Shopify & Ecommerce Ramblings

A blog about building and extending awesome Shopify stores

BFCM 2019 Shopify

The question on the minds of everyone running an Ecommerce business at this time of year is ‘Am I ready for Black Friday?’. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Halloween, and the Festive Season looming you need to be absolutely sure you can cope with the influx of sales without compromising on the quality of your customer service. You also need to have all your marketing ducks in a row to capitalise on this phenomenal opportunity to boost your online sales.

On Cyber Monday in 2018, US shoppers spent $7.9 billion online, on that day alone. Shopify, which has never gone down on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, processed over $1.5 billion in sales over the four days of BFCM.

There is no better time than now to look at all your processes and start doing some upgrades and housekeeping. The size of your business will affect the scale of the undertaking but there are a few things we can point out for you that you should be taking into consideration in making the most of the craziness that is to come. The good news is that all the fruits of your efforts don’t just stop there, this will also put your Ecommerce business in good stead for the rest of the year too.

Product

Take a moment to get back to the basics - starting with your product. Make sure that it is these 5 things:

  1. In demand
  2. Of high quality
  3. Well explained on your website
  4. Well presented
  5. Correctly priced

If even one of these are questionable then consider not pushing that product to the front lines, or spend some resources tightening up your product strategy.

Team

Consider your current man-power, will you be able to cope with the influx of sales if business, say, doubles? If your projections for the rise in sales at the end of the year are solid (perhaps based on last years numbers - still accounting for growth during this year) then it should be quite easy to figure out whether you’re going to cope with fulfillment and customer support. If you need to hire some staff but don’t need a bigger team full-time, consider hiring seasonal staff or freelancers until things go back to normal.

Make sure everyone is on board with the possibility of a bit of overtime during the 4-day bonanza that is Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and ensure they’re all on the same page about rotas and support. Things will very likely get hectic during this period with the influx of orders and the pressure to keep up with fulfillment, without also having to deal with housekeeping issues.

Fulfillment

Will you be able to keep up without compromising on something? Be smart about keeping track of your stock, perhaps look into Shopify apps like Stock2Shop to monitor stock levels to ensure you don’t sell products you don’t have stock of. This helps you to avoid customer frustration and to keep shipping deadlines. If the turnover for shipping is going to be longer, due to greater demand, make your customers aware of changes to expected delivery times or find a way to optimise your fulfillment processes. Try as much as possible to keep your fulfillment fast and efficient, while keeping your customers in the loop as much as possible.

Given the likelihood of significantly more orders than usual over this period, consider putting a little something extra in your packages this year. A hand written note, a voucher for another purchase, a small free gift or anything else that you can budget for that will endear you to your customers and ensure a fruitful Q1 of 2020 as well as increased customer retention.

Marketing

Often most overlooked is the value of marketing, however it forms a firm pillar in the model for successful Ecommerce. It is indeed a broad term and covers everything that represents your brand online, as well as processes that go into generating new business opportunities. These are our top seven marketing initiatives to channel your energies into:

  • Organic - includes word-of-mouth, viral marketing, PR, social media, network marketing, direct sales, and anything else where customers come to you naturally over time.Content - these include blogs or articles, creating education media (about your product or the need thereof), useful pieces of content like free guides or infographics.
  • Paid - online affords many places to pay for advertising including Google Ads and Facebook/Instagram Ads (this includes boosted or sponsored content).
  • Social - all the social platforms that your market frequent, often includes Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter.
  • Email - keep in touch with your potential customers via email through newsletters and other email campaigns. Optimise your transactional emails to boost repeat sales using tools like Spently to automate it.
  • Automation - automated marketing campaigns can be ‘always-on’ lead generating channels. They can be setup once and run automatically, warming up leads and bringing in sales. Look into implementing an automation flow tool like Klaviyo to take full advantage.
  • Reviews - customer reviews are new age, ‘word-of-mouth’ gold. Incorporate customer reviews into your completed sales follow up and your automated processes.

 

Incentives

A lot of brands use this as a great time to implement incentives such as discounts, buy-one-get-one-free deals, store points, or free shipping. These are great ways to try and win over customers from competitors who may be offering a similar product range. They also encourage repeat business and customer loyalty, especially if the reward system accumulates benefits with every purchase (for example).

Warm up your customers in the weeks building up to the big event; hint at deals and discounts, encourage customers to build wish lists and share your content. You can even offer pre-ordering for limited stock items.

Ecommerce Store

Your Ecommerce store is the most important thing alongside your product, so use every metric at your disposal to iron out any UX issues or faults before the big day - you don’t want to miss out on sales or have your site go down. You can use Google Analytics metrics for user data, but also Shopify apps like Hotjar (a heat mapping tool) to find out where your users are getting stuck and make some tweaks. Just as a general rule, we’ve added some tips below to help prepare your website for this busy time:

  • Don’t launch anything too bold - now is not the time to test out something big and fancy, focus on making sure that what you have works perfectly.
  • Keep UX simple - make sure your path to purchase is clear and unhindered.
  • Conduct user testing - if you have the time, conduct some testing with your users to further fine tune your website to optimise its user-friendliness.

Follow up

Everything before this is going to set you up in good stead for everything BFCM can throw at you, but what about after the dust settles? There’s still plenty of work to do as the ripples of BFCM aftermath still offer a lot of potential for conversions:

Abandoned carts

Follow up with any of your customers who abandoned their carts by sending them an email to encourage them to complete the purchase. They may need help or you can offer a discount if they make the purchase within a tight timeframe (eg. in the next 24hrs or by 5pm, etc.).

Stock clearance sale

Throw a Black Friday clearance sale in the immediate weeks following to get rid of any extra stock, your customers will love it especially if they missed out on BFCM.

Grow your mailing list

You may have had a lot of first time buyers on your site; send them a mail to tempt them to sign up for your mailing list for more amazing specials (this is a great time to expand your customer database!).

Transaction emails

Repeat purchases, cross-selling, and gathering customer reviews should be on your radar now. Using your transactional emails and follow up emails to cleverly place related products in front of them is a great way to boost your repeat and cross-sell purchases. Encourage your customers to make further purchases with the incentive of time-sensitive discount coupons, or extend your free shipping deals.

Planning for Black Friday 2020

It’s a bit late now to be looking at conversion optimisation for 2019 BFCM, but you should be aiming to get ahead of things for next year and next year’s gifting season. For this, we now offer a stand-alone CRO service called ConversionBoost. It’s designed for established stores that already have a baseline of performance. Stores with a certain level of traffic and sales will see the best results. If you are just getting started, though, and want to know how you can best optimise your sales for your growing store, we can help too. Ready to take your Shopify store to the next level? Apply now.

BFCM 2019 Shopify

The question on the minds of everyone running an Ecommerce business at this time of year is ‘Am I ready for Black Friday?’. As Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Halloween, and the Festive Season are looming, you need to be absolutely sure you can cope with the influx of sales without compromising on the quality of your customer service. You also need to have all your marketing ducks in a row to capitalise on this phenomenal opportunity to boost your online sales.

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If your ecommerce store has been up and running for a while with purchases neatly ticking over but you’re not seeing the surge you expected to see by now, heat mapping is certainly something you should be adding to your process of optimisation. Heat maps could very well be one of the keys to understanding what problems your users are experiencing on your site and where they’re getting caught up instead of making purchases. Making random tweaks and changes to your site (like stabs in the dark) without the data to back it up is a waste of your valuable resources.

There is a wealth of data available via your website’s analytics both on Google Analytics and Shopify’s analytics and reports that you could be using to pinpoint any issues or potential hurdles. However, heat mapping is arguably the easiest tool to use for this very purpose that almost anyone can understand. It’s visual and intuitive, making it a very popular tool for ecommerce optimisation amongst merchants.

What is a heat map?

A heat map is a visual representation in the form of graphical data where the values are depicted by colours. The heat map shows you what users are doing on your web page; where most popular elements are indicated with a hot spot (red) and unpopular elements are cold (blue). This helps you to immediately see where your users are clicking on, scrolling through or ignoring. It’s important to have this data, because it allows you to see how far users scroll, where they are clicking, and what they ignore or pay special attention to. It helps you to identify trends, or potential issues such as elements on a page appearing clickable when they are actually not.

Hotjar
See how areas of the page display a heat signature that indicate the more popular portions over the less popular ones.

There are a number of different types of heat maps that help you investigate different aspects of user interaction on your website, we’ve listed them below:

Scroll maps: These show you how far your users are scrolling down your page, the redder the area the more visitors have scrolled to that point. This is crucial if you want to know if users are reaching important information on that page.

Click maps: These kinds of maps show you average data from interactions on both mobile and desktop devices. Desktop would show clicks and mobile would be taps or touches. Most clicked/tapped areas would appear red, then orange, then yellow. Click maps could help you determine if users are accessing certain areas of your site from a particular page, they can also show you where users might be getting distracted.

Move maps: These show you how users are using their mouse to navigate the page, showing move patterns and pauses. Hot spots show most frequently paused at areas; research has shown to correlate between where people are looking and where their mouse points. Move maps are great at showing you what content is getting good attention, versus what is being mostly ignored.

Desktop and mobile heat maps: Browsing on desktop is a very different experience to browsing on mobile, and side by side comparisons can help to show if the interactions differ as well. For example, some content on desktop may only appear much lower below the fold on mobile and could be getting lost.

