David Perry is the CEO and Co-Founder of Carro, the largest collaborative commerce platform and cross-store sales channel connecting Shopify to all of eCommerce. He was one of the first video game developers in Northern Ireland, and ended up programming the game Earthworm Jim which became a television show, toy line, and all around cult hit. David was also on the advisory board of the Game Developer's Conference for 10 years and knows the video game industry inside out.
On this episode, David and I discuss how his experience in the video game industry influenced his pivot to the eCommerce space, how brands, influencers, and celebrities can grow their online stores, and much more.
What is Carro
David Perry: Well, Carro is actually sort of the new thing I'm into, which is I'm originally from the video game industry. I was in it for over 30 years. Worked on lots of branded games. That was sort of the secret, by the way, is when you're making a video game, if you call it jumpy boy, and you try to convince the world that jumpy boy is a great game, it's expensive.
A lot of marketing is required. If you get the rights to the teenage mutant Ninja turtles, you just, in my case, you went straight to number one, didn't have to do anything and I'm like, wait, suddenly everyone wants to work with me, right? And I'm able to get any other license. And so I ended up doing the Terminator and the Matrix and things like that.
So in the video game industry, that was a really fun, fun time. And you would assume that would be my final destination. Maybe, you know, I just stay there and keep doing that. Sony PlayStation bought my last company. So I ended up at Sony, which was super cool and Atari bought the company before that the best business card ever, which is an Atari business card.
It's super nostalgic. But anyway, where I am now is e commerce and what happened was we thought, let's investigate eCommerce because the game industry is big, but eCommerce is profoundly bigger. It's billions versus trillions. And so what's going on in eCommerce? Is there any opportunity to create something new there?
And we looked at it and just said, well, what are the biggest problems that brands have? And there's two, which is every single brand on planet earth wants more sales. You'll never find one. Like, please no more sales. And the second is they want more attention. It's like they wake up every single day with those two things and attention costs money.
So how can I get more attention for less cost? And so we thought, what can we do to help there? We looked at retail and said, well, retail works differently. So retail, I make a product and I try to get it into as many retail stores as possible. If I can get it into Whole Foods and Costco and Target and Walmart, we're all hugging each other because we've pulled it off.
We've got distribution, but online you see a lot of people sort of building their own little store like on Shopify or Bigcommerce or Woocommerce they build what I consider to be a little island on the internet. With no traffic, you can literally have a store with zero traffic and you then have to convince the internet to come and visit your little island and that's very hard.
And it actually determines life and death for a lot of startups because they build a great product. They make a beautiful website. They have no traffic. And then they go out there saying, how do I get traffic? And they spend all their money trying to work that out. And so the thought we had was, why don't we just use the model really that retail uses, which is let's get your products into lots of other stores.
And cause they already have the ideal traffic for you. You know, there's partner stores. If you make bicycle helmets, there's a bicycle store out there that you'd like to get your helmets into. So how easy can we make that for these people to sort of discover each other and then actually take the helmets and put them into the bike store and wire them together.
Because in the perfect world, we would change not only discovery of products and helping form partnerships, but secondly, to sort of change this paradigm, which exists today, like, let's say this morning you woke up and you said, I'm going to start, you know, making my own bicycle online store.
And I'm going to go get helmets. What they tend to do is start doing some kind of wholesale deal to buy a bunch of helmets, which means you're suddenly guessing what colors and sizes and brands you should be, you should be buying and you're buying that stuff in, you're freighting it. You're putting in a warehouse.
And then you're crossing your fingers hoping you can get traffic to come and buy that stuff and you're always wrong, which basically means you end up with a clearance sale or sending some of it back because it's like, how can you possibly get that right? All the right sizes and colors. You just can't do it.
So what happens is we said, well, let's not let's sort of reimagine the idea of drop shipping. So instead of you actually getting the stuff and wasting all of that margin by moving products before they've even sold, let's wait until the sale happens. And the moment the sale happens, the helmet company ships the helmet by doing that. You save all this back and forth and restocking fees and sales and stuff.
