the when did you open your eyes? To WordPress, Shopify for, for years, if I again, go back, uh, let’s say pre COVID Shopify was coming, you know, hit after hit, I mean, uh, platform was improving, uh, you know, back when Gutenberg was first released, we had a mass exodus of people who are like Gutenberg, not for me, like developers and agencies like Gutenberg, not for me, don’t want to be with WordPress through this ride.

[00:29:38] Matt: Uh, I’m going to transition to Shopify. I’ve have interviewed folks that ran shop of super successful Shopify agencies over the years. And just do it, you know, hit after hit doing amazing things, but at the same time, WordPress huge juggernaut, massive space, when did you turn your attention to WordPress being so deeply rooted in the Shopify space starting off?[00:30:00]

[00:30:00] Rytis: So, uh, there were two, I would say, maybe not the high moments. That was a journey. So we had the WooCommerce. Yeah, specifically, not like general WordPress, but WooCommerce integrations, integration and Magento integration back in the day. So we launched nine integrations at the very beginning of the company.

[00:30:21] Rytis: I’m sorry to two of them proved to grow just way faster organically. That was Shopify and big commerce, which should probably the name you do not hear too much nowadays about. And at that time they were equal. I had to have competition with Shopify. They were equal by size by the customer count, et cetera, like 10 years ago, but then Shopify took off, really took off.

[00:30:44] Rytis: And to be honest, like for three years, even maybe three pre COVID. Yeah. So we made a really good reference to the, to the time, uh, perspective. So I would say, I really believe Shopify is going to a global dominance like natural monopoly [00:31:00] because they were successful as I said, they, they, they really build a great product.

[00:31:03] Rytis: They managed to support, they build a great ecosystem and, and, uh, uh, agencies, developers like, uh, plugins, SaaS services that, that, uh, enhance Shopify core core functionality, et cetera. Uh, but I think that’s to where we already touched about having this still startup mentality or becoming a corporation.

[00:31:23] Rytis: So I think just Shopify became a corporation and they start playing some political games and uh, and then even the kind of in our space, there is a, I have a preferred provider, uh, which apparently, uh, them IPO ing showed that Shopify owns a quite significant stake in the provider game. So they kind of just threw in their promise, they, they, they, they kind of build their, from my point of view, they build their ecosystem on the promise to always be open and always be the best and the most friendly for the ecosystem.

[00:31:53] Rytis: And for quite a while they were. Uh, but then they start just playing some political games, et cetera. And again, uh, this is still [00:32:00] great ecosystem to be, uh, I, I don’t blame them too much, but, uh, but, uh, but yeah, now we see, I don’t believe that they are going to global dominance anymore. Uh, they will remain a big, uh, provider.

[00:32:12] Rytis: For, for those run e commerce businesses, but we see that we struggle a lot outside, uh, English speaking markets. So us, UK, Australia, very important markets for them, but they struggled to go outside those markets for whatever reason. I don’t have a very clear explanation and in opposite, uh, and it shows kind of all the trends.

[00:32:30] Rytis: Yeah. There was an exodus you mentioned from, from other platforms, including WordPress, including WooCommerce, uh, to Shopify, but But, uh, but what we see now, it’s stopped already. And in opposite, we see that some of the customers are getting back. Some agencies are getting back, more and more agencies are developing both now for WordPress and Shopify, et cetera.

[00:32:49] Rytis: And it’s for the customers to choose, or maybe they just understood that, you know, there is no one size fits all solution. And in different cases, there are sometimes WordPress is better, sometimes Shopify is better, et [00:33:00] cetera. Um, yeah, so that’s kind of like. The, the rational calculation, uh, that we made.

[00:33:05] Rytis: Yeah. But there was a different, uh, so some, some, some years ago we kind of relaunched, maybe three years ago, we relaunched our WooCommerce integration without, uh, any major expectations for that. And we just start seeing initial like traction, quite good traction, organic traction, not, not, not accelerated, not stimulated without any our go to market activities.

[00:33:28] Rytis: And, uh, we saw that, uh, like customer lifetime value. It’s great. Then basically we proved ourselves and our customers, we can create value as much as we do for, let’s say, Shopify customers. Uh, and this is the, the, the, I think this is the, the most important thing for any service provider, either it’s US SaaS or agency, et cetera, or plugin maker or a designer.

[00:33:50] Rytis: So if you create enough value for the customers. If you do so, of course you will find more customers, like, like the ones that you already proved yourself and your [00:34:00] customers, that you are a valuable solution. So this is kind of the way we turn to, to, to this tipping point. But okay. This is the fastest growing ecosystem for us.

