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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

Incentivize.

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.

Retarget.

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.

Revenue Hack: Upgrade Your Order Confirmation Emails

by Kurt Elster

Smart marketers know that the first sale is the only beginning of a relationship with a customer.

If your marketing stops after the first sale, you are leaving money on the table.

Moreover, while there're lots of ways to extend that the lifetime value of a customer, there's one thing you should be doing first.

Upgrade your order confirmation emails!

A typical email open rate is 20%, and even in my best campaigns, I get an average of 55%.

But order confirmation emails? Those consistently get opened three out of four times.

Using MailChimp’s email marketing benchmarks, we’ve discovered our open rates are 4x higher than common email rates (for eCommerce as an industry).
Source: Receiptful

And yet the majority of Shopify store owners don't do anything with them. They never update them from the Shopify default template.

Get Personal

I want you to rewrite your order confirmation emails. Put them in your own voice, make them personal, and make them come from you as the store owner. Sign them. Own them. It's an easy way to start building a personal relationship between you and your customers. The easiest way to do this? Thank them.

This one modification alone will improve customer experience because they're getting a personal thank you from their new friend, instead of a transactional email from a brand.

Plain-text: Keep It Simple

Don't worry about crazy visuals and HTML email. Those things are fine, but it's not how you'd write an email to a friend. You'd write an email to a friend in plain-text, right?

After you've made your connection and thanked them, you can put your money where your mouth is by offering your customers something to show your gratitude (and hopefully get a second sale before the first item has even been delivered.)

The Upsell

Offer a 10% discount on their next purchase and suggest a few best-sellers. This combo removes all friction, and it's being offered at an incredibly relevant time: directly after the first order!

I'd also experiment with offering free or upgraded shipping coupons, product bundles, and limited time offers.

Going Social

Then lastly, get them involved with their community. If you have an active social media presence, pick your single most dominant channel, and invite them to *post* their new purchase. This level of micro-engagement is so much more important than just following you in yet another place.

I'd offer this as a PostScript, and in an ideal world, it's a stepping stone to user generated content, engagement, and word of mouth marketing. In my experience, it's harder to get people to post about your product than it is to get them to buy it, but it's potentially worth even more sales down the road.

What are you waiting for?

What are you doing or planning on doing with your transactional emails? I'd love to hear, share your thoughts or questions with me.

How to keep your email from driving you insane

by Paul Reda

When I was a teen I worked in a law office with an old attorney named Emmett. I can't tell you exactly how old Emmett was, but he was old enough to have been an officer in World War II and to know the intricacies of Illinois Livestock Law. I remember him once lamenting how much tougher it was being a lawyer now because technology made people constantly expect your immediate attention. "When I started, people would write you a letter, so it would take at least a day to get to you. Then you take a day to reply, then send another letter back. Now all day people just call you and demand an answer right away!" I shudder to think how he would have reacted to a world of emailing and texting.

(He was also the source of the quote "This would be a great business if it wasn't for the clients." So yeah, me and Emmett got along well.)

Since jumping feet first into consulting, I've discovered that a shocking amount of my time and my business is spent just sending emails. As a percentage of time, I'd say my business (and yours) is unavoidably tied to the success of those emails. I found myself interrupted by emails and texts constantly, worried that I would miss something, and breaking my flow whenever I was deep in a task. I even had a browser extension installed on all my computers that checked my email every 8 minutes and would inform me if I had anything new.

I had a security scare a few weeks ago, so I enabled 2-factor authentication on everything. This ended up breaking my GMail extension, so I... let it stay broke. And it's been amazing. I also took several text conversations I'm on and set them to Do Not Disturb. In order to see if I have any emails or texts, it is now solely my decision to make. I pull, instead of having it pushed to me at all times. The change in my life has been palpable. Now communication happens only when I want it to, and I no longer feel the constant pressure that I owe someone somewhere a reply to something.

I see a lot of people making comments about the need to "disconnect" from things, as though it has to be an all or nothing proposition. That certainly has it's place, but you might not have to go there if you're willing to just ease the connections on a day-to-day basis.