All that margin is then split between the two entities and that's a lot better. And when you really take a step back, what actually occurred when we connected the helmet company and the bike company together. All of the inventory that that helmet company has becomes the inventory of the bike company.
So now they can have all the helmets and all the colors and all the sizes. If a new model comes out next week, they can have that too at no cost whatsoever. So they're not paying a cent for any of this stuff. They can try it. And if you think about it, if you're a bike store, then you go, well, I've solved my helmet problem.
But what about locks and gloves and all these other things that accessories? Bicycles? Yeah. And the answer is have all of them. There's no, there's no risk. There's no cost. If you can sell it, great. There's a real fun thing you can do. If you go on to chat, TPT, which I'm sure you've played with by now. If you type in, I own an online bicycle store, what are all the products I should stock to get the maximum possible revenue? It just goes, boom, there's a list.
And so it actually gives you the shopping list without you even having to think and yet you'll find that, I don't know, 100 percent of the stores out there haven't thought through the full offering, you know, they'll sell makeup, but they don't sell brushes and they've got a perfectly good reason. They'll say, but we don't make brushes. That's not a good reason because they're going to go to Amazon to buy their brushes.
And so anytime you see the answer as well, they can get that from Amazon. That's a bad answer. Should be getting it from you. Why? Because when you sell. Okay. All of the, the key products plus accessories, plus all the things that go with it, your average order value increases.
And therefore your marketing, your ability to market and bring people to your island increases. And so it's a very, very healthy, it's the most important metric really, like, can you afford to continue to grow your business? And and so by building this technology, it's really been quite exciting. We have really big companies using our tech now.
We've over 28,000 brands installed us into their actual e commerce store. And so this is okay. I'm from the game industry, but what I'm saying is. You can really enter any space if you sort of come at it from a slightly different perspective that the sort of status quo today.
The Synergy of Coexistence: Exploring the Benefits of Brands Collaborating in the Digital Era
Alex Bond: No, that's great. I think the ability to get the retail side of things more cooperative is something that's decently unheard of. I think you know, rising tide raises all ships makes a lot of sense, but I don't think a lot of people in the e commerce industry really totally grabbed their heads around it. I think there's oftentimes where there's promotion, right? Where I'll promote your thing and you'll promote my thing, but it's not like I'm selling it.
When in your example, if I go to target and I see something that I want, I buy it. I'm not giving like a QR code to go to someone's website to go buy it. So why would that be the way it is in e commerce and digital, you know, retail stores? So I think what you're touching on is extremely important.
I'm curious how it benefits brands to operate in conjunction with stores instead of treating them as competitors. I mean, that's kind of like the foundation of free market capitalism is that competition. So when you eliminate that a little bit, does it have that, I don't know, negative side effects a little bit to be clear.
David Perry: We're not proposing you partner with competitors in any way. So this is just, you know, you don't sell brushes and this company sells brushes. They don't make makeup. They make brushes. And so you partner with them. So the trick is to be clear, we don't, force people together. You just find who you'd like to work with within the system.
If someone's not in our platform, you just say to them, install our platform and suddenly you're connected. It's a bit like a dating environment. And so it's interesting as well like when I look at the influencer space, a lot of influencers, I would say 99 percent are still thinking about followers as their main sort of most important thing.
And their actual ability to make money they very commonly will send affiliate clicks and you're right to using codes or you know special type in this or use the special link or something. And then they get an affiliate fee and the affiliate fee tends to be very small it's usually three to five percent on amazon for example. Somewhere in that zone.
And what's most important is amazon keeps all the customers so what happens is they've been doing this for years and years and years. And they'll be making this small percentage, which is an affiliate fee with no customers. And sometimes I've even had influencers say, Oh, you know, I can't believe I just got this cool t shirt deal.
And I go, please tell me you get to keep your customers and they don't. It's something that they don't understand that the customers are the most valuable thing you can possibly have if you're an influencer. Because no one, people are only interested in working with you.
If you can actually influence someone to buy something, right? If you know, did something and got a bunch of followers cause you fell off a cliff or something like that, that's not going to, you're not going to be able to get a lot of customers to sort of follow your advice. So the truly valuable people in amongst all those followers are the ones that actually take action based upon what you say.