The benefits of using a heat map

Heat maps take the guesswork out of identifying solutions to business-critical questions, such as low conversion rates or low user engagement and high bounce rates. They effectively show you exactly what your average user experience is, allowing you to determine whether they are reaching important content, able to find and use main page links such as the contact buttons, getting stuck on non-clickable elements, or having a device-specific issue.

Making informed decisions backed by real data for tweaks and fixes to your website is crucial, and heat maps can help you get easier buy-in from other team members as heat maps are difficult to refute and simple enough for everyone to follow.

How to create a heat map

You can use your Google Analytics to view heat maps, or you could use a paid for service that provides a heat mapping tool such as Hotjar or CrazyEgg. Whether you can get by using your Google Analytics heat maps or whether a more feature-rich version is needed lies largely on how detailed you would like to go with your reporting on user interaction and how many visits you receive a month. Some heat mapping third-party apps have a trial or free version that you can try out and see if you like it first, which is always the best bet when there are lots of options.

Google Analytics for heat mapping: You will need to install Google Chrome as your browser, if you don’t already use it, and then install the addon for Google Chrome – Page Analytics (by Google). It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that a dedicated heat mapping tool will have but it still gives you your users’ interactions on your website from a visual perspective. Perhaps this could be your introduction to using heat mapping to identify issues with your website and progress to a standalone third-party app thereafter. It’s free and easy to install with lots of how to’s on the internet.

Hotjar: Hotjar is a dedicated heat mapping tool that you would need to sign up for. It is available for Shopify by installing the Hotjar Shopify app or manually adding the Hotjar tracking code to your Shopify theme. Add the tracking code (a JavaScript snippet) to your website and then go to your dashboard to start viewing your data. There is a free forever version, which they deem for ‘personal use’ that includes tracking for only 2000 pageviews. The smallest paid for package is called Plus, which is $29 per month and includes tracking 10 000 pageviews per day. The Professional package tracks $20 000 pageviews a day and that is $89 a month. Hotjar offer a 15-day free trial for you to test it out first.

CrazyEgg: This heat mapping tool offers visual reports that include individual session recordings so that you can watch how a user interacts with your webpage. They also offer an A/B testing tool with a quick edit function to make simple aesthetic changes such as colours, fonts, hide elements, and then publish to live. Their basic plan is $24 a month to track 30 000 pageviews, 100 session recordings, on one website. This also includes unlimited A/B tests and edits, as well as 3 months’ recordings storage. CrazyEgg offers 30 days free to test.

We use heat mapping in our evidence-based approach

Our firm belief in a data-driven approach to website improvements to boost ecommerce conversion rates lead us to using heat mapping as an integral part of our analysis of customer websites. Our ConversionBoost service involves doing data collection and analysis in order to improve and enhance our merchants’ Shopify stores. Most of our customers who sign up for this service have established stores and are looking for optimisation to increase their sales conversions. We use analytics and heat mapping techniques to make evidence-based suggestions to effectively boost sales.

Conclusion

If you are looking to improve your online store’s performance, such as to increase conversion rates, lower bounce rates, and provide a better user experience for your visitors, then heat mapping will give you a better understanding as to how your users navigate your website. You will be able to make informed UX design decisions by easily identifying friction points in the experience. The data you collect can be sliced and diced by the device being used, the browser type, the purchasing behaviour, source, and more. Whether you use the simple version provided by Google or invest in a third-party app like Hotjar or CrazyEgg, you will be able to make your website better serve you and your customers to drive sales conversions.

If you’d like to know more about how our ConversionBoost service take a look at the this page and feel free to reach out by emailing hello@shopcreatify.com if you have any questions.

If your ecommerce store has been up and running for a while with purchases neatly ticking over but you’re not seeing the surge you expected to see by now, heat mapping is certainly something you should be adding to your process of optimisation.

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ShopCreatify Core Clients on a map

Ah, remote - a word that drums up visions of working in one’s pyjamas, regular trips to the local coffee shop, the ability to work your own hours and for some, including me, the joy of not needing to participate in forced associations with people not of my picking... nor office politics. Is remote working all it’s purported to be? Well… in short… at least for me and my current team, yes.

Building a remote workforce like ours is perhaps not for everyone. Personally I’ve found it to be an incredible, rewarding experience with us now having a multi talented, multicultural and close knit team of 15 people distributed all around the world. With myself, a dual British / South African citizen living in Cape Town, David, a Brit living in Vienna, Alfredo in Chicago and the rest of the team -present and future- being completely non-dependant on their physical location, I believe we’re operating a truly globally distributed yet highly efficient setup.

Why we're intentionally and proudly remote

To sum up some of the reasons that there is currently no intention of us changing our remote ethos on the most part, here are a few beneficial factors that come to mind:

  1. We’re happier and healthier
    There is an argument to be made that us not being forced to congregate with potentially sick -or undesirable- colleagues in the same space allows us to have a better state of mind and health. We can choose who we share physical space with which may sometimes be our families, sometimes just our pets, or maybe just the waitress at the local coffee shop.
  2. It saves us time
    By not needing to commute nor needing to do things like book and wait for meeting rooms or boardrooms, we're more agile and able to get things done quickly, without the red tape nor time spent on the road or in packed trains. 
  3. It saves us money
    From a cost to company perspective, by not needing to invest in largely superfluous, showy and likely redundant commercial real estate we're able to not even factor these costs into our pricing to merchants. Without the need to commute this also helps each team member financially and this money can be invested into other areas of their lives, further improving the quality thereof and their general wellbeing.
  4. It improves productivity
    Through our ability to manage our own time and block out distractions we're able to avoid what is probably one of the biggest headache of traditional agency life, distractions. The time cost of context switching can be immense, so if one is good at blocking out time to focus, being in a position to do so without distraction allows the individual to get more done. Productivity is largely up to the individual… but suffice to say, you don’t have a middle manager tapping you on the shoulder every 5 minutes. If you don't believe me, I'm not the only one claiming this to be the case.
  5. It widens our selection pool of talent
    This should actually be point #1 for the business aspect. With no barriers in terms of physical location of the team members and a propensity for highly talented and specialised individuals desiring remote positions, we have a far larger pool of available talent to bring onboard. As long as communication skills, an exceptional work ethic and an above average ability to do the work is present, they’re eligible to be considered to work with us.
  6. Our carbon footprint is smaller
    Since we’re commuting less, not only to and from work, but also through applying the same principles of remote contact with our clients, our impact on the environment is considerably less than those that do commute regularly. Yes we’ll meet clients face to face when necessary or convenient, but as it stands, of our entire current clientbase (including some engagements spanning over 4+ years), we’ve rarely -if ever- met them them face to face other than Zoom / Skype video calls.

There are some pretty big name tech companies that operate with or were even founded with a remote mindset and workforce. Some of the bigger names I found in our industry of web technology and ecommerce include Github, Harvest, Zapier, Invision and Shopify’s star player Recharge. I'd need to confirm it to be the case but even Shopify's team is largely a remote workforce. Interestingly, even the company (Automattic) behind the platform that powers over 30% of the internet (Wordpress) makes use of an almost entirely distributed workforce. There is an amusingly titled book on it too which I will not confirm nor deny whether it forms an integral part in my thoughts on the topic.

Quintin -our creative director- recently gave a talk at our local Shopify Meetup and a couple of the slides in his presentation were actually the inspiration for this article. In them, he neatly pinned out the locations of our core client base on a map of the world:

ShopCreatify Clients

as well as doing the same for our team:

ShopCreatify Team

How we manage to do this

Giving a "paint-by-numbers" guide to getting an operation to a point where it's running like ours is not really possible but I'll attempt to articulate how we have managed to get it as right as we have. Essentially for us it has been a case of very intentionally aiming to make it work in spite of the challenges that the approach poses, and it does pose challenges.

There are some downsides to having a remote workforce, so to be open about them, acknowledging them and either addressing them or accepting them for what they are was really important.

Some people do crave the watercooler discussions, the office romances, the sense of community you may find in a workspace where you're physically present. In my research for this article I found that while some agency owners fully embrace remote as a legitimate approach to building their businesses, others are either not convinced, or only allow it in a limited fashion. The main reason for their aversion seems to revolve around team building and a sense of community and while I don't disregard their views on this, I feel that while it will be different, this can still be achieved with a remote team.

Ultimately, what I'd attribute our ability to operate effectively can be narrowed down to the below factors.

  1. Clear and regular communication
  2. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  3. Strong project management

Of course there are many factors that will result in an operation moving forward strongly like good selection of team members, paying the team well, focusing on delivering quality and meeting milestones / deadlines, but those are factors that should apply to any business, remote or not.

The three factors above I believe have been the key elements that have allowed us to not only operate smoothly, but gradually and iteratively grow the business without even needing to add more people. It's truly inspiring to see how efficient a business can be when the focus has been on making things run smoothly while concurrently focusing 100% on the success of our merchant clients.

Software

Of course there are tools that we're using that are absolutely indispensable, and without them this business would not have even been possible. The list of software solutions we use is reasonably long and mileage will vary depending on each organisation and their specific needs, and people have preferences, but to name some of the key players here goes:

Google GSuite is without a doubt one of the most useful solutions to the whole email / collaborative documents & spreadsheets and forms debacle. It's a solution we recommend to all of our clients and find little reason to look elsewhere.

