Shopify & Ecommerce Ramblings

A blog about building and extending awesome Shopify stores

Focus on BFCM
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.

Get an early start on BFCM

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.  

Website Improvements

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.

Marketing Infrastructure

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:

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

Product/Stock Functionalities or Apps

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

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

If even one of these 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.

Fulfillment

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.

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

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

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

Financing actually empowers buyers

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

Benefits of offering financing

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

1. Increase average order value

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

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

2. Able to compete with larger retailers

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

3. Reduce abandoned cart rate

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

Is Ecommerce financing right for your business?

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

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

Offer Sezzle to your customers for Ecommerce financing

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

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

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

How does it affect the consumer experience?

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

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

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

 

Our thoughts on Sezzle

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

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

Shopify Ecommerce Financing options with SezzlePhoto by Brooke Lark

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

read time.

Read More