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Embracing the AI-Driven Future in E-Commerce, with Brian Moran [Episode 1154]

In this week’s podcast, hosts Alastair Woolcock and Howard Brown are joined by Brian Moran, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at SamCart. They discuss the impact of generative AI on e-commerce and B2C sales. Brian shares insights on how AI is changing the landscape for entrepreneurs, particularly in improving sales pitches and marketing strategies. The conversation delves into the challenges and opportunities associated with implementing AI in business operations. Brian emphasizes the need for transparency and sharing information to build trust in AI-generated insights. The discussion also touches on the rapid evolution of AI and its potential to transform the way businesses operate.


Podcast Transcript:



Welcome back everybody to this week’s podcast. I’m Alastair Woolcock, CSRO, joined by my friend and partner in crime, the founder and CEO of Revenue.io, Howard Brown, pioneer and recognized authority in AI and Revenue Science. Howard, how are you doing today? I’m doing great. It’s great to be here with you and Brian. 



Yes, we are thrilled to have you back Brian Moran, the co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at SamCart, a pioneering and fast growing B2C company. Brian, how are you doing today? Doing good. Thanks for having me back. 



Indeed. I will dive right in, Brian. Yeah, we had a really good conversation with you last time around this notion of, shared trust and sharing the insights of the world of e commerce and B2C sales and what that is doing and how you are sharing all of the rich data to, thousands, tens of thousands of customers worldwide that is improving their ability to connect with consumers.

And I love it. But we also said there, look, the world has shifted a lot in this last 12 months, right? Like it’s as people have heard me say before on this podcast, finally, after a decade of being around AI, I can actually say the word AI and people actually know what I mean outside of. People like yourself and Howard that, that I’d meet with regularly.

You have this notion of artificial intelligence that is now front and center. It is commercializing well, because for the first time ever, an average person, a student, teachers, people buying things, people trying to book trips and holidays, they’re working with generative AI technologies and going Hey, this is cool.

This has been integrated into their life. I would love to today, based on that change, get your perspective on how are you seeing AI fundamentally shift what SamCart is doing and really the broader market where do you predict? It’s going to end up towards the end of this year with this kind of technological impact.



Yeah, it’s tough to predict, with how fast it’s moving right now. I’m not as deep into it as I would like to be, but we’ve done a lot of work there. And I think we have a lot left to do internally at SamCart. I think, especially with the amount of data that we are sitting on 25,000 businesses using SamCart to sell their products and services online, that we should be using AI to dig through that data and become even better at what one of our kind of strengths is, which is reporting back to the marketplace, what’s working.

Right now we still do most of that manual. But how I’ve seen it change our market or how our customers are using it. We put our customers into two buckets. We have a bunch kind of at the beginning stages of the entrepreneurial journey. They have a brand new product. They just got launched in the last year or so. They’re not making a whole lot of revenue yet. Some of them aren’t making any revenue yet. Those folks struggle, they should all be listening to podcasts like this. They, the main thing that holds them back is they don’t know how to sell. They pour blood, sweat and tears into a product.

And, they, this is the same boat that I was in for the first 18 months of my entrepreneurial journey. I just thought Hey, if I show a picture of the product, someone will give me money for it. They didn’t understand. I have to persuade them, speak their language, tell a good story to get them to buy.

And what has been wild to see is how good, tools like chatGPT can be at creating a sales pitch at helping me understand how to communicate to my customer, how to grab their attention, how to build trust, convey the value of my product. So we’ve done a lot of work. And luckily there’s a whole world of influencers in the AI space that are doing work 24 seven that our customers are finding, give them a shortcut to becoming a much better salesperson, marketer of their product than they were in the past.

12 years ago when I got started, that’s why it took me 18 months. Cause I, one, didn’t realize that was a skill I needed. And by the time I realized it, it took me another couple of months to find somebody to learn from. If I could have jumped into open AI and say, Hey, give me a quick and dirty AIDA framework sales pitch for this product.

