A Shopify Theme Image Optimization Must-Know Hack

by Kurt Elster

Optimize your theme's image assets in five minutes.

The 3 Keys to Building a Team

by Kurt Elster

Jonathan Kennedy asked me a great question in The Unofficial Shopify Podcast Facebook group:

"How do you motivate team members & staff, and how do you keep them motivated for the long term?"

In this Sunday Drive video, I explore the three keys to building a team.

"How do I scale my Shopify store?"

by Kurt Elster

Jim Hudson asks, "I'm profitable. I have my email automations set up. I'm converting well. Now, how can I go large? Scale up! Do you recommend focusing on content marketing? Give away as much valuable stuff as possible?"

5 Unique Ways Marketers Can Retarget Their Audience

by Kurt Elster

This is a guest post by Rebecca Keyes, Marketing Manager for AimTell.

Is there anything more frustrating than getting people to come to your website, only to have them leave without converting? While there will always be visitors who come and go without making a purchase, the reality is that these users have shown an initial interest in your brand. And for that reason, they are valuable to you. Instead of risking these individuals never returning, marketers frequently retarget them in an effort to bring them back. You’ve likely been retargeted in your days of browsing the internet. One day you’re looking at a cool new cell phone case, and the next day that same case pops up in an ad you see while browsing a different website (for example).

Retargeting, sometimes called remarketing, is an incredibly useful tool that all brands should be utilizing in an effort to get their audience re-engaged with their brand. Thankfully, there are plenty of platforms and strategies that you can get started with right away. If you want to get started with retargeting but aren’t sure how to do so or where to focus your efforts, keep reading to see our 5 favorite retargeting techniques. Learn what these techniques are, as well as why we like them and how they can help your brand.

5. Google Adwords

Google Adwords is used by a lot of people, and for good reason. Google is a huge search engine that you likely receive a lot of traffic from. You may already be using Google Adwords, and if so, it will be easy for you to set up a retargeting campaign. With Adwords, you can create ads targeted at different groups of people based on their various actions, such as those who have visited your website, downloaded your app, or have subscribed to your emails.

4. Social Media

Next up, retargeting via social media is just as the name suggests: ads are presented on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Typically, these ads are highly personalized. For example, it is common to see ads highlighting products or places a user has looked at previously (like our cell phone case example from before).

In this example, you are seeing a retargeted ad on Facebook. By mentioning the location, even down to the specific hotel this user was viewing, you can easily see how personalized this ad is. Users expect ads they see today to be relevant to them, and part of what makes retargeted ads so great is that by nature they tend to be highly personalized and relevant, giving them an automatic leg up over other types of advertising.

Additionally, taking into consideration how popular social media is (2016 saw nearly 1.8 billion monthly active users on Facebook for example), this technique tends to also be very popular, and for good reason. You may decide one platform works better for you than others, keeping in mind things like your particular industry and the demographics and social media behaviors of your target audience.

3. Videos

image source: marketingland.com

How much time do you think you’ve spent in your life looking at YouTube videos? Probably a lot, right? You aren’t alone. In fact, there are an average 1 billion YouTube video views accumulated every day just on mobile devices. It makes sense then that we would include video retargeting on this list. These types of ads come in various forms; either videos that play before selected YouTube videos (like in the above example), banner ads that pop up at the bottom of videos, or display ads which are seen next to videos.

Are these types of ads good for everyone? Not necessarily. These ads will be much for successful with brands that typically utilize or produce video content. Plenty of research is out there on the effectiveness of video. In fact, 90% of people find videos to be helpful when making a decision about a product. If your brand is capable of producing top notch visual content, put it to good use in the form of video retargeting.

2. Email

Email still remains an effective marketing platform, and for that reason it should be considered when thinking about places to retarget users. In this case, a user visits your website but ultimately abandons your site having not converted, and is then retargeted in the form of an email that is sent to them. If you already have a lot of success with your email campaigns, you should definitely consider email retargeting.

image source: crazyegg.com

For example, you may wish to retarget individuals who have purchased items on your site before but have not recently returned, or have left items in their cart. Including a special offer will only further entice the user to come back to your website.

If you aren’t quite as convinced, research was conducted to see just how effective this type of retargeting was. The results were positive- the average open rate of these emails was 60% and the CTR was 15%. Not bad at all.

