Shopify & Ecommerce Ramblings

A blog about building and extending awesome Shopify stores

Chase Clymer, host of Honest Ecommerce's interviewed ShopCreatify's Ross Allchorn in a recent podcast. In this episode they discuss how the pandemic has affected Ecommerce in South Africa and around the world, and what merchants should be focusing on during this time. 

While ShopCreatify has a distributed team that spans the world, there are a couple of teammates and customers with Ecommerce stores based in South Africa, giving Ross a unique perspective to offer.

Chase Clymer, Ross Allchorn

Chase Clymer, host of Honest Ecommerce's interviewed ShopCreatify's Ross Allchorn in a recent podcast. In this episode they discuss how the pandemic has affected Ecommerce in South Africa and around the world, and what merchants should be focusing on during this time. 

While ShopCreatify has a distributed team that spans the world, there are a couple of teammates and customers with Ecommerce stores based in South Africa, giving Ross a unique perspective to offer.

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Ecommerce order being fulfilled
Photo by Bench

If ever there was a time to focus on boosting your online sales, it would be now.

Despite the extenuating circumstances of what is facing the world right now, eCommerce is booming and it’s time to get on top of your conversion optimisation. First things first, if you want to accurately monitor your sales and revenue and ultimately your sales conversion rate, you need to set up Google Analytics on your site and set your conversion rate goals. Now you’re ready to take a deeper look at your ecommerce store. 

We’ve set down a list to help you identify where your website might be losing sales - and a few things to consider if you want to be more likely to make a sale. We’re not focusing on ads or general marketing right now, but rather the ways you can tweak and improve your site to better convert your current traffic and see a marked growth in sales and revenue.

If you’d rather have a Shopify Expert optimise your store then take a look at our ConversionBoost product, for a limited time only we are offering 20% off for COVID-19 relief. Apply now to reserve your ConversionBoost slot.

Home Page

There are a number of things you can do to optimise your Home Page for supporting better sales conversions, including the following:

Don’t use it as a landing page

The Home Page is designed for every kind of visitor and so does not work well as a landing page for marketing of a particular product. This is why a lot of Home Pages have such high bounce rates. Rather use your product pages as landing pages and optimise them better, or custom dedicated landing pages for special offers. 

Improve your navigation

Most Shopify themes come with "sufficient" navigation options with the ability for dropdown and fly-out menus, but merely sufficient isn't going to earn you any extra points with your customers. Make use of a good mega nav type structure, which allows you to merchandise products from within your navigation and drastically improve findability and subsequently your customer's user experience. Also, make your navigation laser-focused by segmenting it into logical groupings such as keeping product related navigation together and your "other" information like customer service, returns, t's & c's and account related stuff in their own place.

Enhance your Search 

Search is an expected feature on every eCommerce website, and it can help your customers navigate through your catalogue of products as well as even help you convert better - provided they can easily find what they are looking for. Ensure that yours has error tolerance for misspellings, is enhanced for mobile search capabilities, offers autocomplete for faster results and better suggestions, and includes merchandising capabilities like pricing and even images. Use your Search to your advantage, it’s more than a navigation tool.

Add a Site-wide Promo Bar

Offer promotions or communicate value propositions like free shipping or a link to a clearance collection by implementing a site-wide promo bar. It enables you to provide value to the customer as well as drive traffic to your easier converting pages. 

Product Pages

This is where you need to spend the most resources on optimisation. The buyer makes their decision to purchase here; they have a lot of questions and concerns that you need to adequately address. Product pages have high abandonment rates and you won’t be able to increase your conversion rate unless you fix this. Our answer? Create solid product pages that convert! 

Better product descriptions

Avoid sticking to a template when it comes to providing information on your product pages, rather serve the information to the customer that will help them make an informed buying decision. Use well-written product descriptions that answer the questions that your customers might have, and lead with the good stuff. Don’t make them dig for the information they need. Include videos, demonstrations, how-to guidelines, size guidelines, dimensions, etc. to help put your product “in their hands”. 

Professional photos

Product photography is a way for customers to verify the quality and value of your product. It is important that what you sell and what you have on your website are identical, as your transparency and trust hinge on this as a brand. It always looks better to do your own photography, rather than using what is supplied by suppliers as it lends more legitimacy to the product. You will also have the added benefit of getting less returns. 

Stock Level indication

To promote urgency, it's useful to show the customer how many items are still in stock. This sense of urgency can inspire the customer to purchase sooner for fear of losing out. This can be done quite simply with an app like While Stocks Last or if you have a suitably skilled Shopify coder at hand, they should be able to implement a solution fairly quickly in liquid. Similarly, provide a back-in-stock notification rather than leaving “empty shelves”, no one likes finding the product they’ve been searching for only to find a dead end and a red “Out Of Stock” label.

Clear Call to Action

Make sure your Call to Action (Add to Cart button in most cases) is impossible to miss, but without being gaudy. To make them stand out, you can use any or all of the following techniques:

  1. Placement - Fairly simply, make sure your call-to-action is placed in a location where your customers will expect it to be.
  2. Isolation - If you can separate the call-to-action from the rest of the content on the page with physical whitespace, it'll draw attention to itself and stand out more on the page.
  3. Contrast - The more different the call-to-action looks in relation to the rest of the content, the more it will stand out. You can use colour, size and shape to create contrast between your call-to-action and the rest of the page.
  4. Proportion - Related to the contrast technique above, having your call-to-action proportionately different in size to the rest of the content on the page allows it to stand out and draw the user's eye.

 

Use customer reviews

User reviews heavily influence buyer decisions, in fact they’ve become so powerful that 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase. They are proven sales drivers, and customers now expect to see them on all Ecommerce stores. Don’t fear the negative reviews, they are opportunities for you to react in a way that gives all future customers a glimpse into how you handle customer care issues. We have a detailed article as to why customer reviews can be your secret weapon to boosting conversions.

Cart and Checkout

Abandoned carts are a major hurdle for merchants, however there are a lot of ways that you can take back this platform to your advantage. 

Smooth, fast and easy

Customers want fuss-free, and simple checkout. If there are too many steps, they will likely drop off - especially if they checkout on mobile. Limit the amount of steps by not enforcing sign in (by offering guest checkout), not having a CAPTCHA, or by offering tools like Shopify Pay. This enables customers to opt-in to save their personal and shipping information, so that they can checkout with just one tap or click.

