Episode 183 Featuring Connor Curlewis

How This No-Code Design Platform Can Help You Increase Customer Engagement And Drive More Sales

How This No-Code Design Platform Can Help You Increase Customer Engagement And Drive More Sales

In this episode, we are joined by Sara Osborn is the VP of Partnerships and Integrations at Amaze, a mobile ecommerce design platform helping anyone easily market and sell products online. She is leading the company’s cross-functional teams to build and expand Amaze’s partnership program and strategic product integrations. 

Sara shares with us her backstory, how Amaze started and how it works, her insights on capitalism, and some sneak peek on the future plans of Amaze.


Her Backstory

Connor Curlewis: So you're currently leading the partnership and integrations at Amaze, which is a design tool that helps customer experiences in e-commerce and creators, as you're saying, but I wanna step back a bit. Can you tell us your life as a child, as an adolescent, and how you ended up getting here to where you are cause it's obviously a very excellent position you've reached. 

Sara Osborn: Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of luck that helps to get me where I am today, but ever since I was a small child, I've been really interested in and drawn to things that are very aesthetic. So design, fashion, art. I always had some kind of like coloring or paint with me. And while I didn't go into design as a career initial, I kind of went that direction as well. 

So yeah, I think just that love for visual aesthetic and having pretty strong sense of, you know, kind of like my own sense of like design and what I like and what I think is good. And also I do create art now as well. Mostly digital art and it's a little kind of weird and out there, but great outlet. So there's always been that kind of that thread of not only creation, but also of design and visual. 

And so when I joined Amaze back in 20, oh gosh, it was long, 2014. So I quite some time. I definitely did not join in the capacity of a designer or in product. I joined in the capacity of operations. And at a startup operations essentially means everything that's not writing code or doing the marketing. So I was kind of running accounting, working with all of our outsourced kind of back office partners to keep the lights on, for lack of a better word.

And then in 2015, company did a bit of a refocus. It initially started out as an open source JavaScript framework for creating these really smooth, slick animations for the web, which at that time was very new and novel and exciting. However, you know, the company had gotten some funding and can't make a ton of money in open source, JavaScript libraries.

And so we decided to do a bit of a focus. We reduced the team to a very kind of core set. I think there was six of us who stayed on. And we were really charged with figuring out how to productize this tech that had been developed. And so from about late 2015 to 2016, 17, 18, I was very hands on with the product and really got to play an intimate part in figuring out what it is that we're gonna build. 

And the original CEO was also very design oriented and from a lot of his vision, we constructed kind of the first few iterations of what is now today called Amaze pro. Just my evolution with the company and the opportunity that I was fortunate enough to have to stay on board at that critical pivot in 2015 is really what I attribute to, how I got to where I am today.

With a lot of people, your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness. And I am very, you know, stubborn. I don't give up easily. I'll keep kind of pounding on something until I can like get it to work or figure it out and I think that's what kind of carried me through. A lot of the more very ambiguous times when you're trying to build a product or bring it to market from like a personal standpoint I think that headstrong, like not give up, stubborn perspective is really kind of the vehicle that I used to get here as well.

What Is Amaze And How It Works

Sara Osborn: And so what I'll speak to is our current product, which we call Amaze Pro it also, you know, will be introducing a free tier. And then, you know, I can kind of speak to if it makes sense, kind of where we're taking the product. So today Amaze pro is essentially, it is a no code tool for creating very polished, professional looking mobile storefronts or mobile selling pages for your products. And it is really great for a whole variety of people and use cases. 

I would say primarily because it was initially designed as a professional tool, anybody who has even a little bit of like web design experience. And I say that loosely, because what you see is what you get. There is a little bit of like, you know, you do need to refine some of the responsive stuff a little bit, but that's pretty minor. However, really anyone who has content or even doesn't have content that wants to create some type of branded experience for themselves or for their business, or even for a client, if you're an agency.