[00:34:08] Rytis: Organically. We, we see that there is a good retention rate. Customers are happy, they leave good reviews for us, they stay with us for, for quite long, et cetera. And of course we made a decision that, uh, we should invest more into this ecosystem. And, uh, and of course, you know, uh, the, in general, the playbook is different than in Shopify.

[00:34:26] Rytis: So we just, uh, we just learn here. We’re quite new here.

[00:34:31] Matt: And I think it’s going to be like community is hopefully part of that playbook. Hold that thought for a second. A friend of the show, Jordan Gall, he had a company called Cart Hook, which integrated into Shopify. I don’t know if you know him or

[00:34:44] Rytis: Yeah, I know. I

[00:34:45] Matt: Yeah. So, I mean, he said publicly like, Yep, great.

[00:34:48] Matt: Everything was great. We’re building. We’re making money. We’re making a lot of money. And suddenly, Shopify Same kind of scenario where it’s like, Oh, they’re investing in either their own solution or a competitor [00:35:00] solution. And before you know, it slowly creeps out. Listen, I, there are, you know, there are some parallels here to wordpress.

[00:35:09] Matt: com and Shopify, or maybe automatic globally, uh, And WordPress, just like we’re seeing with Shopify. I don’t really trust any company that is, uh, using, let’s say social capital. You’re getting free social capital. Shopify is amazing. They partner with me, they send me leads. They they’re, you know, they’re recommending my plugin, uh, on the Shopify ecosystem.

[00:35:30] Matt: Oh, that’s amazing. Eventually that catches up just like free products. Catch up, right? Uh, MailChimp. Perfect example. I don’t know. You had like 10, 000 emails you could send for free back in the day. Now it’s like a hundred, right? Whatever it is that they,

[00:35:45] Rytis: Look, so the same with us. Yeah. We have free plan for the small customers. Yeah. But at some point, if you grow successfully, you start paying. So that’s true. Exactly.

[00:35:56] Matt: you know, they, they, they need to make money. And [00:36:00] what we’re all seeing in the WordPress space is, well, wordpress. com has jetpack jetpack has all these features. It’s doing all these things. It’s doing email newsletters, doing stats. It’s doing video. It’s a compelling product, but at the same time, my, all of my friends and colleagues are building these same solutions.

[00:36:17] Matt: I work for gravity forms. We make forms. Uh, Jetpack has forms. Jetpack has a lot of features that a lot of us have, but I think in the open source world It’s harder to pull the rug out from from the community It’s happening slowly in some weird areas But I don’t think it’ll ever be like the Shopify or you know into it buying MailChimp And it’s like oh god, you know where that’s gonna go, you know, once they buy it.

[00:36:43] Matt: We’re all screwed And you know, I think with the power of open sources is what makes this a little bit more stable, as rocky as it can feel sometimes.

[00:36:52] Rytis: Agree. Agree. And this is again, like relatively being relatively new to the ecosystem. So kind of, this is our initial impression that there is no,[00:37:00] no one person, uh, making all the decisions. Yeah. And of course, like Automatic and Matt, he, he’s a great leader and of course he, he owns the credit for, for, for launching WordPress back in the days.

[00:37:13] Rytis: Uh, but, but yeah, it’s not that, you know, he can make like, um, Hmm. Um, single person decision and everybody has is being forced to follow and there is a way more challenging for the bad decisions coming from the community. And it’s, it’s, it’s way more distributed. So it’s not that you kind of like, you know, make a.

[00:37:32] Rytis: Evil agreement, uh, with someone and, and that’s it. And that’s how you squeeze every, every competition out of, uh, out of the, out of the market, out of the community. So I think it’s, it’s really, really powerful. Of course, to what, uh, what we see. If, if that’s okay to share this impression that, and that’s being kind of publicly, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s being talked, um, during the events, et cetera, that, uh, attracting of new developers, uh, and, uh, younger generation developers, I think it’s, it’s, it’s, uh, [00:38:00] crucially important for WordPress ecosystem to, to do that.

[00:38:03] Rytis: Uh, there is like the average, uh, age. of attendees in WordPress event and Shopify event is, is high, which is again, a lot of maturity. Um, and, and, uh, coming with that, but at the same time, the balance, I think it’s very important as well. And then tracking the younger generation is, is very important as well for the ecosystem.

[00:38:22] Matt: Where is the younger generation going? Do you have an idea?

[00:38:24] Rytis: Um, so do it yourself mainly. Yeah. Wix, Squarespace, I believe, or Shopify. Uh,

[00:38:30] Matt: just as end users or as like developers?

[00:38:33] Rytis: Apple, I think both because it’s, it’s, it’s easier. It’s easier. Yeah. So it’s, it’s basically no code. Oh, at least you can start with no code. And then, then, uh, then you start and you, you stick and maybe you, you, you improve your capabilities, your skills as a developer, et cetera, but, but you stay within the ecosystem you started.