I would have probably made my first sale in the first week or two. So it’s been a huge asset for the beginners who need to learn specific skills like that. And for our more advanced sellers, folks doing six, seven, eight, nine figures a year, on the sales side, it gives them a, ton of advantages that we never used to have. Instead of, needing a team of copywriters or marketers, you can get a lot of those things done, with one person and use open AI to just give you more variations of certain marketing emails or sales pitches or Facebook ad headlines. Like just, it’s a great way to iterate on proven, copy that you have.

I don’t think it’s there quite yet to just let, just chat GPT, run all of your copy, write all of your content without human intervention. If I could hope for a future, I guess that’s where I would hope for. My copywriter friends probably wouldn’t enjoy that future as much, but someone who’s dealt with the pains of finding the right people to, do things like create content or script, ads and pitches and emails it would be wild.

It’ll be a wild world if it gets to the point where with very little human intervention, you can craft content that really moves the needle for the business. 



Howard, I don’t know if you have thoughts on the content side of it, but while you just think on that, I would just share, Brian, I think you’re really bang on in terms of where we’ll go. And I will give an example of the transparency of how AI can help. Facebook at the end of last year in around Q3, Q4, closer to the Q4 side, they changed how they shared scoring and signaling off of their algorithmic models that they use in advertising. And to your point of shared information, that was a big step forward.

And what they did was they started to look at things like what individuals, not just groups and mass cohorts, but what individuals are liking in terms of carousel images, links, likes, things like that. They were looking at who you interact with frequently, they’re looking at popularity techniques. Like they’re looking at all of these now additional micrometrics as opposed to the broad ones they were doing before.

And that changed the advertising performance. I believe, please fact check me on this audience. I think it gave an uptick of about 30 to 40 percent improvement on targeted advertising at Facebook. It was a huge jump up and they’ve shared it all with everybody. They’ve gone out to the market and said, here are the signals.

Here’s the scores. Here’s what it is. And they’re AI driven and their algorithm approaches there. And look, Facebook, whether, and by Facebook, Meta is arguably one of the best run companies in the entire technology sector. They did more to reduce operating costs than any of the big fang companies last year.

F A N G is like Facebook, Alphabet, so forth, Netflix, Google. They reduced operating costs more and had the biggest revenue gains. And advertising gains out of anybody in the sector. So this idea of actually now using AI and actually commoditizing signaling, commoditizing scoring, like the things that are considered secret sauce in these companies, they’re sharing.

And when I think of content, I think of how to sell, I think of all of those things, Howard, are we headed into a mass opening up of secret sauce here, because that is actually going to do more to drive engagement into better results than. And all these closed door approaches that have been the AI models of the past.



Yeah, there’s a lot there to unpack, but what I will say is. As we study communication, we study how people connect, we study what is working. And what Brian has said three times, at least that I’m aware of during the last two conversations, is what is working and that’s what they share.

And that is where I see the huge benefit of the AI is there are so many data points in communications, conversations, in e-commerce, in any sort of. Human to computer, human to human interaction, and what people really want to know is what is working and the compute power and the intelligence that you’re able to augment through artificial intelligence as to what is working, because what is amazing about AI is it can study massive data sets.

And tell you what is working and what’s not working. So Brian, when you talk about your tens of thousands of customers and all of these transactions, I get so excited because that’s what we study, what’s working and what’s not working. Same thing that you, it sounds like you’re on track to do. So while content is working and not working is absolutely exciting and the ability to draft content.

The ability to augment human intelligence and help people determine what’s working so that they don’t have to do all of that work so that it’s presented to them so that they can quickly make changes. That’s what I get really excited about. And like I said, you said what is working at least three times in our conversation, and that’s what people want to know.



Yeah, a hundred percent. And again, being honest, like I was before we’ve hardly even scratched the surface on this at SamCart. And I hope it becomes a huge part of our focus here soon. We’ve played around with all these AI tools, but we don’t have a team working on this right now.

