Shopify & Ecommerce Ramblings

A blog about building and extending awesome Shopify stores

 

Shopify Ecommerce Covid-19 Helping HandPhoto by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash

Online resources to help guide your ecommerce business through this pandemic

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

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

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

Monitor The Ecommerce Situation

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

What Shopify Themselves Are Offering

Shopify are supporting business owners in a number of ways:

Get your Offline Business Online

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

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

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

Free Shopify Setups

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

Free Enterprise Grade Push Notifications for 6 Months

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

In their own words:

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

Savings and Specials on Adobe Software

Adobe are offering substantial savings/special offers:

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

Discount & Extended Trials on Affinity Software

    Affinity are offering these three measures:

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

    Verso eBook & Book Specials

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

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

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

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

    Use ShoppingGives To Donate Directly to Those Affected

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

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

    Free Upsell App With Bold Commerce

    Bold Commerce are offering the following:

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

    25% Off Out of the Sandbox Themes

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

    • Use the code SPREADJOY at checkout

    Free Webex with Cisco

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

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

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

    If there are any offers or online resources during this time that you feel are valuable to add, please send your suggestions to ross@shopcreatify.com

    Subscribe for Updates

    We'll try to keep this list up to date with curated offerings but feel free to subscribe to our list and we'll try to update everyone periodically on this and related topics.

    Shopify Ecommerce Covid-19 Helping HandOnline resources to help guide your ecommerce business through this pandemic

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

    read time.

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    Ecommerce Automation
    Photo by Brett Jordan

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

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

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

    What is Ecommerce Automation?

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

    Typical Ecommerce Automation includes:

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

    How does Ecommerce Automation work?

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

    Where is the best place to implement Ecommerce Automation?

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

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

    What advantages are there of Ecommerce Automation?

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

    Operations 

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

    Marketing 

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

    Fraud Prevention

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

    Web Development

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

    What Ecommerce Automation Apps are there for my Shopify store?

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

    Shopify Flow

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

    Back in Stock

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

    Klaviyo

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

    SmartrMail

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

    Prisync

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

    Ecommerce Automation

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

    read time.

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    BFCM 2019 Shopify

    The question on the minds of everyone running an Ecommerce business at this time of year is ‘Am I ready for Black Friday?’. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Halloween, and the Festive Season looming you need to be absolutely sure you can cope with the influx of sales without compromising on the quality of your customer service. You also need to have all your marketing ducks in a row to capitalise on this phenomenal opportunity to boost your online sales.

    On Cyber Monday in 2018, US shoppers spent $7.9 billion online, on that day alone. Shopify, which has never gone down on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, processed over $1.5 billion in sales over the four days of BFCM.

    There is no better time than now to look at all your processes and start doing some upgrades and housekeeping. The size of your business will affect the scale of the undertaking but there are a few things we can point out for you that you should be taking into consideration in making the most of the craziness that is to come. The good news is that all the fruits of your efforts don’t just stop there, this will also put your Ecommerce business in good stead for the rest of the year too.

    Product

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

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

    If even one of these are questionable then consider not pushing that product to the front lines, or spend some resources tightening up your product strategy.

    Team

    Consider your current man-power, will you be able to cope with the influx of sales if business, say, doubles? If your projections for the rise in sales at the end of the year are solid (perhaps based on last years numbers - still accounting for growth during this year) then it should be quite easy to figure out whether you’re going to cope with fulfillment and customer support. If you need to hire some staff but don’t need a bigger team full-time, consider hiring seasonal staff or freelancers until things go back to normal.

    Make sure everyone is on board with the possibility of a bit of overtime during the 4-day bonanza that is Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and ensure they’re all on the same page about rotas and support. Things will very likely get hectic during this period with the influx of orders and the pressure to keep up with fulfillment, without also having to deal with housekeeping issues.

    Fulfillment

    Will you be able to keep up without compromising on something? Be smart about keeping track of your stock, perhaps look into Shopify apps like Stock2Shop to monitor stock levels to ensure you don’t sell products you don’t have stock of. This helps you to avoid customer frustration and to keep shipping deadlines. If the turnover for shipping is going to be longer, due to greater demand, make your customers aware of changes to expected delivery times or find a way to optimise your fulfillment processes. Try as much as possible to keep your fulfillment fast and efficient, while keeping your customers in the loop as much as possible.

    Given the likelihood of significantly more orders than usual over this period, consider putting a little something extra in your packages this year. A hand written note, a voucher for another purchase, a small free gift or anything else that you can budget for that will endear you to your customers and ensure a fruitful Q1 of 2020 as well as increased customer retention.

    Marketing

    Often most overlooked is the value of marketing, however it forms a firm pillar in the model for successful Ecommerce. It is indeed a broad term and covers everything that represents your brand online, as well as processes that go into generating new business opportunities. These are our top seven marketing initiatives to channel your energies into:

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

     

    Incentives

    A lot of brands use this as a great time to implement incentives such as discounts, buy-one-get-one-free deals, store points, or free shipping. These are great ways to try and win over customers from competitors who may be offering a similar product range. They also encourage repeat business and customer loyalty, especially if the reward system accumulates benefits with every purchase (for example).