[00:38:53] Rytis: So I think it’s very important. And this is kind of a philosophy that we have at Omnicent as well, uh, that. Uh, in the [00:39:00] initial level has to be very easy to start, and it’s one of a kind of fundamental principles of our product building that the learning curve has to be very, very flat. Uh, and then, and then, then you start.

[00:39:12] Rytis: So you started. getting results very fast. There are a lot of prebuilt presets, prebuilt designs, et cetera, et cetera. Just, you know, a few clicks and you have up and running platform and you start, in our case, start earning money from email marketing, SMS marketing. Uh, and this is the proof that, okay, this is for me.

[00:39:30] Rytis: I can do it easily. And then there is a second layer in, at least in our product thinking that, okay, this is an advanced settings. If you want. You can end up, you can take the blank canvas and you start from there. Build your own automations, build your own logic, build your own templates, etc. According to your, you know, brand book, whatever.

[00:39:51] Rytis: And the third layer is, in our case, we, we, we call it like, you know, API. layer that you can customize as much as you want and all the flexibility is [00:40:00] there, but then you need like developers, you need like specific skills and then capabilities to, to make the most out of a product. So, so yeah, so I think like, you know, some kind of similar logic.

[00:40:14] Rytis: Applying to, to WordPress could, could be very, very, and I think like, you know, Gutenberg and all the recent improvements is heading, getting towards that direction. Because like Wix and Squarespace, we have the first layer. It’s very easy to start, but can you really make something more, um, complicated or complex?

[00:40:34] Rytis: Not that much.

[00:40:35] Matt: Yeah.

[00:40:36] Rytis: Uh, so, but again. Uh, you know, the, the, the, the, the beginners start there. So that’s, I think the biggest challenge for WordPress.

[00:40:44] Matt: WordPress had it, the luxury of, if I could say that, of when it first came on the scene and really improved was a time on the internet where. I mean, there weren’t, there wasn’t a million YouTube tutorials, right? There weren’t all these folks writing and showing you [00:41:00] how to do WordPress. So you had to.

[00:41:03] Matt: Like crack open WordPress like I did and kind of learn HTML CSS PHP a little bit of JavaScript how The lamp stack worked right with hosting Linux Apache mysql PHP How do these things all function to get a website up and running where the kids these days? All they’re gonna have to do is talk to AI and just be like hey I want a login system with a, with a shopping cart, and then they, they’ll connect up to you.

[00:41:29] Matt: Um, so, you know, they, they have it a lot easier, uh, these days. So, yeah, I mean, I agree. It’s a super challenging time to, to bring in some fresh, um, uh, some fresh perspective and some fresh folks into the space because it’s detriment to, uh, uh, the, you know, the success of WordPress. Real, real

[00:41:44] Rytis: success. Yeah.

[00:41:45] Matt: long-term success.

[00:41:46] Matt: Yeah. Um. Speaking of A. I. real quick, hot topic, everyone’s talking about A. I., everyone’s doing A. I. What do you have, do you have anything AI, are you looking at AI, or is it like, hey, let’s just wait for this thing to, to settle [00:42:00] in, because my god, we saw how fragile OpenAI is, uh, or ChatGPT and that whole, uh, Sam Altman, uh, uh, non profit slash executive team structure, uh, the whole thing almost collapsed in literally a weekend, um, what are your thoughts, AI, future of, of that, integrating it to the product and, and its promise?

[00:42:17] Rytis: in recent lawsuits by some major media

[00:42:20] Matt: New York, uh, yeah, New York Times,

[00:42:21] Rytis: Neon Terranx, etc, yeah. So, uh, that’s just, you know, they proved that it’s just one to one. Okay, like 100 words to 99 words, exactly the same text, uh, what was written by a professional writer. So, um. Yeah, we do have, and we do have, uh, embedded AI solutions with PhenomenaSense, so just like few, few, few dimensions, so the, uh, the, um, subject line generator, yeah?

[00:42:46] Rytis: So you, you, you compose an email and usually it’s a kind of a creative, cause you have to be sure, you have to emphasize the most important things and, you know, just AI suggests you five. Uh, you can regenerate and you basically pick, you change something and I [00:43:00] think this is a, this is kind of illustrates how we think about the AI solution that it has to do the dinky job and it has to be assistant for you.

[00:43:09] Rytis: So I, I’m a little bit of skeptic, uh, that AI replaces. Human intelligence, H I, but I think it really helps us to, to shorten the time to do the same job. And so, you know, if you’re a creative writer, sometimes you in a good mood and you can come up with 10 versions, et cetera, be very fresh, et cetera.