Be upfront about extra fees

Extra fees like shipping costs can be major sticking points for online shoppers, and it can be quite a shock when the first time they see the cost is right before making the purchase. Be upfront about the costs and you will have less abandoned carts, or offer free shipping if you are able to. 

The Follow Up

It is a missed opportunity if your interaction with a new customer ends at their first purchase. Also, don’t give up on your abandoned carts - they are low hanging fruit and there are ways to recover them. 

Recover your Abandoned Carts

Make sure that your first step in your checkout process is getting their email address, that way if they abandon you can contact them and try to recover the sale. There are a number of ways that you can do this, which include offering a discount, offering to save their cart for checking out another time, or offer free shipping if it’s within your budget.

Up-sell, Cross-sell and Bundle

While technically not conversion optimisation, offering your customers superior alternatives, accessories and items that commonly go with the one they're buying is going to increase your average order value (AOV) which is much the same thing in the long run. You can use your promotional newsletter to promote these or optimise your transactional emails to do this automatically for you. We wrote a dedicated article about transactional emails if you’d like to know more. There are a large number of apps to choose from when looking to provide up-selling on your store but our usual go-to apps are the ones offered by Bold. We prefer Spently for transactional emails.

Ecommerce order being fulfilled
Photo by Bench

If ever there was a time to focus on boosting your online sales, it would be now. Despite the extenuating circumstances of what is facing the world right now, eCommerce is booming and it’s time to get on top of your conversion optimisation.

read time.

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Spently’s Roddy Smith talks empathy, agility and walks around the block.

Roddy Smith - Spently

Ecommerce hasn’t been immune to the coronavirus pandemic, growing dramatically as stores scramble to cater for an influx of online shoppers. According to Roddy Smith, Director of Sales and Partnerships for Spently, many of the latest changes in ecommerce will last well after the virus has been overcome.

When the pandemic began, Spently, which customizes the transactional emails of more than 5000 Shopify merchants, saw a drop in app store traffic and installs. But the app, which turns the emails into a marketing tool by including recommended products and discounts, has since experienced an influx of ongoing business.

“With the initial shellshock around the pandemic everybody was pumping the brakes while trying to figure out how this would affect things,” says Smith. “Now, anyone who isn’t online is going online because that’s the only place they can sell.”

Home sweet work

The 14-strong Spently team has had to rethink how they work as they deal with the flood of new business, each from their own home in Toronto, Canada. Hallway conversations have been replaced by regular video calls and productivity is encouraged by daily goal-setting. Smith, who’s worked at Spently for two years, is known for being terrible at working from home and has had to trick himself into being productive.

“I start each day as if I was going in to the office. I make a cup of coffee and put it in the travel mug I’d normally use on my way to work. Then I go out my front door, walk around the block and come back in the back door. I’ll even listen to a podcast as I walk to mimic what my commute used to be like.

“It’s kind of crazy and a little silly, but it really works for me. It separates my home space from my work space.” Despite this, he struggles to stick to office hours and often finds himself replying to work emails in the middle of the night while caring for his two-month-old son.

Less luxury, more comfort

Most of Spently’s clients have been impacted by the pandemic, with high-end luxury items and drop shippers – which rely on international supply chains – hit particularly hard.

Others have experienced the complete opposite, with massive spikes in sales. “We’ve seen loads of merchants doing Black Friday and Cyber Monday-sized sales.” Athletic wear merchants are thriving because “all of us are wearing track pants way more than we used to” and beef jerky stores have benefited as panic buyers stock up on high-protein items with long shelf lives.

Spently has also seen increased sign ups by smaller mom and pop type shops like butcheries and bakeries that favor traditional brick and mortar stores.

Many stores, says Smith, have changed tack to focus on improving the customer life-time value (CLTV) of their products or services. And a number of Spently’s clients have asked to edit their customized emails to highlight changes in delivery options, the addition of curbside pickup, warnings of longer shipping times or reassurances on practices they’ve implemented to protect the health of employees and customers.

Empathy and agility for success

While there’s no single solution to guarantee an online business’ survival, Smith says he always preaches empathy.

“Being empathetic now is more important than ever. Brands will be made or broken by this. How they respond to the situation is going to set the ground work for their future success.”

He adds that it’s crucial for stores to be creative in their marketing, messaging and merchandising, and essential that they be able to change their strategies quickly. “You need to incorporate a multi-pronged approach, be digitally savvy and be agile to pivot. There are different avenues for driving traffic and it’s about using all of them to find out what works for your brand and your brand’s audience.”

He’s seen some creative marketing since the Covid-19 outbreak started, like a street-wear brand that offered discounts for sweatpants and hoodies to customers who’d recently bought denims from them “because they knew they probably weren’t getting a chance to wear them much”.

“Your marketing and merchandising needs to be tailored to what’s happening right now. There’s no point having business clothes on your home page if you also sell things that are more casual and relaxed. You need to remerchandise your store to be sensitive to what’s going on in our world today.”

Pure Play Ecommerce pre-Covid and now. As you can see in this graph from WITHIN, there has been some significant activity in the ecommerce space since Covid-19 took grip of the world. See more here.

New shopping habits here to stay

Smith believes that the changes in ecommerce as a result of Covid-19 are here to stay. “It takes 66 days to create a new habit and we’re already pushing the two-month mark in terms of quarantine and social distancing.”

Those who didn’t shop online before are now doing so out of necessity. “I think many of these new behaviors that people are developing in their day-to-day life are going to stick because it’s become our new normal. And online shopping is definitely more convenient.”

He predicts that Shopify will increasingly compete with Amazon, particularly since it acquired warehouse fulfillment network 6 River Systems in 2019 and the Swedish online marketplace Tictail in 2018. And he reckons augmented reality will take off as brands try to find new marketing techniques while adhering to global restrictions in movement.

“All of this is going to accelerate ecommerce by five years in about half a year. Being online and having a digital-first business model is a necessity now.”

Roddy Smith - Spently

Ecommerce hasn’t been immune to the coronavirus pandemic, growing dramatically as stores scramble to cater for an influx of online shoppers. According to Roddy Smith, Director of Sales and Partnerships for Spently, many of the latest changes in ecommerce will last well after the virus has been overcome.

read time.

