A blog about building and extending awesome Shopify stores
Photo by Kevin Ku
As an ecommerce brand you probably have these auspicious dates circled in red on your calendar, those specific holidays or seasons that affect shopping behaviour in such a massive way that you plan your business strategies around it. We’re talking about Black Friday, Cyber Monday - and the festive season that follows shortly on after that. BFCM and the gifting season combined are the bread and butter of many online retailers, who refine their marketing campaigns and boost their production efforts to meet the demands.
Every year we have seen BFCM grow, with more and more brands being represented online; the ecommerce aspect of the gifting season has simply skyrocketed. Shopify merchants broke records in 2019, with $2.9+ billion in worldwide sales over Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. Online commerce has brought independent businesses and direct-to-consumer businesses to the fore, allowing them to compete with the multinational conglomerates who previously stole the show.
Even though the first notion of Black Friday sales were documented in Philadelphia, America, this sales holiday has now become a global phenomenon regardless of whether Thanksgiving is celebrated or not. But all this was before 2020; and so much has changed.
The pandemic inadvertently set off a global shutdown, retail has been limited - in many countries even for ecommerce. Yet ecommerce has also been the first to reopen due to the convenience and safety of shopping from home. Thousands of retailers who had never been online launched their stores during this time, and tens of thousands of online shoppers who had never shopped online now did so out of necessity. The global pandemic has accelerated nearly a decade of ecommerce evolution into just ninety days as businesses pivoted to thrive in this new environment.
This is our first of a three-part article series wherein we get you thinking about BFCM readiness and what you should be doing in the coming months running up to (hopefully) your busiest time of year. We will also share some valuable tips on how to adapt your business to thrive online.
BFCM and the subsequent gifting season is the period when many merchants see the lion’s share of their annual sales in the year, and could be the much needed monetary relief that many are relying on. While we cannot predict how things will be for merchants during this holiday season, it does appear that it could be a favorable one for ecommerce again. Our best advice would be to get an early start on your BFCM strategy - and especially for ecommerce brands that will have a strong website focus.
Bear in mind that even a modest amount of custom functionality can take over a month to progress from specification to go-live, so focusing on making your website ready - with BFCM in mind - this early in the year allows you ample time to iron out the kinks and squash pesky bugs in time for the big day. You can even test your new functionality or processes in the market by using seasonal sales as a kind of pilot run. This will quickly expose any positives or negatives, in real-time, for you to revisit in retrospection. Also, it is inadvisable to put any extra pressure on yourself during BFCM if you’re worried about your website infrastructure not being thoroughly tested - because let’s face it, your attention will be pulled to putting out fires! Knowing that your platform is sound, and also optimized to convert the maximum sales, will allow you to divert your energies where they’re needed.
There are always things to be done that can drastically improve your online store, not just your conversion rate but also your search results, user experience and marketability. These will include bugs that you or customers have encountered, improvements to the User Interface (UI), new features that you would like to implement, improving website discoverability (SEO related), and other changes to boost upsell and conversions.
Review the current performance of your website using all the tools at your disposal, including performance measurement tools like Google Analytics, Google PageSpeed Insights, Google Mobile-Friendly Test, Backlink Checker, etc. Using real data from your users allows you to make more informed decisions when it comes to prioritizing your tasks. Obviously, pain points that directly affect your customers will be your most pressing issues to tackle (as opposed to backend issues that only affect you and your team) such as 1) things that affect your customer’s experience and 2) things that affect sales/conversions.
Compare the results to your goals as it will highlight any glaring issues and help you identify where you need to be focusing your improvements. These items will become your to-do list, and your next step is to determine the importance or urgency of each. If this is too much of an undertaking for your business right now, then ConversionBoost is far better suited to help you see exponential growth in your online store conversion. ConversionBoost is one of our specialised services, where we use an evidence-based approach, with data collection and analysis, to improve and enhance your store. It is designed for established stores that already have a baseline of performance, and stores that already have a certain level of traffic and sales will see the best results.
Digital Marketing forms a firm pillar in the model for successful ecommerce, and a well-thought out marketing plan for growing your audience in preparation for the gifting season is key. You will be competing against every other ecommerce store during this time, so try to grow your marketing base and social following as much as possible from now.
