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Podcast: Getting Behind the Tech and UI of Direct CBD Online with CTO, Rob Spurlock

Podcast: Getting Behind the Tech and UI of Direct CBD Online with CTO, Rob Spurlock

Greeting from John Wiesehan III:  

Welcome to the Live Well. Be Well. podcast. Our goal is to address the trials and triumphs of daily life and always being better in all aspects of your life, by looking forward to new challenges. But by being present today, we hope you get inspiration to live better, be better, and learn small habits that you can incorporate into your daily life to accomplish your goals. Let’s get started.

John:

Hey guys. Good morning. Thanks for joining us again. This is John Wiesehan. CEO of Direct CBD Online. Joining you again for the Live Well. Be Well. podcast today. I have a very special guest with us. His name is Rob Spurlock. He is the company’s CTO, chief technology officer. Welcome, Rob-

Rob Spurlock:

-Morning, John, how are you?

John:

I’m good. It is the morning. It is a Sunday morning and Rob and I happened to be on a, on a small vacation on a barrier Island, south of Charleston, South Carolina. So we’re excited to be doing this and bringing this podcast to you together in person, not a zoom call on a weekend. So that’s kind of exciting.

It’s the first time we’ve done this before. So I packed up the podcast equipment and we brought it down. So welcome, Rob.

Rob:

Thank you. Good to be here. So-

How our passion for bringing you CBD began

John:

-you know, this is a really cool, unique opportunity. I think for the podcast lifecycle, we’ve had guests on here who own companies around fitness and health and wellness…

…nurse practitioners. We’ve had a business leader/coach on here, Johnny. He was great. We’ve had executives of some of our biggest vendors like cbdMD — Pancho and Yoshi — which you heard last week. So today we’re bringing it inside. We got Rob, Rob is our CTO, and Rob does everything, you know, for, I assume we’re speaking to our customers here and we’re very, very thankful for you.

We wouldn’t be here without you, but I just wanted Rob to talk a little bit about when we started the company and, you know, Rob, maybe you tell us a little bit about what excited you about coming on board? When we had zero users, zero revenue, zero products, and I called you and said, “Hey, you want to go on this journey with me?”

And you rolled the dice and said, “Yeah.”

So, tell me a little bit about why you wanted to do that in what told you to say, “Yeah, CBD, I think has a future.”

Rob:

Sure, absolutely. I think one of the main reasons that we said yes was, you know, I’ve worked with you in the past, you know. And primarily you and your drive and what could be a potential hit product that was, you know, new to the market and about to take off.

That was the primary reason. The second one was just the potential health benefits for everybody. You know, it was a brand-new product. It had been kind of lingering out in the world for a couple of years. People have been just playing with it, touching it. And it was just starting to take off.

So, you know, being able to get it on the forefront of a product that could help so many people, it was pretty exciting. So I would just wanted to be there and help get it going.

John:

And it’s funny, like at the time when we started talking about CBD, I’ll be honest. I didn’t know a ton about it. Right. We didn’t, you didn’t know a ton about it.

And I just said, “Hey, you know, I think this is going to be disruptive. I think this is really good for the human body. I think this is a really cool thing that we could bring to the world in a marketplace.”

And, you know, we, we gave it a shot and we didn’t know what it was going to do. And it’s because of our continued follow-ship and customer-base that has led us to where we are today.

Rob:

Yeah. And we didn’t even really know at that point what all it would do for the body. You know, we just, we knew that there had been a lot of good results for different people, for different things. So it was very wide-reaching, all the potential benefits.

And so, we knew it could. You know, the base could be huge for the type of customer that we would be servicing.

Addressing growth with technology and other “cool stuff”

John:

Yeah, it was really cool. I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you guys a quick story. When we started the company, there was a, we maintain a spreadsheet of brands that we wanted to add. And the spreadsheet I managed in the beginning for like the first, probably six or eight months.

And I’d add an item to a Google doc and then Rob would look at it and he would put it on the side and he’d say, okay, it’s there. And you know, three months later, I’m like, we haven’t sold any. So maybe we shouldn’t add more products. But then we’re like, what we need to do is add more products. So we had, we started with gosh, probably half a dozen brands at first, and you know how to have really unique partnerships in the very beginning before this thing really took off and products are, what, what really makes us unique is we can add, or, or an endless storefront.

