Articles

Insights & Resources for Shopify Store Owners

Ethercycle Prints Money for Clients, Raises Rates

by Kurt Elster

I've never done this before, but I wanted to give you a few updates on our side.

Here's what new with me: I've...

  1. launched an info product,
  2. started a coaching program for my freelance colleagues,
  3. and booked my first speaking gig,
  4. Plus I'm getting married this year.

I'm happier than I've ever been. But enough about me. At Ethercycle, things are equally exciting. About a year ago we switched our focus to exclusively Shopify, and the results were fantastic. We’ve recently completed a number of large projects, received some big love for it, and due to the overwhelming value we’ve been able to deliver for our Shopify clients, we’re raising our hourly rates for the first time in three years based on the value we deliver.

Effective June 1st, our new hourly rate is $200. Due to our experience solving revenue growth problems for Shopify businesses, I’m certain we'll still provide an overwhelming amount of value for our clients.

However, if this, unfortunately, doesn't fit your budget, I’m more than happy to refer you to a number of other businesses that would be excited to work with you— and that I personally vouch for.

Either way, I want to help everyone grow, so I've put together a ridiculously actionable (and totally free) guide with 25 conversion rate optimization ideas you must know about to effectively optimize your Shopify store. You can get it delivered straight to you right now. Shave off hours of guesswork and start growing your revenue!

The Best Conversion Hack is Surveying Your Customers

by Kurt Elster

My number one most powerful tool for optimizing a Shopify store isn't Google Analytics, it's customer surveys. And not just any customer survey, we need to ask three very important questions:

  1. How would you feel if you could no longer use us?
  2. What is the primary benefit that you have received from us?
  3. What type of person do you think would benefit most from us?

For our client surveys, we use from survey.io. It's incredibly easy and includes a default set of questions that gives us exactly as much insight as we need. Sign up, it's free, and email that link to your existing customer base. Make it a friendly email that's from a person to maximize response rate. Depending on how warm your list, I'd expect a 5% response rate, with most people responding in the first 24 hours. After that, you can start reviewing their answers and looking for absolute nuggets of conversion gold.

Knowing the why your customers are buying as well as the language they use to describe the benefit of the product is phenomenal insight. If a clear benefit emerges that you're not talking about, rotate your positioning around that benefit and watch as both sales and satisfaction increase. Tune your messaging around the language your customers are using.

For example, we work closely with Everest Bands on a retainer basis to optimize their site. Recently, we surveyed their customers and discovered that we were had completely missed the reason they were buying. We had been selling the idea of customizing a watch with a premium band. It turns out that Everest's customers have been buying the straps because they perceive as a sporty alternative to the standard steel bracelet. Knowing that, we conducted a photo shoot to portray the product in active lifestyle settings, rewrote the product descriptions to talk about active lifestyles, and boom, the conversion rate improved yet again. Had we not asked their customers, we never would have known to change the brand's positioning.

Until you ask, you're just guessing. For the cost of only your time, survey your customers and find out why they're really buying. Ideally I would either send surveys at regular intervals, or include it as part of a marketing automation program (like Klaviyo) and email customers 60 days after purchase to touch base and survey them. Review the results quarterly and re-position your business accordingly. You'll be amazed by the actionable insight your customers are dying to tell. You just have to ask.

Why You Should Be Using Exit Popups on Your Shopify Store

by Kurt Elster

Offering discounts, flash sales, and using pop-up windows are all proven ecommerce strategies, but what happens when you combine them?

You make more money, of course! We are talking about ecommerce after all, and making money should be the fundamental purpose of your business.

I’m sure there are a few apps to do this (or you could roll your own) but I like Picreel for its ease of use and excellent templates.

Watch the video below for a demo plus one quick SEO hack.

Shopify Quick Tip: Size Your Images Correctly

by Kurt Elster

An image is worth a thousand words, but it's also worth a boost conversions. There is nothing worse than stretched, improperly sized, or inconsistent images. It's a dead give away to visitors that your site isn't professional and therefore not trustworthy.

When you visit a quality ecommerce site, their images and thumbnails always seem to line up in a nice grid, right? The trick is maintain a consistent aspect ratio. That's the ratio of the width to the height of an image or screen. So maybe you're not up on your geometry, so I'll make it simple for you: you just need to make all of your product images square.

Maintain the correct aspect ratio in Photoshop is surprisingly easy, just hold down the shift key down while cropping or making a selection to maintain an aspect ratio. The crop tool can also be set to to a square for example. Remember to keep your photo centered.