    Warm up your customers in the weeks building up to the big event; hint at deals and discounts, encourage customers to build wish lists and share your content. You can even offer pre-ordering for limited stock items.

    Ecommerce Store

    Your Ecommerce store is the most important thing alongside your product, so use every metric at your disposal to iron out any UX issues or faults before the big day - you don’t want to miss out on sales or have your site go down. You can use Google Analytics metrics for user data, but also Shopify apps like Hotjar (a heat mapping tool) to find out where your users are getting stuck and make some tweaks. Just as a general rule, we’ve added some tips below to help prepare your website for this busy time:

    • Don’t launch anything too bold - now is not the time to test out something big and fancy, focus on making sure that what you have works perfectly.
    • Keep UX simple - make sure your path to purchase is clear and unhindered.
    • Conduct user testing - if you have the time, conduct some testing with your users to further fine tune your website to optimise its user-friendliness.

    Follow up

    Everything before this is going to set you up in good stead for everything BFCM can throw at you, but what about after the dust settles? There’s still plenty of work to do as the ripples of BFCM aftermath still offer a lot of potential for conversions:

    Abandoned carts

    Follow up with any of your customers who abandoned their carts by sending them an email to encourage them to complete the purchase. They may need help or you can offer a discount if they make the purchase within a tight timeframe (eg. in the next 24hrs or by 5pm, etc.).

    Stock clearance sale

    Throw a Black Friday clearance sale in the immediate weeks following to get rid of any extra stock, your customers will love it especially if they missed out on BFCM.

    Grow your mailing list

    You may have had a lot of first time buyers on your site; send them a mail to tempt them to sign up for your mailing list for more amazing specials (this is a great time to expand your customer database!).

    Transaction emails

    Repeat purchases, cross-selling, and gathering customer reviews should be on your radar now. Using your transactional emails and follow up emails to cleverly place related products in front of them is a great way to boost your repeat and cross-sell purchases. Encourage your customers to make further purchases with the incentive of time-sensitive discount coupons, or extend your free shipping deals.

    Planning for Black Friday 2020

    It’s a bit late now to be looking at conversion optimisation for 2019 BFCM, but you should be aiming to get ahead of things for next year and next year’s gifting season. For this, we now offer a stand-alone CRO service called ConversionBoost. It’s designed for established stores that already have a baseline of performance. Stores with a certain level of traffic and sales will see the best results. If you are just getting started, though, and want to know how you can best optimise your sales for your growing store, we can help too. Ready to take your Shopify store to the next level? Apply now.

    BFCM 2019 Shopify

    The question on the minds of everyone running an Ecommerce business at this time of year is ‘Am I ready for Black Friday?’. As Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Halloween, and the Festive Season are looming, you need to be absolutely sure you can cope with the influx of sales without compromising on the quality of your customer service. You also need to have all your marketing ducks in a row to capitalise on this phenomenal opportunity to boost your online sales.

    read time.

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    If your ecommerce store has been up and running for a while with purchases neatly ticking over but you’re not seeing the surge you expected to see by now, heat mapping is certainly something you should be adding to your process of optimisation. Heat maps could very well be one of the keys to understanding what problems your users are experiencing on your site and where they’re getting caught up instead of making purchases. Making random tweaks and changes to your site (like stabs in the dark) without the data to back it up is a waste of your valuable resources.

    There is a wealth of data available via your website’s analytics both on Google Analytics and Shopify’s analytics and reports that you could be using to pinpoint any issues or potential hurdles. However, heat mapping is arguably the easiest tool to use for this very purpose that almost anyone can understand. It’s visual and intuitive, making it a very popular tool for ecommerce optimisation amongst merchants.

    What is a heat map?

    A heat map is a visual representation in the form of graphical data where the values are depicted by colours. The heat map shows you what users are doing on your web page; where most popular elements are indicated with a hot spot (red) and unpopular elements are cold (blue). This helps you to immediately see where your users are clicking on, scrolling through or ignoring. It’s important to have this data, because it allows you to see how far users scroll, where they are clicking, and what they ignore or pay special attention to. It helps you to identify trends, or potential issues such as elements on a page appearing clickable when they are actually not.

    Hotjar
    See how areas of the page display a heat signature that indicate the more popular portions over the less popular ones.

    There are a number of different types of heat maps that help you investigate different aspects of user interaction on your website, we’ve listed them below:

    Scroll maps: These show you how far your users are scrolling down your page, the redder the area the more visitors have scrolled to that point. This is crucial if you want to know if users are reaching important information on that page.

    Click maps: These kinds of maps show you average data from interactions on both mobile and desktop devices. Desktop would show clicks and mobile would be taps or touches. Most clicked/tapped areas would appear red, then orange, then yellow. Click maps could help you determine if users are accessing certain areas of your site from a particular page, they can also show you where users might be getting distracted.