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Sharpening your Ecommerce Conversion Rates

Photo by Malte Wingen

This list is compiled as much as a resource for us to refer back to when looking to optimize a client store for conversions as it is a collection of information that we thought would be good to share with other Shopify partners, experts and merchants.

Shopify Dashboard showing impressive growth

Below is the list available at a glance and the rest of the this page elaborates on what to consider and do for each of them.

  1. Enhance your Search
  2. Use Product Videos
  3. Improve your Navigation
  4. Add a Site-Wide Promo Bar
  5. Use and Promote Social Proof & Reviews
  6. Up-sell, Cross-Sell and Bundle
  7. Emphasize Call-to-Actions
  8. Add Guarantees, Trust Seals & Value Propositions
  9. Incentivise email subscription
  10. Localise
  11. Give a Stock level indication
  12. Add a Countdown timer
  13. Provide back-in-stock notification
  14. Recover your Abandoned Carts

There will undoubtedly be many other things you can do to increase conversions, but if you haven't implemented all or some of these, doing so will very likely have a marked impact on your store's performance.

Enhance Your Search

Enhanced search on Shopify

Google has changed the way we use the internet and depending on which way you look at it, it's either a pain or something really great. Focusing on the positive, the user experience enhancement that comes from a good quality search feature on your site is of great value to you as a merchant, especially if your product catalogue is not small.

Search is now an expected feature on a site; and not just the ability for you to type in a word or phrase, hit search and get some form of result, but to have good quality suggestions shown to you based on what you're typing, and even while you're typing too. Where we're at in technology these days the suggestions given while typing would look like mind reading wizardry in the past.

Thankfully there are options for you as a merchant when it comes to enhancing your search and subsequently improving the "findability" of your products. Usually this would come in the form of an app and there are a few to choose from.

Use Product Videos

Videos to promote conversion on Shopify ecommerce stores

People have researched the phenomenon and statistics are pretty clear that the use of video in your store is a good idea to promote conversion. Combine this with the fact that most if not all of you have a smartphone in your pocket capable of high definition video, there isn't much of an excuse to not be tapping into this means of promotion.

We've personally used animated "explainer" videos for our own stores and client stores which are -in our experience- best produced by Bread and Beyond. We also have a number of merchant clients that produce their own videos with either the founder or some other personality in the company explaining things in basic and succinct terms. These days you can even edit the videos into something presentable on your phone itself.

It's also important to note that these videos shouldn't only be on your home page or hidden away on a "videos" page but can and should go on your product page since this is likely your point of conversion. 

You can always embed videos in the description field of the product, 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

Improve your Navigation

Enhanced navigation in Shopify

Most Shopify themes come with "sufficient" navigation options with the ability for dropdown and fly-out menus, but merely sufficient isn't going to earn you any extra points with your customers. Points being conversions.

I'd list out the following main points to consider when improving your navigation:

  1. Make use of a good mega nav type structure. This allows you to merchandise products from within your navigation and drastically improve findability and subsequently your customer's user experience.
  2. Keep your navigation laser focused by segmenting it into logical groupings. By this I mean keep your product related navigation together and your "other" information like customer service, returns, t's & c's and account related stuff in their own spaces. In the screenshot of MVMT watches you can clearly see that the left of the header is product related while the right is more user related.
  3. Don't fear redundancy. Sometimes putting a link in multiple places is good practice. For instance, mirroring your top level categories in your footer will drive internal traffic with customers that have finished reading your terms, or viewing a product that wasn't exactly what they were looking for. Give your customers multiple ways of getting to different places on your site. People have different habits on the web, so try to give them as many practical options to navigate around your site.

It's important to note that although your customers need access to the more meta things your site has to offer (login, refund policies, contact us, about us etc.) 99/100 times you want your product to be front and centre. People looking for those other things will find them in your footer or wherever is a good place to put the links that don't clutter your interface.

Add a Site-wide Promo Bar

Promotion bar in Shopify.

Like in the example above from GymShark, it's useful for you and your customer to have a bar on your site that can offer up promotions or at least communicate value propositions like free shipping or perhaps a link to a clearance collection.

Often these types of elements would only be added on the home page or in one specific area of the site. This restricts the reach of this message to only people that came in via your home page (often they don't) and is a lost opportunity to drive conversions. If the element is site-wide or "global", it will allow you to offer this information to anyone, anywhere on the site.

Use and Promote Social Proof & Reviews

Customer reviews on Shopify using YOTPO

People rely on others to tell them what to buy. What is good, what has worked for them and it will inspire confidence in those would be customers that are on the fence.

If you have a social presence where your customers are participating and ultimately giving you an unpaid endorsement, you should leverage this to the best of your ability. Real people saying good things about your brand should be shared.

There is a great app for social reviews called YOTPO that a lot of our merchant clients use with great success and comes highly recommended by most Shopify experts.

Even if you don't have a lot of reviews or strong social channels in place, you can manually take testimonials from customers (with their permission) and elegantly display them on your site for prospects to view. These can be incredibly powerful and can include industry influencers that are clients of yours or sometimes even more effectively the man on the street approach that gives your store a sense of humanness and relatability.

Instagram is a great way of allowing social endorsements and a client of ours Easy-Macro make exceptional use of this medium by curating photos taken by their customers with their product and then embedding this photo stream on their store.

Over-doing things can also result in a "Christmas tree" looking product page, but putting social proof and reviews on your store is definitely worth doing elegantly and in the right places.

Up-sell, Cross-sell and Bundle

Product Bundling

While technically not conversion optimisation, offering your customers superior alternatives, accessories and items that commonly go with the one they're buying is going to increase your average order value which is much the same thing in the long run.

There is a large number of apps to choose from when looking to provide up-selling and the like on your store but our usual go-to apps are the ones offered by Bold.

An interesting fact about Up-selling:

"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! Amazon announced that 35% of all their revenues were a direct result of cross-sells and upsells."
–Bold Commerce

Emphasise Call-to-actions

Strong Call to Action

There is a saying I often use when consulting with our merchant clients and that is:

Emphasizing everything emphasizes nothing.
–Me, quite often

What I mean by that is that there is often a desire to draw large amounts of attention to everything on your site. New things especially seem to be given disproportionate amounts of focus by newer merchants.

