Continuing the SaaS interviews, it’s my pleasure to share an interview with Rytis Lauris, Co-Founder and CEO of Omnisend, email & SMS marketing automation built for ecommerce. Hugely popular on other platforms, Omnisend this year has begun to take a look at how to support WooCommerce.
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Robert: Tell us a little about your history in digital?
Rytis: Actually, it started out not very digitally at all. I’m a graduate of Political Science but have been working in the digital marketing field for more than 10 years now. I’m a person who hates routine, but the digital world is in general very dynamic. That’s why I fell in love with this field.
When did Omnisend start and what about that name change?
We started Omnisend in 2014, as a spin-off from the digital marketing agency that I was running at the time. Me and the other co-founder of Omnisend, Justas Kriukas, wanted to run a more global business. We saw a great opportunity here!
So, for 4 more years, we kept the name of the agency, Soundest. Later, we rebranded to Omnisend. We chose to do it this way because we didn’t think it was a good idea to spend our time and money on coming up with a new name – we wanted to focus on the product first. Of course, I think that a good name can definitely help your business, but it’s not the most important aspect of it.
How big is Omnisend now?
We grew a lot during 2020 in terms of staff. We now have more than 100 colleagues based in different countries: Lithuania, USA, UK, and Ukraine.
We have more than 50K customers worldwide, including some of the more well-known names like Hallmark, Lakers store, Faber-Castell, Inglot Canada, and others.
What hurdles did you encounter being based in Lithuania as a startup?
I’d say lack of experience was one of the biggest hurdles. While in Silicon Valley there are a lot of people who’ve been there and done that multiple times, outside the US there is a lack of experience in these things. For example, in Lithuania, we have a lot of talent but just not enough experience. However, since we’ve started hiring globally, it’s helped us to solve this issue.
The other thing was access to capital, which, in the end, actually worked out to our benefit! In the early days we tried to fundraise but didn’t really succeed, so we were forced to keep bootstrapping. Now, we’re really proud of what we achieved and believe that the experience has become one of our biggest strengths.
How easy was it to enter the European and then US markets?
When we started Omnisend we thought that the European market would be our main market, especially the UK. But after some time we saw organic growth in the US, and now it’s our biggest market.
With an ecommerce email marketing solution, how have privacy laws impacted usage, i.e. GDPR and CCPA?
I believe these regulations have made a positive change. Marketers have become more conscious about the quality of their subscribers’ lists and started using fewer “gray” practices to grow them. There used to be quite a few folks who would occasionally use “unreliable” lists – in busy periods before the holidays, for example. Now, we see much less of that kind of thing. This is great news because it shows that the efficiency of keeping subscribers has grown, which is good for our clients, and the world has become less “spammy” in general. At Omnisend we’re on a mission to make marketing relevant, so this aligns well with that goal.
It’s a very crowded market, what are some of the specific things that a user should be looking for?
Yes, the market is indeed very crowded. I’d say that everyone should look for the best solution for their niche. If you’re an ecommerce player, then Omnisend is your number one choice. If you’re a blogger or an NGO, for example, there are other solutions for you. Choose the service that’s specialized for your niche and you’ll get the best results.
Where is Omnisend strongest in those features?
We specialize in ecommerce, we’ve done that from the very beginning and we haven’t changed in that aim. So this is definitely one of our strengths. We can offer unique value for ecommerce businesses that just wouldn’t be available from generic email platforms. We have the best practices that are prebuilt into the platform, and we also have an extensive knowledge base that we share in our blog, webinars, and other resources.
Another important thing is that we’re data-driven. Ecommerce shops have a lot of data compared to other businesses, and we enable them to automate their marketing based on that data.
You started out supporting proprietary platforms, how does the open-source WooCommerce economy and community look?
The WooCommerce community looks great and I’m happy that there are a lot of serious entrepreneurs who work on growing their business. We’re really excited that our customer base in WooCommerce is growing.
We create the most value for nimble teams. We can see that in WooCommerce there are plenty of small & medium businesses and nimble teams doing a great job, so we’re super happy that we can provide them with value. We’re really looking forward to growing our presence there.
What are the challenges you see when engaging with open source?
I think the biggest challenge is when there are certain customized solutions or low-quality plugins that don’t always follow best practices and rules provided by WooCommerce and WordPress. These can sometimes cause conflicts and require more support at the initial stage.
Has the COVID pandemic changed how Omnisend works and supports clients?
It hasn’t changed much, to be honest. We’re very happy that many of our customers are experiencing growth at this time. There are of course some who are facing challenges because of the pandemic and for them, we provide the option to freeze their account. We’ve also given discounts to affected clients so they can make it through this difficult time, and we have a free plan available too. We’ve always been proud of our Support Team, and they’re just continuing their great work in helping each and every customer. In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever for customers to get the best support possible.
What do you expect 2021 to look like both economically and personally?
I sincerely wish for a rapid recovery for those industries that are struggling the most right now, as it affects the overall mood as well as the wider economy. Let’s hope that the world will come to terms with COVID, and it will remain the abiding feature of 2020 only, not 2021.
In terms of Omnisend, we have ambitious growth plans so we’ll be working on creating even greater value for our users, and attracting more customers.
Any unique or strange hobbies? Any new ones started during the pandemic?
I really like reading, which isn’t so unique or strange, but I take this hobby quite strategically if I can say so. I felt that I always lacked the time to settle down with a good book, so I started reading about ‘rapid reading.’ It has really helped me learn how to increase my reading speed, and thus be able to read more books in general!
Thank you very much Rytis!