Slack has become one of those ubiquitous solutions in most tech companies around the world and it really does bring a significant amount of value to our operation. Communication is fluent, prompt and it allows us to keep all the right people in the loop on all relevant fronts.

Asana is another key component in our day to day running. We took a fair bit of time deciding on what project management software to use -Basecamp, Jira and Teamwork were the runner ups- and while it takes a bit of time to tame, we don't regret the decision one bit. Interesting to note that we "graduated" from Trello to Asana since ultimately while the former is great software, it was too generic for our needs and Asana brought a lot more to the table for our business.

There are of course plenty of other solutions we've implemented including business / workflow / productivity solutions like Zapier, Harvest, Calendly, aText, Zoom, Jotform and design & development tools / platforms like Github, Deploybot, Sketch, Invision and Loom.

As mentioned above, the list can be reasonably long and ever changing and while they're not all free, having kept a keen eye on the costs over time and remaining vigilant with culling the redundant wares as we progress, they're still -cumulatively- extremely affordable on the grand scheme of things.

Conclusion

Yeah, this is a bit of an opinion piece, but I've tried to apply some reasoning and maybe it will be of benefit to others in a similar situation.

My overriding feeling currently, after creating and growing this business over the past 4.5yrs is that embracing a remote approach to building a business in modern times is perfectly viable and possibly the better option for many entrepreneurs. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for us, to date it has been a great model.

I hope this article was useful to you and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via our contact page and I'll do my best to help.

ShopCreatify Core Clients on a map

Ah, remote - a word that drums up visions of working in one’s pyjamas, regular trips to the local coffee shop, the ability to work your own hours and for some, including me, the joy of not needing to participate in forced associations with people not of my picking... nor office politics. Is remote working all it’s purported to be? Well… in short… at least for me and my current team, yes.

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Social Responsibility in Ecommerce
Photo by Ben White

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their power for effecting change over brands, and one way they’re using their power for good is through supporting brands that give back. A company or brand that is socially responsible is one that holds itself accountable by way of a self-regulating model of being conscious of the impact it has on society - including socially, environmentally, and economically. For some companies, having a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) model is an add-on, but for others it’s a fundamental part of their brand and product DNA.

Whatever the motivation, brands cannot ignore that social responsibility likely needs to be integrated either into their brand or directly into their products, otherwise consumers will simply switch to another one that does. Don’t believe me? Here are the stats.

Ethical consumerism is driving social responsibility

“Consumer, consumption, consume. Feels like a dirty word in a day and age where we all feel like we would rather save. Save the planet. Save for the future.”
- JuE Wong, Global CEO of Moroccanoil.

In a CSR study conducted in 2017 by Cone Communications it came out that 87% of consumers will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about. 89% would rather buy from a company supporting social and environmental issues over one that does not, and 66% would switch from a product they typically buy, to a new product from a purpose-driven company.

The driver of this trend or (lest we say it) Agent of Change, is the ‘conscious consumer’. The definition widely accepted is that a “conscious consumer is an agent of change who considers the social, environmental, ecological, and political impact of their buycott and boycott actions”. Consumers have a conscience and they want to make responsible purchases; but how did this overwhelming wave come about?

How Millennials are shaping consumer consciousness

Millennials shaping consumer consciousness
Photo by Perry Grone

Millennials are changing the shopping experience, and they have the lion’s share of ecommerce transactions, accounting for 54% of all online purchases. Millennials are born between the early 1980’s to the mid-1990’s, and while they are the generation with the most student loans – they are projected to become powerful (but ethical) consumers as they pay off these loans, get better jobs, and higher salaries. Currently millennials spend approximately $600 billion, but by 2020 they are projected to spend $1.4 trillion.

“Millennials care. They care about the impact their money makes, they care about what brands stand for, they expect brands to be socially responsible. For a generation that gets a bad rap, they are encouraging the world to give back and rally together through purchasing power to create positive change.”
– Ronny Sage, CEO of ShoppingGives.

In a global study carried out over 60 countries, it was established that 73% of millenials are willing to spend more for sustainability. This shows that ethical consumerism is a global character-trait of millenials and is not limited to only developed countries, as emerging and developing nations home 86% of all millennials. So not only do millenials prefer a purpose driven product stack, but they are willing to pay more if it means they are supporting a cause close to their heart.

According to the Cone Communications study, 88% of millennials would be more loyal to a company that gives back. How good is giving back for your brand? We investigated a bit into that for you:

Giving back is worth it, any angle you look at it.

Giving back has a two-fold effect of both increasing your sales figures, while also elevating a cause that your consumers find meaningful. Since Millennials are such powerful consumers, and they far more readily support brands that are mindful about their impact, if your brand provides a way to consume while being socially conscious then you will inevitably grow conversions and your average order value.

You have the opportunity now to ‘poach’ customers from their regular merchants if what you offer is associated with a cause, as Millennials are up to 91% more likely to switch brands for a cause close to their heart (as opposed to the 66% of the average US citizen).

Offering customers a way to be socially conscious will improve your customer loyalty and retention, as Millennials are proven to associate brand loyalty with how it represents the issues that are important to them.

This offers a fantastic opportunity to, not only become a more socially conscious brand but, connect and engage with your customers on a more authentic and personal level.

How to make your business more Socially Conscious

Businesses are now making social responsibility a key part of their strategy, often with the millennial market at the core of it. They’re needing to get creative in ways to make their business more socially conscious, this includes the working environment they foster and the immediate needs of the community in which the business operates. Here are a few ways to establish social consciousness a part of your brand’s identity:

  1. Create a social mission:
    Establish how your company will actively help the community.
  2. Make a list of goals:
    Set short and long term goals that are realistic.
  3. Inform your employees:
    Educate your entire team about creating a socially responsible brand.
  4. Form an in-house team for the job:
    Put together a dedicated team to drive positive social impact initiatives.
  5. Find a way to direct contributions:
    Create a way for customers and employees to donate funds or resources to local charities.
  6. Volunteering:
    Encourage your team by dedicating hours to volunteering, it’s also good for morale and team building.
  7. Ethical labour practices:
    Make sure you are following ethical labour practices within your own business.
  8. Consider sustainability:
    Easy ways to do this would be a paperless environment, recycling programs, eco-friendly lighting and plumbing, carpooling, etc.
  9. Collaborate with organisations:
    Team up with compatible organisations to supercharge your fundraising efforts.
  10. Make it an ongoing effort:
    To avoid consumers thinking your efforts are marketing stunts, create regular or continuous efforts in the community for longer lasting contributions.

If you’re wondering whether there is an easy way to incorporate this into your online store that doesn’t complicate the purchasing experience but still gives you all the advantages previously mentioned, then we’re happy to say that yes there is.

Introducing ShoppingGives

ShoppingGives enables you to integrate charitable giving in your Shopify store with ease. Their retail program, Change Commerce, is a shopping cart technology that is designed for Shopify. It allows customers to choose a cause or charity to donate to (at no extra cost to them) during the checkout process.

Change Commerce allows you to keep the checkout process simple, while offering customers millions of organisations to choose from (local charities to national non-profits). The process is quite simple; customers shop as per usual by adding items to their cart, they then choose their favourite cause upon checkout, and the retailer donates the money (at no extra cost to the customer). It enables merchants to engage customers in their CSR strategy with every purchase, adding great value to the customers’ experience and allowing retailers to create a greater impact.

ShoppingGives offers a 30-days free trial of Change Commerce, all you would need to pay during this time is the donations. Thereafter their pricing includes the donations plus 0.5% processing fee per transaction (orders with donations).

For this amount they include the following:

  • End-to-end donation management
  • Support up to 6 causes or non-profits
  • On-site widget
  • Donation confirmations for tracking (all donations are tax-deductable)
  • Customer cause data for personalisation
  • Platform to measure donations against bottom line using RODS (Return on Donation spend)

Another useful tool that ShoppingGives has developed that is worth a mention is their impact calculator.

ShoppingGives Impact Calculator

It enables the merchant to determine how much of an impact their brand could be generating. All you need to do is plug in some of your ecommerce metrics, such as your average monthly users, average order value, and average conversion rate and it will tell you your potential. Retailers can then see how much they would generate in donations annually, what is their ROI for their impact, and their Return on Donation Spend.

Do we recommend it?

If this is a route that you would like to pursue for your brand and online store then ShoppingGives is ideal for you. We have looked into and have been recommending it to our merchants that would like to incorporate charitable giving into their checkout process.

If you would like to try out ShoppingGives, reach out to us and we can help you get started.

Social Responsibility in Ecommerce

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their power for effecting change over brands, and one way they’re using their power for good is through supporting brands that give back. 

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Transactional emails in Shopify ecommerce

Turn your transactional emails into a standalone sales channel and see repeat business spike.

Leave no stone unturned when it comes to ways of increasing your conversions, especially if they can be processes that tick over nicely all on their own. It used to be that throwing money at your marketing budget for ads and PR was a solid strategy for ramping up business, but in the digital age we have so many options at our disposal that it can be quite overwhelming.

