At Ally, our mission is to drive outcomes for our clients. eCommerce is complex and constantly changing, so we rely on a fast-paced, innovative culture to make it happen. We want to help you get to know the people behind your eCommerce engine, so today, we’re taking you behind-the-scenes with Will Voegeli.
Meet Will: Q&A Lightning Round
IS Manager at Ally
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got started with Ally.
I’ve always been into computers and technology and all of my high school friends assumed I’d major in computer science. However, I decided to go another route and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of South Carolina because I’ve always been very interested in investing and stock markets. I then went on to do a number of things such as work for a Department of Defense contractor for the Navy and co-founding a digital marketing company, Webociti, with my business partner. That’s how I ended up at an eCommerce executive meetup in mid 2013, where I met Paul D’Arrigo, co-founder of Ally.
At the time, Ally wasn’t even Ally, yet; we were just an online retailer primarily selling pro audio equipment. A few months after I’d started he explained to me that the online retail model was changing and becoming more competitive, ultimately, that we needed to expand the business. Paul and the other co-founders had this idea to assist brands in taking back control of their distribution channels, and the original Ally business model was born. A few weeks later he basically told me: “We’re going to take a shot at launching this new company (Ally), we’ve got a ton to do in a very short amount of time.” He asked if I was onboard to take the leap with them and help build out the Ally technology.
Six years later, we’ve come a long way and it’s been an incredible experience – lots of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Walk us through your typical day. What are the core components of your role?
I was hired to manage the Ally systems, so I’ve essentially planned, built, managed, and been responsible for the core platform, the backbone of the Ally offering. The great part about that is I’ve developed a deep understanding of every part of the company. I regularly work with Account Management, Accounting and Finance, Merchandising, Customer Service, Operations, and Sales and Marketing.
As part of the Tech team at a small, but high growth company, I’m involved in many different things throughout the day, like a new client or employee on-boarding, or managing the security system, or troubleshooting internal and external networks, or general tech help. We go wherever we are needed to remove technical obstacles for our teammates and clients so they can operate their business.
“When there’s a fix that’s needed, we don’t really chew on ideas — we value action. So we’ll debate on a few ideas, and then I’ll start working on all three of them to feel out which one has the best path. You can sit around and talk about the best plan of action for days, or you can take a risk and try to fix it. At Ally, we prefer the latter.”
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Building new features and making improvements that directly affect and benefit the company — hands down. We do things that not only help our clients but also improve the working life of my coworkers — things like decreasing operating costs, improving client expectations, and increasing GMV/net margin. I’ve always enjoyed learning new technologies, exploring how to leverage them together, and then coming up with creative solutions as quickly as possible. Sometimes that’s an unorthodox solution, but it allows us to grow, and Ally leadership has always given us the freedom to pursue the best system possible.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
I don’t have a regular day-to-day task list; instead as IS Manager at Ally, I’m responsible for creating and finding my work, then figuring out how to best approach completing the task. Since we’re in uncharted territory, there’s minimal direction so it can be challenging to ensure that consistent, notable progress is being made. But in the end, we’re delivering solutions that no one else has.
“We have endured mountains of trial and error integrating with various marketplaces, shopping carts, shipping providers, payment processors, and related services. In my opinion, that’s easily the most difficult, time-consuming, and expensive part of building a direct-to-consumer eCommerce operation. When you do it alone, it’s a lot to tackle. When you do it with Ally, it’s productive, efficient, and ready to go in just a few months.”
Why should brands be considering — if not prioritizing — selling DTC? In your words, what benefits and opportunities does this strategy offer?
From what I’ve seen over the years in this business, the first reason is that selling DTC allows brands to have better control over the customer experience, their product pricing, points of sale, and more. Those are very important.
But I’ve also learned that in regards to benefits and opportunities, the DTC channel can help brands learn how and where to improve products based on customer returns data. Ally captures every reason for a customer returning a product and processes all physical product returns, which means categorizing the product condition, the reason for the defect (if applicable), and serializing each defective unit. That way, we’re able to attach a description of a defect to an individual unit, which allows a client to start to see trends/patterns when we ship those defective units back to the client. Several clients have taken advantage of this over the years and they’ve been able to make significant improvements to certain product lines. This opportunity doesn’t exist in the traditional retail system or model, and we’ve uniquely optimized it so that Ally customers give the best experience possible to their clients while also getting the most out of the transaction.
Why do you think Ally is the best solution for brands looking to set up or improve their direct to consumer eCommerce operation?
When it comes to eCommerce, experience can play a significant role, and we’ve been doing this for 12 years across several eCommerce platforms and services. We have endured mountains of trial and error integrating with various marketplaces, shopping carts, shipping providers, payment processors, and related services. That’s why we understand — and have solved — for a multitude of nuances within those solutions. In my opinion, that’s easily the most difficult, time-consuming, and expensive part of building a direct-to-consumer eCommerce operation. When you do it alone, it’s a lot to tackle. When you do it with Ally, it’s productive, efficient, and ready to go in just a few months.
Want to learn more about working with Ally? Get in touch with us today.