These are our top six marketing initiatives to channel your energies into:
Take a moment to go back to the basics - starting with your product. Make sure it is these 5 things:
If even one of these don’t meet the criteria, then you still have time to tweak your product and website. Implement at least these three functionalities (listed below) now, so that you know they’re solid later because they will help you boost your sales conversions and have happier customers:
Stock level indication: Nothing gives a sense of urgency or touches on the consumer’s sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) like a stock level indication (only 6 items left in stock!). An app like While Supplies Last will enable you to implement this functionality.
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.
Abandoned cart recovery: “The typical shopping cart abandonment rate for online retailers varies between 60% and 80%, with an average of 67.91%.” 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 Plus 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.
Will you be able to keep up without compromising on something? Be smart about keeping track of your stock, look into implementing Shopify apps like Stock2Shop to monitor stock levels to ensure you don’t sell products you don’t have stock of. This helps you to avoid customer frustration and to keep to shipping deadlines. If the turnover for shipping is expected to be longer, due to greater demand such as over BFCM weekend, then strategise now how you will make your customers aware of changes to expected delivery times or find a way to optimise your fulfillment processes well ahead of time. Try as much as possible to keep your fulfillment fast and efficient, while keeping your customers in the loop as much as possible.
We hope that we’ve given you something to think about, and that you will take our advice and use this time wisely to get ahead and capitalise on the opportunities ahead for your ecommerce store.
Photo by Kevin Ku
BFCM and the subsequent gifting season is the period when many merchants see the lion’s share of their annual sales in the year, and could be the much needed monetary relief that many are relying on. While we cannot predict how things will be for merchants during this holiday season, it does appear that it could be a favorable one for ecommerce again.
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Grip6’s BJ Minson talks belt flaps, Chinese manufacturing, and marketing mess-ups
Taking risks, accepting failure and doing things himself are all part of Grip6 founder BJ Minson’s recipe for success. The American belt manufacturer, and ShopCreatify client, sold 350,000 belts in 2019.
Grip6 has humble beginnings. For 10 years after school, Minson did odd jobs from construction to painting houses. He also tried to start a business making and selling specialized hospital beds, but was frustrated when he was faced with structural problems he couldn’t solve.
“I was sawing and welding and doing what an engineer without a degree would do. I realized projects weren’t working out as well as I’d hoped,” says Minson. During this time, he started a family and soon realized he couldn’t afford a house or reach his other financial goals on odd jobs alone. So Minson went back to school. It was a long process and he had to take six semesters of math before he was at the level of the other mechanical engineering students.
While Minson wrapped up his studies, he worked as a junior engineer for a medical company. He continued with his own side-projects in the hope it would give him the experience he needed to apply for a product design job.
One of Minson’s side-projects was a wallet: small, flat and rectangular. It fitted six cards which popped up when the sides were squeezed. “The wallets were fairly complicated inside, mechanically, and I couldn’t just make them myself because I knew nothing about manufacturing.” After failing to find an affordable, local manufacturer, he gave up on the wallet.
Demonstrating the strength of the G6 belt in a video on the Kickstarter campaign back in 2014
Soon after that he designed a belt – Grip6’s signature product – after being irritated by his own belts. He’d thought cutting his leather belt shorter to stop it from flapping around was a good solution, but his wife disagreed. “She said it was the ugliest belt she’d ever seen and that it looked ridiculous!” He then used a nylon army belt, but didn’t like how the thick buckle stuck out under his shirt.
“I then thought if I design a belt that’s really simple, it should be easy enough to manufacture myself.” The belt he designed uses a single piece of webbing, a single piece of metal for the buckle, doesn’t require any sewing and has no buckle holes. Unlike traditional belts, the material properties of the Grip6 belt creates friction that holds it in place without slipping.
In 2014 Minson launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. He was stunned when he received 10,000 belt orders. He reached out to local manufacturers to make the belts but was met with slow responses, long timelines and quotes that were much higher than he’d priced the belts. Even worse, Minson was repeatedly encouraged to manufacture his belts in China. “Everybody told us that if you don’t make your belts in China, you’re dumb and probably not going to succeed.”
Minson was dead set against this. He’d been astounded by the bad quality of his children’s toys, most of which were made in China. “They’d use the toys once before they’d break. It made no sense from a moral perspective that people were producing garbage and shipping it around the world just to be thrown away almost immediately.
“I wanted to make the belts locally in the United States, so that the quality would be high and to reinvest in ourselves as a country and in manufacturing.”
