Nature is unforgiving, its terrains constantly in flux.
The struggles of every creature in an ecosystem is often backdropped by a complex interplay of factors — resources, habitat, predator and prey. A species’ niche, or ecological role, is only as stable as the others occupying it.
For the tech industry, startups and companies face similarly cutthroat conditions. Markets change on a whim and resources fluctuate based on economic climate, allowing only those that crowd out the pack to weather the competitive storm.
Within its walled garden of market technology, e-commerce company AddShoppers is one such inhabitant of a specialized niche. Using a proprietary platform, the company’s products personalize shopping experiences through direct brand interactions to help customers save time and money.
The Two Pillars of AddShoppers
AddShoppers’ main product offering comprises two major brands. SafeOpt is a personalized shopper tool that sends users verified offers, designed to protect their data as they browse online. Minty is a web extension that helps consumers discover brands and products. The two products reflect the company’s ethos of making online shopping a data-safe and efficient experience for its customers, while maintaining the trust that brands have placed in their partnership.
The distinct factors that allow the team to thrive, according to CEO and Co-founder Jon West, are its perseverance in the space and focus on innovation.
“The ecosystem protects the privacy of its consumers’ data while enabling brands to reach shoppers in a targeted and effective manner,” West explained. “Other companies may rely on a patchwork of solutions, exposing brands to unnecessary data risks and resulting in subpar performance.”
Born from a vision that saw the need for a better online shopping platform, as well as co-founders who are veterans in marketing tech, the company is well-equipped to continue defining its niche. Through strategic partnerships with direct-to-consumer merchants, agencies and software providers, the team is always looking to develop a more efficient and user-friendly product.
The underlying technology, such as SafeOpt’s permission-based personalization or CRM code-matching, is impressive; the talent behind it is even more so — and that’s by design. To keep the encroaching competitors at bay and do more with its foundational success, AddShoppers abides by the value of continual innovation and employee development.
“As we add more engineers and developers, we need to make sure everyone is aligned with our technical vision and adheres to best practices,” said West. “We have to be mindful of maintaining a positive and high-performance environment.”
In practice, this entails an open culture that encourages employees to experiment and come up with creative solutions. For retention, this also means investing in ongoing training and development as well as offering competitive compensation.
“We have to be mindful of maintaining a positive and high-performance environment.”
In its 12th year now, AddShoppers is still operating with the mindset that a market lead is always fleeting. The genesis of the company was an e-commerce vision the founders had back in 2005; today, it leverages its flourishing niche to work with industry leaders and global brands. But the work isn’t done.
“The world of e-commerce is constantly changing,” said West. “And we need to stay ahead of the curve if we want to be successful.”
A Mar-Tech Niche Greater Than the Sum of its Parts
Shawn King, AddShoppers’ vice president of engineering, has seen his fair share of “aha” moments at the company.
Instances of senior developers guiding their junior counterparts, and moments when inexperienced team members dug in and found their own solutions, encapsulate the organization’s collaborative culture.
“This team, unlike any I’ve worked with before, has been instrumental in lifting each other up to solve complex problems,” he said. “It’s not run on ego but on collaboration.”
That kind of transparency is distilled through a philosophy of free-flow knowledge sharing. Across teams and hierarchy, there’s no learning that’s siloed or advice gatekept. There’s an intentional effort to hire talent who have expertise beyond what is expected of the role.
“There’s no keyholder mentality here,” King added. “A lot of teams say they run this way, but this is the best execution of it I’ve seen.”
By extension, feedback is taken seriously at AddShoppers. It’s a core component to upskilling employees, as well as constantly iterating its internal processes to stay ahead of the competition. A company’s products and services — no matter the proprietary advantages — are only as good as the people behind them.
“There’s no keyholder mentality here.”
It’s a creed the team lives every day, reflected in the company’s commitment to employee recognition and platforming merit from wherever it may derive.
“We don’t care if the best idea comes from the top, the bottom or somewhere in between,” King stated. “We strive to give credit to whomever deserves it — with reviews, compensation changes or bonuses — and harness natural enthusiasm to keep the team engaged.”
An Ecosystem Where Help Is “Just One Slack Message Away”
In late 2021, software engineer Parth Parmar switched careers from manufacturing to software engineering. Upon joining AddShoppers in May 2022, his promising trajectory was steeped in the insecurities that came with a new role in an unfamiliar industry.
“My biggest fear was not receiving the support or help needed, knowing it would be a fully remote position and that I would have team members in different timezones,” he remembered.
But his concerns were largely unfounded. Thanks to a well-developed ecosystem of helpful teammates and nurturing mentors, the distributed workforce was as effective in collaboration as an in-person one.
A few weeks in, Parth was already producing quality work. By three months, he was completing tasks on his own.
There’s intentionality in the way the engineering team operates, a microcosm of the company’s commitment to empowering collaboration. Team discourse is not around who’s right or wrong when it comes to approaching a problem, but rather finding the right solution.
“This is refreshing as a new developer,” said Parth. “My ideas are considered and given equal value as all the others.”
To support its open culture, AddShoppers instills team-building values with the help of internal tools. Notable examples that have helped employees like Parth integrate into company life are Donut, a Slack add-on that matches interdepartmental team members for remote interactions, and 15Five, a check-in tool for employee feedback.
A year into his tenure, he still has questions about the product or new features on occasion. But he no longer hesitates in asking for help. An open-door policy at AddShoppers ensures that any employee can get answers from anyone — even the CEO.
“‘Be a great human,’” Parth recited one of the core values. “This is the foundation of the company culture, and why I'm happy every day when I log into work, knowing a helping hand is just a message away.”