Digital marketing and online retail platforms like Shopify have made it possible to optimise almost all these channels relatively easily, quite affordably, and so that they can run automatically. One of these examples that we’ve found to be possibly the lowest hanging fruit for repeat business is beefing up your transactional and follow-up emails. 

What are transactional emails?

All online retailers have some form of transactional emails; their function is to facilitate an agreed upon transaction between the merchant and the customer. They contain information such as details of the order, expected delivery times, and other similar information.

If you’re still not sure what transaction emails are, these examples will help:

  • Abandoned checkout
  • Contact customer
  • Customer account invite
  • Customer account welcome
  • Customer account password reset
  • Delivery notifications
  • Draft order invoice
  • Fulfillment request
  • Gift card created
  • New order
  • New order (mobile)
  • Order canceled
  • Order confirmation
  • Product review request
  • POS and mobile receipt
  • Order refund
  • Shipping confirmation
  • Shipping update
  • Social media updates

Why are they considered low hanging fruit for repeat business?

Transactional related emails have very high open rates, on average most transactional emails have an open rate of 80-85% and most marketing emails are somewhere between 20-25%.

The reason for this is quite simple, the information they contain is exactly what the customer wants or needs. So it makes sense that you should leverage this captive audience by customising and personalising campaigns to improve your conversions of new and repeat business. It is also an opportunity to improve customer service and deepen customer engagement.

According to a white paper by Experian, connecting purchase behaviour to email marketing allow transactional emails to have substantially greater revenue per email than bulk marketing campaigns such as newsletters. These emails also have average revenue that is between two and five times greater.

Shopify transactional email revenue

The study also found that certain transactional emails had much higher conversion rates than bulk mailers, such as order confirmations (eight times higher), shipping and return/exchange based emails (four times higher). The graph below shows the conversion rate difference between transactional emails and bulk marketing mailings (commonly referred to as newsletters).

Shopify transactional email conversion rate differences

What do we mean by customising transactional emails?

Transactional emails are mostly personalised, due to their very nature, which improves their click-through rates by about 14% and conversions by 10%. When customising these emails with the idea to drive repeat purchases, the general rule of thumb is 80% informational and 20% promotional. After all, these emails are intended to deliver information, and not to sell too hard. Ensure that the information that they need and expect is at the forefront and any other promotional content should be added as a bonus.

Over at Spently, the recommended ratio is 60/40 where 60% of the information is related to the transaction and the rest is promotional content, designed to cultivate repeat purchases.

There are a number of ways to customise your transactional emails, which include offering a discount on their next purchase, free shipping, or cross-selling products that the customer may also be interested based on their purchase or wish list history.

Here are some examples of content features that have high conversion performance:

Product recommendations
Leverage your captive audience (merchants who have already purchased from you) to showcase different items sold by your store via product recommendations. You can also filter your recommendations based on different Shopify collections, ie. best selling, newest products or a unique featured collection provided by Spently.

Order status tracking
To enhance the engagement rate (click through rate in this case) as well as the customer experience, ensure that your confirmation or order status tracking email has a link that goes directly to the tracking page for that specific order rather than to any other link to the website. Mails that include order tracking have two times the click rate and 23% higher conversion rates than confirmations without.

Website navigation
Transaction emails can be designed to include some of the website navigation links, including those you would normally find in the navigation on the website and some quick links (order status, returns, etc.). Although the links that pertain to the purpose of the email should take preference and reduced website navigation links have been found to be more effective (higher click rates).

Email acquisition
If you have not got the consent of a customer to subscribe them to your mailing list, but have their contact details, include a link to sign themselves up for your newsletter and content that includes the benefits of receiving your regular communications such as specials and new product launches.

Offer inclusion
According to the white paper by Experian that we referenced earlier, 78% of online adults said they were more likely to open emails that include promotions or coupons - however, counter to what one might believe and despite that high open rate, emails that did not include promotions had up to 11% better conversion rates. Basically, if the content that is presented to the customer is targeted and relevant enough they do not require the addition of an offer to be tempted to make a purchase.

Social media linking
Many brands add the links to their social media sites as a standard to their email footer, this makes it that much easier for your customers to promote your brand on their favourite social media platform. Transactional emails that included links to social media had 55% higher click rates than those with no links.

Customising transactional emails on Shopify

Shopify does enable you to customise your transactional emails by adding your logo or changing the colour scheme for all the templates in one go, however the functionality is quite limited. There are other platforms that are available on the Shopify App Store that can help strengthen the relationship between merchants and their customers by turning standard retail messages into actionable opportunities. One such example, that focuses on driving repeat purchases via transactional emails, is Spently.


Spently

Spently is a marketing platform available to Shopify merchants that enables them to transform their transactional emails into marketing opportunities with upsells, personalised discounts, feedback loops, and referrals.

Abandoned carts is one of the biggest issues that Ecommerce merchants are faced with when it comes to losing sales, with an average of 75% of all products added to cart remaining unconverted. This number is also increasing year on year. Spently makes it easier to reconnect with your customers automatically via follow-up sequences that can help recover lost sales.

It also helps to bolster the brand by providing a unified experience across every interaction as visual branding is consistent whether they are on the website, in-store, on mobile, or when receiving a mail. Spently boast a 600% increase in clicks, 125% increase in transactions, and 360% increase in revenue per email when using their platform to enhance transaction emails for up-sell and cross-sell opportunities compared to Shopify’s default emails.

Below is an example of a transactional mail with Shopify’s default emails and an enhanced version using Spently’s Supercharged Store Emails app.

Spently comparison before and after.

How much does it cost?

As with any investment in life, you want to try something out before you make the commitment to invest your resources, which is why it is so convenient that Spently offers a Starter plan for free. Allowing you to experience the breadth of their application without any financial commitment on your part, along with gauging its efficacy towards driving repeat purchases.

With their Starter plan you can utilise Spently up to 50 monthly orders, including email template themes for all of your store notifications, variable settings for recommended products, discount codes, analytics, and support docs. Thereafter there are three more tiers that cater towards merchants with higher monthly orders and require increased functionality, such as follow-up emails. Spently will also provide a dedicated customer success manager to assist with onboarding, and on-going support. Usage-based plans begin with Essential at $99.99 merchants with upto 500 orders, moving on to Growth priced at $199.99 and upto 1000 orders. Usage-based plans taper off with Premium at the highest tier being recommended for ShopifyPlus merchants, allowing up to 5000 monthly orders — so you never feel like you’re paying too much. There are also unique enterprise plans for merchants above 5000 orders.

Do we recommend it?

It’s important to note that there are a number of marketing platforms available in the Shopify App Store that can do similar customisations and automations of notification emails, such as Klaviyo, and you can actually run Spently and Klaviyo together on one store, but we see little reason to not consider implementing Spently in your store ASAP.

We actually looked into Spently for some of our existing Shopify merchant clients and found it to be a worthwhile inclusion on almost any Shopify ecommerce store. It seems to be a great value investment in terms of what it has to offer in features and functionality. So much so that we have decided to partner up with Spently and have managed to negotiate a 30 day free trial on one of their paid plans.

If you would like to try out Spently on their free tier, or don't mind passing up the 30 day trial, feel free to use our link to install the app, or if you'd like to take advantage of the 30 day trial, please get in touch with us and we'll set things up for you.

Transactional emails in Shopify ecommerce

Turn your transactional emails into a standalone sales channel and see repeat business spike. Leave no stone unturned when it comes to ways of increasing your conversions, especially if they can be processes that tick over nicely all on their own. 

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Shopify Unite Conference 2019

Having now recovered from the three day journey back from Toronto, Canada, I thought it worthwhile to put together some words and pictures to document my journey to the annual Shopify Unite conference.

This is actually the first time ShopCreatify has had a presence at Unite. It was the fourth time Shopify have hosted the event since its inception and based on peer pressure from other folk in the Shopify ecosystem, we decided it was worthwhile to attend.

Important Note: If you're looking for a list of announcements from Unite, I've obliged by creating a digest at the end of this article with links to the respective sources. Also, if you're looking for specific information about what was announced, you can also check out Shopify's comprehensive article on this here and also go and give a listen to Kurt and Paul talk about it in the Unofficial Shopify Podcast.

The Journey Begins

Unfortunately things started off a bit shaky with all BA flights out of Cape Town being delayed (fog I believe) forcing me to have to forfeit my initial departure date since I'd miss all my connecting flights. The original journey was intended to be:

Cape Town > Johannesburg > Heathrow > Gattwick (drive) > Toronto

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise since not only did they reduce my legs down to Cape Town > Heathrow > Toronto, they also bumped me up from economy to business class for the first leg. 

Shopify Unite Journey from Heathrow
A view from the boarding lounge at Heathrow. BA has quite a flock... or is that fleet?

After a short layover and coffee break in Heathrow with my brother -where I had to frantically apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization Visa that my travel agent hadn't mentioned- I departed for the final leg to Toronto.

Shopify Unite 2019 Liberty Village Airbnb
I was pleasantly surprised at the nice quiet, leafy suburban feeling Airbnb location in Liberty Village. Complete with squirrels and maple trees.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't really know what I was in for when it came to my Airbnb. Turns out there was no cause for concern. Just over a mile from the conference venue, clean, and in a quiet road in Liberty Village, I managed to score a great priced and super convenient location. I couldn't have been happier.