    Move maps: These show you how users are using their mouse to navigate the page, showing move patterns and pauses. Hot spots show most frequently paused at areas; research has shown to correlate between where people are looking and where their mouse points. Move maps are great at showing you what content is getting good attention, versus what is being mostly ignored.

    Desktop and mobile heat maps: Browsing on desktop is a very different experience to browsing on mobile, and side by side comparisons can help to show if the interactions differ as well. For example, some content on desktop may only appear much lower below the fold on mobile and could be getting lost.

    The benefits of using a heat map

    Heat maps take the guesswork out of identifying solutions to business-critical questions, such as low conversion rates or low user engagement and high bounce rates. They effectively show you exactly what your average user experience is, allowing you to determine whether they are reaching important content, able to find and use main page links such as the contact buttons, getting stuck on non-clickable elements, or having a device-specific issue.

    Making informed decisions backed by real data for tweaks and fixes to your website is crucial, and heat maps can help you get easier buy-in from other team members as heat maps are difficult to refute and simple enough for everyone to follow.

    How to create a heat map

    You can use your Google Analytics to view heat maps, or you could use a paid for service that provides a heat mapping tool such as Hotjar or CrazyEgg. Whether you can get by using your Google Analytics heat maps or whether a more feature-rich version is needed lies largely on how detailed you would like to go with your reporting on user interaction and how many visits you receive a month. Some heat mapping third-party apps have a trial or free version that you can try out and see if you like it first, which is always the best bet when there are lots of options.

    Google Analytics for heat mapping: You will need to install Google Chrome as your browser, if you don’t already use it, and then install the addon for Google Chrome – Page Analytics (by Google). It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that a dedicated heat mapping tool will have but it still gives you your users’ interactions on your website from a visual perspective. Perhaps this could be your introduction to using heat mapping to identify issues with your website and progress to a standalone third-party app thereafter. It’s free and easy to install with lots of how to’s on the internet.

    Hotjar: Hotjar is a dedicated heat mapping tool that you would need to sign up for. It is available for Shopify by installing the Hotjar Shopify app or manually adding the Hotjar tracking code to your Shopify theme. Add the tracking code (a JavaScript snippet) to your website and then go to your dashboard to start viewing your data. There is a free forever version, which they deem for ‘personal use’ that includes tracking for only 2000 pageviews. The smallest paid for package is called Plus, which is $29 per month and includes tracking 10 000 pageviews per day. The Professional package tracks $20 000 pageviews a day and that is $89 a month. Hotjar offer a 15-day free trial for you to test it out first.

    CrazyEgg: This heat mapping tool offers visual reports that include individual session recordings so that you can watch how a user interacts with your webpage. They also offer an A/B testing tool with a quick edit function to make simple aesthetic changes such as colours, fonts, hide elements, and then publish to live. Their basic plan is $24 a month to track 30 000 pageviews, 100 session recordings, on one website. This also includes unlimited A/B tests and edits, as well as 3 months’ recordings storage. CrazyEgg offers 30 days free to test.

    We use heat mapping in our evidence-based approach

    Our firm belief in a data-driven approach to website improvements to boost ecommerce conversion rates lead us to using heat mapping as an integral part of our analysis of customer websites. Our ConversionBoost service involves doing data collection and analysis in order to improve and enhance our merchants’ Shopify stores. Most of our customers who sign up for this service have established stores and are looking for optimisation to increase their sales conversions. We use analytics and heat mapping techniques to make evidence-based suggestions to effectively boost sales.

    Conclusion

    If you are looking to improve your online store’s performance, such as to increase conversion rates, lower bounce rates, and provide a better user experience for your visitors, then heat mapping will give you a better understanding as to how your users navigate your website. You will be able to make informed UX design decisions by easily identifying friction points in the experience. The data you collect can be sliced and diced by the device being used, the browser type, the purchasing behaviour, source, and more. Whether you use the simple version provided by Google or invest in a third-party app like Hotjar or CrazyEgg, you will be able to make your website better serve you and your customers to drive sales conversions.

    If you’d like to know more about how our ConversionBoost service take a look at the this page and feel free to reach out by emailing hello@shopcreatify.com if you have any questions.

    If your ecommerce store has been up and running for a while with purchases neatly ticking over but you’re not seeing the surge you expected to see by now, heat mapping is certainly something you should be adding to your process of optimisation.

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    ShopCreatify Core Clients on a map

    Ah, remote - a word that drums up visions of working in one’s pyjamas, regular trips to the local coffee shop, the ability to work your own hours and for some, including me, the joy of not needing to participate in forced associations with people not of my picking... nor office politics. Is remote working all it’s purported to be? Well… in short… at least for me and my current team, yes.

    Building a remote workforce like ours is perhaps not for everyone. Personally I’ve found it to be an incredible, rewarding experience with us now having a multi talented, multicultural and close knit team of 15 people distributed all around the world. With myself, a dual British / South African citizen living in Cape Town, David, a Brit living in Vienna, Alfredo in Chicago and the rest of the team -present and future- being completely non-dependant on their physical location, I believe we’re operating a truly globally distributed yet highly efficient setup.