Ask yourself what your primary objectives of the site are. Chances are #1 will be selling product (Add to Cart, Buy Now etc.). There will also quite likely be secondary "conversions" like a mailing list signup or an inquiry. Make sure that the elements on every relevant page (home page, product pages, collection pages) are set up to draw attention to the things that cause your virtual till make that virtual ka-ching sound. 

A great example of where this is often done wrong is putting your Add to Cart button low on the page (eg: under your description), having it a muted colour and a size that does not make it stand out and compounding this, having loads of distracting content around it. 

To make your call-to-actions stand out, you can use any or all of the following techniques:

  1. Placement - Fairly simply, make sure your call-to-action is placed in a location where your customers will expect it to be.
  2. Isolation - If you can separate the call-to-action from the rest of the content on the page with physical whitespace, it'll draw attention to itself and stand out more on the page.
  3. Contrast - The more different the call-to-action looks in relation to the rest of the content, the more it will stand out. You can use colour, size and shape to create contrast between your call-to-action and the rest of the page.
  4. Proportion - Related to the contrast technique above, having your call-to-action proportionately different in size to the rest of the content on the page allows it to stand out and draw the user's eye.

In short, the trick is to resist the urge to draw your customer's eyes to everything and be very selective and specific about the things you want people to be drawn to and then make sure those things stand out and make sense to them.

Add Guarantees, Trust Seals & Value Propositions

Guarantee

These elements are often underestimated in terms of quite how much benefit they provide in terms of inspiring a customer to convert. If you remove the perceived risk of the purchase, show confidence in your own product and communicate the measures you've taken to secure and protect their information the customer is far more likely to convert.

Of utmost importance is that these guarantees, trust seals and value propositions should be located close to the call-to-action element on the product page. They can also be placed throughout your site and in your footer, but the place where they matter most is where the customer is about to hit the big –hopefully emphasised– button that takes them towards payment.

Some great ideas for these elements could include the following:

  1. Speedy shipping - One of the biggest considerations for buyers is how long they'll need to wait for their product. Giving an indication of the speed of shipping may greatly increase their chances of buying.
  2. Free Shipping - If you offer it, making it known that shipping may be free can be a big factor in the customer's decision to purchase. Since shipping costs are often only shown quite far down the checkout process, this can help a lot to keep the customer moving towards buying.
  3. Product guarantees - If you're willing to guarantee your product your customer is far more likely to be inclined to purchase it knowing that you stand by it's quality.
  4. Country of manufacture / sourcing - If you can, stating that your product is manufactured locally can appeal to your more patriotic customer and they may even choose your product over a cheaper product that is of unknown origin or "Made in China". In cases where the product is manufactured in or sourced from a location desirable to the buyer (eg: Italian leather) this can appeal to the discerning buyer who can appreciate the quality that is synonymous with that location. 
  5. Secure transactions - These can be created pretty easily by a half decent designer, else you can grab from most stock image sites.
  6. PCI Compliant Hosting & Cart - The standards by which Shopify adheres to and is certified by is worth mentioning to inspire confidence due to the seriousness with which their data is handled.
  7. Payment method logos - This can can serve a dual purpose of the big name brands (Visa, MasterCard, Paypal) being recognized and therefore inspire confidence, as well as immediately show the customer what they'll be presented with in terms of payment methods.

Incentivise email subscription

Incentivize email subscription

Having your customers sign up for a mailing list is probably the next best thing after them buying from you. It gives you opted-in permission to promote your products directly to their inbox.

You can make your subscription form as focal as you like and give as many promises about how you won't spam them and how you'll let them know before anyone about specials and promotions... but there won't be anything as effective as giving them something in return for subscribing.

What you use to incentivise signups is something only you can determine, but often it's a free small gift with a first purchase or a single use discount code that they receive after signing up.

Whatever you do, give your customers a reason to subscribe rather than a vague insinuation that you'll occasionally send them some kind of regular email.

Localise

Location selection

Localising your store is more of a task to better serve a specific geographic region than conversion optimisation itself, but if you find that the wide-net approach of having one Shopify store serving too broad a region (if not global), consider having a separate instance of Shopify catering for each region.

We have a number of merchant clients that have Shopify instances catering to different locations. Usually it's a country difference like USA, UK etc. and while you may think it's just their own currency that people want to see, there are so many other factors about localisation that are beneficial to your customers... and subsequently to you in terms of conversion.

Localisation with a separate instance of Shopify for each logical region allows you provide the following:

  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 (if applicable).
  4. Use the predominant language (or even the flavo(u)r of English) of the region.
  5. Use familiar payment methods and shipping providers.

This isn't necessarily a quick fix solution to waning sales in other territories but is certainly a solid strategy to expanding into new regions and maximising the potential of these regions.

Give a Stock level indication

Stock remaining

To promote urgency, it's useful to show the customer how many items are still in stock. This sense of urgency can inspire the customer to purchase sooner for fear of losing out.

This can be done quite simply with an app like While Stocks Last or if you have a suitably skilled Shopify coder at hand, they should be able to implement a solution fairly quickly in liquid. 

Add a Countdown timer

Countdown timer

Similar to the stock level indication, the countdown timer promotes urgency by indicating to the customer that they only have a certain amount of time to act before losing out on a deal or same day delivery (or similar).

Also as above, you can actually use an app for this like Countdown Cart.

Provide back-in-stock notification

Back in Stock app modal

If your product is out of stock when your visitor arrives and you don't allow back ordering... unless you're capture their details right then and there, there is a very good chance that sale is lost forever.

Some themes come with a rudimentary form that simply sends you their email address, but it would be wise to take this issue a bit more seriously. Almost all of our merchant clients that need this functionality use the BackInStock app.

What it does is allow your customers to request a notification when the item is back in stock, and when it is, the system automatically emails them letting them know they can come back and place their order.

The number of otherwise lost sales recovered by this app more than makes up for its monthly license fee.

Recover your Abandoned Carts

Sometimes your customers will become distracted and lose your tab or start watching a video about cats. Sometimes they'll be close to the verge of completing their order and suddenly change their mind for whatever reason.

You can literally think of them as customers that came into your physical store, put some items they wanted into their shopping cart and somewhere between doing so and paying, they simply wandered out the door with their hands empty.

You won't be able to recover every abandoned order, but you can definitely make sure that those that are salvageable are given every opportunity to follow through.

If you're on Shopify's "Shopify" plan or higher, you already have abandoned checkouts available to you as a feature and I advise making full use of it. If you're on a lower plan or want to implement even more deliberate methods, there are still plenty of options in the form of apps to prevent order abandonment and also recover them.