Here's a step by step:

  1. Select the Crop tool
  2. In the options bar, set the aspect ratio to square or 1:1
  3. Drag over the part of the image you want to keep to create a marquee.
  4. To complete the crop, press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS), click the Commit button in the options bar, or double-click inside the cropping marquee.

After that, save your image at its maximum resolution and upload to Shopify. A properly setup theme will resize your image for you, so it's worthwhile to upload a large image and let Shopify figure out the rest.

Why doesn’t my Shopify store convert?

by Kurt Elster

There are two chief ways to increase revenue for your store:

  1. Get more traffic
  2. Turn more visitors into buyers

Both are equally valid methods, and should be used together if possible. The latter, called conversion rate optimization, is what we’re going to talk about here.

The first step to conversion rate optimization is simple: I walk through a store and try to buy something. I write down every single thing that creates any friction at all for me buying the product. Ever pain point, point of confusion, barrier to entry, objection, and eyebrow-raising or frustrating thing. Solving just those problems can be enough to double a site's conversion rates.

Think about it like this: when someone visits your site, you need to convince them of two things. First that they want your product (and no amount of conversion rate optimization can help that) and then you need to convince them that they should trust you with their most sensitive of information: their credit card details.

One of the most common issues that stops people from buying is unexpected costs. Most shoppers would rather pay more for a product but get “Free” tax and shipping than be faced with an additional added expense at checkout. This leads to another point of confusion: what kind of shipping is the free shipping? Most retailers just write “free shipping.” That could mean it’s being shipped by donkey for all I know. It’s better to specify a carrier like, “Free UPS Ground Shipping.”

Remember: Your site needs to looks professional, polished, and trustworthy because as a store owner, you’re not entitled to anyone’s money. Every part of your store must persuade them to buy. Once your website's sole goal is to inspire confidence, you'll start converting more of your traffic.

Shopify Theme SEO Checklist

by Kurt Elster

Here’s a list of things to double check to make sure your Shopify store's theme is SEO ready. It's not exhaustive, but if you follow it, you'll have a great foundation for your on-site SEO.

  1. Page titles and subtitles are present and marked up with header tags
  2. All images have alt attributes
  3. Description meta tag is present on each page and provides a sensible human description
  4. All pages include a canonical tag
  5. All product and article pages have appropriate Microdata attributes
  6. All product and article pages have appropriate Open Graph markup
  7. All product and article pages have appropriate Twitter Card markup

For more advanced reading, I highly recommend Gavin Ballard's Mastering Shopify Themes. Specifically check "Lesson 9: SEO and Social Integrations" for clarification on any of these items. This list, borrowed with his permission, was included as a supplemental material in his book.

Top 5 Must Have Apps for Shopify Stores in 2015

by Kurt Elster

Shopify's App Store can add powerful new features and services to your Shopify store. But if you're not careful, it can also add bloat. I prefer to add apps only to solve pains as they arise. Our clients often ask me how to solve various pains in their store, so I've included the top five apps I've most often recommended.

  1. Bring in new customers (and keep them coming back) with email. Klaviyoputs your newsletters, abandoned carts, and marketing automation all in one place. The most powerful part of Klaviyo is its included templates to send automated order follow-ups weeks and months after purchase to keep customers returning automatically. If you have to pick only one, let it be Klaviyo. I know email marketing isn't as sexy as social media marketing, but it's ROI is huge.
  2. Bust shoppers objections with reviews from Yotpo. Automatically email your customers at a set time after purchase, asking them to leave a review. Yotpo is the only reviews solution that lets your shoppers write their review directly in their email inbox, making it super-easy for them to leave feedback. The end result is you get reviews from up to 10% of your shoppers.
  3. Make shipping easier with ShipStation. Combine order processing, production of shipping labels, and customer communication in an easy to use, web-based interface that integrates directly with major shipping carriers and Shopify.
  4. Get actionable insights with SumAll, a free analytics app that lets you see all of your shop’s data in one place, in a single-view window. You are emailed daily with reports containing the most important pieces of data that have been recorded, with all of the irrelevant data being left out, so you don’t have to spend ages finding the essential stuff. You can also use SumAll to connect all your e-commerce, email marketing and social data in one place.
  5. Make money off of every abandoning customer and generate revenue you would otherwise lose with Exit Offers. Pictures this: someone is about to click the close tab button, when a pop-up appears offering them a discount if they buy right now. You can boost sales by as much as 20% by targeting price-sensitive customers with Exit Offers. Recent studies show that 60% of potential customers who do not buy cite price as the major reason they didn't buy.

