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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BJ Minson, founder of Grip6 inspecting his product made in USA

Grip6’s BJ Minson talks belt flaps, Chinese manufacturing, and marketing mess-ups

Grip6 Work Belt

Taking risks, accepting failure and doing things himself are all part of Grip6 founder BJ Minson’s recipe for success. The American belt manufacturer, and ShopCreatify client, sold 350,000 belts in 2019.

Grip6 has humble beginnings. For 10 years after school, Minson did odd jobs from construction to painting houses. He also tried to start a business making and selling specialized hospital beds, but was frustrated when he was faced with structural problems he couldn’t solve.  

“I was sawing and welding and doing what an engineer without a degree would do. I realized projects weren’t working out as well as I’d hoped,” says Minson. During this time, he started a family and soon realized he couldn’t afford a house or reach his other financial goals on odd jobs alone. So Minson went back to school. It was a long process and he had to take six semesters of math before he was at the level of the other mechanical engineering students.

While Minson wrapped up his studies, he worked as a junior engineer for a medical company. He continued with his own side-projects in the hope it would give him the experience he needed to apply for a product design job.

The beginnings of a belt

One of Minson’s side-projects was a wallet: small, flat and rectangular. It fitted six cards which popped up when the sides were squeezed. “The wallets were fairly complicated inside, mechanically, and I couldn’t just make them myself because I knew nothing about manufacturing.” After failing to find an affordable, local manufacturer, he gave up on the wallet.

BJ Minson demonstrating the strength of the Grip6 beltDemonstrating the strength of the G6 belt in a video on the Kickstarter campaign back in 2014

Soon after that he designed a belt – Grip6’s signature product – after being irritated by his own belts. He’d thought cutting his leather belt shorter to stop it from flapping around was a good solution, but his wife disagreed. “She said it was the ugliest belt she’d ever seen and that it looked ridiculous!” He then used a nylon army belt, but didn’t like how the thick buckle stuck out under his shirt.

“I then thought if I design a belt that’s really simple, it should be easy enough to manufacture myself.” The belt he designed uses a single piece of webbing, a single piece of metal for the buckle, doesn’t require any sewing and has no buckle holes. Unlike traditional belts, the material properties of the Grip6 belt creates friction that holds it in place without slipping.

Marketing and manufacturing mishaps

In 2014 Minson launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. He was stunned when he received 10,000 belt orders. He reached out to local manufacturers to make the belts but was met with slow responses, long timelines and quotes that were much higher than he’d priced the belts. Even worse, Minson was repeatedly encouraged to manufacture his belts in China. “Everybody told us that if you don’t make your belts in China, you’re dumb and probably not going to succeed.”

Minson was dead set against this. He’d been astounded by the bad quality of his children’s toys, most of which were made in China. “They’d use the toys once before they’d break. It made no sense from a moral perspective that people were producing garbage and shipping it around the world just to be thrown away almost immediately.

“I wanted to make the belts locally in the United States, so that the quality would be high and to reinvest in ourselves as a country and in manufacturing.”

Without a manufacturer, Minson and a friend set about making the 10,000 belts themselves, by hand. “I bought a couple of small hand tools and started production in my garage. For six months we worked our butts off. We’d finish at our full-time jobs and then work another eight to 10 hours at night. I had got myself stuck in a situation that I hadn’t thought through very well, but at least I had a product people wanted.”

Minson spent the following year figuring out how to market his belts. “We didn’t know anything about marketing and that scared me.” He hired the best marketing company he could find, paying them with money left over from his Kickstarter campaign and by selling belts at county fairs and trade shows.

But the marketing company let Minson down with a website that despite being attractive, was built on the wrong platform and marketing campaigns that lead nowhere. He then hired someone a friend recommended to do Facebook marketing for his company. It worked and Grip6 sold 70,000 belts in its third year.

Now in its sixth year, Grip6 employs 43 people and its sales are up 80% from 2019.

Grip6’s belt sales have increased significantly since it launched in 2014

We do it ourselves

After his negative experiences with manufacturers and marketers, Minson decided to do as much as he could inhouse.