And what's really great is that because of that core technology that we built back in 2014, 15, that animation engine, what users can produce is a very like native feeling experience that you typically only get when you are interacting with a native application. So think of like story like animations, you know, you can, you know, swipe back and forth up and down. We have 3d transitions and a whole library of really interesting and engaging content animations that you can apply to elements that are on your design. 

So from an ecommerce standpoint, of course, engagement is super important. And anybody that lands on your page that you create with a mace, you wanna keep on that page as long as possible and move them to whatever that next step in the funnel is, whether that is moving them to more information so that they can make a purchasing decision in the future. Or move them to actually make the purchase if they're actually ready to do that in the moment. 

And what we found is that by using these visual animations as cues, you can drive users to take that next action. And so it's just an interesting melt between like this design tool and ecommerce, that's kind of bridging together this creative commerce solution that merchants can use to sell their products in a completely new way and a very focused and targeted way.

And I say very focused and targeted because it is quick to create this essentially they're single page mobile websites, right? Just with some interesting, cool tech under the hood. However, you can create them really quickly. So if you have several audience segments that you're trying to engage with, you can create an experience for each of those audiences with content specific for them.

Of course, today, as we kind of move away from this like monolithic traditional kind of storefront and ecommerce space to more of this decentralized space where retailers, brands, and merchants have to go meet their audience, where they are no longer can you rely on people coming to your online store. You gotta go meet them to where they are. Amaze really enables them to do that in a more effective way by creating these very custom experiences. 

The tool itself is very similar to, from a usability perspective, very similar to some of the other more popular professional, like web design tools out there. We took a lot of inspiration from sketch. A lot of inspiration from Figma. We even took inspiration from keynote and power. And so there's just there's we tried to pick and pull, we took a lot of inspiration from canva, I'll say that too. 

So we tried to pick and pull the best and breed features and use usability patterns from those market leading tools, put them into kind of one interface in a logical way so that you both had the power from the kind of core tech and also some of the more sophisticated advanced editing capabilities. But there was also a very simple way to use the tool as well by simple drag and drop content from libraries and we also offer a live preview functionality, which is super helpful. 

So you can essentially scan a QR code and then live on your mobile device. As you're doing your design, creating your Amaze page. You can see those changes in real time. So you know exactly what your audience is gonna get when you publish that page and share it out to them. There's really no surprises, which I think is important.

Connor Curlewis: Yeah. That's quite genius. I'm on the free trial right now. I didn't know that you could do that. Those templates you're discussing are quite the animation are very beautiful. So yeah, I encourage people to have a look at that. 

Sara Osborn: You can get real creative with them too. So if you wanna dial in every little, twiddle every knob on every kind of attribute for those animations. You can certainly make them as custom as you want. 

Connor Curlewis: Yeah, totally. I make films and it's kind of like after effects a little bit. 

So just to understand it a bit more. I know that you like integrate with things like Shopify. But is it just a snippet that you're adding into your, you know, already you've got a domain on Shopify or is it a webpage that's by itself?

Sara Osborn: So it's interesting. Cause it's kinda more the latter, it's a standalone site. However, based on our integration, what we're able to do is publish the page, the Amaze page to your online store's domain. Which is important for any merchant that is wanting to build trust with their audience, URLs are really important and critical for brand identity.

So what we're able to do is leveraging some of the APIs that Shopify offers, we were able to set it up so that when you publish your Amaze page, we're actually going onto your store subdomain, we are generating a kind of a new blank page path that is then assigned to the Amaze page. So when you publish while the Amaze page will not necessarily be navigable from your primary online storefront, it will share the same sub domain.

So it's standalone from your online store, but it does have that same sub domain. So you can still be recognized by your customers and your audience when you share this page out across whatever channel you wanna use. 

That's the feedback that we got from our customers when we were doing some initial testing is like, hey, I need to be able to publish this to my domain. Otherwise there's a lot that's lost from brand recognition. So we were able to take that feedback and actually implement it and improve our product. 

So in addition to publishing to a Shopify domain, which is really great for Shopify merchant, if you're not a Shopify merchant, and you're simply creating branded content that you want to be able to publish out to your audience or if you are using maybe you wanna have products that link out to a different location, you can always add your own custom domain and publish there as well. 