Do you need a helping hand with your CRO?

Make the most of your Shopify store by tapping into all the missed opportunities that are there for the taking.

Through helping our merchant clients improve their businesses over the years, we've put together a package that will identify the areas you should be focusing on to move that needle.

Boost your conversions

Sharpening your Ecommerce Conversion RatesPhoto by Malte Wingen

This list is compiled as much as a resource for us to refer back to when looking to optimize a client store for conversions as it is a collection of information that we thought would be good to share with other Shopify partners, experts and merchants.

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Working from home during COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo by Roberto Nickson.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are left with an uncertain future. Many brick and mortar businesses have closed their doors indefinitely (some will reopen, others not so lucky), and retailers are looking to ecommerce to secure their brand a future. The fate of ecommerce has a lot to do with the regulations in your country, some are able to continue with business as usual whereas some do not fall under ‘essential services’ and cannot sell, or fulfill orders due to being unable to make use of courier services. However, ecommerce stores are most likely in a safer footing for the current and immediate future climate - provided they can still use this time to convert sales or grow their business in some way.

While there has been an increase in offline stores going online, existing ecommerce stores are intensifying their efforts to turn inventory into cash while they still can. Some are using lockdown time in inventive and productive ways to set themselves up to their advantage for when things are back to business as usual. Wherever you are in these turbulent times, there are some strategies you can use to make the best of things - which includes what you need to do right now and what you can use your downtime for to your advantage.

What you should be doing right now:

Communicate with your customers

Depending on where you are in the world you may have certain restrictions that will affect your ability to fulfill orders. However, if you are still able to make sales with the intention to ship as soon as those restrictions are lifted, then communicate this to your customers in big bold letters on your website and via email. If you can still run business as usual you need to tell your customers exactly that on all your platforms, because they will assume you are closed like most other businesses.

Be honest with your customers and compassionate to what they too are going through, this isn’t the time to ‘cash in’ on this pandemic as an opportunity for business (think how tacky a ‘Coronavirus’ sale would sound or a #COVID19 voucher code!) but for many of us it is our bread and butter and so necessary that business goes on. That’s not to say that your products or services won’t make a profound difference to your customers’ lives. Communicate to your customers how your products or services can be useful to them during this time, eg. how buying your (for example) stationery catalogue will enable them to run their business from home, keep their children entertained, allow creative expression for boredom busting, or even play an important role in homeschooling, etc.

Pivot your business model

If your current business model does not work in the current climate, consider pivoting your business in such a way that it can thrive online. If you previously only had a physical store, bring your retail online (many brands are offering this service for free and now is a good time to do it).

Consider offering subscription services either monthly or prepaying 3 - 6 months upfront. You will then have some cash to operate on and your customers can relax in knowing they will be getting their product/service in the coming months regardless of their cash flow. You can even offer ‘buy now, ship later’ options for customers who still want to shop now but are happy to wait until restrictions have lifted.

Diversify your product range, if you previously only sold physical products, consider adding some digital products eg. if you sold books before, consider adding eBooks to your catalogue.

If you’re concerned about the investment in pivoting your business model, consider how uncertain the future is and how waiting out the pandemic could mean running your business dry. There is a lot of help out there - we’ve compiled a list of brands currently offering help to the ecommerce industry either for free or at huge discounts.

Intensify your marketing efforts

A lot of brands make the mistake of cutting back on their marketing efforts, when they should be redoubling them. Marketing is where your leads are being generated, so it would not make sense to cut costs such as online advertising.

Many advertisers are pulling out which means that ad prices are going down, so now is actually the time to be increasing your Google Ad and Facebook ad spend.
This will help keep the customers coming in, and hopefully the conversions ticking over. The only marketing channels you might need to pull are experimental marginal channels that aren’t driving leads or pushing revenue.

 

Cut out unnecessary expenditure

Invest some time in going over your expenditures, grouping your nice-to-haves (expense) and your ‘necessaries’ (investment). Reviewing these and cutting out unnecessary expenditure will ensure that you don’t burn through savings too quickly.

Your investments will have a demonstrable ROI (return on investment). These will include your online ad expenditure, email marketing (such as abandoned cart recovery), and content marketing. These serve to build your business by directly driving revenue.

You might consider cutting out some of your SAAS (software as a service) subscriptions that were convenient to have and which you can suspend while you are cutting costs but pick up later. These might include Music licensing software, full stock image database access, etc. which you can get away with by only purchasing what you need when you need it rather than all-access subscriptions.

Get social and personal

Now is a good time to get to know your customers. Reach out to them on social media as a leader in your space to offer compassion and any advice that you can offer; social media engagement rates have never been this high. Your compassion and authenticity now will be remembered long after the pandemic has passed, and it will become part of the personality of your brand.

Use downtime to improve Operations:

Now that you have all of that in place it is time to use your extra time to improve your Operations. A lot of us are finding ourselves with a lot more time on our hands than before, and while we are all dealing with the anxiety and fear of the unknown, keeping busy helps to feel in control - not to mention putting us in better stead for when things are a bit more normal again.

While you’re working from home or piloting the ship alone, there are still some things that you can do for your online store that will help improve your Operations and put you in better stead for the coming months, here’s a quick checklist:

  1. Go through your product descriptions and improve them where you can. Perhaps add a creative spin on them, eg. some humour or a theme. Take note that you can optimise your descriptions for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) by using keywords associated with that product.
  2. Improve your SEO by adding appropriate keywords in all your page titles, meta descriptions, ALT tags (what appears when images don’t load, and tells Google what the image is), and the page’s body content.
  3. Map out your marketing campaign strategy for the rest of the year; when things start to normalise you will want to hit the ground running with a well thought out marketing campaign.
  4. Use this time to be creative - write a series of blog posts, even one a day, so that you can post these throughout the year. When things get busy over peak periods you will thank yourself for getting ahead on your content strategy.
  5. Do a thorough audit of your product photography. If you have better photos (or can request them from suppliers or take them yourself) replace them on your website. Product photography can make or break your ecommerce website.
  6. Reach out to your customer base to review items or write testimonials, hopefully they also have more time on their hands to submit something you can use in your social media strategy and on your website. Nearly 95% of shoppers read reviews before making a purchase!
  7. Follow some tips on how to boost the speed of your Shopify website. There are many ways of doing this, eg. go through your store and remove any apps that you are not using as well as minimise redirects and broken links.
  8. Browse Shopify’s free tools for anything that might be useful to your store, including an image resizer tool, refund policy generator, privacy policy generator, shipping label template, and more.