    Why we're intentionally and proudly remote

    To sum up some of the reasons that there is currently no intention of us changing our remote ethos on the most part, here are a few beneficial factors that come to mind:

    1. We’re happier and healthier
      There is an argument to be made that us not being forced to congregate with potentially sick -or undesirable- colleagues in the same space allows us to have a better state of mind and health. We can choose who we share physical space with which may sometimes be our families, sometimes just our pets, or maybe just the waitress at the local coffee shop.
    2. It saves us time
      By not needing to commute nor needing to do things like book and wait for meeting rooms or boardrooms, we're more agile and able to get things done quickly, without the red tape nor time spent on the road or in packed trains. 
    3. It saves us money
      From a cost to company perspective, by not needing to invest in largely superfluous, showy and likely redundant commercial real estate we're able to not even factor these costs into our pricing to merchants. Without the need to commute this also helps each team member financially and this money can be invested into other areas of their lives, further improving the quality thereof and their general wellbeing.
    4. It improves productivity
      Through our ability to manage our own time and block out distractions we're able to avoid what is probably one of the biggest headache of traditional agency life, distractions. The time cost of context switching can be immense, so if one is good at blocking out time to focus, being in a position to do so without distraction allows the individual to get more done. Productivity is largely up to the individual… but suffice to say, you don’t have a middle manager tapping you on the shoulder every 5 minutes. If you don't believe me, I'm not the only one claiming this to be the case.
    5. It widens our selection pool of talent
      This should actually be point #1 for the business aspect. With no barriers in terms of physical location of the team members and a propensity for highly talented and specialised individuals desiring remote positions, we have a far larger pool of available talent to bring onboard. As long as communication skills, an exceptional work ethic and an above average ability to do the work is present, they’re eligible to be considered to work with us.
    6. Our carbon footprint is smaller
      Since we’re commuting less, not only to and from work, but also through applying the same principles of remote contact with our clients, our impact on the environment is considerably less than those that do commute regularly. Yes we’ll meet clients face to face when necessary or convenient, but as it stands, of our entire current clientbase (including some engagements spanning over 4+ years), we’ve rarely -if ever- met them them face to face other than Zoom / Skype video calls.

    There are some pretty big name tech companies that operate with or were even founded with a remote mindset and workforce. Some of the bigger names I found in our industry of web technology and ecommerce include Github, Harvest, Zapier, Invision and Shopify’s star player Recharge. I'd need to confirm it to be the case but even Shopify's team is largely a remote workforce. Interestingly, even the company (Automattic) behind the platform that powers over 30% of the internet (Wordpress) makes use of an almost entirely distributed workforce. There is an amusingly titled book on it too which I will not confirm nor deny whether it forms an integral part in my thoughts on the topic.

    Quintin -our creative director- recently gave a talk at our local Shopify Meetup and a couple of the slides in his presentation were actually the inspiration for this article. In them, he neatly pinned out the locations of our core client base on a map of the world:

    ShopCreatify Clients

    as well as doing the same for our team:

    ShopCreatify Team

    How we manage to do this

    Giving a "paint-by-numbers" guide to getting an operation to a point where it's running like ours is not really possible but I'll attempt to articulate how we have managed to get it as right as we have. Essentially for us it has been a case of very intentionally aiming to make it work in spite of the challenges that the approach poses, and it does pose challenges.

    There are some downsides to having a remote workforce, so to be open about them, acknowledging them and either addressing them or accepting them for what they are was really important.

    Some people do crave the watercooler discussions, the office romances, the sense of community you may find in a workspace where you're physically present. In my research for this article I found that while some agency owners fully embrace remote as a legitimate approach to building their businesses, others are either not convinced, or only allow it in a limited fashion. The main reason for their aversion seems to revolve around team building and a sense of community and while I don't disregard their views on this, I feel that while it will be different, this can still be achieved with a remote team.

    Ultimately, what I'd attribute our ability to operate effectively can be narrowed down to the below factors.

    1. Clear and regular communication
    2. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
    3. Strong project management

    Of course there are many factors that will result in an operation moving forward strongly like good selection of team members, paying the team well, focusing on delivering quality and meeting milestones / deadlines, but those are factors that should apply to any business, remote or not.

    The three factors above I believe have been the key elements that have allowed us to not only operate smoothly, but gradually and iteratively grow the business without even needing to add more people. It's truly inspiring to see how efficient a business can be when the focus has been on making things run smoothly while concurrently focusing 100% on the success of our merchant clients.

    Software

    Of course there are tools that we're using that are absolutely indispensable, and without them this business would not have even been possible. The list of software solutions we use is reasonably long and mileage will vary depending on each organisation and their specific needs, and people have preferences, but to name some of the key players here goes:

    Google GSuite is without a doubt one of the most useful solutions to the whole email / collaborative documents & spreadsheets and forms debacle. It's a solution we recommend to all of our clients and find little reason to look elsewhere.

    Slack has become one of those ubiquitous solutions in most tech companies around the world and it really does bring a significant amount of value to our operation. Communication is fluent, prompt and it allows us to keep all the right people in the loop on all relevant fronts.