Without a manufacturer, Minson and a friend set about making the 10,000 belts themselves, by hand. “I bought a couple of small hand tools and started production in my garage. For six months we worked our butts off. We’d finish at our full-time jobs and then work another eight to 10 hours at night. I had got myself stuck in a situation that I hadn’t thought through very well, but at least I had a product people wanted.”
Minson spent the following year figuring out how to market his belts. “We didn’t know anything about marketing and that scared me.” He hired the best marketing company he could find, paying them with money left over from his Kickstarter campaign and by selling belts at county fairs and trade shows.
But the marketing company let Minson down with a website that despite being attractive, was built on the wrong platform and marketing campaigns that lead nowhere. He then hired someone a friend recommended to do Facebook marketing for his company. It worked and Grip6 sold 70,000 belts in its third year.
Now in its sixth year, Grip6 employs 43 people and its sales are up 80% from 2019.
Grip6’s belt sales have increased significantly since it launched in 2014
After his negative experiences with manufacturers and marketers, Minson decided to do as much as he could inhouse.
“If we can do something ourselves, we should so that when a problem comes along, we’re not relying on somebody else to fix it. We like to be in control. This concept of relying on somebody else just means you’re running away from gaining the knowledge yourself.”
This philosophy has seen Grip6 invest significant amounts in machinery, people and learning processes. “Ultimately that’s meant we’ve been able to do things cheaper, more efficiently and at a better quality.”
Grip6's conversion optimized product page showcasing their unique products.
Despite this, Minson says it wouldn’t have made financial sense to hire a full-time web developer. After using numerous Shopify developers, they found ShopCreatify two years ago and have been a client ever since. “Ross [Allchorn] fills that gap and his team does well as an extension of Grip6. If you have to use outside people, use those who are as close philosophically and capability-wise as you are.”
Minson’s philosophy doesn’t stop at doing things in-house. He isn’t afraid of taking risks or failing, so much so that the Grip6 website says: “Follow us as we struggle, misstep and learn.”
He’s trying to add two new products to the Grip6 range: the wallet he designed eight years ago, and socks. Both have already seen Grip6 make significant investments into failed manufacturing, new machinery and time spent learning how to use the machines. Six months after starting on the wallet and a year after starting on the socks, Grip6 is at last producing test products before being manufactured for sale. The socks endeavor alone cost the company around $250,000.
“If we’re not risking something, we get into a mental state where we’re too afraid to grow, because growth involves risks. We’re willing to take many risks as long as it’s not so big it puts the company out of business. It might cost us a lot of money but if we’re successful it really pays off. I’m perfectly fine with failure as long as it comes with a lesson to be learnt.”
Minson says that despite taking so many risks he’s actually financially conservative. Grip6 has only ever taken out a loan to buy a particularly expensive laser cutting machine. “Every other machine in our shop, millions of dollars’ worth, has been paid for in cash. We’ve been cash positive from the garage onwards. We don’t believe in getting into debt.”
Minson believes that these philosophies have helped Grip6 weather the Covid-19 crisis. When the virus hit the USA, sales dropped by 25%. But Minson’s best friend, who is now in charge of Grip6’s marketing, noticed that online advertising had become significantly cheaper after many people stopped advertising when the pandemic started. Grip6 decided to increase their ad spend and “all of a sudden we’re hitting months that are far above what we’re used to and very similar to our busiest time of year”.
And because Grip6 manufactures everything itself, it wasn’t affected when international trade came to a grinding halt. It’s business as usual at the Salt Lake City, Utah plant, with staff wearing masks and adhering to other safety and social distancing protocol.
Despite this, Minson is nervous about the future. He knows that Covid-19 is likely to slow the world economy down for the next 12 to 18 months and is aware that his good business run is unlikely to continue indefinitely.
“We’re being extra cautious financially and building up the bank account in the expectation that the sales will probably drop off in the near future. We’re saving our money, launching new products and looking for other growth opportunities.”
He has encouraging words for other online businesses:
“There’s this once in a lifetime thing happening, and it’s pretty bad. But if you’re smart and you look around, there are opportunities to grow and to find silver linings.”
Taking risks, accepting failure and doing things himself are all part of Grip6 founder BJ Minson’s recipe for success. The American belt manufacturer, and ShopCreatify client, sold 350,000 belts in 2019. BJ Minson talks belt flaps, Chinese manufacturing, and marketing mess-ups.