Night 1 - Bold Commerce Pre-Event

Jet-lagged or not, I headed out from my airbnb to the pre-event hosted by Bold Commerce and a few others including Rise.ai (formerly GiftWizard) at the Steam Whistle Brewery in central Toronto.

Shopify Unite Bold Commerce Pre Event Panel
The panel at the Bold meetup in the Steamwhistle Brewery in Toronto.

The first familiar faces (actually just the name since we'd never chatted with video on) were Ines and Alejandro from GetMore.mx. I sat through the panel discussion with them which was interesting but brief. I actually appreciated this in my fragile lack-of-sleep condition. After meeting a few other people, some I'd only met via Zoom calls or in our global agency Slack, some just new... I headed out for a breather and promptly decided to jettison myself to the highest point of the CN tower... so I did.

Shopify Unite 2019 Bold Commerce Pre-Event
My view of the Steamwhistle Brewery from the CN Tower and a shot I took of the tower later that same evening.

On my return from the (extended) breather I met up with long time collaborators of ours Peter and Loughlin from Milkbottle who came all the way Dublin. Excellent guys and we ended up having a great chat over dinner and beer. That was it though... I was pretty broken so Ubered (is that a word?) back to my Airbnb for a proper sleep.

Day 1 - Sorta Kinda... actually just registration

After a proper sleep, I headed off to the Beanfield Centre on foot (only ~1.9km from my Airbnb) and subsequently came to realise that I was walking part of the Toronto Indy race circuit. They were actually setting up the grand stand scaffolding but I was saddened to hear that the race is only in late July. Probably good because Unite wouldn't have been possible with an Indy race happening.

Shopify Unite 2019 Arrival and Registration
Me looking decidedly South African in shorts on arrival at the Shopify Unite registration day.

With typical Canadian friendliness (it's true, it really, really is!) I got registered, my badge, some swag and a custom printed shirt from their on-site while-you-wait screen printers.

Having a pre-arranged lunch with my partner contact at Bold, Lauren, I headed off to meet her at The Craft and serendipitously bumped into her on the walk there. We had a great chat following which I set out on the longest walk I've done in recent memory to find a new bag (mine's strap broke on the flight in).

Shopify Unite 2019 Walking Toronto
Some visuals from my many walks around Toronto.

I think I totalled over 10km walking that day already and should probably have called it there... but no... there was a happy hour to attend still! So after getting some food in my face and setting off for another walk, I hit the Drake and soon met up with Canadian local Matt from Voltage and Leighton & Andy from Envision. A thriving event packed with people, but the happy hour came to an end around 8pm and we decided to head out for dinner.

Outside the Drake, we conveniently met up with some long time contacts Karl from RedFoxBanjo, Tom from Burst Commerce and the guys from Electric Eye Chase & Shawn. Others too, but it's such an overload for my brain to remember all the names and companies, so suffice to say it was a networking festival of note.

A bunch of us set off to grab some dinner at the most local looking place we could find. I tried some Poutine - Canada's claimed local cuisine and as Karl put it "it tastes like fries with gravy". I found that to be 100% accurate... but yes, I enjoyed it.

After another seemingly very long day, I walked back to the Airbnb and think I crashed for the best sleep I've had in a long while.

Day 2 - Actually day 1 with the keynotes etc.

For some reason I decided to go down for the main opener really early and I think I was let in before they started to stop people at the door. Unintentionally sneaky of me. Some of my contacts were stuck outside while they prepped the main stage... but I was already in and got some work done in the lounge area.

The keynotes were fun, if not a bit long. Some great announcements were made, which I've listed out at the end of this article, and Shopify's share price spiked shortly I think during and definitely in the hours thereafter.

Shopify Unite 2019 Keynote
Announcement of the new Shopify mobile phone tap & chip case.

The standout announcements for myself were the enhancements to the theming in Shopify as well as the massive announcement about the fulfillment network.

There was also an AMA (ask me anything) with Tobi Lutke, the founder of Shopify. It was pretty revealing and gave a glimpse into the mind of someone that planted a seed and has grown it into what is -according to Shopify- the third largest online retailer in the world when you combine all the merchants using the platform.

Shopify Unite 2019 Tobi Lutke ama
Tobi Lutke being grilled (not really) with questions about Shopify and the future of the platform.

The food was really good in the aptly named Unite Cafe -complete with coffee from Starbucks- and then we migrated to the lounge area where I had worked from earlier in the day. From there it was a smorgasbord of networking where I got to meet the camo jacket wearing posterboy of Shopify partners Kurt Elster and his business partner Paul Reda... and all their documentary filmmaking gadgets, Kelly from Taproom, Sara and R. V. d. from Mote, the guys from Spently... and honestly, just so many others I can't bring myself to try and recollect them all and turn this into a painful paragraph to read. Name dropping isn't my thing.

The day culminated in a great dinner out with Kurts (Elster and Bullock) and a bunch of other cool guys. We were introduced to the Canadian "Caesar" which is definitely something I'd like to try and make my own now that I'm back.

Another Uber, and time to reset for day 3.

Day 3 - Lightning talks, office hours etc.

On this day I broke with my newfound tradition and started a bit later than I'd hoped. It wasn't too serious and my attendance at the conference consisted mostly of networking, attending some of the talks and workshops with Karl.

Shopify Unite 2019 Session
Karl looking decidedly uneasy about the idiot next to him doing a panoramic photo. That or this is his concentration face.

I achieved one of the main things I wanted to with my attendance and that was to meet the founder of Out of the Sandbox Brad Miller. Conveniently we shared the front row in a talk about Shopify theming (surprise surprise) and I got to meet Anne and him directly thereafter. He's taller than I imagined... apparently height is one thing that people are surprised by when they meet people in person for the first time after knowing them for a while online.

We discussed their new theme which I won't name since it hasn't been officially announced at the time of me writing this as far as I'm aware. Needless to say, we're excited to look at putting it into our arsenal of Shopify store production weapons.

Following the day's events, I went for a long walk along the side of the lake (fresh water ocean if you ask me) with Karl and Matt which ended with us parting ways, them going to the official afterparty and me having a sunset call with Quintin, my business partner from the water's edge.

Shopify Unite 2019 - Great Lake Toronto
Not a bad view while chatting to Quintin back in Cape Town.

It felt kinda strange to be on that end of the time zone difference. Odd in a way, but I can also see how beneficial it can be since I woke up every morning with so much to review and do because a lot of my team had already been up and working for more than half the day. An interesting and revealing observation.

An early night for a change and some needed rest for the final day of Unite was on the cards for me. Apparently the afterparty was really good, but the idea of Facetiming my wife and kids back home was more appealing. Call me an old fuddy duddy if you will.

Day 4 - The grand finale & a Blue Jays game

The final day of the conference followed much the same formula as the preceding day and I don't have a lot of new information to add for it.

The closing keynote by Atlee Clark, Director of Partner Platform was quite heartfelt and touching and seemed a suitable closing talk with her speaking about a Shopify store that she herself is in the process of launching. Great to know that even some of the higher-ups in Shopify's own ranks are using their own platform.

I did manage to try the much talked about Canadian famous beaver's tail which turned out to be just a flat donut-like pastry. Tasty.

As much as the final day of Unite was great, I think everyone was all networked out, our elevator pitches permanently tattooed on the inside of our skulls and our business card pile looking rather depleted... not mine though, as I chose to go with a QR code printed on my shirt but found direct Linkedin exchanges to be a lot easier... I was travelling light.

As earlier planned with Peter and Loughlin from Milkbottle, we chose to hit the Toronto Blue Jays vs Los Angeles Angels final game at the Rogers Centre. I'd say this was one major highlight of my trip. The stadium was incredibly impressive with the retractable roof, and the game kept my interest from the first pitch... also my first live baseball game.

Shopify Unite 2019 - Baseball at Rogers Stadium
Inside Rogers Centre on a rainy night watching the Toronto Blue Jays beat the LA Angels.

And that was it. Done and dusted, the Shopify Unite conference for 2019 was officially over and most people headed off home, some driving back to different parts of Canada and the United states and us overseas travellers preparing for the long haul back.

I did manage to have lunch with Ines and Alejandro on my final full day in Toronto at a great vegan spot called Fresh on Spadina. I think they -and I- were a bit tired of burgers and deep fried foods, so it made a welcome change.

The trip back

Getting home was far less eventful than the up-trip with the exception of a long stopover in London. This allowed me to spend most of it with my brother and sister-in-law, grab some toys for the kids from Hamleys and even take the founder of one of our favourite merchant clients, FoldaBox, to a proper British roast lunch at the Smokehouse in Islington.

River Thames
What would a stopover in London be without a shot of the River Thames!

Needless to say, after a near 3 day journey back, I required a couple of days to recover, but now -Friday- I'm putting this all together before the memories fade.

Was it worth it?

One of the biggest, most niggling questions in my mind since I first signed up for Unite was "will it be worth it for us?" and to be quite frank, I don't yet know.

I think it was, and I feel the connections I made, or strengthened by attending may be worth the time and cost of quite a significant journey. We're talking about a relative homebody that -while I'm fine speaking at meetups in front of a crowd- I don't particularly like the networking vibe.