And so we try to be kind of serve both audiences, both our Shopify merchants, which are near and dear to our hearts. And then also those who maybe don't have a Shopify store yet, but still would like to create some branded content to engage their audience with. 

Their User Base And Amaze's Purpose

Connor Curlewis: Just in that vein, is it gonna be so far? Is it strictly product based optimized? Or are some of your customers more softwares or services? 

Sara Osborn: That's a good question. So it's a mix, really. So we do have a number of merchants from Shopify that are using our product to sell physical goods. And of course, you know, if there's subscriptions, they could sell the subscriptions through us. We also have a contingent of users who are using our product to almost do like prototypes or mockups for other digital products that they wanna create. 

And that's kind of our legacy user base as we move to the future, the users and the personas that we are really going to be serving are going to be the retailers are the sellers. So those that have products to sell and they can be either brands or marketplaces, whoever's trying to sell products. And then also on the flip side, we are going to be really targeting and creating a tool set for creators who don't have their own products to sell, but they have an audience.

And that audience really, really critical potentially these brands that want to start to sell into a very highly engaged and almost niche in some cases, audience really where we're heading is not only supporting or providing tools for Shopify merchants. But now we wanna create this ecosystem of brand and creator collaborator. That's essentially the product that we're building right now that we're really excited to refine and so that we can really be a driving force behind this new kind of creator and brand collaboration economy, which, you know, I think personally is that's the way things are heading, right.

I mean, as we kind of continue to move into this decentralized commerce scene where people are buying things wherever, you know, like I honestly. I honestly only go on Instagram these days to like, see what products I get served and see what I can buy from them. I'm like, cool. Yeah. Sounds like a shopping feed for me now. It's great. But as we see that happen more and more, those really establishing long term relationships across brands and creators is gonna be more and more important. 

And what we're noticing today is that there really isn't a lot of tools on the market that are tailored for that specific relationship and supporting it not only in a, from a discovery standpoint. So not only enabling brands to discover creators, creators to discover brands. But also from an execution standpoint. 

And so what we wanna be able to do is create like a global catalog of products that these participating brands are contributing and then have that kind of global catalog, almost be a marketplace for creators to come in, search for products that might be in line with what their audience is interested in, or perhaps a piece of content that they're creating, then that creator can leverage our design tool to create that really highly targeted and customized storefront very, very quickly. Plop in the product, distribute to their audience.

So you get this kind of content commerce meet collaborator creator commerce. The audience is highly engaged because its relevant content in a very engaging format. And then when a sale occurs, we're gonna be implementing some tech to help do some kind of like rev sharing across the brand and the creator. 

So when we talk about helping both brands and creators build their business, it's really that that rev share piece that will be driving. The goal is that as brands and creators see an uptick in conversions, they will continue to, you know, sell more products and engage with each other more. So we can create this kind of flywheel effect and really be, be there to support this new era of decentralized social creator, collaborator, commerce, whatever. I don't, I don't know what to call it, honestly cause it's so new. I'm like, what is this? And what do we call it? So certainly something that needs a little bit of labeling and branding, but that's all right.

Connor Curlewis: Yeah. Fair. Does that look like affiliate marketing today or is it something else? 

Sara Osborn: It's something else. I think so affiliate marketing, I think today is it's very anonymous. There isn't a relationship between the affiliate typically and the brand or the seller. I like to think of where we're going more, as you know, there's some aspects of it in terms of the rev share.

So where we're heading. Yes, we're kind of borrowing this notion of a rev share from the affiliate marketing space, but it is also so much more because we are enabling creators with the new set of tools to produce content to better connect with their audience and also provide some monetization opportunity with this product that they could be selling on behalf of a brand.

But also as we start to see, or as these brands and creators start to see, you know, more and more synergies, the idea is that they would then establish longer term relationships with each other. So that we're moving away from these like one off deals or these one of a kind of like, let me grab a link and put it anywhere.