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Spently’s Roddy Smith talks empathy, agility and walks around the block.
Ecommerce hasn’t been immune to the coronavirus pandemic, growing dramatically as stores scramble to cater for an influx of online shoppers. According to Roddy Smith, Director of Sales and Partnerships for Spently, many of the latest changes in ecommerce will last well after the virus has been overcome.
When the pandemic began, Spently, which customizes the transactional emails of more than 5000 Shopify merchants, saw a drop in app store traffic and installs. But the app, which turns the emails into a marketing tool by including recommended products and discounts, has since experienced an influx of ongoing business.
“With the initial shellshock around the pandemic everybody was pumping the brakes while trying to figure out how this would affect things,” says Smith. “Now, anyone who isn’t online is going online because that’s the only place they can sell.”
The 14-strong Spently team has had to rethink how they work as they deal with the flood of new business, each from their own home in Toronto, Canada. Hallway conversations have been replaced by regular video calls and productivity is encouraged by daily goal-setting. Smith, who’s worked at Spently for two years, is known for being terrible at working from home and has had to trick himself into being productive.
“I start each day as if I was going in to the office. I make a cup of coffee and put it in the travel mug I’d normally use on my way to work. Then I go out my front door, walk around the block and come back in the back door. I’ll even listen to a podcast as I walk to mimic what my commute used to be like.
“It’s kind of crazy and a little silly, but it really works for me. It separates my home space from my work space.” Despite this, he struggles to stick to office hours and often finds himself replying to work emails in the middle of the night while caring for his two-month-old son.
Most of Spently’s clients have been impacted by the pandemic, with high-end luxury items and drop shippers – which rely on international supply chains – hit particularly hard.
Others have experienced the complete opposite, with massive spikes in sales. “We’ve seen loads of merchants doing Black Friday and Cyber Monday-sized sales.” Athletic wear merchants are thriving because “all of us are wearing track pants way more than we used to” and beef jerky stores have benefited as panic buyers stock up on high-protein items with long shelf lives.
Spently has also seen increased sign ups by smaller mom and pop type shops like butcheries and bakeries that favor traditional brick and mortar stores.
Many stores, says Smith, have changed tack to focus on improving the customer life-time value (CLTV) of their products or services. And a number of Spently’s clients have asked to edit their customized emails to highlight changes in delivery options, the addition of curbside pickup, warnings of longer shipping times or reassurances on practices they’ve implemented to protect the health of employees and customers.
While there’s no single solution to guarantee an online business’ survival, Smith says he always preaches empathy.
“Being empathetic now is more important than ever. Brands will be made or broken by this. How they respond to the situation is going to set the ground work for their future success.”
He adds that it’s crucial for stores to be creative in their marketing, messaging and merchandising, and essential that they be able to change their strategies quickly. “You need to incorporate a multi-pronged approach, be digitally savvy and be agile to pivot. There are different avenues for driving traffic and it’s about using all of them to find out what works for your brand and your brand’s audience.”
He’s seen some creative marketing since the Covid-19 outbreak started, like a street-wear brand that offered discounts for sweatpants and hoodies to customers who’d recently bought denims from them “because they knew they probably weren’t getting a chance to wear them much”.
“Your marketing and merchandising needs to be tailored to what’s happening right now. There’s no point having business clothes on your home page if you also sell things that are more casual and relaxed. You need to remerchandise your store to be sensitive to what’s going on in our world today.”
As you can see in this graph from WITHIN, there has been some significant activity in the ecommerce space since Covid-19 took grip of the world. See more here.
Smith believes that the changes in ecommerce as a result of Covid-19 are here to stay. “It takes 66 days to create a new habit and we’re already pushing the two-month mark in terms of quarantine and social distancing.”
Those who didn’t shop online before are now doing so out of necessity. “I think many of these new behaviors that people are developing in their day-to-day life are going to stick because it’s become our new normal. And online shopping is definitely more convenient.”
He predicts that Shopify will increasingly compete with Amazon, particularly since it acquired warehouse fulfillment network 6 River Systems in 2019 and the Swedish online marketplace Tictail in 2018. And he reckons augmented reality will take off as brands try to find new marketing techniques while adhering to global restrictions in movement.
“All of this is going to accelerate ecommerce by five years in about half a year. Being online and having a digital-first business model is a necessity now.”
