Shopify & Ecommerce Ramblings

A blog about building and extending awesome Shopify stores

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.

read time.

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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? 

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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.

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Shopify SEO Scrabble pieces (because we're arty and good with metaphors)

Sometimes while you're going about your normal daily business you'll come across some piece of information that you consider worthy of being committed to your arsenal of reference material. Today was one of those days.

In a closed Shopify agency owners Slack channel, our friend Eric Davis over at Little Stream Software shared something that should probably be read, digested and stored for later reference by every Shopify merchant, expert and partner.

What I'm referring to is this article about SEO for Shopify.

For us, the main takeaway from the article was a checklist we were able to put together from Eric's own recommendations which consists of:

  1. Page titles
  2. Meta descriptions
  3. Consistent URL structures
  4. Alt tags
  5. Content length
  6. Structured data

Without diving into the details (we're not online marketers), if you read the article, you should be in a pretty good position to ensure that your on-site SEO is up to scratch.

Note: Remember that online marketing is always full of ever moving goalposts. At the time of you reading this or Eric's article, there may be new factors at play, but at the time of writing, this is pretty solid advice.

Read the article on SEO for Shopify here.

Shopify SEO Scrabble pieces (because we're arty and good with metaphors)

Sometimes while you're going about your normal daily business you'll come across some piece of information that you consider worthy of being committed to your arsenal of reference material. Today was one of those days.

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Shopify Dashboard showing impressive growth

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.

Below is the list available at a glance and further down the page I've elaborated on each.

  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.

Are you keen to implement some or all of this?

If you're interested in working with ShopCreatify to maximise conversions on your store, please take a look at our services page and choose the service that best suits your needs.

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Shopify Dashboard showing impressive growth

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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Turbo Theme

Premium Plus (or Premium+) is how we refer to the Turbo theme by Out of the Sandbox.

Not because of Shopify's Plus plan for merchants —although that is who the theme was originally created for— but because if a paid-for theme in the Shopify theme store is referred to as a 'premium' theme, then Turbo needs to have a classification that accurately portrays the tier in which it resides. Currently it is the only theme in this top tier category that we're aware of.

Things have become significantly easier for us these days in choosing a Shopify theme for a store build. Essentially it boils down to the following two options:

  1. Turbo by Out of the Sandbox — for most merchants
  2. Custom designed and built theme — for merchants with very specific requirements

Almost all of our store builds over the last year or so have been one of the two options above.

That's not to say that you can't have a successful store operating on another Shopify theme —even a free one— but when it comes down to it, if you're looking for a theme that is versatile, customizable out of the box and contains features that other themes rely on apps or significant customization for, then Turbo is... well... a no brainer.

Turbo Theme Seoul

By the same token, some merchants who think they need a custom designed theme can actually achieve what they need with Turbo too. Not all of them of course, but a lot of them can have a completely unique looking store with Turbo at the base and tap into all the benefits of this richly featured premium+ theme.

Those for whom Turbo is not a good match would include:

  1. Specific workflow(s) that require a unique layout that Turbo does not lend itself to well.
  2. Very specific branding requirements that Turbo does not cater well for.
  3. Very small budgets where a free theme would make more economic sense and still cater for the merchant's requirements.

Currently a vast majority of merchants opt for Turbo and to explain why and also illustrate why this is not a bad thing (you don't want your store to look like everyone else's) I thought to put together a list of primary reasons why you should consider it as the frontend system for your next Shopify store (re)build.

Speed

As the name suggests, Turbo is a theme built for performance. If serving your products to your customers quickly is important to you (it should be) then Turbo has you covered with it's exceptionally quick browser loading and effective caching.

Header Customization

Very few (if any) other Shopify themes give as many options to customize the header of your store. The placement of the logo, the ability to have navigation left, right, top and bottom and with all the extra bits and pieces it caters for, you won't need to go scouring the app store to add a simple promo bar to your shop.

Mega-Dropdown Navigation

With most themes you'll need to make use of an often buggy or restrictive 3rd party app for a mega-dropdown. With Turbo you get a bunch of versatile, robust and feature rich mega-dropdown options. This has been of massive benefit to us as experts and our merchant clients where we no longer need to diagnose bugs, waste time with slow support nor have to uncomfortably explain styling or functional limitations where an app runs outside of the theme.