That's what makes you an influencer. So that question of well how many customers do you have, ninety nine percent will say zero. They're all over in amazon and they own them. And so the professional ones all of the influencers are rich all have lots of customers and so you'll find the paris hilton's and people like that have you know their own stores and their own customers.
And that's the right way to go about doing it and then you can use technology like Carro to partner with lots of brands and bring them into your store so now you're owning the customers but you're not having to pay for wholesale or take any risk on anything. You're not even touching any of the products they get shipped out correctly but you're not drop shipping from china these are legitimate proper companies.
You get to curate and choose which ones you like the best, but you can see how that fundamentally changes the, the life of an influencer, because in our case, the average earning on a product is somewhere around 33%, and so would you rather have 3% or 33%? It's a much, much better environment and you keep your customers.
So I think it's going to be fun when we start outreach to lots like Paris Hilton store is actually powered by us. Ellen DeGeneres's store is powered by us. I think in the future, as we start to explain this more and do more, I think it'll, it'll be something that influences really, there's no future where they, they don't have to start thinking about having customers.
In fact, I used to just a funny one when my space was a big thing. I used to go and visit their office in Los Angeles, and they were so cocky because they were killing it like they were killing it. MySpace was the biggest thing ever. Imagine all your followers were on MySpace and you didn't have any, you hadn't backed up any customers.
And then MySpace just disappears into the ether. What are you going to do about that? And so, you know, you can't assume that social media networks Don't ever go away because they do. And so you better be backing up. I know one influencer on TikTok with 35 million followers. If he ever loses that audience, that would be a disaster for him.
So again, get your customers backed up into your own store. How much does it cost to make a store? It's like 30 bucks, you know to pay a monthly subscription. You can probably do it for even less now. But basically just paying a subscription for on one of the main commerce platforms like Shopify and you're off to the races.
Leveling the Playing Field: Exploring the Impact of Easy Accessibility on Competition
Alex Bond: Yeah. I mean, I feel like what you're talking about is extremely valid with Twitter specifically because that has gone through some serious changes in the last few to several months that I think people are really seeing in real time, the importance of being able to back up their audience.
Or I don't know, I just, I just think it's in real time, totally appropriate what you're talking about and with threads or something like that, people can test the waters and see what's working and what's not, but I think that quick, easy ability to create your own store is totally valid.
Do you think that it's so easy that that provides more competition against other people? Just like philosophically or trend wise from what you see, if it is that easy, is it more about making sure that these influencers have the right teams around them since it feels like anyone can do it?
David Perry: You know what, there's another business right there. If I was starting a new business, I would be helping influencers own customers. I think that's a huge opportunity. I do know somebody that did that and sold, they started working with us and then they sold their company for a very large amount of money really quickly.
So I think that's sort of a head slappingly obvious business model. It's just out. There is influencers. I have one thing, which is they're successful because they are actually content creators. They get up, they wake up every morning and go, oh, my God, I got to make content. And so I look at them and I'm so impressed that they've pulled it off because it's so hard to make compelling content.
And they do it consistently and entertain millions of people. So the fact that they've got to do that, that's enough. They don't have time to be handling logistics and returns, talking to people and they just need that problem to be taken care of. So the way we've set it up is they literally just shop for their shop, which they actually enjoy doing.
So if you're an influence, you can imagine choosing the things that you think fit who you are and you can still have all of your own personal merch and your own books and. Whatever other deals, if you got a record coming out or something, of course, those will all be on your website. So to be crystal clear, this isn't changing how, how you operate.
It's just augmenting it. And that extra sales really helps with marketing and everything else. But anyway, yeah, it's coming into eCommerce. It feels to me like the wild west. I can see nothing but opportunity in this space. And so that's why we've been having a lot of fun with this.
From Gaming to eCommerce: Unveiling the Journey of a Successful Industry Veteran and the Catalysts Behind a Major Career Shift
Alex Bond: Since coming to eCommerce, it's a good way of putting it because you at the top of the episode explained that you were in the video gaming industry for 30 years, over 35 years. I mean, you did work in a totally different sector and didn't just work in it. You really ran it.