All these improvements will result in a site that loads faster, is more efficient at converting leads into sales, and attracts more organic leads via search engines. This will not only benefit you now, but it will put you in better stead for months to come - and perhaps change the way you approach operations on your website forever, for the better.

Working from home during COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo by Roberto Nickson

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are left with an uncertain future. Many brick and mortar businesses have closed their doors indefinitely (some will reopen, others not so lucky), and retailers are looking to ecommerce to secure their brand a future.

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Shopify Ecommerce Covid-19 Helping HandPhoto by Austin Kehmeier

Online resources to help guide your ecommerce business through this pandemic

These are extremely uncertain times for everyone, as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the world. Many businesses have already been forced to shut their doors and send their employees home. Stock markets are plummeting and economies are on the brink of collapse, but it’s too soon to tell exactly how this virus will affect the ecommerce industry.

As dark as these days may seem, there are some silver linings that could help you see your online business through this pandemic or even assist you in getting your business online. A number of tech companies and digital brands are finding ways to help businesses by offering discounts on their services and opening up access to software and content.

We encourage you to take a look and see if any of these might benefit your online store and help you weather this storm a little better.

Monitor The Ecommerce Situation

Performance branding company WITHIN are monitoring the effects of COVID-19 on ecommerce, offering a Retail Pulse report with daily updates that could help you navigate the current climate.

What Shopify Themselves Are Offering

Shopify are supporting business owners in a number of ways:

Get your Offline Business Online

In a massive collaborative effort, professionals in the ecommerce industry (not even just Shopify) are working together to help businesses get online. In their own words

"Offline2on.com is a community-led, not for profit, cross platform initiative to support businesses in ramping their e-commerce efforts due to COVID-19 by connecting them with the resources, developers, platforms, and partners..."

Check out Offline2on.com if you need to get your business online or get it to perform better in these interesting times.

Free Shopify Setups

Some service providers offer free Shopify setups, which is ideal for stores that need to take their sales online - and quickly!

Free Enterprise Grade Push Notifications for 6 Months

Pushnami are offering free push notifications for the next 6 months.

In their own words:

"Pushnami.com will be offering our push marketing platform free to any business for the next 6 months. No contracts, credit cards or holding subscribers hostage. Our platform was built for Enterprise businesses (min 1k/month pricing) and we know bringing that sophistication to businesses struggling right now is going to make a huge difference.
- Eric Stiner"

Savings and Specials on Adobe Software

Adobe are offering substantial savings/special offers:

  • Adobe Portfolio is free (until May 15), so you can start building your portfolio site and get free hosting, plus unlimited pages.
  • Adobe Talent on Behance is free (until May 15) so that companies and recruiters can post job opportunities for creatives at no charge.
  • Adobe Summit will be digital so that you can get free access to the digital experience conference, which starts March 31.

Discount & Extended Trials on Affinity Software

    Affinity are offering these three measures:

    • A new 90-day free trial of the Mac and Windows versions of the whole Affinity suite.
    • 50% discount for those who would rather buy and keep the apps on Mac, Windows PC and iPad.
    • A pledge to engage more than 100 freelance creatives for work, spending the equivalent of their annual commissioning budget in the next three months.

    Verso eBook & Book Specials

    Verso will be offering major savings and free ebooks during the pandemic:

    • 80% off ALL ebooks and 40% off ALL print books.
    • Some ebooks for free when purchasing paperbacks at 40% off.
    • Free Verso Reports collection (covers the various political and cultural moments with interventions that ask the essential questions of the current moment).

    Member Perks ($5k worth) Unlocked on Hey Carson 

    For the next couple of months, Hey Carson has unlocked their member perks section where they’ve collected over 150 Shopify app perks since January 2019. These perks come to a combined value of $5000+!

    Use ShoppingGives To Donate Directly to Those Affected

    ShoppingGives are helping stores (who process in USD) direct donations to those affected by COVID-19 through their Shopify App, Change Commerce:

    • Sign up for Change Commerce.
    • Enterprise partners who do over $500K annual revenue will work on deferred payment terms and custom agreements so that they can create an impact right away. They are also waiving any integration fees for a faster launch.

    Free Upsell App With Bold Commerce

    Bold Commerce are offering the following:

    • Bold Upsell free for 3 months to create upsell and cross-sell offers that can increase average order value (useful now that cart sizes are smaller than normal).

    25% Off Out of the Sandbox Themes

    Out of the Sandbox is offering 25% off Flex and Turbo themes to help you get your business online or use this time to upgrade your theme:

    • Use the code SPREADJOY at checkout

    Free Webex with Cisco

    Cisco are making it easier to keep in touch with your team remotely:

    • Unlimited usage (no time restrictions).
    • Supports up to 100 participants.
    • Offers toll dial-in (in addition to existing VoIP capabilities).
    • Free 90-day licenses to businesses who are not Webex customers.

    The ecommerce community is banding together in these trying times, and with a mixture of resourcefulness, hope and widespread support in the community we can help many businesses weather the storm. Share these online resources with your colleagues and other business owners so that they reach everyone who needs support right now.

    Shopify Ecommerce Covid-19 Helping HandPhoto by Austin Kehmeier

    Online resources to help guide your ecommerce business through this pandemic

    These are extremely uncertain times for everyone, as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the world. Many businesses have already been forced to shut their doors and send their employees home. Stock markets are plummeting and economies are on the brink of collapse, but it’s too soon to tell exactly how this virus will affect the ecommerce industry.

    read time.

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    For most of the existence of online shopping, consumers have preferred to use credit cards for making online payments but a recent shift in consumer behaviour has shown that the younger generation of online shoppers are far less comfortable with the idea. An overwhelming 67% of young buyers don’t have a credit card. The idea of extended credit and the hidden fees that go with them puts them off, which creates a big problem for Ecommerce stores. This has resulted in an increase in abandoned carts and lower overall basket values as these consumers now have a limited purchasing power at their disposal.