Home Page

If you're familiar with Shopify's concept of "sections" you'll know that most themes come with a bunch of pre-sets that you can use on your home page. Turbo comes with almost 20 customizable options including recently viewed products and Google Maps. There are photo galleries, featured promos and logo lists. You'd be hard pressed to need something that the theme doesn't already have as an existing available section.

Product Pages

As the part of your site where the magic happens (purchases) you want to be able to give your customers what they need to make that buying decision. From full width banners to tabbed content and a myriad of other options not found in any other premium theme, the product page in Turbo is unmatched by it's competitors.

Collections

As with the rest of the theme, there are elements to Turbo that you simply won't find in other themes. It comes with fully functional sidebar filters which is normally achieved via an app or significant custom work, product sorting, and even color swatches below the product thumbnails. Full width banners on your collection pages are also a reality with Turbo.

General & Global Features

Areas like the footer which is significantly more versatile than what other themes offer, the ability to integrate your social channels effectively, Mailchimp, image galleries and more, there is really very little reason to purchase another theme.

Summary

As I've attempted to articulate in this article, at the time of writing, chances are very good that you'd be doing yourself and your ecommerce business a disservice if you go with another Shopify theme (other than a custom one if you need it).

I'd even go so far as to say that it stands head and shoulders above the rest of the themes in the Out of the Sandbox stable which are all exceptional themes and we know them all inside and out. In short the reason for this is that while they're (Retina, Parallax, Responsive & Mobilia) awesome themes, they follow Shopify's mandate of simplicity which is fine for beginner merchants except that when your needs become more demanding, redesigning your store will be a must.

Turbo allows any merchant from Basic to Plus to set up a performance oriented storefront with significant room to grow.

If you're interested in having us help you set up or customize your Shopify store whether on Turbo or something else, feel free to check out our services here.

If you're interested in purchasing Turbo, we can give you a 20% discount on the purchase price if you email hello@shopcreatify.com and request the discount code.

Turbo Theme

Premium Plus (or Premium+) is how we refer to the Turbo theme by Out of the Sandbox.

Not because of Shopify's Plus plan for merchants —although that is who the theme was originally created for— but because if a paid-for theme in the Shopify theme store is referred to as a 'premium' theme, then...

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Learn how to avoid the strong possibility of building a house of cards and instead lay a solid foundation for your store. 

Shopify house of cards

The ability to move rapidly on a platform like Shopify is one of its greatest strengths. Being able to literally (we've done it before) build and launch and get your first sale in a single day is an amazing state for the industry to be in for aspiring merchants. 

Shopify can get you started stupidly quickly. It will allow you to test ideas without hundreds of hours of design & dev time, nor wheelbarrows full of cash. But —and it's a big but— it can also set quite a skewed precedent and can create fairly unrealistic expectations going forward.

The store I mention in the first paragraph was in fact, without any deceit, built and launched in a single day. It included a single digital product and had a single payment method (Paypal). It got a single sale on the day of launch (not by the owner's proud mother) and thankfully following that string of singles, it has actually done fairly well. It allowed the merchant to test the idea and luckily for them the experiment worked and many, many more hours of design, development and marketing and refinement followed.

If they hadn't, it would have likely remained a string of singles.

Bootstrapped Ecommerce

Bootstrap (verb)
Start up (an Internet-based business or other enterprise) with minimal financial resources.

We're big advocates of bootstrapping in business (and we don't mean the framework that makes every site look like this). Especially so when the idea is in it's infancy or the brand is just dipping their toes into this exciting digital sales channel.

Market research can only take you so far. Getting your wares in front of your potential customers and allowing them to vote with their money is —I believe— the only true litmus test to prove your concept.

Unless you're an existing brand with a strong, unique visual identity or there are some very specific requirements around how things need to work or be presented on the store for the venture to be given a fair trial; making use of Shopify's best practice based pre-mades is likely the wisest choice. The way Shopify works in terms of products, collections, cart and checkout; they're tried and tested.

At the time of writing this, over 400,000 merchants are using the Shopify platform every day. Since Shopify's success is directly tied to their merchant's success, with that sort of data you can be fairly safe in the assumption that Shopify are doing things how they need to be done to promote conversion.

Is your business bootstrappable?

Is that even a word? Regardless, deciding whether or not your business concept is one you can go about without bringing in investors or pumping all your hard earned savings into is an extremely worthwhile thing to do.