    Asana is another key component in our day to day running. We took a fair bit of time deciding on what project management software to use -Basecamp, Jira and Teamwork were the runner ups- and while it takes a bit of time to tame, we don't regret the decision one bit. Interesting to note that we "graduated" from Trello to Asana since ultimately while the former is great software, it was too generic for our needs and Asana brought a lot more to the table for our business.

    There are of course plenty of other solutions we've implemented including business / workflow / productivity solutions like Zapier, Harvest, Calendly, aText, Zoom, Jotform and design & development tools / platforms like Github, Deploybot, Sketch, Invision and Loom.

    As mentioned above, the list can be reasonably long and ever changing and while they're not all free, having kept a keen eye on the costs over time and remaining vigilant with culling the redundant wares as we progress, they're still -cumulatively- extremely affordable on the grand scheme of things.

    Conclusion

    Yeah, this is a bit of an opinion piece, but I've tried to apply some reasoning and maybe it will be of benefit to others in a similar situation.

    My overriding feeling currently, after creating and growing this business over the past 4.5yrs is that embracing a remote approach to building a business in modern times is perfectly viable and possibly the better option for many entrepreneurs. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for us, to date it has been a great model.

    I hope this article was useful to you and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via our contact page and I'll do my best to help.

    ShopCreatify Core Clients on a map

    Ah, remote - a word that drums up visions of working in one’s pyjamas, regular trips to the local coffee shop, the ability to work your own hours and for some, including me, the joy of not needing to participate in forced associations with people not of my picking... nor office politics. Is remote working all it’s purported to be? Well… in short… at least for me and my current team, yes.

    read time.

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    Social Responsibility in Ecommerce
    Photo by Ben White

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

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

    Ethical consumerism is driving social responsibility

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

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

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

    How Millennials are shaping consumer consciousness

    Millennials shaping consumer consciousness
    Photo by Perry Grone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How to make your business more Socially Conscious

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

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

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

    Introducing ShoppingGives

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

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

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

    For this amount they include the following:

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

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

    ShoppingGives Impact Calculator

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

    Do we recommend it?

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

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

    Social Responsibility in Ecommerce

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

    read time.

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    Transactional emails in Shopify ecommerce

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

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

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

    What are transactional emails?

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

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

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

    Why are they considered low hanging fruit for repeat business?

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

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

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

    Shopify transactional email revenue

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

    Shopify transactional email conversion rate differences

    What do we mean by customising transactional emails?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Customising transactional emails on Shopify

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


    Spently

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

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

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

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

    Spently comparison before and after.

    How much does it cost?

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

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

    Do we recommend it?

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

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

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

    Transactional emails in Shopify ecommerce

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

    read time.

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    Shopify Unite Conference 2019

    Having now recovered from the three day journey back from Toronto, Canada, I thought it worthwhile to put together some words and pictures to document my journey to the annual Shopify Unite conference.

    This is actually the first time ShopCreatify has had a presence at Unite. It was the fourth time Shopify have hosted the event since its inception and based on peer pressure from other folk in the Shopify ecosystem, we decided it was worthwhile to attend.

    Important Note: If you're looking for a list of announcements from Unite, I've obliged by creating a digest at the end of this article with links to the respective sources. Also, if you're looking for specific information about what was announced, you can also check out Shopify's comprehensive article on this here and also go and give a listen to Kurt and Paul talk about it in the Unofficial Shopify Podcast.

    The Journey Begins

    Unfortunately things started off a bit shaky with all BA flights out of Cape Town being delayed (fog I believe) forcing me to have to forfeit my initial departure date since I'd miss all my connecting flights. The original journey was intended to be:

    Cape Town > Johannesburg > Heathrow > Gattwick (drive) > Toronto

    It turned out to be a blessing in disguise since not only did they reduce my legs down to Cape Town > Heathrow > Toronto, they also bumped me up from economy to business class for the first leg. 

    Shopify Unite Journey from Heathrow
    A view from the boarding lounge at Heathrow. BA has quite a flock... or is that fleet?

    After a short layover and coffee break in Heathrow with my brother -where I had to frantically apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization Visa that my travel agent hadn't mentioned- I departed for the final leg to Toronto.

    Shopify Unite 2019 Liberty Village Airbnb
    I was pleasantly surprised at the nice quiet, leafy suburban feeling Airbnb location in Liberty Village. Complete with squirrels and maple trees.

    To be perfectly honest, I didn't really know what I was in for when it came to my Airbnb. Turns out there was no cause for concern. Just over a mile from the conference venue, clean, and in a quiet road in Liberty Village, I managed to score a great priced and super convenient location. I couldn't have been happier.

    Night 1 - Bold Commerce Pre-Event

    Jet-lagged or not, I headed out from my airbnb to the pre-event hosted by Bold Commerce and a few others including Rise.ai (formerly GiftWizard) at the Steam Whistle Brewery in central Toronto.

    Shopify Unite Bold Commerce Pre Event Panel
    The panel at the Bold meetup in the Steamwhistle Brewery in Toronto.