And I think we need to, cause I think this is where it’s going. Like my guess is a lot of businesses, there are a lot of different kind of industries that. Whoever is late to jump on this bandwagon is just going to get left in the dust that, if tomorrow our top competitor had what I just said, we’d be in a lot of trouble because I know having grown up in this market, if I was, seven, eight figure business using, SamCart or Shopify or whoever, and a competitor said, Hey, come over here.

Our platform will not only give you all the basic e-commerce abilities and, ability to make sales, track sales, split test different things, all the things that we stand for, but our system will tell you which one to do based on the data we know about you and all of our other users.



I personally would switch. I would switch almost instantly because of The shortcut that would offer me as an entrepreneur. I have a question. Sorry to interrupt you, but we’ve been working in AI for call it close to seven and a half years and we constantly had people in the AI space on the show.

I guess my question to you is why haven’t you, chatGPT has been around for a year, that if your competitors beat you to this, why haven’t you jumped in? Is it because it sounds so big it’s because you have the time, energy or people? I’m just curious.



Yeah you could probably do a whole show about that. And we would just get into, the pains of growing a startup. And, we just started, we were bootstrapped for the first five years. So we coming from the bootstrap world, you got to be very selective about what you do. So that half of our brain is always firing on, level 10 of be very selective.

We raised a seed round in 2019, series A in 2020, and a big series B in 2021. So the honest answer is just, we’re doing so many things at once that it’s hard to, is it, this is straight up just an excuse this, it, we should do it and we will, it’s one of those, just look, business is chaotic and there’s a million things going on at once and no one has led the charge and said this can’t just be words anymore. We got to go make this happen, so yeah.



I appreciate that honesty and that transparency–and look, founder to founder, three times founder bootstrap done that whole thing. The opportunities here, like the, there’s always tons of things to do nibble at this. So you know how important it is.

You need, it’s like the new year. This should be a pledge from you to get it because it’s not as hard as you think it is. Trust me as an entrepreneur, there’s tons of things always that are going to be here. We’ve never had something as exciting as this and an opportunity with very little investment to have the kind of things so that you can blow out the survey monkeys and the Shopify’s by just focusing, that’s the beauty of being agile and smaller as well.

Sorry, I’ll get off my soap box, but I see like the opportunity for you and it’s, you should be doing this. 



Have me back in six to 12 months and we’ll have something up. That’s a, that’s a commitment. Love to have you back. As Howard pumps us all up to use the AI, I’m going to be the Debbie Downer on it for a second here as well.

This is a great segue, right? Whereas if you’re building and experimenting with right now. Data quality and availability is actually one of the most important things when building out these tools, and I’ll pose this both to you because Microsoft just got called to task the last couple weeks because it was found out through some unofficially recorded executive calls that they were having internally. Last year, they were manipulating the hallucinations that were happening in chatGPT, open AI, which they are an active investor in 10 billion investment. And they were doing that to then showcase how they could use that as a broad scale, as opposed to focus security tool, a broad generative AI security tool for the United States government.

And they were showing this. Now they were not trying to sell them and sign a contract to be fair to them at this point, but they were discovering these hallucinations. So they just said internally, Hey, let’s just change it. Let’s get rid of those hallucinations because the data isn’t giving us the consistent result we need to show.

They have since corrected, they’ve done what they do and they’ve done it well in their defense today in 2024. That is that, they are on the right track and anything they’re bringing commercially to market. They are, they’re doing it above, above reproach and all that. I just give that story though, as it just came out, this feature Reuters and elsewhere, that in the pressure to use AI, people are not getting their data quality and availability quite right.

The temptation to ignore a hallucination or manipulate an algorithm just to force a result is very real and very much there. So as pioneers as, three of us, as people that are building these in the world, there, there’s a responsibility here to very much be authentic of where these models are going wrong, where we’re getting poor, inaccurate, sparse data.

We’re getting incomplete insights and saying, Hey, that’s incomplete. And here’s what it is, the way we go, because even as SamCart, tens of thousands of customers build you an algorithm today that will force and look like it’s doing it. But all the trust you built since 2014 online can be gone in one business quarter by using these fast, rapid models that do not support it with accurate, consistent cited outcomes.