We can offer the customer everything and anything that they want. So we don’t, we want to be everything to everyone. With quality products and not all products make the cut. I mean, we get inundated all the time with new brands that we, but we have a responsibility as executives of this company to bring highly efficient product to the customer that is beneficial to them or else we’re doing the entire consumer base a disservice. Right? Right.

So I’ve talked to us a little bit about process improvement, website design, because Rob’s team handles all, but the UI, which is the user interface and the user experience, which you guys are our customers, you know, have the ability to enjoy our mobile and desktop.

Just give us kind of like a brief, high-level summary of continuous improvement. So one of our core values is always improving and I think Rob and his team do a tremendous job of just improving the website, literally on a daily basis. So tell us a little bit about what you guys go through, what you look at, your, your test boxes, all that kind of stuff that I know enough about to be dangerous, but not enough to be dangerous.

Rob:

Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, we started the site, got it launched and you know, fairly simple. We just wanted to get it to the market out of the box, get it to them, and get it to the market, get it online. And, you know, we picked a good platform to put that on. A good solid platform that we knew would grow and the hosting environment and things like that.

John:

So, who hosts, who do we use?

Rob:

We use WP engine,

John:

which is WordPress.

Rob:

Yup, absolutely. But you know, they’re, they are a very robust, very popular hosting company. So I think they, I think they have over half a million websites on their platform. And they have crazy statistics, like, you know, 5% of the websites you see on a daily basis.

They’re hosting for you. So, you know, we had experience with them in the past. So we chose them to be the host and environment because we knew they could grow and increase, you know, server space and speed, and everything else we need. So that was, that was the core is to make sure he had a good foundation.

The next one was, pick a good solid thing, we decided to go that for speed, like I said, out of the box and this tweaked it for look and feel, and then from there, it was just a continuous improvement over time. So daily, we keep an eye on users and where they’re going and without getting too creepy, we just watch some, some of the roadblocks that they have when trying to make the checkout and locating products and searching for things.

And every day we just tweak as we go, you know?

John:

Yeah. And it’s, I think it’s really cool. One of the reasons you picked WordPress, in the beginning, is for the ability to customize different aspects of the site. So you know about, gosh, it was probably six or eight months ago. At this point, we said, we have so many brands now that the menu and the user interface is bad.

So we have this tool where we can watch mouse movements on the site. We don’t know who it is or where they’re from or anything like that. It’s just like, general mouse movements.

And we can see kind of where hotspots are and more pain points are with the mouse moving around and people getting frustrated and clicking a bunch when there’s nothing to really click and all these different things.

And what we saw was the menu was a pain point and we looked at each other and said, if people can’t click and find the brand that they’re looking for, we’re not doing a very good job, right? So Rob and his team went to work and built what we call the mega menu. Yeah. So this menu is slick.

Like it is, it is sexy. So when you go over, it’s all, you know, hover-driven and it’s just super cool. So tell us a little bit about that build process from a technical standpoint, because I just think it’s fascinating. Our listeners would probably think it’s really cool because this is, I think a really unique experience to talk about how a website like ours is built out.

Problem-solving to bring you more products

Rob:

Yeah. And this particular method that we use is used across the website, not just the menu. So. You know, we’ll take an instance where we see people having issues.

John:

Don’t tell any trade secrets now, right?

Rob:

No, no, no trade secrets, but we will, we will find a pain point for the client, whether it’s the navigation or just working through the website to find the products they want.

And the mega menu, for example, before was just a menu. And once we got to about 75 brands, it was so long, people would just have to scroll to get to it. So in watching these different user experiences and these recordings, we saw certain people with certain, you know, screen sizes, couldn’t see the entire menu, couldn’t get to it.

So the first thing that we do is we go to the design team and tell them what the problem is and what we want to accomplish. And we told them we need a menu that kind of segregates out the brands by letters, you know, more alphabetical. So the person who knows what brand they’re looking for, because this is just the brand menu they would go through and find the letter section where their particular brand is that they’re looking for.

And then, you know, move out the experience from there. So, first thing, first thing in that process is to go to the design, tell them what the problem is, tell them what the solution needs to be, and they need to come up with something that looks good.