At the end of the day, people aren't only gonna engage with content that's interesting and that's valuable. I don't know, from my perspective, I think the traditional affiliate marketing piece is not super valuable to the audience always, and we wanna be able to bring some more value to the audience and you know, that's such a key part to any type of performance when it comes to either content engagement or commerce at the end of the day. So think it's all about bringing value to the audience. And we really hope to be able to do this with this new platform. 

The creators are so passionate about what they do. Any opportunity there is to help creators continue to do what they love to do by making some money. Like, I think, like you said that's pretty, pretty noble cause I don't know, just to kind of get philosophical for a second.

I think the creativity has been sucked out of so many of us because of the world we live in and the pace at which we have to move, to work, to whatever, to survive and seeing people who are so committed and dedicated to. Their creative or artistic passion, whatever in whatever form that is like, that can be baking. That can be like somebody's willing to like commit and make it their life. That's the ultimate goal. 

I think like, if you can wake up and love what you do every day, I think that needs to be rewarded and that needs to be, you know, supported. And more people should have the opportunity to do that. And yeah, of course, yeah, new tools coming on the market, I mean, there's already a bunch of great platforms out there, Patreon and there's a lot, but I think having it move away and having it be, I don't know, more accessible to a wider range of mediums and interest is only gonna help. It's gonna help people be happier with their life. And I think we can use as much as that as possible these days. 

Future Of Technology

Connor Curlewis: I was gonna ask you about that. Like, because everybody's incentivized to make these customer experiences so brilliant and engaging and kind of like, you know, stimulating. Are we gonna reach a singularity where it's kind of just all too much and people put down their phones. 

Sara Osborn: I don't think so. I think the technology will have to get real. I mean, I think we're pretty far off from that to be completely honest. Take VR for example, I think VR, while it's improved and advanced in leaps and bounds, you put on that Oculus headset. It's very, I don't know. It's not real enough, at least for me. 

Connor Curlewis: Oh yeah. Yeah. I just mean also in like advertising and things like that. 

Sara Osborn: It could get a little busy. So if we talk about kind of visual distraction, there's always a risk there. Right. And I think we've kind of seen that in the nineties and like, it just got very unintentional. So I think that there's going and we see this right. The shift to a more intentional type of digital experience. The shift to a more targeted and focused experience that's delivering the right content to the right people when they want it, or need it, as opposed to just kind of like shotgun blasting everything out there. 

As a result of the over, you know, kind of the overcrowdedness in the market, we are seeing that more intentional experiences that have a true like brand voice, whether that's visual, whether that is speaking, you know, in the language of your audience basically mattering like listening to what your audience is saying and freezing content that matters to them.

I think we are actually seeing like a shift to like the other side. It's gonna be easier for people to engage because there's less noise. And as targeting gets better. and some of the platforms get a lot better with their own delivery. I think that's just gonna get improved now talking about flip sides, the flip side that is this whole echo chamber issue that we're all very familiar with. 

And so I think honestly, it's gonna be the biggest challenge is for brands or whoever for consumers and people that are leveraging some of these platforms as well is finding the balance going outside of their normal kind of communities perhaps, or following different brands that they might not follow to just get some different content their way is I think we'll probably see more of that as people become a lot more aware of kind of the machine that we're living in of optimization.

Sara Osborn: And honestly, it just boils down to like a recommendation algorithm. And so, you know, as we launched this new creator and brand collaboration platform, that's something we're thinking a lot about is how can we create a recommendation engine for both sides? So we're recommending products that are and brands that are gonna align with a creator's audience and then vice versa on the creator's side. 

But, you know, as we think about doing that, there has to be that interesting mix of newness, that interesting mix of novelty, like what is somebody gonna, what as I sign on as a creator, to the Amaze platform, what am I gonna discover today that's new and different that maybe I didn't think I would be interested in, or maybe I didn't even know about. 

Yeah, there's this whole space of like, not only like AI ethics, but I think like algorithm ethics in general and leveraging it for, I mean, good, good and bad is so subjective. So it's hard to say that, but just. 