I mean, to my knowledge did make two, maybe even three companies that were sold to Sony and Atari. Extremely successfully, you know, worked on these major IP games, including like Aladdin and the Matrix and Earthworm Jim.
And I mean, your resume and CV was extremely impressive to me in that video gaming space, which is highly competitive. And, you know, I pay attention to a lot of film and TV and stuff like that, but that's only like a small percentage of the type of revenue that the video gaming industry actually does bring in.
So I'm curious, first off, what totally made you change wavelengths? I mean, it sounded like. You had a good idea and and just kind of pivoted but I'm curious what really instigated that major industry change?
David Perry: What it was was i have lots of hobbies and I believe very strongly and the more you can learn about lots of things the better the rapport you will have with people in business so whenever you're if I'm sitting with someone on an airplane and they're into water skiing, I can talk about it or flying. Or whatever they're into. I've tried it in general to learn and do that thing, whatever it is.
And it sort of fundamentally changes how you, the rapport you have with people out there. And I got crazy stuff that's happened over the years because of that. The game industry is really interesting because it sort of challenges you creatively to, you have to come up with something interesting and you surround yourself with super talented people that can help sort of keep coming up.
You have to keep coming up with new ideas creatively over and over and over. And it sort of changes how you look at everything because it makes me, there's a DNA to making someone be engaged with a game. I actually wrote a book on game design. It's like a thousand pages. I'm going to save reading a thousand pages, but there's three things, which is skill, risk, and strategy.
Those are the DNA of a game that's addictive. If you take one of those things out, there's no skill required, or there's no way to take any risks in the game, or there's no way to come up with new strategies. The game gets tiring really, really quickly. It's done. And anything outside of those three things is all extra, like patting you on the head when you're doing well and things like that.
Those are all additional. But the core core things are those and so you can, you can sort of look at anything and say, you know, how could we make that more engaging? And, you know, it works in every, in every dimension. So, if you look at any game, like chess or Tetris or you know, anything, poker casinos, skill, risk strategy.
Are they important? You know, why does poker last forever? That's why they got it right. So it's kind of fun because it makes it when you think of it from that perspective and you come up with a game idea, you can ask yourself, am I on to something here? And then you can think about are those three components really present?
And if they are, you're maybe on to something. And the other things which I know When I talk to students that are interested in getting into the video game industry, I point out to them, certainly in my career, we made a game years ago called Earthworm Jim. It was kind of funny. It ended up just, it became like a cult hit.
We ended up with TV shows and Marvel made our comic book just as example. And it was because we injected some humor into the game. It's not laugh out loud. It's not like a comedy fest. It's just fun and silly. And so I say that to students, please don't start with a warehouse with crates in it.
There's so many of those. I actually used to do a test on the press when I was getting interviewed by the press. I would show them pictures of different games where you're in a warehouse with a gun tip and boxes and I would ask them what game it is and they couldn't tell you. Cause they've seen so many at this point.
And so just by saying, no, no, try humor, just give humor a go. You'll find that it opens up an enormous opportunity cause you're not competing with other people. It's just, there's so few amusing and funny games. It's I don't know if it's 1%, it's small. So that was a big. So the trick I learned, if I was to go back to games, I'd be focusing on humor for sure.
Alex Bond: No, that's very cool. Cause that's one of those things that stuck out to me on the Earthworm Jim games was it is kind of quirky, but not in like a shucksy way. The most successful games to my experience are ones that are. Iconic or totally separate and different from each other. I would probably say Crash Bandicoot is like my favorite game of all time, because there's nothing really like it.
Even though you could just say it's a platformer, it just doesn't look or feel like anything else for me personally. So I think that the same can kind of be said when creating a brand, despite having the same genre of like I want to sell hygiene products or something. It has to be presented in a way that I haven't seen before.
I do not come across a lot of brands that have, for example, enough humor in their copy or something like that. It feels either edgy or maybe bland, but I think that personality is kind of what I'm hearing you say. A lot of brands can inject to help with their revenue.