1. Web Push Notifications

image source: aimtell.com

Last but not least, one of the best new ways to retarget visitors to your site is via web push notifications. While push notifications for mobile apps have been around for the better part of a decade, website push notifications only became available in the past year or two and are still a relatively new concept to most.

It’s simple. A user opts in to your notifications with one click, and then you can begin retargeting based on a large variety of factors. No need to capture emails. No obtrusive forms. Just one click and you now have permission to market to that individual.

Did a subscriber view your site but never return? Abandon their shopping cart but never interact again with your website? You can send targeted web push notifications based on all of these actions, and more.

Web push notifications differ from typical retargeting methods because they are not ads presented on websites or social platforms, but instead are messages from your brand that are delivered instantly to your audience on their desktop or mobile devices. As a result these notifications are not only dramatically more effective than other retargeting methods, but also one of the most affordable.

To learn more about website push notifications for your Shopify store, visit aimtell.com

The 3 Types of Entrepreneurs You See on Shark Tank

by Kurt Elster

This is a guest post by Nick Rojas. Freelance Writer, Californian, Traveler, Loving Husband. Fan of Oxford Commas and cursive.

Entrepreneurs have it rough, we won’t sugar coat it. Getting your business off the ground in today's fast paced world isn’t easy.

For every brilliant idea you have, someone else has had that idea, or will have that idea fairly soon.

Don’t believe us?

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, 325,979 patents were granted in 2015. What’s more, the number of patents granted per year has doubled since the early 2000s.

Everyday we see entrepreneurs participate in online marketplaces. The financial barrier to entry with online marketplaces like Shopify is nearly zero.

The internet’s creation of new low cost markets has left many entrepreneurs wondering if traditional investment opportunities are still worth their time.

We say yes. Venture capitalists are still very much alive and well.

In fact, venture capitalists are evolving to keep up. The television show, Shark Tank, invites entrepreneurs to pitch ideas to investors in a game show format.

Since its inception in 2009, entrepreneurs have received millions in start up money from a variety of investors. This makes Shark Tank a valuable learning tool for budding entrepreneurs.

We’re breaking down the show’s three types of investors, some good and some bad, to give you an idea of what personalities real investors respond to.

The Honest Abe
This person will pitch their idea, the valuation they have in mind, and answer every question about their business, even if it paints them in negative light.

They’re honest, sometimes to a fault.

For example, pre-valuation plays a large role in the investor process both in the real world, and on Shark Tank. It’s the price contestant put on their business, or in other words, what their company is monetarily worth.

Pre-valuation is an entrepreneur's bargaining chip. It determines how much equity they’ll give away in return for investments.

Honestly about their company's worth is strategic. After all, they’re looking for the highest investment possible. Sometimes fudging the numbers isn’t a bad thing. On the other hand, investors spend their lives detecting lies. They know more about pre-valuation than the entrepreneurs do.

Above all else, honest abe's will earn respect.

The Know-It-All (And They Sometimes Do)
The know-it-all comes off as arrogant. They’re recognized by an undying determination to impose their opinions on the investors.

These contestants are frequently from a sector rife with venture capitalists. Entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley often fit this mold.

Negotiations with the know-it-all are ruthless. Investors often disagree with a company’s valuation, and thus offer lower investments than an entrepreneur would like.

Know-it-alls infallibly believe in their business, and if anything, will argue that their valuation is too low. Insulting the investors knowledge sometimes leaves them with no offer at all.

Though, for all their faults, the know-it-all sometimes actually does know what they're talking about.

Ultimate belief in their product leads to shrewd negotiating. High ball offers can come across as confidence, and might convince the investors that the product holds significant potential.

The Scammer
Both of our previous categories had their strengths and weaknesses. The scammer, however, has no redeeming qualities.

They’re the folks who take quick short cuts and use deception to convince investors their business strategy is profitable. The truth is, they’re only in it for a quick buck.

Scammers have also appeared on Shark Tank for publicity.

One incident saw a man purposefully undervalued his already financially backed company, and turn down all investment offers. He eventually admitted to appearing on television for marketing purposes.

Of all the competitors, the scammer is the least respected.

Life as an entrepreneur is difficult. However, you can make it slightly better by approaching investors in the correct way.

Confidence and honesty go a long way in convincing investors you’re worth taking a risk on.

Trump dolls & Swiss watches

by Kurt Elster

Last week we shipped two projects that I'm proud of, and wanted to share with you as a bit of inspiration.