Ecommerce hasn’t been immune to the coronavirus pandemic, growing dramatically as stores scramble to cater for an influx of online shoppers. According to Roddy Smith, Director of Sales and Partnerships for Spently, many of the latest changes in ecommerce will last well after the virus has been overcome.
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Photo by Roberto Nickson.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are left with an uncertain future. Many brick and mortar businesses have closed their doors indefinitely (some will reopen, others not so lucky), and retailers are looking to ecommerce to secure their brand a future. The fate of ecommerce has a lot to do with the regulations in your country, some are able to continue with business as usual whereas some do not fall under ‘essential services’ and cannot sell, or fulfill orders due to being unable to make use of courier services. However, ecommerce stores are most likely in a safer footing for the current and immediate future climate - provided they can still use this time to convert sales or grow their business in some way.
While there has been an increase in offline stores going online, existing ecommerce stores are intensifying their efforts to turn inventory into cash while they still can. Some are using lockdown time in inventive and productive ways to set themselves up to their advantage for when things are back to business as usual. Wherever you are in these turbulent times, there are some strategies you can use to make the best of things - which includes what you need to do right now and what you can use your downtime for to your advantage.
Depending on where you are in the world you may have certain restrictions that will affect your ability to fulfill orders. However, if you are still able to make sales with the intention to ship as soon as those restrictions are lifted, then communicate this to your customers in big bold letters on your website and via email. If you can still run business as usual you need to tell your customers exactly that on all your platforms, because they will assume you are closed like most other businesses.
Be honest with your customers and compassionate to what they too are going through, this isn’t the time to ‘cash in’ on this pandemic as an opportunity for business (think how tacky a ‘Coronavirus’ sale would sound or a #COVID19 voucher code!) but for many of us it is our bread and butter and so necessary that business goes on. That’s not to say that your products or services won’t make a profound difference to your customers’ lives. Communicate to your customers how your products or services can be useful to them during this time, eg. how buying your (for example) stationery catalogue will enable them to run their business from home, keep their children entertained, allow creative expression for boredom busting, or even play an important role in homeschooling, etc.
If your current business model does not work in the current climate, consider pivoting your business in such a way that it can thrive online. If you previously only had a physical store, bring your retail online (many brands are offering this service for free and now is a good time to do it).
Consider offering subscription services either monthly or prepaying 3 - 6 months upfront. You will then have some cash to operate on and your customers can relax in knowing they will be getting their product/service in the coming months regardless of their cash flow. You can even offer ‘buy now, ship later’ options for customers who still want to shop now but are happy to wait until restrictions have lifted.
Diversify your product range, if you previously only sold physical products, consider adding some digital products eg. if you sold books before, consider adding eBooks to your catalogue.
If you’re concerned about the investment in pivoting your business model, consider how uncertain the future is and how waiting out the pandemic could mean running your business dry. There is a lot of help out there - we’ve compiled a list of brands currently offering help to the ecommerce industry either for free or at huge discounts.
A lot of brands make the mistake of cutting back on their marketing efforts, when they should be redoubling them. Marketing is where your leads are being generated, so it would not make sense to cut costs such as online advertising.
Many advertisers are pulling out which means that ad prices are going down, so now is actually the time to be increasing your Google Ad and Facebook ad spend.This will help keep the customers coming in, and hopefully the conversions ticking over. The only marketing channels you might need to pull are experimental marginal channels that aren’t driving leads or pushing revenue.
Invest some time in going over your expenditures, grouping your nice-to-haves (expense) and your ‘necessaries’ (investment). Reviewing these and cutting out unnecessary expenditure will ensure that you don’t burn through savings too quickly.
Your investments will have a demonstrable ROI (return on investment). These will include your online ad expenditure, email marketing (such as abandoned cart recovery), and content marketing. These serve to build your business by directly driving revenue.
You might consider cutting out some of your SAAS (software as a service) subscriptions that were convenient to have and which you can suspend while you are cutting costs but pick up later. These might include Music licensing software, full stock image database access, etc. which you can get away with by only purchasing what you need when you need it rather than all-access subscriptions.
Now is a good time to get to know your customers. Reach out to them on social media as a leader in your space to offer compassion and any advice that you can offer; social media engagement rates have never been this high. Your compassion and authenticity now will be remembered long after the pandemic has passed, and it will become part of the personality of your brand.