“If we can do something ourselves, we should so that when a problem comes along, we’re not relying on somebody else to fix it. We like to be in control. This concept of relying on somebody else just means you’re running away from gaining the knowledge yourself.”

This philosophy has seen Grip6 invest significant amounts in machinery, people and learning processes. “Ultimately that’s meant we’ve been able to do things cheaper, more efficiently and at a better quality.”  

Grip6 Product PageGrip6's conversion optimized product page showcasing their unique products.

Despite this, Minson says it wouldn’t have made financial sense to hire a full-time web developer. After using numerous Shopify developers, they found ShopCreatify two years ago and have been a client ever since. “Ross [Allchorn] fills that gap and his team does well as an extension of Grip6. If you have to use outside people, use those who are as close philosophically and capability-wise as you are.”

Take risks, learn from failures

Minson’s philosophy doesn’t stop at doing things in-house. He isn’t afraid of taking risks or failing, so much so that the Grip6 website says: “Follow us as we struggle, misstep and learn.”

He’s trying to add two new products to the Grip6 range: the wallet he designed eight years ago, and socks. Both have already seen Grip6 make significant investments into failed manufacturing, new machinery and time spent learning how to use the machines. Six months after starting on the wallet and a year after starting on the socks, Grip6 is at last producing test products before being manufactured for sale. The socks endeavor alone cost the company around $250,000.

“If we’re not risking something, we get into a mental state where we’re too afraid to grow, because growth involves risks. We’re willing to take many risks as long as it’s not so big it puts the company out of business. It might cost us a lot of money but if we’re successful it really pays off. I’m perfectly fine with failure as long as it comes with a lesson to be learnt.”

Minson says that despite taking so many risks he’s actually financially conservative. Grip6 has only ever taken out a loan to buy a particularly expensive laser cutting machine. “Every other machine in our shop, millions of dollars’ worth, has been paid for in cash. We’ve been cash positive from the garage onwards. We don’t believe in getting into debt.”

Covid-19 and the future

Minson believes that these philosophies have helped Grip6 weather the Covid-19 crisis. When the virus hit the USA, sales dropped by 25%. But Minson’s best friend, who is now in charge of Grip6’s marketing, noticed that online advertising had become significantly cheaper after many people stopped advertising when the pandemic started. Grip6 decided to increase their ad spend and “all of a sudden we’re hitting months that are far above what we’re used to and very similar to our busiest time of year”.

And because Grip6 manufactures everything itself, it wasn’t affected when international trade came to a grinding halt. It’s business as usual at the Salt Lake City, Utah plant, with staff wearing masks and adhering to other safety and social distancing protocol.

Despite this, Minson is nervous about the future. He knows that Covid-19 is likely to slow the world economy down for the next 12 to 18 months and is aware that his good business run is unlikely to continue indefinitely.

“We’re being extra cautious financially and building up the bank account in the expectation that the sales will probably drop off in the near future. We’re saving our money, launching new products and looking for other growth opportunities.”

He has encouraging words for other online businesses:

“There’s this once in a lifetime thing happening, and it’s pretty bad. But if you’re smart and you look around, there are opportunities to grow and to find silver linings.”

BJ Minson, founder of Grip6 inspecting his product made in USA

Taking risks, accepting failure and doing things himself are all part of Grip6 founder BJ Minson’s recipe for success. The American belt manufacturer, and ShopCreatify client, sold 350,000 belts in 2019. BJ Minson talks belt flaps, Chinese manufacturing, and marketing mess-ups.

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Chase Clymer, host of Honest Ecommerce's interviewed ShopCreatify's Ross Allchorn in a recent podcast. In this episode they discuss how the pandemic has affected Ecommerce in South Africa and around the world, and what merchants should be focusing on during this time. 

While ShopCreatify has a distributed team that spans the world, there are a couple of teammates and customers with Ecommerce stores based in South Africa, giving Ross a unique perspective to offer.

Chase Clymer, Ross Allchorn

Chase Clymer, host of Honest Ecommerce's interviewed ShopCreatify's Ross Allchorn in a recent podcast. In this episode they discuss how the pandemic has affected Ecommerce in South Africa and around the world, and what merchants should be focusing on during this time. 

