Articles

Insights & Resources for Shopify Store Owners

Making Facebook Ads Actually Work for Shopify

by Kurt Elster

Until recently, if you had asked me about the efficacy of Facebook ads, I would have told you with total conviction that they didn't work. I even used to quip that "Facebook ads don't convert because Facebook users are too busy stalking their ex to go shopping." Well the joke was on me because not only can they work, they can radically outperform Google Adwords.

I talked to Kit CRM founder Michael Perry for The Unofficial Shopify Podcast, and he's the one who let me on the secret of how he "cracked the code" on Facebook ads. Here's a recap of what he told me:

Recently Facebook has added some brilliant new features that let anyone leverage Facebook's astounding catalog of demographic with behavioral data on over 1 billion people. The future is here, and we're using it to sell widgets, folks.

This kind of data used to be out of reach of small and even medium businesses. Now anyone can affordably use it to laser target their marketing efforts with Facebook ads. As with all advertising, Facebook ads needs good product/market fit. If you can show the right thing to the right people, you'll make money.

Best practice 1: Stay in the newsfeed
Set your ads to display on Mobile and Desktop Newsfeeds. Ignore righthand sidebar and affinity, they're significantly less effective, and with good reason: they're not in your face like newsfeed ads.

Best practice 2: Carousel Ads
What's better than one newsfeed ad? Five of them. Carousel ads let you showcase multiple images and links in one ad. We've seen carousel link ads drive 30-50% lower cost-per-conversion and 20-30% lower cost-per-click than single-image link ads. Plus they work equally well on both mobile and desktop. As icing on the cake, you can let Facebook optimize the order of the images based on engagement and expected performance.

Carousel ad animated gif from Facebook

Best practice 3: Live and die by Custom Audiences
Custom Audiences are a system which lets you target past customers and prospects. You can build these lists by providing Facebook with a list of emails, and installing a tracking pixel on your website. This is retargeting. Once you've seeded Facebook with a sample of your customers, you can create a Lookalike audience. This part is practically magic. Knowing what your current audience looks like, Facebook can trawl its goldmine of behavioral data to automatically show your ads to new potential customers who are similar to your existing customers.

It may sound like the future of enterprise level advertising tech, but it's available now, affordable, and can be setup in a day.

The $90k In 90 Days Blueprint

by Paul Reda

I love stats.

I play RPGs so I can kill things with stats. I read sabermetrics blogs so I can talk about baseball with stats. Election nights are like Christmas for me.

Ever since we turned our business over to 100% Shopify work I have been in heaven - and one of the reasons for that is the hard data that comes with working in ecommerce. I'm not worried about "impressions" or "engagement" or some intangible feeling that a brochure website is supposed to convey. Everything in ecommerce can be laid out in numbers, the most important of which being profit. All I have to do is make more cold hard cash for my clients and they're happy. Believe me, it's a lot less frustrating than wrangling with some wannabe art director about how exactly you can make something "pop".

One of our clients has given us more and more access to the inner workings of his business, and allowed us to create strategy and make changes as we see fit. It was exciting for us to be able to run wild in someone's store and make improvements with no questions asked. It was exciting for him because, well, he likes money. I'll confess that I set a private goal for where I wanted his revenues to be: I wanted to see an average of $1000 a day for 2015. No specific reason, it's just a nice round number and would be 3x of what he did for 2014.

Well, we're doing it. Right now he's at $90,000 over the last 90 days (I started writing this a few days ago, so now it's actually $100k over 100). And the daily rate is growing - we'll have more than enough overage to make up for the days that just missed the target at the beginning of the year.

How did we make this happen? All of our changes and ideas are driven by data. We examine the client's business to figure out how to make their customers more likely to buy, and we implement proven methods that increase revenue across all types of online stores. Let me tell you all about it.

Disclaimer: This blueprint will only work if you actually have a product that people want to buy. So if your bright idea is a crystal-encrusted cat brush that costs $200, please follow our alternate plan of just giving up now.

The Ethercycle $90k In 90 Days Blueprint

1. Theme setup
Forget about building a custom theme, the ROI just isn't there. There are some amazing premium themes in the Shopify theme store. Retina and Parallax have become our go-to installs because, frankly, they're fantastic and we're not going to be able to custom design anything better without weeks of work and a lot more of your money. Having a great theme gives you a great baseline to start with.

2. Theme Optimization
Starting with a great theme from a quality developer helps immensely, but it doesn't mean you can't improve on the theme. The first step to optimizing your conversion rate is simple: We walk through a store and try to buy something. We write down every single thing that creates any friction at all to buying the product. Every 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 rate.

3. Professional Photos
You know the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words - well it's also worth a boost in your conversions. Here's the thing: a customer browsing your site loses all but one of their senses. In a store they could touch your product. They could even smell it. But on your website they can't do anything. Providing the customer with professional photos does two things: it helps them get comfortable with the product and shows them that you're serious. Few things say "amateur hour" like bad low-quality photos.

4. Customer Followup Emails
I have a friend named Drew. Drew grew (and sold) his ecommerce business on the back of customer followup emails. These are automated emails that create a high-touch customer service experience for new customers, and try to win back old customers who haven't purchased in awhile. All automatically.

5. Retargeting Ads
When someone visits your site, you don't know what stage of the buying cycle they're in. They may visit your site and then get distracted. They may visit five times before making a purchase. Retargeting ads help you keep your store top of mind with the customer (even if you don't have their email address.) A customer visits your store, gets cookied, and your ads follow them around the web like a lost dog. Retargeting can be setup to run across platforms too. Your brand becomes omnipresent, so that even our reptilian brains can say, "Hey, wasn't I just shopping for that..."

6. PPC Ads & Optimization
The hardest part of running a Shopify store is getting traffic, and the easiest way of getting traffic is with pay per click advertising. And by PPC we really mean Google AdWords - empires have been built on it. Setting up an AdWords campaign once isn't enough though. The level of fiddly knobs and buttons inside AdWords is astounding. For example, did you know you can have AdWords identify people by income and bid more for high income earners since they're more likely to buy? Or break down bid adjustments by state or time of day? Yea, it gets wild.

7. Customer Development
Lately I’m starting to realize that a lot of store owners struggle with positioning. This is because they work in a vacuum and never ask their customers why they buy. They make assumptions about why and so long as they make sales, they assume that validates their ideas. But if your marketing message isn’t on point, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table. You need to have deep conversations with your customers. Knowing why your customers are buying as well as the language they use to describe the benefits of your products is the most critical insight to grow your business. Fortunately, achieving that is really as easy sending a survey to your past buyers and mining the answers for insights.

8. Insight-Driven Changes & Repositioning
Using customer's own language from the survey results, re-write new positioning, collections, tag lines, and product descriptions. I'd go so far as re-shooting those slider images I know you have on your homepage to emulate the use case and core audience from your survey. Again, until you ask your customers, you're just guessing. A Customer Development Roadmap lets you find out why they're really buying.

9. Email Marketing
Here's the thing about email marketing: it isn't sexy. No one talks about it because it's been around for decades now, but it's consistently the first or second best driver of revenue for our stores. Any email marketing is better than none and if you send emails to your customers regularly, you're staying top of mind, and opening communication with them. The most common question I get is, "But what do I send? How often?" Well, until you get spam complaints, you're not sending nearly enough. We use 2x/week as our best practice.

10. GO BUY A BOAT
This may sound like a lot of work, but all of this is the difference between $5k/mo and a $50k/mo store.

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.