Yes it was a bit of an adventure, it was my first time on that continent and the fact that people drive on the wrong side of the road was odd, but all in all I think going to the biggest partner event that Shopify currently offers, and it was big... like over 1,800 delegates, I hope the effort, time and cost was worth it.

Time will tell. We're already doing very well as it stands with the Shopify platform and an excellent existing client base across the globe, so in short it certainly won't do any harm.


Shopify's Recap of Announcements

According to Shopify's own highlights recap, the following was announced at this year's conference. You can read their full article to get further context.

  • A reimagined design experience for your online store
    • Easier customization at the page and store level. 
    • Portable content that moves with you. 
    • A new workspace to update your store. 
  • Bring your products to life with video and 3D models
    • Manage media through a single location.
    • Deploy through the new Shopify video player.
    • New editor apps.
  • Cutting edge merchandising with custom storefront tools
    • Connect microservices to create personalized experiences.
    • Turn the world into your storefront.
    • Speedy and scalable to have development teams work in parallel.
  • Build lasting customer loyalty with retail shoppers
    • Apply discounts lightning-quick.
    • Important information at your fingertips.
    • Create small moments of delight.
  • Grow globally with seamless cross-border selling
  • Announcing the Shopify Fulfillment Network
    • A single back office.
    • Recommended warehouse locations.
    • Low stock alerts.
    • 99.5% order accuracy.
    • Hands-on warehouse help.

Kurt Elster's Shopify Unite 2019 Notes

I also took the liberty of reaching out to Kurt Elster from the Unofficial Shopify Podcast if I could share some of his notes which he graciously permitted and  which I've posted below. Be sure to check out his podcast though. He has some great content on there and interviews some great players in the ecommerce industry... even me.

Online store:

  • Site-wide sections
  • Apps can add sections
  • Product pages have parent and child templates
  • Content portability: all content lives outside theme, simplifying theme changes
  • Native video & 3-D support on product pages
  • Check-out app extensions for native integrations of things like subscriptions
  • Multi-currency checkout rolling out to all merchants
  • Multi-language API for native localized content

POS:

  • Tap & chip case for mobile orders. Apple store like experience. Printed with a custom logo.
  • Cart extension apps.
  • Entirely redesigned POS interface
  • Native “buy online pick up in store”

Admin:

  • New “shipping profiles” to assign product-specific shipping rules.
  • Order editing!!!

Plus:

  • All new interface: centralized view of multiple stores
  • Multistore dashboard for customers, orders, Flow automation, etc
  • Future: cloning & store sync
  • Multi-store staff managed in one place

Apps:

  • Command line interface tool to make dev easier
  • Shopify App Bridge: one library to rule them all, and create more embedded apps
  • GraphQL improvements mean faster apps
  • More stable apps because of API versioning. (Keeps apps from breaking when the API changes.)

Shopify Fulfillment Network:

  • 2 days to deliver
  • 99.9% order accuracy
  • Multichannel support
  • Custom packaging & branding
  • Returns/exchange support
  • Now: Merchants of every size. (10-10,000 orders/day)
  • Later: Merchants of every size. (3-30,000 orders/day)
  • Beta complete, apply for early access at shopify.com/fulfillment

When: Most updates had a timeline of "Available later this year"


Shopify Unite Conference 2019

Having now recovered from the three day journey back from Toronto, Canada, I thought it worthwhile to put together some words and pictures to document my journey to the annual Shopify Unite conference.

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Shopify product reviews for conversion boosting

Customer reviews are an absolute asset to any online store for a myriad of reasons (which we will be discussing); but so many stores don’t leverage them properly, or are too afraid to open themselves up to the possibility of bad reviews. We’d like to run through why reviews are absolutely crucial to your online store, how to get them, and what to do with them - the good and the bad ones.

In a nutshell, customer reviews can help improve your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as well as increase your conversions, resulting in more sales and revenue. Here’s how that works:

User reviews heavily influence buyer decisions

Before the sudden boom that was ecommerce shopping, the go-to method for finding out if something was good or not before making a buying decision was asking a friend what their experience was. Word of mouth was the strongest influencer for a long time, that was until technology made it easier and more convenient to access hundreds of reviews online. Customer reviews have become so powerful that 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase.

A product with at least five reviews is 270% more likely to be purchased than a product featuring no reviews.

They are proven sales drivers, and customers now expect to see them on all Ecommerce stores.

Product reviews impact on ecommerce conversion rate

 

A product with at least five reviews is 270% more likely to be purchased than a product featuring no reviews. This is especially true for higher-priced products, where the conversion rate increases by 380%. After the first five reviews the marginal benefit of additional reviews diminishes rapidly as seen above in the accompanying graph.

Collecting customer feedback 

Who do you ask?

Maybe not so obvious to some, but the best place to look for feedback is actually your current customer base. They have already gone through the process of making the decision to purchase your product/s and might have unique perspectives to share regarding comparisons with what your competitors offer and how your product compares by their own experience.

If you are able to, you can segment your customer base to determine which ones are more likely to give you feedback.

Better yet, if you are very confident in your product, make contact with an appropriate Influencer in your field to review a product of yours on their relevant channels.

How do you ask?

Automation is key for any business, it takes the routine and work-a-day tasks that take up time and ensures they are completed without you lifting a finger after setting the process in place.

Automate an email communication to elicit reviews after a set timeframe. Ensure that you always thank the customer for their purchase or support, remind them of how important their contribution and opinion is to keeping your product satisfactory and relevant, and ask them to leave a review. If you are able to, you can provide an incentive, such as offering a discount code or a free gift.

Integrating or adding reviews to your site

A simple product review app can help you collect and display reviews professionally. We tend to make use of either the Shopify Product Reviews app for quicker and easier (but less feature rich) reviews. It’s free and offers basic features to help you collect reviews and design a product review area. It is also SEO-friendly, which means that your review scores can be seen in your Google search results, such as in the example below:

Search result showing product reviews and rating

Many Ecommerce stores have their start on third-party sites such as Etsy or Amazon and have built up a large number of reviews which they would obviously like to move to their Shopify store. As nice as this would be, unfortunately they cannot necessarily move or copy these reviews across due to the fact that they’re technically intellectual property of these software vendors! You can, however, integrate your existing Google Customer Reviews into Shopify and possibly others like Trust Pilot.

If you want to take things to the next level though, then something like YOTPO, which includes basic features plus social integration, review of email requests, and moderation, is probably the right choice for you.

Sticking with who we believe to be one of the market leaders in this space, YOTPO’s paid version includes significant extra features like shoppable Instagram, rich snippets and coupons. Below is a neat summary of the kinds of features you can look forward to with each option to help you make a decision of which one suits your business best.

Option 1 - Shopify Product Reviews

  • Theme-friendly design - Reviews automatically match your store's look and feel
  • Easy customisation - Edit layout options, text and colours without needing to code
  • Bulk actions - Publish, hide, filter, and manage reviews quickly and easily
  • CSV import and Export - Import and export your reviews as a spreadsheet
  • SEO-friendly review scores - Add review scores to your Google search results.

Option 2 - YOTPO Free Plan

  • Collect reviews, ratings, photos, and Q&A from your customers.
  • Increase conversion by showcasing customer content on site to help buyers with purchase decisions.
  • Drive high-intent traffic by displaying ratings in organic search results and Google Ads.
  • Share your best customer content on social networks with a click of a button.
  • Build a brand community of your biggest fans with customer content.
  • Make better business decisions using analytics and feedback from your customers.

Option 3 - YOTPO Premium Plan

  • Reviews Widget, Reviews Tab and Star Ratings - Increase conversion by showcasing product reviews and ratings across your homepage, product and category pages, and at checkout.
  • Social Push and SEO Page - Drive traffic from Facebook and Twitter and rank higher in search results.
  • Review Request Emails - Collect reviews with a single, frictionless request.
  • Moderation and Commenting - Choose what to publish and where, and comment on reviews publicly or privately.

What do you do with the negative reviews?

So many people have an irrational fear of negative reviews, but this is because they don’t realise that they can actually work for them. 72% of B2B buyers say negative reviews give depth and insight into a product, helping to build credibility - anyone would get suspicious if there were never any bad or low reviews! In fact, 82% of shoppers specifically seek out negative reviews and just their presence could improve conversions by up to 67%.

In fact, 82% of shoppers specifically seek out negative reviews and just their presence could improve conversions by up to 67%.

So what do you do if you receive a negative review? A bad review is an opportunity to turn a customer around, show people you are willing to go the extra mile to improve their experience. Embrace negative feedback, use it to improve or tweak your product, to get to know your target market better, and to create more meaningful engagements with your customers.

Firstly, respond to the customer publicly (if possible) and privately as well. Thank them for their feedback and attempt to rectify the problem or get them more information to help them troubleshoot their issues. If their bad review is on a platform where they can change their review rating, encourage them to revisit it after they’ve had a better experience with your brand or product. This can go a long way to repair any damage that might have been done and likely even strengthen your brand.

Some quick tips on displaying customer reviews

1. Use reviews on your product pages for people to see.

Where you display your customer reviews has a lot to do with the setup of your site and your kind of product. If you are able to bring your reviews into pages other than on your product pages, then include them on your home page, under blog posts, in the sidebar, etc. This will also positively impact your SEO for that particular product (more on that below).

If you have different variations of the same product then ensure that any reviews for that product are shared across all those product pages (ie. multiple product pages for the same product but in a different colour for example) so that the review is not missed.