If you do need to invest in a unique design or some special functionality to your store, then bootstrapping may not be the right approach. If you're selling —how you probably should be— in a manner that is recognizable to your buyers both in presentation and workflow then it is most certainly an option. 

With the assumption that you don't have an experienced internal designer/developer capable of manhandling Shopify to do your bidding, some considerations:

  1. Do you have an existing brand to which the look and feel of the store absolutely has to match? If yes, bootstrapping may not be for you as you'll need to either highly customize a ready made theme or create one from scratch. Argentum Apothecary are a perfect example of this.
    Argentum Apothecary
  2. Do you have very specific and non-standard ways in which your customers need to view and or buy your product? If yes, then bootstrapping may not be for you since you'll be embarking on a software design and development project that will require specialized skill, time and of course budget. This product page we created for CanvasIt is a perfect example of this.
    CanvasIt Custom Product Page
  3. Are you competing on aspects other than uniqueness? Something like superior customer service, better price, or similar? If so, you could consider bootstrapping as an approach and put together a lean mean transacting machine.
  4. Are you able to conduct a proof-of-concept storefront to begin with? One that you can expand upon or develop on top of it at a later stage once the revenue is there? Then yes, bootstrapping is very likely a viable approach for you.

So, to summarize, bootstrapping an ecommerce business with Shopify is certainly possible and may very well be the wisest approach for your store. On the flipside, should your needs dictate it, Shopify is still capable, but you may need to dig a little deeper into your pockets to achieve what you require. Possibly to the same degree or maybe a bit less so than with other ecommerce platforms, but should things need to be custom, there will very likely be unavoidable cost and time implications to consider and cater for.

So, what about these cards then?

Bringing this post back on-topic, I'll explain what I mean by the title of this article. Are you building a house of cards, or are you laying a solid foundation for your ecommerce business?

So often we see merchants that have built their stores based on either bad advice or misconceptions about what is important. I believe that going into something like an ecommerce business, you need to do so with your eyes wide open.

Whether you're selecting a theme or deciding on a theming approach for your store (free, premium or custom), deciding on certain apps or additional functionality or even at a more fine grained level; how the navigation and collections are built, it's good to have at least a high level understanding of what you're dealing with.

Theming your store the right way

Theming —for the uninitiated— is the process of applying the frontend (not just the look) to the store. This includes the entire UX (user experience) of the storefront which means that it covers both how it looks and the logic behind how each user interaction works and reacts to their input.

Some things to watch out for when choosing and building out your store from a theming perspective:

  1. What does your business' storefront need in terms of functionality? Does the default functionality of the theme(s) you're looking at cover your needs or will you have to bring a developer into the mix? Think things like workflows or any specific requirements perhaps relating to tax, how or how many items need to be added to the cart in a single click etc.
  2. What does your business' storefront need in terms of visual uniqueness? Are you able to choose the theme that best presents your product and roll with it or do you need to make some customizations to the theme to make it fit? Perhaps your requirements are so unique that you actually need a custom theme designed and developed.

Always remember that a custom built theme will —if built properly— almost always be leaner and faster than a premium bought one. This is simply due to the fact that fewer things need to be catered for since the theme is being built for a single use case requiring fewer settings and options than one catering for as many merchants as possible. One caveat being that often seasoned ecommerce merchants will opt for the premium theme approach since there simply are more options, settings and toggles in a premium theme and making use of them is far quicker and cheaper than having them designed and developed from scratch.

Premium theme developers are building their themes for the masses... a custom theme will be built only for your store so things like menus with 20+ fonts to choose from would be redundant and likely put you in negative ROI if you were to task your developer with going to this level of detail.

Whichever type of theming approach you decide on, make sure you follow best practice, specifically in the following three areas from lowest level to highest level:

  1. Theming best practice - Build it properly from the start. If it's a premium bought theme, follow the advice of the developers that made it. Consume their documentation and try not to customize it into oblivion. If it's a custom theme, plan it properly, make sure you have a competent (experienced) team designing and building the theme and realize that it is actually a custom software project in itself so treat it as such (version control, impeccable communication with the team etc.) and you should be ok. As much as some people seem to wish it into reality, I'm yet to see an inexperienced team or individual build a solid, futureproof, stable, reliable, responsive and ultimately performing custom solution. They don't need to be Shopify veterans, but without at least solid HTML, CSS and JavaScript skills, you're lining up a world of hurt and a house of cards that'll topple at a single gust of wind.
  2. Shopify best practice - As mentioned before, Shopify kinda know what they're doing. Their business model rests heavily on the success of their merchant clients and there is no reason for them to implement or change something that jeopardizes their bottom line. Being publicly traded now too, they are further pressed to perform and you can rest assured that things like optimization of the checkout process is paramount to their performance and therefore the way it is for very good reasons. Often in the web and especially in ecommerce it is very possible to give a man enough rope to hang himself. Sometimes restraints are good and we're all better off for it. Hacking the platform to make it do something it's not intended for is not in anyone's best interest. Do your homework and establish that what you need is condusive to the platform, the way it works, and proceed knowing that not only are you on the right platform, but the solution will be one you can grow with and into.
  3. Ecommerce best practice - Lastly and most importantly, if you want to succeed in this medium, make use of the knowledge that has been acquired and shared by your predecessors. Learn all you can about what makes online stores convert better, provide seamless, easy online shopping and ultimately succeed. A great book on the topic is Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think which should drive the point home if I haven't.

“Don't make me think” 
—Steve Krug

If you follow best practice in these areas, you'll be laying a solid foundation for your online business. You can focus on other things like driving traffic, making enhancements to improve conversion, increase average spend, and implementing other measures that drive the business forward.

Don't trip over them apps

As you probably already know, Shopify apps are an incredible thing. They extend the functionality of your store with almost limitless potential and ability. They're also —probably because of this— extremely tempting to just install without too much deliberation.  Therein lies the problem.

With the enormous range of things an app can do on your store and the sheer number of developers out there building these things, even with Shopify's careful curation of the apps submitted and available to you, they do come with some risk. The risks are not nearly as severe (in my experience to date) as an open source project where the developer's motives are not clear, but going into an app frenzy will quickly result in a messy codebase and potentially result in a costly cleanup, lost sales or credibility from buggy, inconsistent or outright broken user experiences.

Often we're faced with a storefront that needs to be cleaned up or a merchant's long shopping list of apps they want to install prior to launch. The former is about to pay for the cleanup, the latter —if we were to just blindly proceed— about to make the mess that will need fixing and cleanup down the line (a house of cards).

Presuming you're the latter merchant in the example above and about to embark on this exciting new adventure, to prevent this situation of code soup and shaky foundations, it's best to do the following:

  1. Identify the absolute essentials in terms of additional functionality for your store to go live with. 
  2. Figure out whether an app is actually the best solution for the requirement or if it can be done as efficiently or possibly even better via some other means.
  3. Should the app be a custom one built only for your store, ensure you're working with a team or individual experienced in this area. An ecommerce store is possibly the lifeblood of your business so it's not like hiring someone to wash your car. Be sure that they know what they're doing and that they have a clear understanding of your requirements before proceeding.

A good point to also remember is that even if two apps are made by the same vendor, they may not be able to both be installed on a single store as they may need to both leverage the same resources of the platform. Ask questions, reach out to the vendors. Most of them are more than happy to help you and a lot of them will even give you extended trials, discounts and even offer the service of installing the apps for you.

Even some apps made by the same development house may not be able to co-exist in one store.

This brings me to the final point and piece of advice on apps; vet them. To do this, follow these steps or similar:

  1. Make sure they're right for your needs.
  2. Make sure they're made by a reputable vendor and that all aspects that you need to proceed with them (support levels, reviews etc.) are to your liking. Remember, they are not Shopify. They're usually small to medium sized software design and development businesses anywhere in the world. Choose wisely.
  3. Make sure the app(s) are compatible with any others you're using or intend to use.
  4. Trial them outside of your live environment. Consider setting up a development store (we can assist with this as can any partner / expert) and run the app in a sandbox version of your store to ensure that it works without breaking things on the live storefront.

If you do your due diligence in this area, you should be able to approach apps without building an ever bloating store and your future prospects in terms of upgrading your theme, adding and improving things down the line with ease will be significantly better.

Should we really Customize this?

Ask "but why"? Do you really need to customize something or would it be just as efficient to make use of available options in your store? Often that answer will be no and you'll be just as successful using some form of tried and tested solution, but equally so, frequently there is a true need to customize.