Now that you have all of that in place it is time to use your extra time to improve your Operations. A lot of us are finding ourselves with a lot more time on our hands than before, and while we are all dealing with the anxiety and fear of the unknown, keeping busy helps to feel in control - not to mention putting us in better stead for when things are a bit more normal again.
While you’re working from home or piloting the ship alone, there are still some things that you can do for your online store that will help improve your Operations and put you in better stead for the coming months, here’s a quick checklist:
All these improvements will result in a site that loads faster, is more efficient at converting leads into sales, and attracts more organic leads via search engines. This will not only benefit you now, but it will put you in better stead for months to come - and perhaps change the way you approach operations on your website forever, for the better.
Photo by Roberto Nickson
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are left with an uncertain future. Many brick and mortar businesses have closed their doors indefinitely (some will reopen, others not so lucky), and retailers are looking to ecommerce to secure their brand a future.
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Photo by Brett Jordan
Automation has become a real obsession when it comes to technology and making life and work better for everyone. We can see it everywhere in our daily lives, from programmable coffee machines, fridges that order groceries when you’re getting low, the artificially intelligent bots that answer simple questions on websites, to Google Maps that offers the fastest route to our destination. Sure, those are simple examples. But it just shows how focused we have become on cutting out the manual work and streamlining our day; because time is precious and the more time we save the better.
This translates directly to businesses as well, automation is the key to cutting costs and boosting productivity. It is also not that difficult to implement and is just as advantageous for small businesses as it is for larger ones. Automation has been most influential for ecommerce, as there are so many tasks involved that are manual and time-consuming and which threatens stunting the business’s growth potential.
As a business scales, so the demands on the resources mount, processes that may have worked flawlessly before will start to buckle under the pressure and essentially become inefficient. The mad scramble to do what is urgent trumps what is important, and time is sacrificed on the wrong things. The simplest solution, but not always the right one, is to hire more people - but that becomes expensive and has its own time-consuming processes. This is where Ecommerce Automation takes care of the repetitive tasks and effectively gives you back your time, energy, and cuts costs. Soon you will start to invest your new saved time on creative experimentation and product development - which is a much better use of your time!
Ecommerce Automation is the software that converts manual and time-consuming tasks and processes, or even campaigns, to automations that execute what is needed without your intervention. You simply set up the parameters and let it run on its own. These can be a myriad of processes but can include monitoring and collecting information, looking for parameters and acting on them, eg. receiving an order/payment/return and triggering an email or flagging a task on another productivity program.
Typical Ecommerce Automation includes:
Ecommerce Automation uses past human behaviours on the website to predict what they will want next. Certain tasks require you to set up parameters to trigger events, such as a 30-day delay after a product is purchased before automatically sending out the product review request email. The great thing about automation is that it is not set in stone, but rather changes and adapts according to the customer data it collects.
The number of places that you can introduce Ecommerce Automation are endless and very much based on your own setup, however here are a few typical instances:
As we’ve already touched on, Ecommerce Automation saves you time, money, labour and allows you to grow your business with your saved resources - but it’s much more than that. Here are the top 4 departments that it is going to make the most difference to for your business:
Ecommerce operations has a whole host of manual tasks and processes that can be automated. This includes inventory, shipping, and other product-related workflows to make product discoverability easy such as being automatically tagged and added to collections based on their title, SKU numbers, and type. Stock can be automatically managed both on the online store as well as in the back end processes. Items will be out of stock for shorter periods of time (if ever) and the stock management process will be streamlined and rely less on human intervention over time. Less human intervention also results in less human error.
Very often the communication between sales and marketing isn’t instant, but with automation when new products are added to the store, the marketing team can be automatically notified as well as supplied with all the product details, enabling them to start marketing the product instantly. Advertising teams can also use low stock flags on specific products to pause promotion and optimise their advertising spend. Customised newsletters can be automated to include products that are most likely to convert to sales based on previous purchases and browsing behaviour. Less errors will occur if sales and promotions are scheduled for uptime and downtime rather than relying on someone to physically remember to make the changes to the website.
As mentioned before, Ecommerce Automation helps you mitigate risk by flagging high-risk orders based on IP address checks, address verification systems (AVS), and Shopify’s own database. These flagged orders can automatically notify your sales team to follow up on, which can save you thousands in chargebacks and lost revenue.