2. Use screenshots of reviews that haven’t been touched up via software.

Customers respond better to product images that are not over-edited, so if your customers are able to post a review that features a photograph of your product in use, that can greatly increase the influence of that particular review.

3. Use star ratings for people to see your review score.

Star ratings make it easier for customers to glance over your product page and find exactly what they’re looking for. It’s also universally recognised as a review symbol and will likely attract the eye of a potential buyer. If possible, allow your reviews to be sorted by the number of stars. This will make for a more intuitive experience for your researching buyer.

How customer reviews can improve SEO

Search engine crawlers will pick up on fresh content that is regularly updated, which makes customer reviews the ideal way to attract more relevant content. Very often the same product description appears on multiple different websites (if that product is available elsewhere), so user-generated content such as new customer reviews will differentiate that product page in the search results.

In conclusion…

It’s absolutely imperative in this day and age to have customer reviews on your products on your ecommerce store. This is made that much easier by ecommerce platforms like Shopify that have apps designed to do just that. User-generated reviews are the new word-of-mouth, and you will never beat that when it comes to building trust in your product. Customer reviews are honest, unbiased, and transparent reflections of what your customers think and feel about your product/s, and spending time or resources on eliciting reviews will always be a worthy investment for your ecommerce business.

Shopify product reviews for conversion boosting

Customer reviews are an absolute asset to any online store for a myriad of reasons (which we will be discussing); but so many stores don’t leverage them properly, or are too afraid to open themselves up to the possibility of bad reviews. We’d like to run through why reviews are absolutely crucial to your online store, how to get them, and what to do with them - the good and the bad ones.

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Observe Prioritize Execute Ecommerce Strategies

As we explored in a previous article, even though your Shopify store has gone live and is converting, your work is never done. There are always things to be done that can drastically improve your online store, not just your conversion rate but also your Search results, user experience and marketability. However, that list is very long and each item brings with it different angles of improvement, so how do you choose where to start?

If you’ve entered into any development cycles, you will know that it often just isn’t feasible to do everything all at once. Development can be costly and you might not have the resources (time or available developers if you have an in-house team) to complete large chunks at once. Your best bet is to build a development roadmap for the rest of the year and carefully plot your development in stages, taking into account the time it takes to roll-out and test.

Firstly, you will need to prioritize from that long list of improvements which ones make the most logical sense to start with. There are a number of ways to prioritize this, which includes tackling lower hanging fruit first to get them out of the way, or what is most beneficial to your cause. As with anything in business, you need to analyse the situation first to determine the way forward – so that is a great place to start.

Analysis

You may already have a list of improvements that you would like to tackle, however if you do not you can use our ‘Increase Your Conversions’ checklist for some great ideas. These will include bugs that you or customers have encountered, improvements to the User Interface (UI), new features that you would like to implement, improving website discoverability (SEO related), and other changes to boost upsell and conversions.

Review the current performance of your website using all the tools at your disposal, including performance measurement tools like Google Analytics, Google PageSpeed Insights, Google Mobile-Friendly Test, Backlink Checker, etc. Using real data from your users allows you to make more informed decisions when it comes to prioritizing your tasks. Obviously, pain points that directly affect your customers will be your most pressing issues to tackle (as opposed to backend issues that only affect you and your team).

Compare the results to your goals as it will highlight any glaring issues and help you identify where you need to be focusing your improvements. These items will become your to-do list, and your next step is to determine the importance or urgency of each.

Determination of prioritization

In order to build your development roadmap, you need to have prioritized your improvements completely. You need to look at your list of items with a critical eye and ask a number of questions that will help you determine where they fit on your scale of importance.

  • What are your reasons for doing it? (better conversions/SEO/UI/UX?)
  • Are they good enough reasons to justify the development/time/money?
  • How will your business benefit from it? (more revenue/functionality/brand awareness?)
  • Does it streamline operations? (whose life does it make easier?)
  • How long will it take to implement/fix?

The way we look at it there are 4 main categories for changes to a website and this is the most logical order to do them in:

  1. Bug fixes:
    Bugs can severely affect the performance of your online store, so it is imperative that you make them a priority to address. Especially if bugs hinder the checkout, registration, or any part of the cart process (adding, editing, etc.) as this will directly impact on abandoned sales and returning customers. Thankfully Shopify don’t really allow merchants to have checkout experiences that are anything but extremely smooth. All areas of the experience in the build up to checkout are such that customers feel 100% safe and secure, and that the process is as bug free as possible. Anything out of the ordinary or remotely ‘buggy’ and you will have an abandoned cart epidemic.
  2. UX (User Experience):
    UX plays a huge role in increasing conversion rates and lowering the bounce rate. A good UX leaves a far better impression on the customer and leads to return customers and repeat business. Online shopping can be confusing for many people, so the more comfortable they feel on your website, the less likely they are to abandon your pages. Ensure that you tackle tasks that help make your website more intuitive, mobile-friendly, increase your product findability, and make processes like registration and checkout super easy and easy to find.
  3. Customer Acquisition:
    Improvements that will make new customer acquisition strategies (marketing and SEO) easier will help to ensure an ongoing stream of new business by increasing web traffic, such as newsletter sign-up pop-ups, social sharing capabilities, and enabling social reviews to pull through to your product pages. Growing your brand awareness and traffic levels will boost your sales numbers, so if there are improvements and integrations that are in your power to do, you would be wise to implement them.
  4. UI (User Interface):
    Finally, UI improvements refer to the visual design of the website and can be considered new features that you want to add (eg. adding a banner to your home page with the top 10 most popular products on it or changing the look and feel of your store). Similar to UX, a good UI will impress visitors and keep them coming back, as well as make them feel comfortable shopping on your site all while making an emotional connection.

Every business is unique, so your needs may be slightly different and so the above might look a bit different for you. You may be more anxious to increase your marketing efforts and so new customer acquisition might be higher up on your priority list. However, as long as you align your improvements with your store goals you are on the right track.

Building your roadmap timeline and execution

Once you have narrowed down what needs to be done, it’s time to strategically execute the tasks to see the most impactful results in as short amount of time as possible. You can use our unique speed:impact formula to ensure that tasks are executed in a sequence that allows you to benefit the most, as quickly as possible.

Below is a chart showing how by prioritizing your tasks for the shortest execution times and highest impacts first, you will see a greater return on your investment much sooner. Of course this chart is created using perfect data (never the case) and the 100% axis signifies the total return you will receive from the work, not the % amount of return expected as this will vary.

Realization of ecommerce ROI based on prioritization of tasks.

Priority 1 - QWHI Tasks
Quick Win, High Impact tasks will almost always be prioritized highest and scheduled to be done first.

Priority 2 - BTHI Tasks
Bigger Task, High Impact items will require a bit more time to execute, so once the QWHI tasks are done, these will be the next priority to focus on.

Priority 3 - QWLI Tasks
Quick Win, Low Impact tasks will be deferred to a later date, or executed sooner if there is time and capacity to do so.

Priority 4 - BTLI Tasks
Bigger Task, Low Impact items will usually be added to a deferment list or even scrapped if the time and resources required to execute are not viable.

The continuous improvement approach

A website requires continuous improvement, and with the insights we can gain from site metrics and performance analytics, coupled with customer feedback, there are usually many updates and improvements to be made. The Continuous Improvement Cycle is ideal for ecommerce websites, as it fits in perfectly with the development model when used in conjunction with the insights gained from available metrics.

Continuous ecommerce design and development lifecycle

This cycle is an ongoing effort to improve products, services and processes and consists of a 3 step model of analyse, prioritize and apply. 

Continuous improvement often leads to a much more agile web development process, and yields far better results than when taking it on as you would with any other larger more traditional web development models like Waterfall. Tasks are often completed much faster, and changes and updates are based on real customer data and not just whim. Continuously updating your website extends its lifecycle, so it will be much longer between expensive, complete site redesigns!

Improvements going forward

As you will have already gleaned, your website will never be truly ‘done’. New technology is always being released, Google is always changing their algorithm, and trends change so quickly – so you need to stay on top of things to keep from falling behind on that ever-growing to-do list. For a lot of Ecommerce stores everything other than improvements that help increase their conversion rate is a luxury, so you might want to focus all of your energy and strategies on that.

However, if this is too much of an undertaking for your business right now, then ConversionBoost is far better suited to help you see exponential growth in your online store conversion. ConversionBoost is one of our specialised services, where we use an evidence-based approach, with data collection and analysis, to improve and enhance your store. It is designed for established stores that already have a baseline of performance, and stores with a certain level of traffic and sales already will see the best results. Ready to take your Shopify store to the next level? Apply now.

 

Observe Prioritize Execute Ecommerce Strategies

As we explored in a previous article, even though your Shopify store has gone live and is converting, your work is never done. There are always things to be done that can drastically improve your online store [..]

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Ecommerce conversion optimization

It is perhaps a couple of months (or a year or so) after your ecommerce store was first launched. You’re patiently watching the conversions tick over each week, and you start to wonder - what’s next? The journey you took to get your online store live was undoubtedly long and industrious, but it’s not over yet - you may already have encountered some pain points or perhaps you’re not yet satisfied with your conversion rate. So now that your Shopify store is live, what now?