    Shopify Ecommerce Financing options with Sezzle
    Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

    You can offer every payment method out there, but it’s not going to help if your customers don’t have a credit card or can’t afford to pay the full price of your products, and dropping the cost isn’t a viable solution if you want your business to thrive. The answer could lie in offering a financing payment option to your customers. It may seem like a risky venture that would incur a lot of extra admin, however there are existing third-party apps that can make this extremely convenient to offer to your customers.

    Financing actually empowers buyers

    Offering an alternative payment platform such as a financing option empowers your buyers to manage their purchases in a way that suits their budget, helps them to budget, and gives them more purchasing power. 55% of abandoned carts are due to too high of a total cost of purchase, so being able to offer customers a financing option both at point of purchase and on your product pages can boost sales, increase conversions, and drive repeat business. It is also ideal for small businesses, whose average order size could increase by up to 120%.

    Benefits of offering financing

    There are a number of benefits to offering your customers a financing option when making purchases on your website:

    1. Increase average order value

    Financing immediately increases the Average Order Value (AOV) of customers, as they tend to make add-on purchases, as well as upgrade to the more expensive versions of products rather than settling for cheaper models. It has also been noted that 66% of customers who use financing come back and make an additional purchase of at least $500. Not only does it increase your AOV, but it also promotes repeat purchases and has a positive effect on customer loyalty.

    A study from Retail Customer Experience shows just this with actual data.

    2. Able to compete with larger retailers

    Larger retailers threaten the livelihood of smaller businesses, but with financing you don’t have to sacrifice your product margin. Offering financing, especially if your product range is expensive, will enable you to compete with larger retailers.

    3. Reduce abandoned cart rate

    As mentioned before, more than half of abandoned carts are caused by too high a cost of a total purchase, which financing can easily take care of. If customers can pay off a purchase over 3 or 4 months, the monthly down payment is far more manageable to the budget.

    Is Ecommerce financing right for your business?

    Giving consumer credit has been done for years by the big-name stores, but it is far less common for small businesses or Ecommerce businesses. Before you decide to offer financing to your consumers as a payment method, determine whether it is right for your business. Use your sales and website metrics to track your most popular products and determine your average sale price to see if it will justify instilling an Ecommerce financing option.

    If you’d like to increase your average order value or combat increasing cart abandonment, then offering this as another payment option will most likely be right for your business. In-house credit isn’t really an option for most Ecommerce stores, and comes with a lot of red-tape, so making use of third-party solutions is the best way to go.

    Offer Sezzle to your customers for Ecommerce financing

    What is Sezzle? It is a payment method that increases sales and order volumes by enabling shoppers to "Buy Now, Pay Later" with simple, interest-free installment plans. They break down the total cost of an order into smaller, more manageable installments - most commonly, 4 equal payments, each two weeks apart. Shoppers then get to pay a fraction of the order up front, but the funds are transferred to their Sezzle account right away - so they never have to worry about how much they have paid.

    Sezzle enables customers to spread their payments over time while remaining interest-free. It also means that you as the merchant can offer financing without all the fraud and repayment risk. You are guaranteed upfront payment, making it completely safe for your Ecommerce business. Sezzle integrates seamlessly with Shopify platforms enabling merchants to sell more, increase their average cart size and value, as well as increase their conversion rate.

    According to 4500+ merchants, Sezzle has shown great results including a 5.8% increase in shopping cart insertion rate (rate at which items are added to the cart) when the financing option is added to the product page. It also had a 41% increase on the Average Order Value, obviously due to the affordability of having the total split into 4 repayments. Sezzle also contributed to a 38.7% conversion rate increase when customers were able to select Sezzle upon checkout (being able to sign up without ever leaving checkout).

    How does it affect the consumer experience?

    As an Ecommerce merchant, your user’s experience is paramount - it can mean the difference between a sale or an abandoned cart. The payment process is a particularly important step in the sales cycle, when it comes to handing over the cash the customer needs to feel that it is secure and it must be quick and painless. Applying for store credit in a brick and mortar store can be quite admin intensive and is seldom immediately usable, but buying online is a completely different ball game.

    Online shopping needs to be as close to instant gratification as possible, which is why Sezzle is a good option as sign up takes place while in checkout without having to leave the process. Creating an account is instant and secure for the customer, which means they can apply, sign up, and use their Sezzle account immediately to purchase from your store.

    Your customers will browse as usual on your Shopify store, add items to their cart, choose Sezzle as their payment option, create an account, complete their order and pay off their purchase over time in four interest-free payments.

     

    Our thoughts on Sezzle

    Ecommerce financing can be a great opportunity for your business, as it allows you to give your customers more buying power and increase your sales overall. If you have a customer base that you can contact, you can always run a survey to find out what kind of need there is for an Ecommerce financing payment option as a part of your usual array of options.

    While there are a few options out there to enable you to support financing, we have found Sezzle to be a reputable option that is fully integrated with Shopify stores. The great thing about using Sezzle is that you are guaranteed payment and also do not take on any of the risk. Also, the sign up for customers to use Sezzle all happens within your checkout infrastructure, meaning they don’t need to navigate off your site to apply for and use their Sezzle account. Find out more about Sezzle from their website. If you need help integrating Sezzle with your Shopify store or you need other enhancements, contact our team so that we can assist.

    Shopify Ecommerce Financing options with SezzlePhoto by Brooke Lark

    Offering an alternative payment platform such as a financing option empowers your buyers to manage their purchases in a way that suits their budget, helps them to budget, and gives them more purchasing power.

    read time.

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    Ecommerce Automation
    Photo by Brett Jordan

    Automation has become a real obsession when it comes to technology and making life and work better for everyone. We can see it everywhere in our daily lives, from programmable coffee machines, fridges that order groceries when you’re getting low, the artificially intelligent bots that answer simple questions on websites, to Google Maps that offers the fastest route to our destination. Sure, those are simple examples. But it just shows how focused we have become on cutting out the manual work and streamlining our day; because time is precious and the more time we save the better. 

    This translates directly to businesses as well, automation is the key to cutting costs and boosting productivity. It is also not that difficult to implement and is just as advantageous for small businesses as it is for larger ones. Automation has been most influential for ecommerce, as there are so many tasks involved that are manual and time-consuming and which threatens stunting the business’s growth potential.