Seasonal theme changes as well as product campaigns can take a lot of time, however with Ecommerce Automation these can be automated and scheduled. Other development tasks such as transactional emails, free-gifts on selected purchases, and displaying best shipping options can all be configured with Ecommerce Automation. Once these rules and processes are initially developed there is no need to repeat the code updates as they can be automatically switched on and off, saving your developer’s resources and time. Web development, especially if outsourced, is also often one of an Ecommerce business’s highest expenses.
There are a number of third-party apps that provide Ecommerce Automation, including Shopify’s own enterprise app:
Shopify Flow, for Shopify Plus merchants, has automation software built into the Shopify platform that enables a whole range of automation across the store and apps. This includes tagging customers for segmentation and marketing, standardising visual merchandising, streamlining tracking and reporting, pausing high-risk orders, and more. Shopify Flow makes this easy to set up using a visual builder where you can set triggers, conditions and actions, without the need to code anything.
Back in Stock takes care of notifying customers when an item is back in stock in the store. Customers are able to let you know if they are interested in purchasing an item that is currently out of stock, Back in Stock then emails them as soon as it is available without you having to intervene.
Klaviyo is a marketing automation tool that allows you to easily recapture lost sales through pre-built email flows, including abandoned cart and winback emails. You can also segment your audience using both Shopify’s and Klaviyo’s data to send super-targeted, personalised email campaigns.
SmartrMail takes marketing mails to the next level by using customer behaviour, browsing history on the store, email clicks, and previous purchases to recommend a personalised selection of products that they are very likely to want to buy. They also have an abandoned cart email series feature to pick up on those potential sales.
Prisync helps you keep your pricing market-related and competitive. It is a competitor price tracking and dynamic pricing software that automates collecting price and stock availability data to help you make informed decisions about pricing and marketing.
Automation has become a real obsession when it comes to technology and making life and work better for everyone. We can see it everywhere in our daily lives, from programmable coffee machines, fridges that order groceries when you’re getting low, the artificially intelligent bots that answer simple questions on websites, to Google Maps that offers the fastest route to our destination. [..]
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The question on the minds of everyone running an Ecommerce business at this time of year is ‘Am I ready for Black Friday?’. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Halloween, and the Festive Season looming you need to be absolutely sure you can cope with the influx of sales without compromising on the quality of your customer service. You also need to have all your marketing ducks in a row to capitalise on this phenomenal opportunity to boost your online sales.
On Cyber Monday in 2018, US shoppers spent $7.9 billion online, on that day alone. Shopify, which has never gone down on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, processed over $1.5 billion in sales over the four days of BFCM.
There is no better time than now to look at all your processes and start doing some upgrades and housekeeping. The size of your business will affect the scale of the undertaking but there are a few things we can point out for you that you should be taking into consideration in making the most of the craziness that is to come. The good news is that all the fruits of your efforts don’t just stop there, this will also put your Ecommerce business in good stead for the rest of the year too.
Take a moment to get back to the basics - starting with your product. Make sure that it is these 5 things:
If even one of these are questionable then consider not pushing that product to the front lines, or spend some resources tightening up your product strategy.
Consider your current man-power, will you be able to cope with the influx of sales if business, say, doubles? If your projections for the rise in sales at the end of the year are solid (perhaps based on last years numbers - still accounting for growth during this year) then it should be quite easy to figure out whether you’re going to cope with fulfillment and customer support. If you need to hire some staff but don’t need a bigger team full-time, consider hiring seasonal staff or freelancers until things go back to normal.
Make sure everyone is on board with the possibility of a bit of overtime during the 4-day bonanza that is Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and ensure they’re all on the same page about rotas and support. Things will very likely get hectic during this period with the influx of orders and the pressure to keep up with fulfillment, without also having to deal with housekeeping issues.
Will you be able to keep up without compromising on something? Be smart about keeping track of your stock, perhaps look into Shopify apps like Stock2Shop to monitor stock levels to ensure you don’t sell products you don’t have stock of. This helps you to avoid customer frustration and to keep shipping deadlines. If the turnover for shipping is going to be longer, due to greater demand, make your customers aware of changes to expected delivery times or find a way to optimise your fulfillment processes. Try as much as possible to keep your fulfillment fast and efficient, while keeping your customers in the loop as much as possible.
Given the likelihood of significantly more orders than usual over this period, consider putting a little something extra in your packages this year. A hand written note, a voucher for another purchase, a small free gift or anything else that you can budget for that will endear you to your customers and ensure a fruitful Q1 of 2020 as well as increased customer retention.