What are your favorite Shopify apps? What problems do you need solved? Tweet us and let us know.

Shopify Conversion Rate Optimization: 25 Ideas to Boost Revenue

by Kurt Elster

There's two ways to grow your Shopify store's revenue:

  1. You can get more traffic which will turn into more revenue,
  2. or you can optimize your store to turn more of your current visitors into buyers.

By focusing on the latter, boosting conversion rate, we're going to lay a groundwork to get the highest possible ROI out of any efforts to drive traffic to our store.

When we talk about conversion rate optimization, we're really looking to make our site is easy and frictionless as possible to buy from. We need to start thinking with our lizard brains and remove any and all barriers to checkout as possible. Based on the past six stores we've looked at this week, here are 25 ideas on how you may improve your store.

Homepage

  • Choose your carousel images wisely. 9 out of 10 people will only see the first slide. Don’t assume that people will click the carousel pagination to see the other images.
  • Add a call-to-action for every carousel image. At the very least, add a label or some copy that frames the image appropriately.
  • Call out free shipping if you offer it. If you don't offer free shipping, try it.
  • Make lifestyle shots relevant to your shoppers. Is this how your customers see themselves? Think about their usage, not your product lines.
  • Make sure navigation items are easily understood. Make sure that you’re using appropriate language and labeling so the widest possible audience can understand it.
  • Have a primary point of focus on your homepage. Above the fold, there may be too many things competing for attention — is it awards? Is it authority signals (“30,000 customers”, “2000 products”, etc) or is it the product lines? If you’d like to improve conversions on your homepage, sometimes removing things is a great place to start.
  • Make links look like links. Often links are styled like normal text, so the visitor wouldn’t know to click them.
  • Include press mention logos. If you get quoted or featured in the media, show it off! These make excellent trust indicators.
  • Optimize your email list calls-to-action. Make sure you’re using smart copy on your email form at the bottom of the page, don’t just use “Join our mailing list” — tell them why and what benefit they’ll receive by subscribing.
  • Remove redundant social network buttons. You’re potentially distracting shoppers here, with very little value. They’re in shopping mode, but you’re basically asking them to stop doing that in order to follow you on Twitter, or go to Facebook, or watch your videos on YouTube.In general, you can help your conversions by reducing the amount of distractions and keeping the shopper focused on the buying experience.

Cart

  • Decide on one primary call-to-action. “Update Cart” and “Check Out” have the same visual weight; ideally, “Check Out” should stand out more than “Update Cart.”
  • Consider removing “Special Instructions” text box. It’s unclear what action you want the shopper to take here and whether it’s a necessary step before check out. What value does this add to the experience?
  • Reduce the number of logos around the Checkout button. Shoppers may find the credit card options distracting. If you insist on having them there, consider putting them in grayscale.

Checkout

  • Upgrade to Shopify’s responsive checkout. This will boost conversions, especially as mobile usage in ecommerce continues to increase.
  • Add a logo. The rest of your site may have great branding, and we can keep it consistent through checkout by adding your logo at the top. It’s easy to do and preserves the shopping experience.

Product page

  • Consider bundling similar products. Let's say you sell a widget in six different colors and three different sizes. Rather than list 18 different products, list one product with options.
  • Try long form product descriptions. Bonus points for including a narrative that reflects your brand’s story.
  • Remove share buttons. They typically just distract the shopper from their buying experience, and you’re unlikely to generate significant traffic from them. What’s worse, is that it has negative social proof if most of your pages have zero “Likes” — subconsciously, it may tell the shoppers that nobody likes the item.
  • Don’t rely on tabs for information display. Assume that less than half of people will click those tabs, so don’t put critical information in them.
  • Add lifestyle shots. Beyond just white background product photos, try showing a selection of lifestyle shots showing the product in use.
  • Remove redundant options. Some themes will display product options when only one option is available; if possible, remove the option to select. Reducing friction and the number of clicks is always a reliable strategy to increase conversions.
  • Show shipping and return information. This is a great “objection buster” and preemptively answers a key question for shoppers.
  • Add narrative to your product copy. Often product details are displayed in a very stark, “clinical” way — simply stating facts and figures about the product. There’s a huge opportunity here to tell a story and really give some emotion to the item. Sell the benefit. Sell the sizzle, not the steak. A classic example but extreme example is the J Peterman catalog.

Conversion rate optimization is the ideal way to stop leaving money on the table and streamline your Shopify store into a sales-producing machine. When you identify and fix weaknesses in your site, it will promote trust with customers which will leads to sweet, sweet sales.