John:

Yeah. And they kinda, I remember the first time I saw the new design, they brought us basically like a storyboard.

Rob:

Right. So when you look at it, like people making a movie and all these behind the scenes type stuff, it’s literally just static images of what this is step-by-step.

John:

Yeah. Which was really cool to see this process unfold and Rob’s team. I have the utmost respect for him and the way he leads his team, it’s awesome.

And then it takes that and then it goes to development, right?

Rob:

Yep. Yep. Once we get a system that works and looks good and we know will fit within, you know, the screen sizes that we need to hit 100% of the people basically, then we take that and we send it on to the dev team who basically they write all the background code that nobody else ever sees, but it’s what makes it happen.

And since he knows what it needs to look like and how it needs to perform, then that’s a young man named Ryan and he makes it happen. And he tests that in a development environment, basically a copy of the website. So we can put it up and thoroughly test it and make sure it works in all cases. Yeah.

Once it’s ready, he just pushes it over. But you know, basically a click of a button he just migrated over and it’s live.

John:

-yeah, it’s such a cool, such a cool thing to be a part of. So, you know, some other things that we’ve done along the way is upgrading our server. Right? So we started with a cloud-based out-of-the-box server.

They came with the WordPress hosting, and I think we’ve increased our server capacity… three times?

Rob:

Yes. Yes. I think three times we’ve upgraded. So-

John:

-yeah. And so what that does for them from a customer standpoint is just speed. Right? You can get through the site faster, you can check out faster, you can get pages to load faster, and it’s just an overall better experience.

And as we continue to get more of our customers to the site at one time, it creates server loads. We got to increase the capacity that the site and users at the site can handle at one time.

Rob:

Right, right. The site. I mean, it just has products listed on it. So we have to build out and be cognizant of the number of simultaneous users that come to the website.

And it got to the point several times over where. You know, we had to do an upgrade. So we just reached out to WP Engine and say, “Hey, we need to bump up a level.”

And they move us to the next level up, which gives us a lot of room and, and, you know, growth for the next six to 12 months, depending on how things come.

John:

Yeah. We always try to stay ahead of that. Right. Because we never want to like, get up against the wall where the customer’s having a horrible experience because there’s not enough server capacity.

Rob:

Right. We have, we have triggers in software that, you know, keep an eye on response times. So we have thresholds that we set and once we start touching those, you know, and it’s like I said, it is a, it’s a threshold where we don’t want to get past for the client.

So once we hit it, then we do that and we’ll pull the trigger and get the upgrade.

John:

Let’s talk a little bit about like, Rob, right? And your, your office environment and your team. So, what are some things that you do on maybe a daily or a weekly basis that helps you to stay focused? Cause Rob is, you know, one of the main reasons he is on the leadership team for the company is he has an amazing tact for identifying things that need improvement and always progressing the ball forward.

“Hey, this isn’t good. Let’s fix it right.” If this at the user’s having a bad experience and the customer is having a poor experience, “Let’s triage that issue. Let’s figure out a solution to make it better for the customer.”

It’s always, always, always about the customer first, which is what I love about it. So what do you do as a person to continue to make sure that you’re looking at these things? Making sure you. Stay focused, you know, just talk about Rob and your habits to live well and be well and continue to move the ball forward.

CBD in our own routines

Rob:

Well, I mean, personally, for me — it’s believe it or not — CBD has helped with that. So I just take some CBD isolate.

John:

What is your CBD brand and type of choice?

Rob:

The brand is the Direct CBD Brand.

John:

Oh, that’s the old one.

Rob:

That’s the old one. Yes. So I’m still using that.

John:

So Rob took the last supply.

So, the one that would be most comparable to that would probably be CBDistillery isolate. Right? Or Social CBD. It’s an isolate basically. It’s an Isolate Peppermint, 1000 milligrams.

Rob:

Yeah. Do the 1000 milligram and the isolate works best for me. I’ve tried full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and you know, CBD is a personal thing, you know, it works differently for everybody. So-

John:

-real quick, funny story. So I took the wrong CBD before I went to bed. Last night, I took full spectrum instead of isolate. It’s just a couple of drops, but we’re not saying full-spectrum, man. Like I wake up, like my sleep app tells me I slept really well.