Connor Curlewis: Suffering and non suffering. 

Sara Osborn: Precisely. Yeah, exactly. So there has to be a little bit of like nuance around that to best serve your users rather than perpetuate. And echo chamber or keeping people in a bubble. 

Future Plans Of Amaze

Connor Curlewis: So I guess you are kind of incentivized to keep track of the times and see where those echo chambers are happening. Like you are probably looking at integrating into different things like Instagram shopping. Would you integrate into that? 

Sara Osborn: Yeah, we have a pretty interesting perspective on these like native shopping tools, which number one are great. I mean, as a user, I use it all the time. I mean, just being able to buy something in the moment is so critical. And I think one of the while that's very powerful, it also create like you have to stay in that one, that one ecosystem. 

So for example, if I'm a brand or even like a retailer, whatever I have to now create my Instagram shop. I have to create my Facebook shop. I have to create my TikTok shop and that kind of limits me.

That's not only more work, but that also means I have to go and create content for each of those different platforms and it's work. And also kind of keeps that keeps you in a walled garden. And more importantly, if you're partnering with creators in your brand, how do you share in the sales with your creator using those stores, those native stores while I love those.

And I think they're very powerful and great from a consumer standpoint, they definitely have some, like, leave some things out or lack a couple critical pieces of functionality. So instead of having to be in this walled garden, what if you could create a selling experience and then distributed across all of those platforms as you would a link almost that your audience could open up in that application as if it was native.

They could continue to do browse and buy as if it was native, because you're doing it all within the web view of the application. That's really what we wanna promote and continue to bring to market is that ability to create something once and distributed everywhere. It also would have all of the eCommerce functionality necessary.

So you could simply, you know, a shopper could simply click expand browse by. So it's functionality's all there. You just have to create it one time and then put it on all the platforms. I think that's like with anything there's benefits and then there's some drawbacks, but overall, you know, I think we're moving in this direction of this more ubiquitous type of experience that can be shared everywhere if you want to instead of being beholden to a walled garden that owns everything, including the data. 

Insights On Capitalism

Sara Osborn: Yeah. So, you know, I think like with most people you have kind of your kinda core internal beliefs that have developed over many years from your own observations. And that's just every problem that I see, I'm like, mm, this, we always have to be expanding our economy and that's creating all these problems, but yeah, I'm certainly perpetuating that.

But at the end of the day, I think there is so much to be excited about with regards to technology too. And that's what I get super excited. And as it keeps me getting up as well, every day as well, it's like, let's kind of push the tech in a more positive direction and see what we can do to empower more people to participate in the economy so that it's less of a people standing on each other's shoulders.

You know, like of course elevate those that maybe in the past didn't have as many opportunities to make a business, create a business, make money, whatever. And so I wanna kind of use technology and leverage what we're building to empower a new kind of class, a new group of people to participate and have a voice. Cause the more people that have a voice, I think the more, the more chance we're gonna actually potentially move to a sustainable type of capitalism. Cause right now it's so out of balance with the people on top, just steamrolling everything. 

Connor Curlewis: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's a noble cause it's just like getting away from the hyper consumption at the same time. Probably a tricky part of that is like, you really wanna help people like, do things that their parents couldn't do, or like the situation that they planted in, doesn't allow for them to do, but then you don't at the same time wanna be like, yeah. And just sell plastic stuff, you know? Right.

But I'm very interested to see what we can do in the future, like sustainable services, sharing things, I think like decentralization itself is kind of a community in a way in a slightly different way than a social media is. 

NFT, Web Three, And The Blockchain

Sara Osborn: Yeah, I think so NFTs, I get real, so interested to see where this goes. We're seeing the evolve so rapidly. So I think, you know, initially everything was very nascent. It's these digital assets that you can get that couldn't really do anything with. I get that as like a status symbol. It was new and novel. 

