Amit Mathradas used to be the general manager and head of the small-medium business branch of PayPal before becoming the President and COO of Avalara. Prior to both jobs, he also worked at Dell as a Senior Director for Consumer Strategy and General Manager of Dell Small Business.
At PayPal, Amit Mathradas was responsible for handling the accounts of 8,000,000 merchants, which deliver billions of dollars in revenue. Likewise, Amit also managed the “end to end ownership of customer lifecycle (acquisition and growth), execution and delivery across channels (digital, sales and partner) and strategy (segment and marketing).”
Meanwhile, as COO of Avalara, Amit Mathradas handles growth operations of the company. He oversees “sales, marketing, business development, customer experience, and professional services” for the company’s international clients.
Amit Mathradas has made a long and successful career helping out small to medium business by providing them the tools and services that enable them to grow and compete in the global economy.
Throughout his career, Amit Mathradas has also shown the ability to build lasting and fruitful partnerships with other technological, commercial, and financial industry giants like Microsoft, MasterCard, Walmart, and BestBuy.
With Amit Mathradas, you’ll be able to connect the dots quickly and convert your idea “from concept to cash.”
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Amit Mathradas: I got my professional start overseeing Dell’s sales of third-party monitors and displays as a product manager. In fact, in my early days at Dell, my brother also worked for the company. From there, I spent 14 years in various roles at Dell ranging from product management to serving as the general manager of Dell Small Business. It was after my role working with small businesses that I found my true passion for helping merchants grow their operations through the application of technology. After Dell, I spent a few years at Web.com before going to PayPal where I served as the general manager of the company’s North American small and medium business unit.
Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Amit Mathradas: While I wasn’t around for the early days of Avalara, our CEO Scott McFarlane regularly evangelizes the mission our founders set out on more than 15 years ago. We all know that taxes have been around since the dawn of humanity and that the United States was founded on the basis of a tax dispute. Nearly every person and business in the world is impacted by indirect taxes and is burdened with managing their obligations. For as long as we can tell people have been managing tax manually using spreadsheets and personnel to stay compliant. Our founders knew that there was a better way to manage compliance through the use of technology. They also knew that they couldn’t accomplish their mission alone and that they would need partners to bring our products to customers. As a result, Avalara has worked to create the industry’s leading partner ecosystem of more than 700 invoicing, billing, and technology partners that enables Avalara to automate tax compliance virtually anywhere an invoice is created.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Amit Mathradas: The early days of my career were relatively calm. I was able to work with interesting product sets and make my way up the ladder. It wasn’t until I made my way into the middle of my career right before I took my first executive role that I faced a challenging time.
Prior to becoming an executive, I had to do a rotation as a chief of staff to learn and hone in on several necessary skills to take on the next level. At that time, I was paired with a senior executive that would serve as my mentor. I quickly learned that our basic leadership styles were fundamentally different. The executive’s leadership style was one marked by instilling fear and using intimidation to get results — something I disagree with. The main challenge wasn’t that I didn’t agree with his leadership style, but that there was very little I could do about my situation. I could try to find another job but that would have put a stop to my growth, or I could quit for which I wasn’t in a financial position to take that risk.
Ultimately, I stuck it out and turned an otherwise negative experience into one that I could learn from. I made note of the worthwhile lessons I could apply throughout the experience, but I really prioritized learning what not to do as a leader. Those lessons have been invaluable throughout my career because I was able to learn firsthand just how detrimental poor leadership can be to teams, an organization, and the bottom line. I can say with confidence that I was miserable for most of that experience, but in hindsight, I am grateful for it because it helped me create a toolkit for the type of leader I wanted to be, as well as the kind I did not.
Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Amit Mathradas: Things are going extremely well in my career today. I’ve been able to enjoy more responsibility and make a larger impact on organizations throughout the roles I’ve had as an executive. I truly believe that none of the success I’ve had in my career would have been possible without the lessons I learned on poor leadership earlier in my career.
I think it’s important to note that we will all likely go through experiences in our careers that are less than desirable. While it may be difficult to see the light when you’re in the midst of those challenging times, I can assure you from my experience that they are often a gift. I was able to take a challenging time in my career and turn it into an educational foundation that has served as the basis for the rest of my career. I know that I wouldn’t be in the position I am today or have gotten here as fast as I did if I hadn’t weathered that negative season.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Amit Mathradas: When I started in my first role at Dell, I was still actively playing rugby in my free time. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night I would be at rugby practice, which translated into cuts, scrapes, and bruises the following days while I was at the office. In all honesty, there were some days that I looked like I had been in a bar fight the night before.
For those in the company who didn’t know me, their perceptions of me were often, let’s say questionable. It took me a while to catch on and for the first six months of my time at Dell there was a running joke about me and my bruises. I ultimately began letting team members know about my love for rugby and how I was actively playing in my spare time, which helped correct perceptions and amend my reputation.