    As a business scales, so the demands on the resources mount, processes that may have worked flawlessly before will start to buckle under the pressure and essentially become inefficient. The mad scramble to do what is urgent trumps what is important, and time is sacrificed on the wrong things. The simplest solution, but not always the right one, is to hire more people - but that becomes expensive and has its own time-consuming processes. This is where Ecommerce Automation takes care of the repetitive tasks and effectively gives you back your time, energy, and cuts costs. Soon you will start to invest your new saved time on creative experimentation and product development - which is a much better use of your time!

    What is Ecommerce Automation?

    Ecommerce Automation is the software that converts manual and time-consuming tasks and processes, or even campaigns, to automations that execute what is needed without your intervention. You simply set up the parameters and let it run on its own. These can be a myriad of processes but can include monitoring and collecting information, looking for parameters and acting on them, eg. receiving an order/payment/return and triggering an email or flagging a task on another productivity program. 

    Typical Ecommerce Automation includes:

    • Transaction emails such as Welcome emails to new customers and vouchers 
    • Flagging orders for review that have ‘suspicious’ traits like mismatched billing and shipping orders
    • Customised sales emails that recommend new products that match previously bought items
    • Emails sent after a period of time requesting service or product reviews of a purchased product
    • Automated purchase order generation when inventory starts to get low on a particular product
    • Abandoned cart follow-up emails when customers leave the website with items in their cart without completing a transaction

    How does Ecommerce Automation work?

    Ecommerce Automation uses past human behaviours on the website to predict what they will want next. Certain tasks require you to set up parameters to trigger events, such as a 30-day delay after a product is purchased before automatically sending out the product review request email. The great thing about automation is that it is not set in stone, but rather changes and adapts according to the customer data it collects. 

    Where is the best place to implement Ecommerce Automation?

    The number of places that you can introduce Ecommerce Automation are endless and very much based on your own setup, however here are a few typical instances:

    • Automatically schedule Sales: apply price changes and promotions for predetermined time periods
    • Market new products: automatically load new products to the online store, as well as on social media, apps and sales channels
    • Customer retention: flag high-value customers and send a task or email to sales staff to send a personalised message or reach out
    • Live stock numbers: automatically unpublish out-of-stock products and show live updated stock numbers on the store
    • Manage stock: send a notification to staff of products that are out-of-stock and to marketing to pause advertising on that product
    • Adjust pricing: automatically adjust the pricing on checkout based on product combinations or quantities
    • Manage risk: automatically flag high-risk orders at checkout
    • Loyalty programmes: easily manage discounts or shipping rules for loyalty members based on their email addresses
    • Seasonal promotions: switch on entire theme changes for seasonal promotions or product launches and automatically roll back once the promotion ends 

    What advantages are there of Ecommerce Automation?

    As we’ve already touched on, Ecommerce Automation saves you time, money, labour and allows you to grow your business with your saved resources - but it’s much more than that. Here are the top 4 departments that it is going to make the most difference to for your business:

    Operations 

    Ecommerce operations has a whole host of manual tasks and processes that can be automated. This includes inventory, shipping, and other product-related workflows to make product discoverability easy such as being automatically tagged and added to collections based on their title, SKU numbers, and type. Stock can be automatically managed both on the online store as well as in the back end processes. Items will be out of stock for shorter periods of time (if ever) and the stock management process will be streamlined and rely less on human intervention over time. Less human intervention also results in less human error. 

    Marketing 

    Very often the communication between sales and marketing isn’t instant, but with automation when new products are added to the store, the marketing team can be automatically notified as well as supplied with all the product details, enabling them to start marketing the product instantly. Advertising teams can also use low stock flags on specific products to pause promotion and optimise their advertising spend. Customised newsletters can be automated to include products that are most likely to convert to sales based on previous purchases and browsing behaviour. Less errors will occur if sales and promotions are scheduled for uptime and downtime rather than relying on someone to physically remember to make the changes to the website. 

    Fraud Prevention

    As mentioned before, Ecommerce Automation helps you mitigate risk by flagging high-risk orders based on IP address checks, address verification systems (AVS), and Shopify’s own database. These flagged orders can automatically notify your sales team to follow up on, which can save you thousands in chargebacks and lost revenue.

    Web Development

    Seasonal theme changes as well as product campaigns can take a lot of time, however with Ecommerce Automation these can be automated and scheduled. Other development tasks such as transactional emails, free-gifts on selected purchases, and displaying best shipping options can all be configured with Ecommerce Automation. Once these rules and processes are initially developed there is no need to repeat the code updates as they can be automatically switched on and off, saving your developer’s resources and time. Web development, especially if outsourced, is also often one of an Ecommerce business’s highest expenses.

    What Ecommerce Automation Apps are there for my Shopify store?

    There are a number of third-party apps that provide Ecommerce Automation, including Shopify’s own enterprise app:

    Shopify Flow

    Shopify Flow, for Shopify Plus merchants, has automation software built into the Shopify platform that enables a whole range of automation across the store and apps. This includes tagging customers for segmentation and marketing, standardising visual merchandising, streamlining tracking and reporting, pausing high-risk orders, and more. Shopify Flow makes this easy to set up using a visual builder where you can set triggers, conditions and actions, without the need to code anything.

    Back in Stock

    Back in Stock takes care of notifying customers when an item is back in stock in the store. Customers are able to let you know if they are interested in purchasing an item that is currently out of stock, Back in Stock then emails them as soon as it is available without you having to intervene.

    Klaviyo

    Klaviyo is a marketing automation tool that allows you to easily recapture lost sales through pre-built email flows, including abandoned cart and winback emails. You can also segment your audience using both Shopify’s and Klaviyo’s data to send super-targeted, personalised email campaigns.

    SmartrMail

    SmartrMail takes marketing mails to the next level by using customer behaviour, browsing history on the store, email clicks, and previous purchases to recommend a personalised selection of products that they are very likely to want to buy. They also have an abandoned cart email series feature to pick up on those potential sales.

    Prisync

    Prisync helps you keep your pricing market-related and competitive. It is a competitor price tracking and dynamic pricing software that automates collecting price and stock availability data to help you make informed decisions about pricing and marketing.

    Ecommerce Automation

    Automation has become a real obsession when it comes to technology and making life and work better for everyone. We can see it everywhere in our daily lives, from programmable coffee machines, fridges that order groceries when you’re getting low, the artificially intelligent bots that answer simple questions on websites, to Google Maps that offers the fastest route to our destination. [..]

    read time.

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    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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