And that’s just, it’s just one of those critical conversations we all need to have in light of all of the excitement that it’s going to go do, the importance of data quality, the importance of availability, and. To Howard, like we’re relentless at that kind of view internally, but it was your pioneering going forwards. I’d love to see how you’re thinking about that data quality as well. 



Yeah, I think it’s going to come back to what we talked about before and that transparency, sharing, teaching, all of those things are, would work today. And I think that’s, what’s going to have to work then, we could crunch all of our numbers and everyone logs in tomorrow under their SamCart account.

And I just, we say, look, our. Our AI model is declaring that the best price point for the first offer you make to a new customer needs to be between 50 and a hundred dollars. And hypothetically, that could be true, but me as the entrepreneur, if someone told me that the first thing I would ask is, okay, which customer’s data did you plug into that formula to tell me that’s the answer?

What markets are they in? How large are these businesses? Like I would want to know all those things in order to trust it. Cause I, I would worry that we’re cherry picking data to say certain things. And I think it’s going to be on us to get ahead of that and show people on any information we spit back to them.

Here’s how we got it. Here’s the way that we looked at this data or how we came up with these numbers in order for them to trust us. Even then, it still might not be enough. They still have to trust us that we’re telling the truth in how we actually did it. So if there is a way to not only be transparent about how we’re coming up with these kind of end results or suggestions, but then prove it that’s the approach I think we would need to take.



And Howard, as I said, I know it’s near and dear to you. And I think of, again that data, that integrity. And I think to Brian’s point, a future state where it’s shared ecosystems, shared algorithms, shared insight, because. There is so much data and it’s not just the data within the company.

It’s the data outside of the company that is driving that insight. I know you have a really good vision for where that’s going. I’d love for you to share that a little bit. What was it Brian’s considering building this and going down this path, but also. A little bit of how we’re dealing with that.



Yeah. I’d say, look if you don’t build a business on core values, and if you’re one of your core values is not integrity and transparency this probably isn’t an important conversation for you. We started one of the previous conversations talking about sharing best practices will best practice.

Others aren’t generalized best practices. They’re based on cohorts and specific audiences. And data, if you generalize it, if you’re not careful, you can get insights that provide you the answers that you want to provide, right? That’s polling, right? That’s what you do. You ask certain questions to get the answers you want.

It is paramount that when you go through an exercise, whether it’s a data exercise or even how you query a system, that your own biases aren’t leading the witness, so to speak. And so constantly testing and measuring the outcomes is critical as well as citing the sources. I think it’s critical to cite sources.

And as we build our RevenueGPT product, You always have the core sources that the LLM is pulling off. So you’re not just getting, Hey, we’re generalizing this information. Here is the source that’s being cited. And so what is working isn’t a general answer. It’s what is working for this specific cohort in this specific segment with this sort of technology with this many users.

So it needs to be very specific. Otherwise you’ll get. Inaccurate information or even worse, it could be manipulated. You think about AI, you better think about ethical AI. You better think about accuracy because it’s dependent. The minute you lose that credibility, that trust, you’ve lost your customers and you’re not going to get them back.



How many shots do you get. One, it’s the original one, you either have trust or you don’t. And, Brian, I think of what you espoused to us, why I learned so much on these last couple of sessions, right? The way in which SamCart, you share all these best practices, you’re sharing the trends, you’re sharing the signals like Facebook did, which is why I brought it up.

You’re doing all those right steps, man, it’s going to be an exciting 2024 as these now AI and generative technologies take it to the next level, which automates that hyper personalizes that if you could take even a thousand of your tens of thousands of customers, these fledgling entrepreneurs with under a million bucks, and you could get them to 5 million, that’s real job gains, it’s not just financial gains for them. They’re going to build teams. 

They’re going to want to go build their own generative AI models behind it. I’d imagine if the industry was co publishing and enabling those to be front and center, because at the end of the day, isn’t building a company. If you’re wired to build a company, actually about helping others have success and have jobs and have careers. I know there’s economics with it, but that’s the heartbeat of an entrepreneur, in my opinion. 