But I wake up in a fog. Uh, so I had to get up and go for a run this morning and then like, get my mind back right. So anyway, but yes, it’s a very personal thing.

Rob:

Yeah. I mean, everybody reacts differently to it. For me, I found the isolate helps me focus. I mean, tunnel vision focused on what I’m working on for, you know, four to six hours at a time.

John:

That’s great.

Much like CBD products themselves, the details matter

Rob:

You know, the folks in the office, when I started taking it, I got a look like, “Are you okay? There’s something going on.” It’s just crazy focus, getting work done, you know, and it’s, it’s, there’s no weird side effects or anything. It’s just a really unique ability to focus. So, you know, and, and a lot of the things that I spend my day on are, you know, putting new products in from brands — it’s a fairly detail-oriented thing.

So you have a lot of boxes to check when you’re putting them in.

John:

You know, that’s really funny because we have been trying to take this task of onboarding new products away from Rob for like a solid five to six months and he just, he just won’t have it now because what we’re doing right now is working — the products look great, the content is top-notch. There’s never hardly any errors.

And the customer knows exactly what they’re getting. So he owns it, right? He owns that process and may take a little longer to get new brands on, but we’re okay with that because it provides the customer with the best experience that they can possibly have.

So, and then after a brand gets on and Rob loads them on, then it goes into marketing to tell you guys, our customer and our listener base, what new products are now available. And those emails go out, I think every two weeks for new arrivals and different things like that. So it’s pretty neat.

More tech: A bit about our SEO and content

Rob:

Yeah. The main, the main thing for that is, you know, get, get the right descriptions in, you know, thinking in the customer mindset, what are they going to be searching for?

You know, cause SEO is huge, right? I’m sure we’ll touch on that or have touch with that in the-

John:

It’s one of the main things that keeps us going, but yeah, it’s one of the main foundations of our business. Right?

Rob:

So, and that, and that’s, you know, that starts as early as, “What do I call this product?” Know we don’t go through and just take exactly what the vendor puts on it because they may not, they may not be following the best SEO practices. So-

John:

-Yeah, so we, we have Torrie, our director of marketing runs the content team and basically all projects in the company. She’s our top PM, project manager. But once Rob loads, the products it gets assigned to Torrie and her team for content creation. And content is huge.

So whether that’s video content, whether that’s, um, copywriting, copywriting content, whether that’s metadata content, whether that’s podcasting, content, content, content, content, and, um, you know, we… it’s high-quality content, right?

So when you, you know, our customers, you probably first found us by searching a product you already knew you wanted. So if you want a Social CBD, 60-milligram patch, if you type that in Google, odds are we’re in one of the top three positions, and then it’s our job as a company to give you a really good buying experience.

And that’s Rob. And once you check out, then it goes to operations and the warehouse, and we’ll have some of those folks on later to make sure that your package is shipped out within 24 business hours, that arrives on time, that it arrives in good condition, that you have an incentive to tell your friends.

And we, you know, we appreciate you and what you’re doing. You know, for our business and we want to continue to provide you and everyone, you know, your friends, your loved ones, CBD products forever. And then after that, that’s what we call post-customer experience. It’s around surveys and coupons and sales.

And we want to give you an incentive to continue to buy and rewards points and all those really cool things that we offer. And Rob is kind of, so he starts the process of the customer experience, but then he also ends it. Because everything that we do is technical in nature.

Rob:

Right? Right. Everything from getting the product on correctly, to making sure the credit card processing is working properly, making sure you can get your auto-ship products set up and working properly shipping, make sure your shipping is correct.

It has the correct regions.

John:

The warehouse gets the order, right. It’s just all of the intricacies and. It makes this thing move. Okay. So CBD is part of your daily routine-

Rob:

-CBD. Yes. Coke. Yes. I’m going to have a Cola Coca Cola drinker. That’s my morning coffee. It’s my lunchtime drink. It’s-

John:

-so I got, I got to say this.

Yeah. And an egg McMuffin. It’s awesome. Sausage, egg McMuffin from McDonald’s with the sausage. Well done.

Rob:

Well done.

John:

Well done. Yep. Very important.

Rob:

That’s it? That’s an important-

John:

-starting week before work. And I said, Hey, you want something from McDonald’s? And I very rarely eat McDonald’s. So when I do, I try to bring it for the office.