Often most overlooked is the value of marketing, however it forms a firm pillar in the model for successful Ecommerce. It is indeed a broad term and covers everything that represents your brand online, as well as processes that go into generating new business opportunities. These are our top seven marketing initiatives to channel your energies into:
A lot of brands use this as a great time to implement incentives such as discounts, buy-one-get-one-free deals, store points, or free shipping. These are great ways to try and win over customers from competitors who may be offering a similar product range. They also encourage repeat business and customer loyalty, especially if the reward system accumulates benefits with every purchase (for example).
Warm up your customers in the weeks building up to the big event; hint at deals and discounts, encourage customers to build wish lists and share your content. You can even offer pre-ordering for limited stock items.
Your Ecommerce store is the most important thing alongside your product, so use every metric at your disposal to iron out any UX issues or faults before the big day - you don’t want to miss out on sales or have your site go down. You can use Google Analytics metrics for user data, but also Shopify apps like Hotjar (a heat mapping tool) to find out where your users are getting stuck and make some tweaks. Just as a general rule, we’ve added some tips below to help prepare your website for this busy time:
Everything before this is going to set you up in good stead for everything BFCM can throw at you, but what about after the dust settles? There’s still plenty of work to do as the ripples of BFCM aftermath still offer a lot of potential for conversions:
Follow up with any of your customers who abandoned their carts by sending them an email to encourage them to complete the purchase. They may need help or you can offer a discount if they make the purchase within a tight timeframe (eg. in the next 24hrs or by 5pm, etc.).
Stock clearance sale
Throw a Black Friday clearance sale in the immediate weeks following to get rid of any extra stock, your customers will love it especially if they missed out on BFCM.
Grow your mailing list
You may have had a lot of first time buyers on your site; send them a mail to tempt them to sign up for your mailing list for more amazing specials (this is a great time to expand your customer database!).
Repeat purchases, cross-selling, and gathering customer reviews should be on your radar now. Using your transactional emails and follow up emails to cleverly place related products in front of them is a great way to boost your repeat and cross-sell purchases. Encourage your customers to make further purchases with the incentive of time-sensitive discount coupons, or extend your free shipping deals.
It’s a bit late now to be looking at conversion optimisation for 2019 BFCM, but you should be aiming to get ahead of things for next year and next year’s gifting season. For this, we now offer a stand-alone CRO service called ConversionBoost. It’s designed for established stores that already have a baseline of performance. Stores with a certain level of traffic and sales will see the best results. If you are just getting started, though, and want to know how you can best optimise your sales for your growing store, we can help too. Ready to take your Shopify store to the next level? Apply now.
The question on the minds of everyone running an Ecommerce business at this time of year is ‘Am I ready for Black Friday?’. As Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Halloween, and the Festive Season are looming, you need to be absolutely sure you can cope with the influx of sales without compromising on the quality of your customer service. You also need to have all your marketing ducks in a row to capitalise on this phenomenal opportunity to boost your online sales.
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If your ecommerce store has been up and running for a while with purchases neatly ticking over but you’re not seeing the surge you expected to see by now, heat mapping is certainly something you should be adding to your process of optimisation. Heat maps could very well be one of the keys to understanding what problems your users are experiencing on your site and where they’re getting caught up instead of making purchases. Making random tweaks and changes to your site (like stabs in the dark) without the data to back it up is a waste of your valuable resources.
There is a wealth of data available via your website’s analytics both on Google Analytics and Shopify’s analytics and reports that you could be using to pinpoint any issues or potential hurdles. However, heat mapping is arguably the easiest tool to use for this very purpose that almost anyone can understand. It’s visual and intuitive, making it a very popular tool for ecommerce optimisation amongst merchants.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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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
Photo by Perry Grone
Millennials are changing the shopping experience, and they have the lion’s share of e-commerce 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, not only to 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:
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.
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 organizations 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 favorite 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:
Another useful tool that ShoppingGives has developed that is worth a mention is their 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 e-commerce 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.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their power for effecting change over brands, and one way they’re using their power for good is through supporting brands that give back.
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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:
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.
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).
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:
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shopify Fulfillment Network:
When: Most updates had a timeline of "Available later this year"
Having now recovered from the three day journey back from Toronto, Canada, I thought it worthwhile to put together some words and pictures to document my journey to the annual Shopify Unite conference.
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