[00:43:27] Rytis: Sometimes you’re just tired and, ah, it takes you so much time to, and you need some, you need some, you know, you know, to, to, to

[00:43:36] Matt: a little bit of

[00:43:36] Rytis: the spark. Yeah, this is, yeah, this is a good, maybe just to catch on something. And I’ve read some time ago, articles about some of good artists, that the painters. So they have, uh, they have assistants who sometimes we just ask assistant to start painting because they are out of the mood and they have no inspiration at that time.

[00:43:55] Rytis: And the assistant starts to paint something and then the artist has the spark. Okay, [00:44:00] I will complete this. And this is my. still artwork. So I think this is what AI does. And just an example. Yeah. So subject line generated or, uh, inline editing. Yeah. So when you write a copy, there is a, a, AI, AI generator. So you just basically with an omniscient, you just drive the context.

[00:44:18] Rytis: Okay. I would like to promote, promote this, uh, uh, Mac. Yeah, I have some water here. Let’s, let’s, let’s promote the Mac. Okay. I want to promote this gray Mac, uh, because it’s very fresh. It’s keeps water fresh for, for many hours, et cetera, et cetera. And AI comes with a proper, good, good style text, et cetera.

[00:44:35] Rytis: Uh, we tried, we tried a solution that we, uh, that, uh, entire email is being generated by AI. Okay. Uh, people were not adopting that too much. Uh, and then we changed to this just a paragraph editing or paragraph composing with AI. It’s being way better adopted in comparison to the full, because it’s still kind of me as a marketer who makes a decision what I want to promote, unless you do full automated [00:45:00] marketing.

[00:45:00] Rytis: Uh, and, uh, and yes, and, uh, again. The assistance is needed. This assistance is well accepted and really welcomed opposite to just replacement of a full replacement, replacement of a, of a human intelligence. So this is how we, we think about AI, that it’s a really great assistant. And of course, we are trying to embed it in as much as possible just to do the.

[00:45:23] Rytis: The, this donkey job where sometimes, uh, you know, you cannot personalize, uh, like for 1000 customers, for 100, 000 customers to write a really, really personal email. Uh, AI could do that, but again, it’s you who has to make a decision. What exactly? Okay. Not exactly, but what direction? What tone and voice, what, what you want to promote, uh, et cetera, what you want to invite your customers to do, either purchase immediately or maybe help them with a product they purchased already in the past.

[00:45:54] Rytis: Or maybe just, uh, you know, uh, provide some, some help, some assistance, et cetera. So yeah, so that’s [00:46:00] how we think about AI.

[00:46:02] Matt: Omni send dot com. You can start for free. Fantastic sponsor of the show. Rita’s. Thank you so much for connecting, uh, with my brand and my fellow, uh, colleagues brands to help support the WordPress community, help support content like this showing up on yet another podcast. Um, I, I think I asked you some questions that I haven’t heard you answer yet today.

[00:46:21] Matt: So, uh, I hope, uh, I hope the listener got some value from it. Free plan. 16 a month, 59 per month, the best person for this platform right now you’d say is folks who are integrating with e commerce with WooCommerce. I do have some, I don’t know, uh, behind the scenes look because I do work at Gravity Forms.

[00:46:40] Matt: We’ve been working with your team to, uh, connect, uh, OmniSend to Gravity Forms without the need for WooCommerce because you can sell stuff with Gravity Forms, you can sell stuff with other things on, on WordPress, of course. Um, so anyone who’s making that transaction This is the type of customer that should be

[00:46:57] Rytis: Correct. Correct. And we are currently [00:47:00] working and it will be launched till the end of, uh, Q1, 2024. So if you’re listening us after this, so we will, we will have, uh, just generic WordPress integration and plugin for anyone who any transactions online and send them and does it, uh, either gravity forms or some LMS systems, et cetera, uh, using WordPress so we can utilize OmniSend.

[00:47:25] Matt: Best place to connect, OmniSend. com. You want to send anyone, someone, anywhere else that you spend

[00:47:30] Rytis: So OmniSend. com is the best. So you can either request for a demo and talk to our, uh, account executive. So you can just, you know, sign up. Have an account and explore on your own and there are a lot of videos and even though if you are not Maybe if you are happy with your current solution We have a great resource center.

[00:47:48] Rytis: So I’m going to send just only send resources on send block. So there are a lot of written content video content lessons advices How how to better run your email [00:48:00] marketing SMS marketing? Web push notification, notifications and marketing. So it doesn’t matter if you use OmniCenter. No, we, we do have a lot of resources for you to, to be a better, uh, marketer.

[00:48:11] Rytis: And by the way, our website, our blog is running on WordPress.

[00:48:16] Matt: Fantastic. Fantastic stuff. Rita’s. Thanks so much again for hanging out today.

[00:48:19] [00:49:00]

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