You said yes. So sausage, egg McMuffin, but it has to be a well-done patty. I said, okay. Yep. Got it. Got it. Noted.

Rob:

You can test your McDonald’s — if they get that right then they’re on their game.

John:

So, so those are the, those are the habits I know about Rob. Thank you for sharing those with us. Is there a, let’s see, I got a couple more questions.

Anything else you feel like I’m missing that our customers should know about from, you know, our chief technology officer?

Rob:

No. I mean, if I had to share, I’m known in the office for the guy who finds things that no one else sees. So I think that comes in very handy with this kind of work. You know, if something’s not quite right, if there’s a misspelled word, it just, it jumps out.

It’s really kind of weird-

John:

-which is awesome by the way, because his level and attention to detail. You can’t train that works.

Rob:

It’s just there. So for me to offload any portion of that, it’s going to have to be to the right person. You know, otherwise, there are going to be issues. Things will crop up, you know, like what does that say?

“Broad-spectrum instead of full-spectrum,” things like that, you know?

John:

Yeah. I think one of the really cool projects you’ve been continuously working on for about the last 90 days or so is an improved filter experience, right? So Rob’s literally going through every single product on the site and tagging it for broad-spectrum, full-spectrum, and isolate milligrams.

So when you go to the shop page, if you know what you’re looking for, you can start filtering down just like when you look on VRVO or, you know, hotel websites or anything like that. It’s a custom form filtering attribute that that just improves the customer experience and allows them to narrow their searches down to exactly what they want.

Rob:

Yeah. That’s becoming very important. I think in the marketplace is the type of CBD-

John:

-and long term.

Rob:

Yeah. It’s going to be there for, for a very long, very long time and, you know, eventually we’ll have CBG and CBN and things like that added. So, you know, that will continue to be a filterable thing.

*Pump It by the Black Eyed Peas plays*

John:

And that was one of those things Rob said, “Hey, I think this is common, let’s get ahead of it.”

And that was one of the things that he proactively brought to the table to the executive team and say, “Hey, we need to do this.” And of course, we said, “Yeah, makes total sense.” So, okay.

So two questions, how we end every podcast. Who is one person in your life that you don’t give enough credit to for your success?

Rob:

Probably my wife, Kathy-

John:
-your daughter’s behind you giving you the eye. She’s like, “Ooh, what’s he gonna say?”

Rob:

Well, I mean, you know, of course.

John:

Yeah, of course, my wife.

Rob:

I mean, my wife is, she’s always there for me. She’s always, she’s always there to listen. She’s always an ear without trying to solve any problems for me.

You know, she’s just, when you can’t talk to anybody else, my wife is always there for me.

John:

That’s awesome. She’s an awesome lady.

Rob:

She’s awesome. Fun. She’s got a great sense of humor. She likes, you know, we’re just made for each other, so-

John:

-that’s awesome. Okay. And then what is your favorite song?

Because I believe music is a very emotional thing. So, what is your, what is a song that really, when you listened to that and you either get pumped up or you got to go into a zone, what would that be? Or an artist or genre?

Rob:

I could, I could name a lot, but just one that comes to mind is Pump It by the Black-Eyed Peas — that’s a good go-to song to get, get fired up.

So-

John:

-you know, what I need to do is start. Asking that question before the podcast and then like pipe it in right now and start playing it-

Rob:

-or play the play on the outro. Yeah, that’d be great.

John:

Yeah. So, uh, our editor, if you’re listening, uh, go ahead and play-

Rob:

-pump it, pump it.

John:

Black-Eyed Peas. Yep. Rob, thank you for joining us.

That was awesome. I think our listeners and our customers will enjoy hearing from you when this publishes. So thank you guys. You can always go to directcbdonline.com. under resources to read or listen to this podcast, you can use coupon code POD25 for 25% off your order at Direct CBD Online. Rob, thank you.

Rob:

Thank you for having me-

John:

-and we’ll, uh, we’ll see you guys next time.

Thank you for listening. You can keep up with episodes on iTunes, Google podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts, you can also visit directcbdonline.com where you will find all podcasts under our resources section on the main menu bar. You can use coupon code: LIVEWELLBEWELL for 25% off of your first order.

And remember to always live well and be well, we’ll see you next time.

 

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