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Ecommerce leader Derrick Riley has a secret to success that you might not want to hear 

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Derrick Riley’s secret to ecommerce success is something many of us probably would rather wasn’t the undeniably truthful advice that it is.

“There are no shortcuts,” says Riley, senior director of global ecommerce at luxury eyewear brand Dita.

No shortcuts? Come on. Isn’t success in digital commerce all about getting an edge? Being fast? Being first? 

Riley isn’t opposed to any of the above. They’re helpful. But they can’t be where you start if you want to serve customers the way they want to be served and if you want to realize the revenue a fantastic online operation can realize. 

Headshot of Derrick Riley, of Dita eyewear, one of Signifyd's 2022 Most Influential in Ecommerce

Derrick Riley of Dita

Riley, who is a member of Signifyd’s Most Influential in Ecommerce Class of 2022, knows his stuff. You can read more of his advice in the e-book, “Secrets from Ecommerce’s Most Influential Revealed.” 

Riley knows from experience that building a strong foundation is key to producing digital sites that inform, delight and inspire consumers. And all else flows from there. 

Cutting corners no longer cuts it in ecommerce

In the early days of ecommerce, he says, merchants would look for shortcuts — cutting corners to transfer information from an Excel spreadsheet of hundreds of SKUs in order to begin building a website. 

Dita's Derrick Riley's keys to success
  1. There are no shortcuts.
  2. Build a solid foundation for your practices. It will pay off in the future.
  3. Create sites that delight consumers. Everything else flows from there.
  4. Always be learning. Ecommerce is a vibrant, ever-changing field.

Riley shares more of his retail wisdom in the video below


“And they try to figure something out with Excel that they can upload to the site.” Or maybe they would just try to dump information directly from an enterprise resource planning system or a product information management system, Riley adds.

“The problem is that you’re also copying all of the code that’s behind it, you know the MS doc, and so all of your HTML is going to be messed up.”

Not the way to inform, delight and educate consumers. And so given the tools of the time, Riley, who started his ecommerce career about when ecommerce started, would hand code sites and make sure each item was being added the right way without unnecessary snippets of code. 

Carefully build the best customer experience possible

“There wasn’t an import method,” he recalled. There wasn’t a way to connect one system to another system to make sure that your data is gonna be correct. And so it was just one of those things that you had to do at the very beginning. Everything was a manual operation and you couldn’t take a shortcut because one didn’t exist.”

Those early sites were rich with information that answered customers’ questions, made it clear they were not just shopping, but having an experience — and the sites made them want to come back again.

“We were getting more customers that were contacting us because they wanted to really know more about the product,” Riley said. “We were getting more sales during that kind of birth of ecommerce.”

That care and precision — and the results they brought — stuck with him. That doesn’t mean Riley thinks you shouldn’t adapt and turn to new tools that bring efficiency and speed to ecommerce. In fact, it’s the way that ecommerce is constantly transforming and improving that keeps Riley loving what he’s doing.

Getting ecommerce right is a constant learning process

“I love it because it always changes. “You’re having to always learn because there’s something on the horizon. It allows me to continue that learning process of, ‘All right, I’m ready for what’s next.”

So, yes, use the ever-evolving tools if they give you an edge; make you fast; make you first. But only after you’ve built a rock-solid foundation. 

“There’s the second part of that secret:  Once you’ve done the work — even if you’re looking at different methods or new technologies that are going to make it quicker for you — always check your work,” he says. “And once you’re done with that, go back and check it again.”

Someone needs to make sure all the images are accurate when you’re adding products to a site, he says. Someone needs to write the product description. Someone needs to “romance” the product, Riley’s fantastic phrase for marketing goods.

“Go immediately to the front end and make sure it’s being presented the exact way that you want it. Do some user testing.” 

The care and extra time will pay off, Riley says.

“What I’ve always noticed is that the site that seems to win isn’t the one that’s always going to have the lowest price.” In fact, Riley says, discounts are not part of Dita’s strategy.

Why go for good enough when you can go for great?

“But what we do is we provide as much information as we possibly can so the consumer can feel as if they’re in one of our stores. So we never go for good enough, and we always strive for great.”

Beyond the hand-crafting and user testing, Riley says it’s important to always be learning. His office is plastered with sticky notes and filled with whiteboards with ideas and questions about getting more traffic, hiking conversion rates, increasing average order value. It’s all about learning and teaching — about being curious and hungry. Those are traits that Riley values.

“There are really two things I look for when I’m hiring or building a team,” he says. “The first one is hunger. You know, anybody who’s really working to take on a role, own that particular role and have a vision to move up. The next thing I look for is a willingness to learn.” 

Learning and teaching. They’re the way forward down a path to success that doesn’t come with shortcuts. 

Feature photo courtesy of Dita 

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Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy

Mike is the head of storytelling at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at [email protected].