Shopify & Ecommerce Ramblings

A blog about building and extending awesome Shopify stores

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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Social Responsibility in Ecommerce
Photo by Ben White

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

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

Ethical consumerism is driving social responsibility

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

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

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

How Millennials are shaping consumer consciousness

Millennials shaping consumer consciousness
Photo by Perry Grone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to make your business more Socially Conscious

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

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

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

Introducing ShoppingGives

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

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

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

For this amount they include the following:

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

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

ShoppingGives Impact Calculator

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

Do we recommend it?

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

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

Social Responsibility in Ecommerce

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

read time.

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Transactional emails in Shopify ecommerce

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

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

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

What are transactional emails?

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

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

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

Why are they considered low hanging fruit for repeat business?

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

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

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

Shopify transactional email revenue

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

Shopify transactional email conversion rate differences

What do we mean by customising transactional emails?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customising transactional emails on Shopify

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


Spently

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

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

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

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

Spently comparison before and after.

How much does it cost?

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

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

Do we recommend it?

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

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

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

Transactional emails in Shopify ecommerce

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

read time.

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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? 

read time.

Read More
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.

read time.

Read More