Responsive is Everything: 2014 Ecommerce Holiday Data

by Kurt Elster

2014 Holiday Ecommerce Statistics

Responsive is everything. That’s what our data from last weekend’s shopping seasons is saying.

For U.S. retailers, the weekend after Thanksgiving is the traditional bellwether of sales. That’s when consumers have their wallets out and are ready to buy anywhere they go.

As part of our on-boarding process, we ask our clients to give us access to their Google Analytics data. While this step is optional, it lets us gain further insights in to clients’ traffic and develop theories on how they can grow traffic and revenue.

When comparing Total Mobile vs. Desktop Visits, it’s effectively a 50/50 split.

We looked at data from our top 20 performing ecommerce clients (mostly on the Shopify platform) from 11/28 through 12/1. Of the 41K visitors in our sample, we saw 49.54% of traffic coming from mobile (33.01% from mobile phones, 16.53% from tablets) and just 50.46% from traditional computers. By comparison, mobile was 40.1% of traffic for the same period last year. That's a big leap for this year.

Let’s dive a little deeper into that data and see what other interesting findings we can dig up—

Most mobile traffic is on an Apple device.
iOS takes a whopping 74.43% of traffic, Android gets 23.2%. While Android devices outsell iOS devices, it would seem they get used less. But what about the remaining 2.37%? It consists mainly of Windows Phone and Blackberry, as well as some embedded devices like game consoles.

How does device usage affect conversion rate?
Conversion rates are typically best on desktop, second best on tablet, and poorest on mobile regardless of whether or not a site is responsive. However, sites that are responsive often performed twice as well across all devices including desktop.

Mobile strategy consultant Jonathan Stark suggests, "The other thing that's probably hidden in the numbers is that people search for stuff on their mobile and then make the purchase on their desktop which would explain why responsive sites do better across-the-board." While we can't yet track sessions across devices to prove this theory, we're inclined to agree.

Average conversion rate for non-responsive sites:

  • Desktop: 2.61%
  • Tablet: 1.56%
  • Mobile: 0.83%

Average conversion rate for responsive sites:

  • Desktop: 4.42%
  • Tablet: 3.10%
  • Mobile: 2.10%

How about the top ten devices?
Things get a little fuzzy here. Apple devices report themselves without specifics. All iPhones and iPads report themselves as a single respective device. This hides fragmentation and pushes them to the top of the list. Where as Android phones proudly report their branding, so it’s easy to tease out specific devices.

  1. Apple iPhone (all)
  2. Apple iPad (all)
  3. Samsung Galaxy S5
  4. Samsung Galaxy S4
  5. Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  6. Samsung Galaxy S3
  7. Samsung Galaxy Tab 3
  8. Motorola Droid Ultra
  9. HTC One
  10. Samsung Galaxy Note 2

What’s interesting here is the range of screen sizes and resolutions represented. A developer can no longer make a breakpoint at 320 and 768 and claim a site is responsive.

So what?
The rapid adoption of mobile means that any site not taking a mobile-first approach isn’t just leaking money, it’s hemorrhaging it. If the distribution is an even 50/50 split this year, we can expect mobile to overtake desktop next year. Anecdotally, one of the stores in our dataset already had 65% users on mobile.

What you need to do:
  1. Accept that mobile is everything.
  2. Ensure your site is fully fluid. If you resize your desktop window, it should work at every resolution, not just a few breakpoints.
  3. Make sure your website loads in four seconds or less on cellular data connections. (Remember, the US has some of the slowest data speeds in the world.)
  4. Have someone not familiar with your site attempt to find and purchase a product and watch over their shoulder to find usability problems.

Help!
We’re available to help identify and fix these issues for your Shopify store. We're one of the higest-rated Shopify experts.

How To Kill it With Ecommerce Content Marketing [Podcast]

by Kurt Elster

Have you ever wondered how some ecommerce stores become known as the go-to guys for a particular niche? They'll sell the same products at the same prices as their competition, but somehow they're always top of mind when it comes to their niche. It's not through SEO wizardry, or fancy campaigns, it's actually a misunderstand tactic called content marketing. You know that blog you haven't updated in six months? That's typically what people think of with content marketing. We don't blame you, creating content is tough work.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be hard. We talked with Philip Morgan of My Content Sherpa and he laid it all out for us:

  1. Why you shouldn't call it a blog
  2. How to focus your blog
  3. The content you're probably wasting your time on
  4. Why it's okay to repurpose content
  5. And some easy strategies for creating great content (sometimes without even writing)

One of the best investments you can make in your long-term success is authority, which brings customers to you. Listen and learn how.