While ShopCreatify has a distributed team that spans the world, there are a couple of teammates and customers with Ecommerce stores based in South Africa, giving Ross a unique perspective to offer.

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Sharpening your Ecommerce Conversion Rates

Photo by Malte Wingen

This list is compiled as much as a resource for us to refer back to when looking to optimize a client store for conversions as it is a collection of information that we thought would be good to share with other Shopify partners, experts and merchants.

Shopify Dashboard showing impressive growth

Below is the list available at a glance and the rest of the this page elaborates on what to consider and do for each of them.

  1. Enhance your Search
  2. Use Product Videos
  3. Improve your Navigation
  4. Add a Site-Wide Promo Bar
  5. Use and Promote Social Proof & Reviews
  6. Up-sell, Cross-Sell and Bundle
  7. Emphasize Call-to-Actions
  8. Add Guarantees, Trust Seals & Value Propositions
  9. Incentivise email subscription
  10. Localise
  11. Give a Stock level indication
  12. Add a Countdown timer
  13. Provide back-in-stock notification
  14. Recover your Abandoned Carts

There will undoubtedly be many other things you can do to increase conversions, but if you haven't implemented all or some of these, doing so will very likely have a marked impact on your store's performance.

Enhance Your Search

Enhanced search on Shopify

Google has changed the way we use the internet and depending on which way you look at it, it's either a pain or something really great. Focusing on the positive, the user experience enhancement that comes from a good quality search feature on your site is of great value to you as a merchant, especially if your product catalogue is not small.

Search is now an expected feature on a site; and not just the ability for you to type in a word or phrase, hit search and get some form of result, but to have good quality suggestions shown to you based on what you're typing, and even while you're typing too. Where we're at in technology these days the suggestions given while typing would look like mind reading wizardry in the past.

Thankfully there are options for you as a merchant when it comes to enhancing your search and subsequently improving the "findability" of your products. Usually this would come in the form of an app and there are a few to choose from.

Use Product Videos

Videos to promote conversion on Shopify ecommerce stores

People have researched the phenomenon and statistics are pretty clear that the use of video in your store is a good idea to promote conversion. Combine this with the fact that most if not all of you have a smartphone in your pocket capable of high definition video, there isn't much of an excuse to not be tapping into this means of promotion.

We've personally used animated "explainer" videos for our own stores and client stores which are -in our experience- best produced by Bread and Beyond. We also have a number of merchant clients that produce their own videos with either the founder or some other personality in the company explaining things in basic and succinct terms. These days you can even edit the videos into something presentable on your phone itself.

It's also important to note that these videos shouldn't only be on your home page or hidden away on a "videos" page but can and should go on your product page since this is likely your point of conversion. 

You can always embed videos in the description field of the product, and if you're smart enough to be using one of the Out of the Sandbox themes, you can even put videos into the main image carousel

Improve your Navigation

Enhanced navigation in Shopify

Most Shopify themes come with "sufficient" navigation options with the ability for dropdown and fly-out menus, but merely sufficient isn't going to earn you any extra points with your customers. Points being conversions.

I'd list out the following main points to consider when improving your navigation:

  1. Make use of a good mega nav type structure. This allows you to merchandise products from within your navigation and drastically improve findability and subsequently your customer's user experience.
  2. Keep your navigation laser focused by segmenting it into logical groupings. By this I mean keep your product related navigation together and your "other" information like customer service, returns, t's & c's and account related stuff in their own spaces. In the screenshot of MVMT watches you can clearly see that the left of the header is product related while the right is more user related.
  3. Don't fear redundancy. Sometimes putting a link in multiple places is good practice. For instance, mirroring your top level categories in your footer will drive internal traffic with customers that have finished reading your terms, or viewing a product that wasn't exactly what they were looking for. Give your customers multiple ways of getting to different places on your site. People have different habits on the web, so try to give them as many practical options to navigate around your site.

It's important to note that although your customers need access to the more meta things your site has to offer (login, refund policies, contact us, about us etc.) 99/100 times you want your product to be front and centre. People looking for those other things will find them in your footer or wherever is a good place to put the links that don't clutter your interface.

Add a Site-wide Promo Bar

Promotion bar in Shopify.