David Perry: I think we're guilty of it too. I honestly do. When you hire an agency, the agency asks you like a branding agency, they ask you, what's the vision for this? What are you doing? And in our case, the thought was that we would help you do things that may seem impossible because of all the way in which we can handle data etc that we can help you work out what's missing in your store.
And know what will sell and of all the products out there which ones will sell the best and because of it we chose there's a lots of sites out there to talk about different brand archetypes and the one we chose with them was the magician. And it's funny because you go down that rabbit hole instead of saying who do we want to be like who do we want to be instead of who are we.
And so how you'll find a lot of the branding companies are just trying to work out who you are so they can get their website built to match your current profile. They didn't sort of ask who we want to be. And I think that's an interesting point. And we probably would have ended up going more humor and interesting and fun versus a little serious.
What we did was we wanted to be an eCommerce company. We knew that. And we knew that eCommerce, if you think about it what's the one fundamental icon of eCommerce is the cart the shopping cart. What we did is we took the word cart and put it into every language.
And then we had a group of influencers who are visiting our office look at all these different versions of Carro and they and choose which one they liked. And they liked Carro the best and that's why the company is called that. But it could have been carros which is the latin version or something else. It's just interesting because this is, you know, the path we chose, but ultimately it means cart, which is the thing that we really wanted to hold on to.
The Identity Quest: Unveiling the Significance of Brand Names and the Pursuit of a Fully Formed Brand
Alex Bond: I was going to ask about the name because that is an identity. That's one of the most important things that you can do for businesses as other people don't take it that seriously. I, you know, when I had to come up with a name for my production company. It was just like a bolt of lightning, when you know, you know, type of things.
But there are other things where you have to totally belabor the issue because it is your identity, you know, when you're born, David, when I'm born, I didn't get to pick my name, you know. So then you have to figure out what that means.
That's kind of what I hear when I hear you say, you know, what we want to be versus what we are and what we are is David and Alex. Well, what we want to be is what is carro mean? You know, that's your version of kind of trying to figure out what you want to be. So I think that brands.
And I'd love to hear your opinion about it. If they think a lot about what they want to be in conjunction with what they are, or if it's so one track minded that it's like, I need to do this and that. And the third thing to keep going here, you know what I'm saying? Where it consistently feels like, I have to do this so I can do that.
So I can do this, so I can do that. When there isn't really a lot of, again, maybe it's redundant to say personality, but it feels like it's just a constant, I don't know, chase, instead of like an overarching goal to create a fully formed brand. Does that make sense?
David Perry: Yeah, no, it's fascinating because what happens is whenever brands install into our platform, we get to see what they registered as a company. And you can see very commonly the name changed. They had some idea for, cause this was obviously the inception of their company.
They didn't quite know they were still thinking about it. And then you see the final company. And so that's pretty fun to see how many actually clearly weren't clear at the start and arc who they finally became. And that's pretty fun to see it. It makes it quite hard sometimes to, we actually somehow have to go look them up.
What were they called again in our system? Because in our system, their original name, not their new name. Cause that's how they created their accounts, but it's pretty fun. So the overall with eCommerce is I think what's fun about it is this idea that the idea of partnership is surprisingly uncommon in the space.
The idea of getting these people to help each other unlocks new concepts to them. Like for example, say it's Valentine's day and you want to add products for Valentine's day through a partnership network. You can go find red products or whatever you're looking for and put them into your store or Valentine's day at no cost.
And then when Valentine's day is away, you take them away. And so why does that matter? The reason that matters is because a lot of e commerce stores are boring and they never change. They built the thing three years ago. With their four products and they they don't do anything else.
They just try to keep, you know, buying more Google clicks and more influencers and try to get people. And I I saw a lady once I talked to a lady once who made spaghetti and she had, I think three different, whatever it was, three different colors of spaghetti on our website. And beautiful and I said there what's your plan for the future and she goes we're gonna add another color spaghetti.