I think the biggest takeaway from that lesson is that when people say perceptions matter, they’re right. How you carry and present yourself in the workplace has a direct impact on your position within the organization and with others. However, we should all remember that we should read the full book instead of just looking at the cover. Assumptions about others can have a negative impact on their careers, so taking time to understand those you’re working with is important to their success and the success of your teams.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Amit Mathradas: Ecommerce is heavily driven by convenience. As a result, tools and software that improve the customer experience through convenient, personalized shopping experiences are powerful for emerging ecommerce brands. One example of where software can make an impact on the customer experience is at checkout. Customers want to pay with whatever payment type they choose, so having flexible options to process payments is key. Incorporating alternative payment methods like PayPal or Apple Pay can help convert more customers by making the checkout process as seamless as possible.
Shipping tools and software are also game changers for ecommerce merchants. While most ecommerce platforms include a variety of shipping options like drop shipping, printable shipping labels, and pre-setup shipping providers, solutions exist to help ecommerce sellers fulfill orders on their own. Applications like ShipStation help automate shipping for merchants of all sizes, and offer small businesses discounted shipping rates with USPS, UPS, and FedEx.
It probably goes without saying that tax automation software can also empower ecommerce merchants in a number of ways. Automating all aspects of tax compliance from calculations to returns offloads a significant burden from sellers and allows them to focus on what matters most — serving customers.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
Amit Mathradas: The online customer journey has several different stages from customer acquisition to delivery and they each have an impact on conversion. While there are a number of strategies ecommerce sellers can employ to improve conversion rates, three examples come to mind:
- Customer support — Consumers want to be able to ask questions and get answers while shopping online. Being able to support customers as they browse your online store will keep them on the site longer and increase the likelihood of a purchase. This can be done with videos and tutorials or even click to chat to make it more engaging.
- Accurate costs — The average cart abandonment rate as of 2019 was 69.57%, with 53% of shoppers citing unexpected costs (shipping, tax, and fees) as the main cause. Merchants should ensure that all costs all calculated early in the checkout process to avoid surprises and cart abandonment.
- Timely fulfillment — As consumers have gotten more accustomed to the realities of same-day shipping, their expectations of fulfillment have also changed. Merchants that offer quick and easy fulfillment services are more likely to increase customer loyalty and drive sales.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Amit Mathradas: As more transactions and business take place online, there is an increasing focus on privacy and data security. Customers want to have personalized shopping experiences, but not at the expense of their personal privacy. One way that ecommerce businesses can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand is by investing in technology that can learn about customers and provide tailored shopping experiences but have the security needed to protect their payment information and other personal details. This is a delicate balance for merchants to maintain, but if you’re able to tailor shopping experiences by using personal data consumers provide without compromising their privacy, brand loyalty and trust is destined to grow. Another way is to provide stellar experiences when things do go wrong. Provide easy refunds and returns and comp a few items from time to time. I would suggest merchants keep a budget on-hand to allow for this level of service.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
Amit Mathradas: There are many factors that go into running a successful ecommerce business, but some of the main things one should know include:
- Provide value throughout the shopping journey — Consumers are not always looking for the cheapest price or best deal online. It’s important for ecommerce merchants to invest in touch points throughout the customer journey to create confidence and capture their attention. For example, using video customer testimonials to describe a product that consumers can’t see or feel can help them make buying decisions online. There are also many online retailers that are using popular channels, like social media, to aid in the shopping experience.
- Optimize the checkout process — Online shoppers want to easily and securely make purchases. To avoid cart abandonment, offering flexible payment options like Apple Pay or PayPal allows consumers to make purchases using the payment method of their choice. It’s also important that all costs are readily apparent at checkout, which means getting the tax and shipping costs calculated accurately in-cart to avoid surprises at checkout.
- BOPIS (Buy online, pick-up in store) — Providing flexibility should be exclusive to the browsing and checkout experience. Consumers enjoy options when it comes to receiving their online purchases, especially during the pandemic. Offering BOPIS to shoppers provides a cost-saving and flexible way for them to receive their purchases without having to stand in lines or even step into a store in some cases.
- Remove risk — Online shopping prevents consumers from feeling or trying products as if they were in a store. Because of this, there is added risk associated with purchases, especially if a product doesn’t work out. Ecommerce retailers can remove risk for consumers by offering a clear returns policy or refund options if purchases do not work out. By making it easy for shoppers to change their minds, consumer confidence increases, and loyalty can be established.
- Mitigate supply chain disruptions — The world of same day and two-day shipping has changed consumer behavior for good. Standard shipping times are now less than ideal, and consumers expect to have their products delivered in a timely manner. For ecommerce retailers, effectively managing inventory, understanding shipping options, and addressing compliance obligations all have a direct impact on delivery times. Technology is essential to help online retailers manage their supply chains to avoid shipping interruptions, which could send an overwhelming positive customer experience into turmoil.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Amit Mathradas: You can follow me on LinkedIn.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!