Like in the example above from GymShark, it's useful for you and your customer to have a bar on your site that can offer up promotions or at least communicate value propositions like free shipping or perhaps a link to a clearance collection.

Often these types of elements would only be added on the home page or in one specific area of the site. This restricts the reach of this message to only people that came in via your home page (often they don't) and is a lost opportunity to drive conversions. If the element is site-wide or "global", it will allow you to offer this information to anyone, anywhere on the site.

Use and Promote Social Proof & Reviews

Customer reviews on Shopify using YOTPO

People rely on others to tell them what to buy. What is good, what has worked for them and it will inspire confidence in those would be customers that are on the fence.

If you have a social presence where your customers are participating and ultimately giving you an unpaid endorsement, you should leverage this to the best of your ability. Real people saying good things about your brand should be shared.

There is a great app for social reviews called YOTPO that a lot of our merchant clients use with great success and comes highly recommended by most Shopify experts.

Even if you don't have a lot of reviews or strong social channels in place, you can manually take testimonials from customers (with their permission) and elegantly display them on your site for prospects to view. These can be incredibly powerful and can include industry influencers that are clients of yours or sometimes even more effectively the man on the street approach that gives your store a sense of humanness and relatability.

Instagram is a great way of allowing social endorsements and a client of ours Easy-Macro make exceptional use of this medium by curating photos taken by their customers with their product and then embedding this photo stream on their store.

Over-doing things can also result in a "Christmas tree" looking product page, but putting social proof and reviews on your store is definitely worth doing elegantly and in the right places.

Up-sell, Cross-sell and Bundle

Product Bundling

While technically not conversion optimisation, offering your customers superior alternatives, accessories and items that commonly go with the one they're buying is going to increase your average order value which is much the same thing in the long run.

There is a large number of apps to choose from when looking to provide up-selling and the like on your store but our usual go-to apps are the ones offered by Bold.

An interesting fact about Up-selling:

"According to Forrester research, product recommendations such as upsell and cross-sell offers are responsible for an average of 10-30% of ALL eCommerce side revenues! Amazon announced that 35% of all their revenues were a direct result of cross-sells and upsells."
–Bold Commerce

Emphasise Call-to-actions

Strong Call to Action

There is a saying I often use when consulting with our merchant clients and that is:

Emphasizing everything emphasizes nothing.
–Me, quite often

What I mean by that is that there is often a desire to draw large amounts of attention to everything on your site. New things especially seem to be given disproportionate amounts of focus by newer merchants.

Ask yourself what your primary objectives of the site are. Chances are #1 will be selling product (Add to Cart, Buy Now etc.). There will also quite likely be secondary "conversions" like a mailing list signup or an inquiry. Make sure that the elements on every relevant page (home page, product pages, collection pages) are set up to draw attention to the things that cause your virtual till make that virtual ka-ching sound. 

A great example of where this is often done wrong is putting your Add to Cart button low on the page (eg: under your description), having it a muted colour and a size that does not make it stand out and compounding this, having loads of distracting content around it. 

To make your call-to-actions stand out, you can use any or all of the following techniques:

  1. Placement - Fairly simply, make sure your call-to-action is placed in a location where your customers will expect it to be.
  2. Isolation - If you can separate the call-to-action from the rest of the content on the page with physical whitespace, it'll draw attention to itself and stand out more on the page.
  3. Contrast - The more different the call-to-action looks in relation to the rest of the content, the more it will stand out. You can use colour, size and shape to create contrast between your call-to-action and the rest of the page.
  4. Proportion - Related to the contrast technique above, having your call-to-action proportionately different in size to the rest of the content on the page allows it to stand out and draw the user's eye.

In short, the trick is to resist the urge to draw your customer's eyes to everything and be very selective and specific about the things you want people to be drawn to and then make sure those things stand out and make sense to them.

Add Guarantees, Trust Seals & Value Propositions

Guarantee

These elements are often underestimated in terms of quite how much benefit they provide in terms of inspiring a customer to convert. If you remove the perceived risk of the purchase, show confidence in your own product and communicate the measures you've taken to secure and protect their information the customer is far more likely to convert.