For FCTRY, a Brooklyn-based product design company, we made a Kickstarter-style landing page in Shopify that dynamically updates for their latest product launch.
☞ https://shop.fctry.com/pages/presale-trump

It's such a great way to build engagement and excitement around what would otherwise be just another preorder.

The same day that launched, we launched another pre-order campaign, this time for a $3K+ Swiss watch from the founder of EverestBands.


This one is quite a bit more involved though. We designed & developed the entire theme ourselves. If you're into dive watches, check it out–
☞ http://montawatch.com/

Want to invest in something similar for your business? Get in touch.

2016 Shopify Email Marketing Holiday Calendar

by Kurt Elster

If you wait until it feels like Fall to get ready for email, you're going to be scrambling.

Here's the dates you should be sending at least one email for each:

  • 10/31 Halloween
  • 11/24 Thanksgiving Day
  • 11/25 Black Friday
  • 11/28 Cyber Monday
  • 12/12 Green Monday
  • 12/18 Free Shipping Day
  • 12/24 Panic Saturday

It's worth the investment in a email strategy. It's the only channel that's nearly guaranteed to add 10-20% extra revenue to your business.

Here's a screenshot from a client's Klaviyo account with typical results:


And of course if you need help setting up your Klaviyo account, I'm happy to help.

How to Increase the Awareness of Your Brand

by Kurt Elster

This is a guest post by Brian Jens, who worked as a freelance designer for many years before joining DesignContest team.

You are a new small brand trying to get noticed by the public. You have the best product in the world but consumers are unaware of it. The most important job here is to create brand awareness for your product. There is a fair number of marketing strategies that will give your product the best visibility. Otherwise, you may not make a single sale.

So what can you do to make your brand stand out?

1. Build an identity

Strong brand identity helps increase brand awareness and trust among prospective customers.

That’s what you’ll need to do:

Create your logo with specific colors and fonts. To get ideas for your logo, think about your brand, what it does and what it represents. You should decide what message you want your logo to convey and what core values to emphasize. If you can’t create a logo yourself there are several ways you can do it.

  1. Hire a freelancer.
  2. Pay a design agency.
  3. Use crowdsourcing platforms like Design Contest.

Tell the story of your company. People would wanna know who stands behind the brand. “About us” page is the perfect way to do this. Blogging might also be a good way to share your knowledge and experience.

2. Develop a website

Everyone is online these days. An optimized website will help bring traffic and turn it into customers. A special landing page optimized for search engines is also a must.

That’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Design your website, keeping layout, mobile/responsive, social share buttons, logo, colors and fonts in mind.
  • Optimize your site using keywords, image alt text and metadata to make sure it appears at the top of search engine results.
  • Convert website visits to actual sales by using personalization, suitable calls to action, and persuasive testimonials.

3. Create social media profiles

Social media is the most powerful tool available to you. It has great potential to increase brand awareness. It doesn’t matter if you are a big corporation or a small company. A customer likes your product, tells friends about it and does your job for you for free. You can easily reach millions of people and turn them into leads.

That’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Choose platforms that are best for your brand and target audience. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram and more are all out there.
  • Work out a strategy what to post and how often. Make sure you reply to your client’s questions as soon as possible.
  • Provide a link to your company, to make it easier for people to get to know your product.
  • Use to paid social advertising. Facebook ads are relatively cheap and help promote your brand.

4. Personalize

To boost conversion rates, make your customer’s experience delightful, show them that you care.

That’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Personalize your content – emails and the type of content on site displayed to each visitor. You’ll need a database about your audience for this.
  • Break your audience into segments based on different factors (demographics, behavior, etc.)
  • Create surveys and feedback forms to get to know your audience’s needs and expectations.

5. Referrals

Customer referrals are an effective marketing tool. In fact, the best source of new business is a referral from a satisfied customer.

That’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Connect with your audience. Use any feedback about your brand to make improvements to your strategy.
  • Offer incentives (discounts, promotions, sales) to boost customer recommendations to friends and family. Users will gladly spread word of your product or service if you give them perks.
  • Showcase reviews and testimonials to increase trust.
  • Ask influential people such as bloggers or journalists to write a review about your brand.
  • Deliver valuable content to share on other blogs.