Yeah, a hundred percent. Yeah, I could not have said it any better. Brian, I have loved having you on with us, but as always, we are quickly running out of time, unfortunately. So I’m gonna shift this to a final couple words here.

I’m going to start off with our trivia and then get final thoughts from both of you on AI. So pencil, the AI question coming up following this, but Brian, as from last night, we love a little bit of fun. We love a little bit of trivia. We love to get our audience guessing as well. So I got a question for you. What percentage of commercial leaders at B2C companies today? Expect to utilize generative AI solutions, quote, often over the next two years of marketing and sales. 30%, 50, 70, or 90. 



Probably give the same answer you gave last time. I would think it’s either 70 or 90. I’ll actually guess this time and say 70. 70. You are so close. But according to McKinsey and company and their recent articles on marketing and sales, AI. So McKinsey and company publication here, they are now actually predicting that 90 percent of commercial leaders will frequently use generative AI marketing and sales over the next two years in B2C like it is to Howard’s point.

It’s not if, it’s not when, it is here right now. And I know we’re all monkeying around. People are playing with their prompts at home and they’re doing school work and all of this other stuff, which is awesome. But for everybody to pilot and challenge and move ahead, I think it’s a world of opportunity for us there.

So great job on this final thought from you both as you think of generative AI. You think of how fast this industry is moving, which you said at the beginning, Brian, that we would agree with. What is something you’d love to learn? What is something that you would love to encourage your peers to learn relative to AI? Brian, I’ll throw it to you first, if that’s okay. 



Yeah. I guess for me, what’s going through my head is already trying to build out some sort of game plan for us to take action on it as a business. And if we go back to the question of kind of what’s held us back outside of all the other distractions of running and trying to grow a business, especially one that just took on a bunch of money, it’s not really, something I would like to learn. 

I guess first thing on my priority list is start to build a network and meet folks that are in this space doing things. I think that’s, if you ask me today what’s the first thing you’re gonna go do to go execute on this? I actually don’t know who I would call.

I have one or two buddies who have played around with this deeper than just writing prompts and using it to streamline certain things, but as far as really going deep. There’s not many people that I know of that, Hey, I’m going to pick up the phone. And this is the guy I’m going to either talk to or get advice from or hire directly.

That’s top of the to do list for me, as far as everyone else. Any entrepreneurs that we talk to big or small in our user base, my number one piece of advice right now. And if I should tweak this, you guys probably know more about it than I do. Maybe I should give them different advice, but it’s just to stay on top of it.

To not write this off. Don’t wait, I think most people wait until it gets mainstream. They just assume, once I start hearing about it all the time, then I know it’ll be important. Is to try to convince them to buy in now that it is going to be important. And you taking action now, even just staying on the pulse a little bit could be a massive advantage for you. So yeah, that, that’s what I got. 



You can call us anytime. We may not, we certainly don’t have all the answers, Ryan, by any stretch of the imagination, but. We are relentless at pioneering, experimenting, and building. So there’ll be plenty of mistakes and learnings along the way. But Howard final word.

What I’d like to learn is six additional ways that we can use generative AI to help our customers this year and make sure we implement and deliver. I love it. I love it. Listen, Brian, Howard, I can go on all day on this topic, but unfortunately we are out of time. And Brian. Co founder and the chief strategy officer, SamCart guys are on a tear, tens of thousands of customers, huge transparency.

Again, you’re sharing out, please keep it up. I think it’s exactly what we need in the market set you’re in and you’re changing the landscape of e-commerce. Thank you for that. And thank you for being with us. 



Thanks for having me. Thank you very much. And if you guys want to learn from somebody else’s mistakes, as well as what’s loyal, what’s working, check out SamCart. Thanks for joining us, Brian. No problem.

Everybody listening in, please remember to like and subscribe the podcast, send Howard and I in your questions via the phone line, email, or any other method, LinkedIn. We will read them and we will attempt to get to them on a future episode. Thanks everybody.