Of utmost importance is that these guarantees, trust seals and value propositions should be located close to the call-to-action element on the product page. They can also be placed throughout your site and in your footer, but the place where they matter most is where the customer is about to hit the big –hopefully emphasised– button that takes them towards payment.

Some great ideas for these elements could include the following:

  1. Speedy shipping - One of the biggest considerations for buyers is how long they'll need to wait for their product. Giving an indication of the speed of shipping may greatly increase their chances of buying.
  2. Free Shipping - If you offer it, making it known that shipping may be free can be a big factor in the customer's decision to purchase. Since shipping costs are often only shown quite far down the checkout process, this can help a lot to keep the customer moving towards buying.
  3. Product guarantees - If you're willing to guarantee your product your customer is far more likely to be inclined to purchase it knowing that you stand by it's quality.
  4. Country of manufacture / sourcing - If you can, stating that your product is manufactured locally can appeal to your more patriotic customer and they may even choose your product over a cheaper product that is of unknown origin or "Made in China". In cases where the product is manufactured in or sourced from a location desirable to the buyer (eg: Italian leather) this can appeal to the discerning buyer who can appreciate the quality that is synonymous with that location. 
  5. Secure transactions - These can be created pretty easily by a half decent designer, else you can grab from most stock image sites.
  6. PCI Compliant Hosting & Cart - The standards by which Shopify adheres to and is certified by is worth mentioning to inspire confidence due to the seriousness with which their data is handled.
  7. Payment method logos - This can can serve a dual purpose of the big name brands (Visa, MasterCard, Paypal) being recognized and therefore inspire confidence, as well as immediately show the customer what they'll be presented with in terms of payment methods.

Incentivise email subscription

Incentivize email subscription

Having your customers sign up for a mailing list is probably the next best thing after them buying from you. It gives you opted-in permission to promote your products directly to their inbox.

You can make your subscription form as focal as you like and give as many promises about how you won't spam them and how you'll let them know before anyone about specials and promotions... but there won't be anything as effective as giving them something in return for subscribing.

What you use to incentivise signups is something only you can determine, but often it's a free small gift with a first purchase or a single use discount code that they receive after signing up.

Whatever you do, give your customers a reason to subscribe rather than a vague insinuation that you'll occasionally send them some kind of regular email.

Localise

Location selection

Localising your store is more of a task to better serve a specific geographic region than conversion optimisation itself, but if you find that the wide-net approach of having one Shopify store serving too broad a region (if not global), consider having a separate instance of Shopify catering for each region.

We have a number of merchant clients that have Shopify instances catering to different locations. Usually it's a country difference like USA, UK etc. and while you may think it's just their own currency that people want to see, there are so many other factors about localisation that are beneficial to your customers... and subsequently to you in terms of conversion.

Localisation with a separate instance of Shopify for each logical region allows you provide the following:

  1. Checkout in the customer's own currency.
  2. Ability to market to that region's specific events and holidays.
  3. Ability to market to that region's potentially different seasons (if applicable).
  4. Use the predominant language (or even the flavo(u)r of English) of the region.
  5. Use familiar payment methods and shipping providers.

This isn't necessarily a quick fix solution to waning sales in other territories but is certainly a solid strategy to expanding into new regions and maximising the potential of these regions.

Give a Stock level indication

Stock remaining

To promote urgency, it's useful to show the customer how many items are still in stock. This sense of urgency can inspire the customer to purchase sooner for fear of losing out.

This can be done quite simply with an app like While Stocks Last or if you have a suitably skilled Shopify coder at hand, they should be able to implement a solution fairly quickly in liquid. 

Add a Countdown timer

Countdown timer

Similar to the stock level indication, the countdown timer promotes urgency by indicating to the customer that they only have a certain amount of time to act before losing out on a deal or same day delivery (or similar).

Also as above, you can actually use an app for this like Countdown Cart.

Provide back-in-stock notification

Back in Stock app modal

If your product is out of stock when your visitor arrives and you don't allow back ordering... unless you're capture their details right then and there, there is a very good chance that sale is lost forever.

Some themes come with a rudimentary form that simply sends you their email address, but it would be wise to take this issue a bit more seriously. Almost all of our merchant clients that need this functionality use the BackInStock app.