    The first familiar faces (actually just the name since we'd never chatted with video on) were Ines and Alejandro from GetMore.mx. I sat through the panel discussion with them which was interesting but brief. I actually appreciated this in my fragile lack-of-sleep condition. After meeting a few other people, some I'd only met via Zoom calls or in our global agency Slack, some just new... I headed out for a breather and promptly decided to jettison myself to the highest point of the CN tower... so I did.

    Shopify Unite 2019 Bold Commerce Pre-Event
    My view of the Steamwhistle Brewery from the CN Tower and a shot I took of the tower later that same evening.

    On my return from the (extended) breather I met up with long time collaborators of ours Peter and Loughlin from Milkbottle who came all the way Dublin. Excellent guys and we ended up having a great chat over dinner and beer. That was it though... I was pretty broken so Ubered (is that a word?) back to my Airbnb for a proper sleep.

    Day 1 - Sorta Kinda... actually just registration

    After a proper sleep, I headed off to the Beanfield Centre on foot (only ~1.9km from my Airbnb) and subsequently came to realise that I was walking part of the Toronto Indy race circuit. They were actually setting up the grand stand scaffolding but I was saddened to hear that the race is only in late July. Probably good because Unite wouldn't have been possible with an Indy race happening.

    Shopify Unite 2019 Arrival and Registration
    Me looking decidedly South African in shorts on arrival at the Shopify Unite registration day.

    With typical Canadian friendliness (it's true, it really, really is!) I got registered, my badge, some swag and a custom printed shirt from their on-site while-you-wait screen printers.

    Having a pre-arranged lunch with my partner contact at Bold, Lauren, I headed off to meet her at The Craft and serendipitously bumped into her on the walk there. We had a great chat following which I set out on the longest walk I've done in recent memory to find a new bag (mine's strap broke on the flight in).

    Shopify Unite 2019 Walking Toronto
    Some visuals from my many walks around Toronto.

    I think I totalled over 10km walking that day already and should probably have called it there... but no... there was a happy hour to attend still! So after getting some food in my face and setting off for another walk, I hit the Drake and soon met up with Canadian local Matt from Voltage and Leighton & Andy from Envision. A thriving event packed with people, but the happy hour came to an end around 8pm and we decided to head out for dinner.

    Outside the Drake, we conveniently met up with some long time contacts Karl from RedFoxBanjo, Tom from Burst Commerce and the guys from Electric Eye Chase & Shawn. Others too, but it's such an overload for my brain to remember all the names and companies, so suffice to say it was a networking festival of note.

    A bunch of us set off to grab some dinner at the most local looking place we could find. I tried some Poutine - Canada's claimed local cuisine and as Karl put it "it tastes like fries with gravy". I found that to be 100% accurate... but yes, I enjoyed it.

    After another seemingly very long day, I walked back to the Airbnb and think I crashed for the best sleep I've had in a long while.

    Day 2 - Actually day 1 with the keynotes etc.

    For some reason I decided to go down for the main opener really early and I think I was let in before they started to stop people at the door. Unintentionally sneaky of me. Some of my contacts were stuck outside while they prepped the main stage... but I was already in and got some work done in the lounge area.

    The keynotes were fun, if not a bit long. Some great announcements were made, which I've listed out at the end of this article, and Shopify's share price spiked shortly I think during and definitely in the hours thereafter.

    Shopify Unite 2019 Keynote
    Announcement of the new Shopify mobile phone tap & chip case.

    The standout announcements for myself were the enhancements to the theming in Shopify as well as the massive announcement about the fulfillment network.

    There was also an AMA (ask me anything) with Tobi Lutke, the founder of Shopify. It was pretty revealing and gave a glimpse into the mind of someone that planted a seed and has grown it into what is -according to Shopify- the third largest online retailer in the world when you combine all the merchants using the platform.

    Shopify Unite 2019 Tobi Lutke ama
    Tobi Lutke being grilled (not really) with questions about Shopify and the future of the platform.

    The food was really good in the aptly named Unite Cafe -complete with coffee from Starbucks- and then we migrated to the lounge area where I had worked from earlier in the day. From there it was a smorgasbord of networking where I got to meet the camo jacket wearing posterboy of Shopify partners Kurt Elster and his business partner Paul Reda... and all their documentary filmmaking gadgets, Kelly from Taproom, Sara and R. V. d. from Mote, the guys from Spently... and honestly, just so many others I can't bring myself to try and recollect them all and turn this into a painful paragraph to read. Name dropping isn't my thing.

    The day culminated in a great dinner out with Kurts (Elster and Bullock) and a bunch of other cool guys. We were introduced to the Canadian "Caesar" which is definitely something I'd like to try and make my own now that I'm back.

    Another Uber, and time to reset for day 3.

    Day 3 - Lightning talks, office hours etc.

    On this day I broke with my newfound tradition and started a bit later than I'd hoped. It wasn't too serious and my attendance at the conference consisted mostly of networking, attending some of the talks and workshops with Karl.

    Shopify Unite 2019 Session
    Karl looking decidedly uneasy about the idiot next to him doing a panoramic photo. That or this is his concentration face.