The beauty of digital is that we can constantly and relatively easily update and upgrade our store according to the many metrics we record each and every day of our customers’ behaviour as well as our general website performance on tools such as Google Analytics and heat mapping products like HotJar and CrazyEgg. This ultimately means that your job is never finished when it comes to your Ecommerce store; there are always improvements to be made, A/B testing to be done, and upgrades to make to ensure that your store is running at absolute optimal performance.

Just as you might have found it overwhelming as to where to start while you were devising your now finalised live online store, it can be equally paralyzing when contemplating how and where to start on optimisation. To help you get started we have grouped some aspects that you can take a look at first that will form a great start.

Now that your Shopify site is live, here are the next steps:

Ultimately, almost everything that you endeavour to do with your Ecommerce store is in aid of increasing your conversions; and there are an infinite number of things you can do to increase sales on your Shopify store. Some things are easier or faster to implement and others might require more research and a bit of development but could yield much better results over a period of time and therefore worth it in the longer run.

We have compiled the checklist below of things you can do to increase conversions:

1. Enhance your Search
You can thank Google for making a Search function an expected feature on most websites - and you can use this to great advantage too, especially if you have a large product catalogue. Enhance the user experience with a good quality search feature that makes finding what they need easy. Consider adding auto-suggest functionality to cleverly propose relevant products to the consumer while they are still typing. Usually this would come in the form of an app, and there are a few to choose from.

2. Use Product Videos
Video has quickly become the king of content, with more than 500 million hours of videos watched on YouTube each day and a third of all online activity consisting solely of watching video content. Suffice to say, a video explainer is the ideal medium to explain your product/s on your website in basic and succinct terms. Other than your home page, embed these videos in the description field of your product/s, and if you're smart enough to be using one of the Out of the Sandbox themes, you can even put videos into the main image carousel.

3. Improve your Navigation
Most Shopify themes come with navigation options that ‘do the job’, but you want more than that - you want your navigation to improve product findability, be laser-focused, and offer consumers an intuitive user-experience. Your navigation needs to contribute to your conversion-efforts, so keep your product front and centre - everything else can go into your footer or other secondary navigation areas so as not to clutter up your interface.

4. Add a Site-Wide Promo Bar
Site Wide Promo Bar
A lot of Ecommerce stores, like GymShark (above), use promo bars to communicate value propositions like specials or free shipping to their target audience. However, they often limit this to their home page, limiting its reach along with it. Make your promo bars site-wide, thus maximising the messaging and the opportunity to drive conversions with it.

5. Use and Promote Social Proof & Reviews
Consumers trust word-of-mouth more than anything else; according to this Nielsen Global Trust In Advertising Survey 92% of people trust recommendations from friends versus 70% from online consumer opinions. This is why you need to leverage your social presence and social reviews as much as possible, after all they are unpaid endorsements! There is a great app for social reviews called YOTPO that a lot of our merchant clients use with great success.

6. Up-sell, Cross-Sell and Bundle
“According to Forrester research, product recommendations such as upsell and cross-sell offers are responsible for an average of 10-30% of ALL eCommerce side revenues! " – Bold Commerce.

Use up-sell, cross-sell and bundle offers to increase the average cart size and boost your revenue. There are a large number of apps to choose from when looking to provide this on your store but our usual go-to apps are the ones offered by Bold.

7. Emphasize Call-to-Actions
Be selective and stay relevant when drawing the consumer’s eye to a CTA, if you give equal attention to all CTAs (Add to Cart, mailing list sign up, inquire now) they contribute to a general ‘noise’ and essentially disappear amongst it. The rule of thumb is that you draw attention primarily to the element(s) that are going to lead to a conversion.

8. Add Guarantees, Trust Seals & Value Propositions
Elements such as expedited shipping, free shipping, product guarantees, country of manufacture/sourcing (locally sourced, etc.), secure transactions, PCI Compliant Hosting & Cart, and payment method logos inspire trust and confidence in your consumer. Proudly display these where they are about to make their buying decision.

9. Incentivise email subscription
Consumers are spammed to death from every angle, so one doesn’t blame them for making us work for their email addresses! One of the best tried and tested ways to persuade consumers to opt-in for a mailing list is to offer them a free gift with their first purchase or a sizable discount code after signing up.

10. Localise
If you currently only have one store catering to multiple countries and are experiencing some drop-off in other territories, consider creating a separate instance for each region. This will allow for you to provide:

  1. Checkout in the customer's own currency.
  2. Ability to market to that region's specific events and holidays.
  3. Ability to market to that region's potentially different seasons.
  4. Use the predominant language of the region.
  5. Use familiar payment methods and shipping providers.

11. Give a Stock level indication
Providing a stock level indication (only 6 items left in stock!) gives a sense of urgency and prays on the consumer’s sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). An app like While Supplies Last will enable you to implement this functionality.

12. Add a Countdown timer
Similarly with the Stock level indication, a Countdown timer effectively provides an air of urgency (to the minute) and also works on the FOMO in every consumer. Use an app for this like Sales Countdown Timer Bar to give the consumer a certain amount of time to act before losing out on a deal.

13. Provide back-in-stock notification
Don’t lose out on sales simply because a product is temporarily out of stock, capture the consumer’s details and send them an automated reminder when the product is back-in-stock again with functionality like that of the BackInStock app.

14. Recover your Abandoned Carts
“The typical shopping cart abandonment rate for online retailers varies between 60% and 80%, with an average of 67.91%.” - Wikipedia

Abandoned carts are the ultimate low-hanging fruit for picking up on lost sales, consumers were literally selecting items for purchase and for some or other reason didn’t complete the sale. Provide an opportunity for them to pick up where they left off (or even offer a discount to tip them over the edge). If you're on Shopify's "Shopify" plan or higher, you already have abandoned checkouts available to you as a feature, otherwise for a lower plan there are still plenty of options in the form of apps.

In conclusion…

If you implement many (or all) of these points you are very likely to see a marked impact on your store’s performance. If you would like to see more detailed information on the above checklist items, view our article on increasing your site’s conversions. Alternatively, you could sign up for our ConversionBoost service and see exponential growth in your online store conversion.

Have you heard of ConversionBoost?

ConversionBoost is one of our specialised services, where we use an evidence-based approach, with data collection and analysis, to improve and enhance your store. ConversionBoost is designed for established stores that already have a baseline of performance, and stores with a certain level of traffic and sales already will see the best results. If you are just getting started, though, and want to know how you can best optimise your sales for your growing store, we can help too. Ready to take your Shopify store to the next level? Apply now.

Ecommerce conversion optimization

It is perhaps a couple of months (or a year or so) after your ecommerce store was first launched. You’re patiently watching the conversions tick over each week, and you start to wonder - what’s next? 

read time.

Read More

Leaving money on the table

You ticked all the boxes when you set up your ecommerce website, you spent time and resources on good marketing channels, and you’re getting loads of targeted traffic, but you’re not seeing the sales numbers you’d expect.

Unsurprisingly, this is not uncommon for ecommerce sites. Every year dozens of studies and surveys are done to determine the dreaded cart abandonment rate; in 2017 the rate was 78.65% (slightly higher than in 2016 when it was 77.24%). This means that over 3/4 of shoppers choose to leave a site without completing a purchase.

So what is it that causes large amounts of online shoppers to go so far, but never convert to a sale? A fair portion of this is due to “window shopping”, where customers browse an online store only to do research or compare products and prices, but what about the rest?

Factors contributing to low sales conversions

There are a number factors at play that can drastically affect how a consumer feels about making a purchase from your online store; everything from first impressions, usability, to whether or not they feel safe inputting their credit card details. If a customer finds your website difficult to navigate or struggles to find what they are looking for, the sheer frustration will likely turn them to a competitor - after all, online shopping is supposed to be more convenient than going into a brick-and-mortar store!

Other factors such as the kind of information you supply, whether or not you include shipping, and other finer details will need to stand out against your competitors’ to snag that conversion. When it comes to making payment, even the most regular and blasé of online shoppers is far more vigilant on payment pages and gateways than on any other webpage. If your payment gateway or process is convoluted or takes them too far out of their comfort zone, your customer is sure to put their credit card back in their wallet.

There is a long list of other factors that impact your potential for sales conversions and a lot of ways to improve it, but unfortunately there is no single fix that will work for all. Ecommerce stores are all unique, and one is often blind to the issues on one’s own site. This is why it requires a fresh perspective and a trained eye to weed out the problems.

I’m leaving money on the table… How do I fix that?

If you’ve come to this realisation, we’d like you to know that there is plenty we can do for you. It is absolutely possible to convert your Shopify store into one that inspires, informs and makes your customers feel safe when buying from you.

Our ConversionBoost service works in a 3-step process; first we analyse your website using data analysis tools as well as conduct a manual evaluation. Secondly, we apply any recommended changes gathered from our data-driven insights. And finally, we test and refine your online store over time by adding new features and optimising existing journeys. You won’t be leaving anything on the table, but rather you will enjoy higher conversion rates, better revenue numbers, and increased average cart sizes.

Leaving money on the table

You ticked all the boxes when you set up your ecommerce website, you spent time and resources on good marketing channels, and you’re getting loads of targeted traffic, but you’re not seeing the sales numbers you’d expect.

read time.

Read More
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