What it does is allow your customers to request a notification when the item is back in stock, and when it is, the system automatically emails them letting them know they can come back and place their order.

The number of otherwise lost sales recovered by this app more than makes up for its monthly license fee.

Recover your Abandoned Carts

Sometimes your customers will become distracted and lose your tab or start watching a video about cats. Sometimes they'll be close to the verge of completing their order and suddenly change their mind for whatever reason.

You can literally think of them as customers that came into your physical store, put some items they wanted into their shopping cart and somewhere between doing so and paying, they simply wandered out the door with their hands empty.

You won't be able to recover every abandoned order, but you can definitely make sure that those that are salvageable are given every opportunity to follow through.

If you're on Shopify's "Shopify" plan or higher, you already have abandoned checkouts available to you as a feature and I advise making full use of it. If you're on a lower plan or want to implement even more deliberate methods, there are still plenty of options in the form of apps to prevent order abandonment and also recover them.

Do you need a helping hand with your CRO?

Make the most of your Shopify store by tapping into all the missed opportunities that are there for the taking.

Through helping our merchant clients improve their businesses over the years, we've put together a package that will identify the areas you should be focusing on to move that needle.

Boost your conversions

Sharpening your Ecommerce Conversion RatesPhoto by Malte Wingen

This list is compiled as much as a resource for us to refer back to when looking to optimize a client store for conversions as it is a collection of information that we thought would be good to share with other Shopify partners, experts and merchants.

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Working from home during COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo by Roberto Nickson.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are left with an uncertain future. Many brick and mortar businesses have closed their doors indefinitely (some will reopen, others not so lucky), and retailers are looking to ecommerce to secure their brand a future. The fate of ecommerce has a lot to do with the regulations in your country, some are able to continue with business as usual whereas some do not fall under ‘essential services’ and cannot sell, or fulfill orders due to being unable to make use of courier services. However, ecommerce stores are most likely in a safer footing for the current and immediate future climate - provided they can still use this time to convert sales or grow their business in some way.

While there has been an increase in offline stores going online, existing ecommerce stores are intensifying their efforts to turn inventory into cash while they still can. Some are using lockdown time in inventive and productive ways to set themselves up to their advantage for when things are back to business as usual. Wherever you are in these turbulent times, there are some strategies you can use to make the best of things - which includes what you need to do right now and what you can use your downtime for to your advantage.

What you should be doing right now:

Communicate with your customers

Depending on where you are in the world you may have certain restrictions that will affect your ability to fulfill orders. However, if you are still able to make sales with the intention to ship as soon as those restrictions are lifted, then communicate this to your customers in big bold letters on your website and via email. If you can still run business as usual you need to tell your customers exactly that on all your platforms, because they will assume you are closed like most other businesses.

Be honest with your customers and compassionate to what they too are going through, this isn’t the time to ‘cash in’ on this pandemic as an opportunity for business (think how tacky a ‘Coronavirus’ sale would sound or a #COVID19 voucher code!) but for many of us it is our bread and butter and so necessary that business goes on. That’s not to say that your products or services won’t make a profound difference to your customers’ lives. Communicate to your customers how your products or services can be useful to them during this time, eg. how buying your (for example) stationery catalogue will enable them to run their business from home, keep their children entertained, allow creative expression for boredom busting, or even play an important role in homeschooling, etc.

Pivot your business model

If your current business model does not work in the current climate, consider pivoting your business in such a way that it can thrive online. If you previously only had a physical store, bring your retail online (many brands are offering this service for free and now is a good time to do it).

Consider offering subscription services either monthly or prepaying 3 - 6 months upfront. You will then have some cash to operate on and your customers can relax in knowing they will be getting their product/service in the coming months regardless of their cash flow. You can even offer ‘buy now, ship later’ options for customers who still want to shop now but are happy to wait until restrictions have lifted.

Diversify your product range, if you previously only sold physical products, consider adding some digital products eg. if you sold books before, consider adding eBooks to your catalogue.