    I achieved one of the main things I wanted to with my attendance and that was to meet the founder of Out of the Sandbox Brad Miller. Conveniently we shared the front row in a talk about Shopify theming (surprise surprise) and I got to meet Anne and him directly thereafter. He's taller than I imagined... apparently height is one thing that people are surprised by when they meet people in person for the first time after knowing them for a while online.

    We discussed their new theme which I won't name since it hasn't been officially announced at the time of me writing this as far as I'm aware. Needless to say, we're excited to look at putting it into our arsenal of Shopify store production weapons.

    Following the day's events, I went for a long walk along the side of the lake (fresh water ocean if you ask me) with Karl and Matt which ended with us parting ways, them going to the official afterparty and me having a sunset call with Quintin, my business partner from the water's edge.

    Shopify Unite 2019 - Great Lake Toronto
    Not a bad view while chatting to Quintin back in Cape Town.

    It felt kinda strange to be on that end of the time zone difference. Odd in a way, but I can also see how beneficial it can be since I woke up every morning with so much to review and do because a lot of my team had already been up and working for more than half the day. An interesting and revealing observation.

    An early night for a change and some needed rest for the final day of Unite was on the cards for me. Apparently the afterparty was really good, but the idea of Facetiming my wife and kids back home was more appealing. Call me an old fuddy duddy if you will.

    Day 4 - The grand finale & a Blue Jays game

    The final day of the conference followed much the same formula as the preceding day and I don't have a lot of new information to add for it.

    The closing keynote by Atlee Clark, Director of Partner Platform was quite heartfelt and touching and seemed a suitable closing talk with her speaking about a Shopify store that she herself is in the process of launching. Great to know that even some of the higher-ups in Shopify's own ranks are using their own platform.

    I did manage to try the much talked about Canadian famous beaver's tail which turned out to be just a flat donut-like pastry. Tasty.

    As much as the final day of Unite was great, I think everyone was all networked out, our elevator pitches permanently tattooed on the inside of our skulls and our business card pile looking rather depleted... not mine though, as I chose to go with a QR code printed on my shirt but found direct Linkedin exchanges to be a lot easier... I was travelling light.

    As earlier planned with Peter and Loughlin from Milkbottle, we chose to hit the Toronto Blue Jays vs Los Angeles Angels final game at the Rogers Centre. I'd say this was one major highlight of my trip. The stadium was incredibly impressive with the retractable roof, and the game kept my interest from the first pitch... also my first live baseball game.

    Shopify Unite 2019 - Baseball at Rogers Stadium
    Inside Rogers Centre on a rainy night watching the Toronto Blue Jays beat the LA Angels.

    And that was it. Done and dusted, the Shopify Unite conference for 2019 was officially over and most people headed off home, some driving back to different parts of Canada and the United states and us overseas travellers preparing for the long haul back.

    I did manage to have lunch with Ines and Alejandro on my final full day in Toronto at a great vegan spot called Fresh on Spadina. I think they -and I- were a bit tired of burgers and deep fried foods, so it made a welcome change.

    The trip back

    Getting home was far less eventful than the up-trip with the exception of a long stopover in London. This allowed me to spend most of it with my brother and sister-in-law, grab some toys for the kids from Hamleys and even take the founder of one of our favourite merchant clients, FoldaBox, to a proper British roast lunch at the Smokehouse in Islington.

    River Thames
    What would a stopover in London be without a shot of the River Thames!

    Needless to say, after a near 3 day journey back, I required a couple of days to recover, but now -Friday- I'm putting this all together before the memories fade.

    Was it worth it?

    One of the biggest, most niggling questions in my mind since I first signed up for Unite was "will it be worth it for us?" and to be quite frank, I don't yet know.

    I think it was, and I feel the connections I made, or strengthened by attending may be worth the time and cost of quite a significant journey. We're talking about a relative homebody that -while I'm fine speaking at meetups in front of a crowd- I don't particularly like the networking vibe.

    Yes it was a bit of an adventure, it was my first time on that continent and the fact that people drive on the wrong side of the road was odd, but all in all I think going to the biggest partner event that Shopify currently offers, and it was big... like over 1,800 delegates, I hope the effort, time and cost was worth it.

    Time will tell. We're already doing very well as it stands with the Shopify platform and an excellent existing client base across the globe, so in short it certainly won't do any harm.


    Shopify's Recap of Announcements

    According to Shopify's own highlights recap, the following was announced at this year's conference. You can read their full article to get further context.

    • A reimagined design experience for your online store
      • Easier customization at the page and store level. 
      • Portable content that moves with you. 
      • A new workspace to update your store. 
    • Bring your products to life with video and 3D models
      • Manage media through a single location.
      • Deploy through the new Shopify video player.
      • New editor apps.
    • Cutting edge merchandising with custom storefront tools
      • Connect microservices to create personalized experiences.
      • Turn the world into your storefront.
      • Speedy and scalable to have development teams work in parallel.
    • Build lasting customer loyalty with retail shoppers
      • Apply discounts lightning-quick.
      • Important information at your fingertips.
      • Create small moments of delight.
    • Grow globally with seamless cross-border selling
    • Announcing the Shopify Fulfillment Network
      • A single back office.
      • Recommended warehouse locations.
      • Low stock alerts.
      • 99.5% order accuracy.
      • Hands-on warehouse help.