And I said but your site is filled with all these amazing recipes and beautiful table lays like I wanna eat like that you know i want that for dinner. But you're insisting I go buy everything else somewhere else like including the knives and forks and plates and everything that you're presenting. I have to just go get it all
elsewhere. It's quite common, they've never even thought about it. So, there was a lady who sells bags that go to the beach, you know, like beach bags. And we said to her, you do sell what goes in the bag, you know, the towels and everything else. And she's like, never thought about it.
And so, again, ChatGPT would solve that in two seconds. That's something. So we have some process we have to go out and evangelize and explain this concept, but as the network builds, we have a company that reached out to us saying that they could help us reduce the shipping costs for brands in our network.
And that's a really big deal because one of the margin losses in the system is shipping. So you could see a future where we would be representing maybe a hundred thousand brands. I'd love to talk to FedEx on behalf of a hundred thousand brands and say, we'd like to reduce the shipping costs, but you can see how that start starts to become a network effect. And that's quite exciting as well as a concept.
Navigating Brand Partnerships: Exploring the Role of Expertise in Finding the Right Fit for Your Business
Alex Bond: I'm interested in the entrepreneur listening right now that said, I did think of that. I chose not to do it or I even reached out to a brand to try to get some sort of a partnership and they shut me down just to kind of play devil's advocate with you, David, because I know there's got to be someone listening who was like, I do sell, you know, soccer balls, but I don't sell the pumps. I talked to someone who sells the pumps and they said they weren't interested. So now what? I guess is my question to you, do they need to work with a company like you who is capable of vetting these brands and making sure that they are the right fit?
David Perry: Great question. So we just announced today that we've hit a million products and a million products. We have bike pumps. And what's interesting is there's two kinds of companies. There's some companies that are out saying i just want to increase my sales i want to get as many partnerships as I can.
And so on our platform they put on auto and auto means basically if somebody wants to come and try to sell their pumps they're welcome to and if they end up. Like not wanting to work with them, they can cut them off, but ultimately they're saying, give it a shot and see if you can sell my pumps. If you can, I want those sales.
Because remember when the sale happens on your site, you get paid to the 30 percent or whatever it is for the pump, but they get the order and ship it out. So they're getting orders from heaven. They wake up in the morning and there's orders that they never. They didn't have anything to do with. They just appear in the order queue because you managed to sell their products somewhere else.
And now they're going to ship it out. How many of those do they want? And the answer is they put it on auto and say, give me as many as you can get. So if you come to our platform and just look for bike pumps, there will be bike pumps in there. You can choose whichever ones you want and go live.
But there's the second kind of company is the bigger companies who tend to want to control everything who they work with. All the rest of it. And so how they partner those bigger companies are in our platform too. We have lots and lots of the biggest brands in the world.
And so when you want to partner with one of those people they tend to want to look at your website and make sure you're legitimate and all the rest and that's fine. And once they click approve then you get access to their products And so in that case you just have to put your best foot forward. You apply to sell their products.
You're clicking request the product and they get notified that you're interested in selling it. They're going to come look at your website. If your website looks terrible and while you've never sold anything, probably not best to hit up Adidas right away. You know, find somebody else, but work your way up.
So as you increase sales or as your website starts to look really professional, those are the things that are going to get people to want to partner with you. And so it's a self solving problem because if you come into the network and you don't do a good job, we're going to end up kicking you out and you're going to have lost access to all of these amazing brands.
So in a way you need to sort of do a good job to be a part of the ecosystem. But if you do, then, you know, you should be able to work your way up the quality of brands that would like to work with you. There's some amazing stores, there's one called gear.com. If you go to gear.com. And you click on brands, all brands, you can see they have an unbelievable amount of partnerships.
I think we're over 6,000 different products powered by us already in their store. You know, they've built an adventure marketplace. Would you really want to try to keep all of that stuff in a warehouse somewhere and pay for rent and hope you sell it? Like, hope those kayaks sell before they start getting old.
That's going to take up some space. So why not just add kayaks if they sell, add foldable kayaks and start adding the variants of kayaks, right? They can go in a car. And so you can see, you can sort of work out what your audience wants at no risk whatsoever. And that's what I did.