If you’re concerned about the investment in pivoting your business model, consider how uncertain the future is and how waiting out the pandemic could mean running your business dry. There is a lot of help out there - we’ve compiled a list of brands currently offering help to the ecommerce industry either for free or at huge discounts.

Intensify your marketing efforts

A lot of brands make the mistake of cutting back on their marketing efforts, when they should be redoubling them. Marketing is where your leads are being generated, so it would not make sense to cut costs such as online advertising.

Many advertisers are pulling out which means that ad prices are going down, so now is actually the time to be increasing your Google Ad and Facebook ad spend.
This will help keep the customers coming in, and hopefully the conversions ticking over. The only marketing channels you might need to pull are experimental marginal channels that aren’t driving leads or pushing revenue.

 

Cut out unnecessary expenditure

Invest some time in going over your expenditures, grouping your nice-to-haves (expense) and your ‘necessaries’ (investment). Reviewing these and cutting out unnecessary expenditure will ensure that you don’t burn through savings too quickly.

Your investments will have a demonstrable ROI (return on investment). These will include your online ad expenditure, email marketing (such as abandoned cart recovery), and content marketing. These serve to build your business by directly driving revenue.

You might consider cutting out some of your SAAS (software as a service) subscriptions that were convenient to have and which you can suspend while you are cutting costs but pick up later. These might include Music licensing software, full stock image database access, etc. which you can get away with by only purchasing what you need when you need it rather than all-access subscriptions.

Get social and personal

Now is a good time to get to know your customers. Reach out to them on social media as a leader in your space to offer compassion and any advice that you can offer; social media engagement rates have never been this high. Your compassion and authenticity now will be remembered long after the pandemic has passed, and it will become part of the personality of your brand.

Use downtime to improve Operations:

Now that you have all of that in place it is time to use your extra time to improve your Operations. A lot of us are finding ourselves with a lot more time on our hands than before, and while we are all dealing with the anxiety and fear of the unknown, keeping busy helps to feel in control - not to mention putting us in better stead for when things are a bit more normal again.

While you’re working from home or piloting the ship alone, there are still some things that you can do for your online store that will help improve your Operations and put you in better stead for the coming months, here’s a quick checklist:

  1. Go through your product descriptions and improve them where you can. Perhaps add a creative spin on them, eg. some humour or a theme. Take note that you can optimise your descriptions for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) by using keywords associated with that product.
  2. Improve your SEO by adding appropriate keywords in all your page titles, meta descriptions, ALT tags (what appears when images don’t load, and tells Google what the image is), and the page’s body content.
  3. Map out your marketing campaign strategy for the rest of the year; when things start to normalise you will want to hit the ground running with a well thought out marketing campaign.
  4. Use this time to be creative - write a series of blog posts, even one a day, so that you can post these throughout the year. When things get busy over peak periods you will thank yourself for getting ahead on your content strategy.
  5. Do a thorough audit of your product photography. If you have better photos (or can request them from suppliers or take them yourself) replace them on your website. Product photography can make or break your ecommerce website.
  6. Reach out to your customer base to review items or write testimonials, hopefully they also have more time on their hands to submit something you can use in your social media strategy and on your website. Nearly 95% of shoppers read reviews before making a purchase!
  7. Follow some tips on how to boost the speed of your Shopify website. There are many ways of doing this, eg. go through your store and remove any apps that you are not using as well as minimise redirects and broken links.
  8. Browse Shopify’s free tools for anything that might be useful to your store, including an image resizer tool, refund policy generator, privacy policy generator, shipping label template, and more.

All these improvements will result in a site that loads faster, is more efficient at converting leads into sales, and attracts more organic leads via search engines. This will not only benefit you now, but it will put you in better stead for months to come - and perhaps change the way you approach operations on your website forever, for the better.

Working from home during COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo by Roberto Nickson

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are left with an uncertain future. Many brick and mortar businesses have closed their doors indefinitely (some will reopen, others not so lucky), and retailers are looking to ecommerce to secure their brand a future.

read time.

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Shopify Ecommerce Covid-19 Helping HandPhoto by Austin Kehmeier

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.

    Shopify Ecommerce Covid-19 Helping HandPhoto by Austin Kehmeier

    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.

    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.

    Read More

    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.

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