But now we're starting to see like a lot more application, like we're starting to see NFTs used for more utility almost for example, I was reading an article this morning about NFT restaurants and kinda leveraging NFTs. You know, you can buy access to this super exclusive restaurant. That's going to be opening soon. And it's, you know, all NFT based. 

And then of course web three, leveraging a lot of like, there's a bunch of like domain providers on web three out that are kind of leveraging NFTs to manage and track ownership of these domains. So it's, I'm excited to see kind of how that evolves. We're already moving beyond just data asset that can be tracked. It's certainly powerful. We're just scratching the surface. 

Yeah. I'm not an expert in this space at all. Do not know a lot about NFTs, blockcha

in, web three just, I've done a touch of research and certainly there's like you said, there's community aspect, building piece to like this new space. And I've actually read about some collectives that have started to actually put on, you know, kind of live event and are kind of leveraging community that they've built to bring some things into the real world and actually have them be super interactive. 

I'm a big science fiction fan. And I read a lot, I don't know if you know who William Gibson is. My favorite book of all time is Neuromancer. Yeah. So I dunno. I just, every time I think about like NFTs or even like AR I'm, like William Gibson wrote about this, like 30 something years ago. So we'll just see how much of that continues to manifest here. 

Connor Curlewis: Yeah. Maybe we could just go to dune and get rid of the computers altogether.

Sara Osborn: Yeah. I mean, I totally, or I'm just ready to like yeah jack into the matrix, just be in the matrix and fly around. I'd be cool at that too. 

Connor Curlewis: Yeah. It's a scary one, but it's also like, it's less tech cuz you're kind of like removing the plane. Like you're looking at a plane, that's kind of like a counter immersion to just nature and breathing and you know, all the good stuff. 

The blockchain, I think that you at Amaze could probably do some interesting things with the experiences. There's a company called V chain and they do supply chain tagging on the blockchain. So it's, you know, instead of like DHL or FedEx going arrived here at this time, it's like, it's put on the blockchain immutable. It definitely did arrive here. No one can tamper it. 

Sara Osborn: It's interesting that you mentioned Amazed blockchain. So we actually have initiated, we have a partnership going with a couple folks in the blockchain space. So ever X, we actually just nail down a partnership with them a few months ago. They are going to bring basically some like NFT functionality into our platform. So users will be able to mint NFT.

So that's exciting in, on deck. And of course we wanna enable people to sell not only digital, like kind of static digital products, but also be able to sell those via NFT as well. So we'll be able to mint. And sell on our platform. And then we also have a partnership with ozone, which is ozone metaverse is their name. And we are gonna be partnering with them to actually create shopping experiences in the metaverse. So a lot of cool things happening on that front that were just starting to spec out and build out.

So certainly we're eye on the prize in terms of staying relevant across all possible platforms and channels and environments to succeed today. I think you have to be thinking about what's nextand not just in terms of the popular use cases or applications, but also what are the actual like utility, what are the utilities of these platforms and tools, because that's what's gonna happen long term. 

The novelty's gonna wear off whatever board ape, and we're gonna starting more of the supply chain stuff that you mentioned. 

Connor Curlewis: Can you speak more to that? What does that actually look like? Not to give away your secrets. 

Sara Osborn: So we actually are just starting to spec it out. I actually don't, you know, we haven't, I can walk you through a couple examples. If you're a creator on our platform and you decide to essentially like you like wrap a product from a brand, perhaps brand is maybe it's a print on demand or something where you can customize a shirt whatever, like customize a physical good as a crater.

I cannot only sell that physical good on my Amazed page. I could even like mint that artwork, perhaps that I created. And then I have that NFT there's other use cases where, you know, we have maybe a collection of, we have an, a brand or a fashion, you know, company that actually has like digital, like NFT outfits or something that they then wanna sell through to potentially craters in the face of. You know, whatever NFTs virtual worlds, they'd be able to facilitate that through our platform as well.

And so I think there's a couple different ways we're kind of visualizing how this could work, but we have not nailed down every single use case yet. So if you have any ideas, be all ears to see what you think.

Connor Curlewis
Connor Curlewis

Former Content Producer

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