6. Sponsorship

Sponsorship is a good way to reach your target audience. If you host an event, you can have your name and your logo displayed in front of your potential customers.

That’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Contact local charities to find out if they are interested in your sponsorship.
  • Suggest events that would generate buzz and publicity.
  • Meet with business leaders, local politicians and media sources.

You’ve probably thought about other ways to help people remember your brand. Feel free to share on Twitter to @ethercycle.

Bio: Brian Jens has been working as a freelance designer for many years before joining DesignContest team. Design and blogging are his biggest passion; Brian is always willing to do useful researches, to write about latest graphic design trends and tips. Feel free to contact him if you want some of your ideas to be developed and put on paper.

6 Ways to Use Shopping Cart Abandonment to Increase Conversions

by Kurt Elster

This is a guest post by Nick Rojas. Freelance Writer, Californian, Traveler, Loving Husband. Fan of Oxford Commas and cursive.

In 2015, it was estimated that about $4 trillion worth of merchandise would be abandoned in online retailers’ shopping carts. Although that number may seem staggering, it was predicted that 63% of it could be converted into a sale. How? Retailers can use shopping cart abandonment as a way to increase conversions using these tips:

Send an email.

Perhaps the most effective way to recover abandoned shopping cart sales is to send a follow-up email to customers who have left items behind. When a customer leaves your website with items still in the card, send an automated email within three hours reminding them of the merchandise they left behind.

When this follow-up email is sent within three hours, it typically receives a 40% open rate and 20% click-through rate of customers returning to the website, therefore increasing your odds of converting to a sale. Of course, this tactic can only be completed with a site has asked the customer to fill out a lead generation form with their contact information prior to completing the order. Be sure that this information is collected in the beginning steps of the checkout process to capture it before they leave.


If the first email is unsuccessful, try sending a second email within 24 hours after the shopping cart abandonment. This time, include a small incentive for the customer to return and follow through with the sale such as free shipping. The number one reason why customers abandon a shopping cart is because of unexpected shipping and additional fees added to the order. By offering a reduction or elimination of these fees for completing the order, you’re more likely to win this customer back and convert the abandoned shopping cart to a sale.

Save the cart.

Many people leave items behind in order to browse other websites with the intention of eventually returning to complete the transaction. However, some e-commerce websites are not designed to save the shopping cart past a certain timeframe, so the customer returns to complete the transaction only to find he or she has to start all over again. Few customers are likely to go through the hassle of searching for their items again, so make it easier by saving the cart. This can be done with a persistent cookie that is used to keep items in the cart as long as they are still in stock.

Improve processes.

Even if you do lose one sale, it’s important to take a look at your shopping cart abandonment data to improve for the future. Are customers leaving because there are too many forms to fill out? Is the site loading too slowly between pages? Or are you charging extremely high shipping and processing fees? Take a look at your data to see when customers are leaving to try to determine why.

Use a sidebar.

Sometimes, customers will add items to a shopping cart even though their intention was just to browse through the side, similar to window shopping. In this scenario, customers are more likely to come back to the site on their own and browse again at a later date. When they do, tempt them with a sidebar that reminds them what’s in their shopping cart. Use enticing images of the items that could evoke an impulse buy from the customer, and highlight any price drops that may have occurred since the last visit.


Have you ever abandoned an item in a shopping cart only to see that exact item follow you on every webpage you visit afterwards? This is thanks to an effective Google remarketing campaign. Using these campaigns, businesses can target people who have left their site with items still in the cart and create display ads with these items that appear on webpages that they visit afterwards. This way, customers will be tempted over and over again to revisit the site to complete the transaction.

Every business will encounter shopping cart abandonment at varying rates, however with these tips, businesses will be able to capitalize and recover these so-called lost sales.

Shopify on Your Terms

by Kurt Elster

Eliminate frustrations, rake in more revenue with a private app

This is a guest post by my friend Eric Davis of Little Stream Software. Eric builds custom web app for ecommerce entrepreneurs. He's here to talk about private Shopify apps.

There's a time when quitting is the best course of action.

If you're tired of hustling to keep up with the growth your Shopify store, I give you full permission to quit doing things the hard way.

Quit pulling late hours to crunch customer data.

Quit spending hours combing through the Shopify forums hoping to find another hack to simplify your workload.

Most of all, quit trying to tell yourself that if you just had the technical chops, you could make that fancy new app you bought do exactly what you needed it to do.