"I can't believe that any individual merchant, developer, or even agency, would be able to out-CRO the Shopify team who are responsible for the global checkout UI/X. They have data from how many 000's of stores to aggregate and test against?"
—Rick Davies from Taylor Stitch

In the cases where viable options are available that do not require customization and achieve the same or similar results, it's usually wise to follow that approach. In the cases where customization is absolutely and unquestionably required, just make sure you do it properly.

Some things in Shopify shouldn't or even can't be customized in the way that you want... even on the highest tier of the platform, but a lot, in fact more than most people know can actually be changed quite considerably.

If you've established that you need to customize things, as mentioned a couple of times above, make sure you're working with a team or individual with experience in this skill. Even small customizations should strictly be done the right way and ideally tracked with some form of version control (we use Git on Bitbucket). If you don't you're likely going to paint yourself into a corner with a store that cannot be upgraded, gets into a state of no return or even worse, having a broken store that will require significant fixing or a complete do-over when it becomes too far gone.

To summarize, this should be the ideal sequence of considerations when a customization seems necessary:

  1. Establish conclusively that it is a real need and not simply a desire. Potentially ask around or do some research to be sure that it isn't something others have tried and seen little or no return on, or perhaps not enough of a return to justify doing it.
  2. Establish conclusively that the need is not achievable via some other means that is less intrusive on your store. Perhaps an app or something built into Shopify or the theme.
  3. If you've reached the conclusion that a customization is needed and not achievable via other means, you'll need to embrace the implications of customizing your store. There will be cost implications, timeline implications and the potential sacrifice of future enhancements made to your theme by creating a fork of it.

So, yes, you can customize your storefront. The potential and abilities inherent in the Shopify platform are vast and if you go in with your eyes open, are aware of the risks and implications and proceed with the right people with the relevant skills, you can do great things.

To summarize

Summing up this article, I've briefly covered themes, apps and customizations as three points of consideration when embarking on a new ecommerce venture or redesign. It should now be clearly apparent that while things on this platform can be achieved quickly, affordably and with a high level of quality, it also allows for more intricate, unique and brand / business specific things to be design and developed on top of it if you're that way inclined.

Just be sure that you're doing things that are necessary, do them the right way and your business should benefit from better profitability, less superfluous features and visuals and fewer issues and subsequent costs down the line.

As may be obvious by the content of this article, we're certified Shopify Experts and if you're in need of assistance we'd be more than happy to help. We have a solutions page that can guide you in choosing what you need from us or if that leaves you feeling bewildered, feel free to simply ping us using hello@shopcreatify.com.

Shopify house of cards

Learn how to avoid the strong possibility of building a house of cards and instead lay a solid foundation for your store. The ability to move rapidly on a platform like Shopify is one of its greatest strengths.

read time.

Read More

A slightly belated notification, but here is our third appearance on The Unofficial Shopify Podcast where Kurt and Ross talk about how customizable Shopify really is. The misconceptions around the concept and some of the truths about how capable the platform truly is are discussed in this 41min chat.

Listen now

A slightly belated notification, but here is our third appearance on The Unofficial Shopify Podcast where Kurt and Ross talk about how customizable Shopify really is. The misconceptions around the concept and some of the truths about how capable the platform truly is are discussed in this 41min chat.

read time.

Read More

Customized Shopify

Can Shopify be customized?

When I say customized, I don't mean just enlarging the logo or aligning some text differently and changing the font. I mean significantly customized like where functionality that is completely foreign to the theme, or some type of workflow that is completely different to the way "most" people do it?

Interestingly enough and contrary to popular belief, the answer to that question is yes. Yes it can and no you're not necessarily restricted to how things work in the themes you've seen powering the many thousands of Shopify stores. Of course there are limitations... it is a SaaS platform after-all, but when there is a will, there is often a way.

At ShopCreatify we deal with a massive variety of inquiries. Some are so small that we may refer them on to the brilliant folk over at HeyCarson and some are better suited to either a bespoke solution or a different platform, but there is an enormous area in between where Shopify really shines.

A lot of our daily work is spent investigating, designing and building these customizations and it is currently the area we're most adept and experienced. We therefore put together a page that will undoubtedly grow over time giving some more detail around what these types of jobs often entail.

You can view this page (with case studies) on Shopify customization here.

Can Shopify be customized?

When I say customized, I don't mean enlarging the logo or aligning some text differently and changing the font. I mean significantly customized like where functionality that is completely foreign to the theme, or some type of workflow that is completely different to the way "most" people do it?

read time.

Read More