    Kurt Elster's Shopify Unite 2019 Notes

    I also took the liberty of reaching out to Kurt Elster from the Unofficial Shopify Podcast if I could share some of his notes which he graciously permitted and  which I've posted below. Be sure to check out his podcast though. He has some great content on there and interviews some great players in the ecommerce industry... even me.

    Online store:

    • Site-wide sections
    • Apps can add sections
    • Product pages have parent and child templates
    • Content portability: all content lives outside theme, simplifying theme changes
    • Native video & 3-D support on product pages
    • Check-out app extensions for native integrations of things like subscriptions
    • Multi-currency checkout rolling out to all merchants
    • Multi-language API for native localized content

    POS:

    • Tap & chip case for mobile orders. Apple store like experience. Printed with a custom logo.
    • Cart extension apps.
    • Entirely redesigned POS interface
    • Native “buy online pick up in store”

    Admin:

    • New “shipping profiles” to assign product-specific shipping rules.
    • Order editing!!!

    Plus:

    • All new interface: centralized view of multiple stores
    • Multistore dashboard for customers, orders, Flow automation, etc
    • Future: cloning & store sync
    • Multi-store staff managed in one place

    Apps:

    • Command line interface tool to make dev easier
    • Shopify App Bridge: one library to rule them all, and create more embedded apps
    • GraphQL improvements mean faster apps
    • More stable apps because of API versioning. (Keeps apps from breaking when the API changes.)

    Shopify Fulfillment Network:

    • 2 days to deliver
    • 99.9% order accuracy
    • Multichannel support
    • Custom packaging & branding
    • Returns/exchange support
    • Now: Merchants of every size. (10-10,000 orders/day)
    • Later: Merchants of every size. (3-30,000 orders/day)
    • Beta complete, apply for early access at shopify.com/fulfillment

    When: Most updates had a timeline of "Available later this year"


    Shopify Unite Conference 2019

    Having now recovered from the three day journey back from Toronto, Canada, I thought it worthwhile to put together some words and pictures to document my journey to the annual Shopify Unite conference.

    read time.

    Read More

    Leaving money on the table

    You ticked all the boxes when you set up your ecommerce website, you spent time and resources on good marketing channels, and you’re getting loads of targeted traffic, but you’re not seeing the sales numbers you’d expect.

    Unsurprisingly, this is not uncommon for ecommerce sites. Every year dozens of studies and surveys are done to determine the dreaded cart abandonment rate; in 2017 the rate was 78.65% (slightly higher than in 2016 when it was 77.24%). This means that over 3/4 of shoppers choose to leave a site without completing a purchase.

    So what is it that causes large amounts of online shoppers to go so far, but never convert to a sale? A fair portion of this is due to “window shopping”, where customers browse an online store only to do research or compare products and prices, but what about the rest?

    Factors contributing to low sales conversions

    There are a number factors at play that can drastically affect how a consumer feels about making a purchase from your online store; everything from first impressions, usability, to whether or not they feel safe inputting their credit card details. If a customer finds your website difficult to navigate or struggles to find what they are looking for, the sheer frustration will likely turn them to a competitor - after all, online shopping is supposed to be more convenient than going into a brick-and-mortar store!

    Other factors such as the kind of information you supply, whether or not you include shipping, and other finer details will need to stand out against your competitors’ to snag that conversion. When it comes to making payment, even the most regular and blasé of online shoppers is far more vigilant on payment pages and gateways than on any other webpage. If your payment gateway or process is convoluted or takes them too far out of their comfort zone, your customer is sure to put their credit card back in their wallet.

    There is a long list of other factors that impact your potential for sales conversions and a lot of ways to improve it, but unfortunately there is no single fix that will work for all. Ecommerce stores are all unique, and one is often blind to the issues on one’s own site. This is why it requires a fresh perspective and a trained eye to weed out the problems.

    I’m leaving money on the table… How do I fix that?

    If you’ve come to this realisation, we’d like you to know that there is plenty we can do for you. It is absolutely possible to convert your Shopify store into one that inspires, informs and makes your customers feel safe when buying from you.

    Our ConversionBoost service works in a 3-step process; first we analyse your website using data analysis tools as well as conduct a manual evaluation. Secondly, we apply any recommended changes gathered from our data-driven insights. And finally, we test and refine your online store over time by adding new features and optimising existing journeys. You won’t be leaving anything on the table, but rather you will enjoy higher conversion rates, better revenue numbers, and increased average cart sizes.

    Leaving money on the table

    You ticked all the boxes when you set up your ecommerce website, you spent time and resources on good marketing channels, and you’re getting loads of targeted traffic, but you’re not seeing the sales numbers you’d expect.

    read time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read the article on SEO for Shopify here.

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

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

    read time.

    Read More
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