If you're at the helm of a thriving Shopify store, you're not running a cookie-cutter business. You're probably dealing with layers of suppliers, sales data, storefronts, sales campaigns, and dropship arrangements.

One app isn't going to magically coordinate all of those details. If fact, several apps probably won't be able to give you all of the support you need.

Before you sink more time into finding the magic bullet for your store's needs, let's talk about what an off-the-shelf app can do for you and when you might be ready for an app tailored specifically for your business.

What Public Apps Can Do for You

Most Shopify merchants recognize public apps as the items found in the App Store. These third-party Shopify apps are created by an outside developer to help fix a problem that many Shopify store owners have to deal with on a daily basis.

Public apps can very useful for solving problems that a lot of store owners face, but they definitely have a generalist approach. While there may be some customization available within a public app, don't expect these apps to solve your specific problem perfectly.

Public apps can be an excellent way for store owners to try out a solution and see if it makes life easier... or if it creates another headache. This small investment on your part can help you move closer to an ideal improvement.

On the technical side, public apps dovetail perfectly with Shopify because they all use the same APIs and standard authentication methods to access your store and store data. They were created to give you a plug-and-play experience.

What Private Apps Can Do for You

A private app is not anything you'll find for sale because it's a custom project built by a developer for your business and your business only. It can include exactly the features your business needs without a lot of extra fluff or distractions.

Need to create a very specialized email campaign for your best customers and another for the rest of your customer list?

Would you like product data imported directly from your supplier and added to your store instead of having to copy and paste all of it?

Want automatic alerts posted to you and customers when an item is almost out of stock?

Want to send automated reminders to customers who have left items in their cart without purchasing?

Private apps can do all of that.

It is important to know that while private apps use the same Shopify APIs as public apps, they use a different authentication API. This difference is why private apps can only work with one store at a time.

Also, private apps additionally cannot use the Embedded App SDK APIs, which means you can't embed a private app into the Shopify admin area.

If you need an app to help you manage frontend issues (the part of your store that the customers see), private apps have a harder time handling those. However, there is a workaround. A developer can create an unlisted app within Shopify that is only accessible to you - same APIs, same authentication process as public apps, but only you can use it.

If you're leaning toward a private app for your store, I recommend working with a Shopify partner or creating a partner account and creating public or unlisted apps. Even if you only want to use it exclusively for your store, having access to the full set of Shopify APIs including the embedded SDK is worth the extra work.

Private App or Public App?

When you're ready to choose an app for your store, how do you decide? Private or public? And what should the app include?

Here are a few questions that should help clarify your decision-making process.

How well is your store functioning with the apps you are currently using?

If your store is running smoothly and you're not having to spend much time tinkering with information manually, save some cash and enjoy the ride.

However, if you've added 2-5 apps to manage different facets of your business and you're still grinding out several hours a day behind a computer screen to get the results you want, then a private app may be a good investment.

Do you have a pool of cash from a crowdfunding campaign or investors?

A private app isn't the cheapest solution for Shopify stores, but if you have funding that would give your store an ideal framework right from the start, then by all means put a private app to work.

If you don't have much for startup funds, don't worry. Many public apps were designed to help take on the most common problems Shopify store owners are dealing with, so try a few to find a good match.

Do you have a good sense of what features you really need?

Put a few public apps to the test before you commission a private app. Knowing what features you can't live without and which are limiting your revenue or driving you crazy is important.

As you put an app through its paces, take plenty of notes on the pros and cons. That feedback will help developers immensely - and save you a pile of money.

Apps Should Make Your Life Easier

No matter which type of app is the best fit for you, remember that the whole point of adding an app is that it should reduce your workload, not complicate your life.

If you're still stewing in uncertainty or indecision about the smartest way to put apps to work for you, quit worrying and call a Shopify developer you trust. I know from working with my own clients that during the course of a short phone call, I can often see a number of viable solutions that would simplify their workload.

I know that the search for a better process or a shortcut never ends, but quit losing sleep trying to find all of the answers yourself. Being a Shopify entrepreneur doesn't always have to be so hard.

Eric Davis helps ecommerce entrepreneurs customize their Shopify stores using private and unlisted apps. He has created a free course to teach Shopify store owners how private apps work, what they can and can't do, and over a dozen examples of how they can increase your revenue.

Learn more about Private Shopify Apps here.

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