Thankfully, Kurt is the bulwark against most of the Ethercycle email deluge. So I asked him what are his secrets to tackling massive amounts of email while still maintaining your sanity.

I sent 11,448 emails last year. By using email templates, I've been able to save myself hours a day, decrease response times, and even fight scope creep. To get the most out of these email templates, there are three tools I'd strong suggest you implement:

Canned Responses

If you use Gmail, you can save yourself hours of copying and pasting by using a Google Lab feature called "Canned Responses." This feature allows you to save an email as a canned response and use it over and over again without needing to copy and paste into a new window.

  1. Click the Labs tab, find Canned Responses, click the Enable radio button to enable Canned Responses, scroll down and click Save Changes.
  2. Compose an email message you'd like to use over and over again, and then click the arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the message window.

I wish I'd set this up sooner when I think about how much it saves me every single day. (If you already use Canned Responses, and you're ready to take things to the next level, check out the app TextExpander. It's what I'm using now.)

Boomerang

Boomerang for Gmail lets you take control of when you send and receive email messages. I've used it for years and love it. It gives me three important features:

Send an email later: I like to set expectations about clients can hear from me. If I don't expect clients to email me on the weekend, then I shouldn't send them emails on the weekend either. But sometimes you just need to. So With Boomerang, I can write an email now and schedule it to be sent automatically at the perfect time like Monday at 9 am. Just write the messages as you normally would, then click the Send Later button. Use their handy calendar picker or our text box that understands language like "next Monday" to tell Boomerang when to send your message.

Remind you if you don’t hear back: There are times you need to make sure you follow up within a specific time frame after sending a message. You can select to only be reminded if nobody replies, or regardless. This way you won't let messages slip through the crack and will never forget to follow up with people.

The best follow up reminders: Want a cleaner inbox, but don't want to lose track of important messages? Use Boomerang to take messages out of your inbox until you actually need them. Just click the Boomerang button when you have an email open, and choose when you need it again. Boomerang will archive your message. At the time you choose, it'll pop back to your inbox, marked unread, starred or even at the top of your message list.

You can grab Boomerang for free at http://www.boomeranggmail.com/

But in the end, if I had to choose just one email tool to maintain sanity and boost productivity, it would have to be the 100% free Inbox Pause. As the name suggests, Inbox Pause pauses your inbox. It prevents emails from arriving to your inbox outside of a schedule you specify and it's so freeing and life-changing. Email has two problems: people abuse it by treating it as almost-synchronous communication, and we view our inboxes as a slot machine that if checked every 30 seconds might produce some welcome news. None of this is conducive to productivity or a healthy work life balance

Inbox Pause forces me to respond to my work email in batches. I check my email only twice a day. Most people write emails in the morning and after lunch. For that reason, I have Inbox Pause set to move emails to me at 11am and 4pm. This allows me to simply schedule my "email time" and ensures I can be most efficient in responding. Additionally, it keeps my inbox from becoming the first thing I look at in the morning.

How many times has you day been hijacked by your inbox? You wake up, and you check your email. Before even getting out of bed, your inbox has just become a compulsory to-do list that hijacks your day. That was my life before Inbox Pause. Now I get up, unstressed, and use my morning however I see fit.

Get it at http://inboxpause.com/

The not-very-quick & dirty method for creating your own eBook.

by Paul Reda

We recently launched a book, and one of my requirements for the project was that it had to be available in real ebook formats - not just a crappy PDF that people were supposed to read on their computer screens. I do most of my reading on a Kindle Paperwhite, and I love it. It does one thing, and it does that one thing great. Of course, now the onus fell on me to make the ebook happen, so here's the process I used. I'm not saying this is the "correct" or "only" way, just the one that worked best for me. You'll end up with EPUB and AZW3 files that should be readable pretty much everywhere.

Kurt and I wrote Ecommerce Bootcamp collaboratively in a Google Doc, then I did a final pass on it in LibreOffice. The fact that we had already written it in word processing software made the GUI-heavy iBooks Author feel like more trouble than it was worth (plus WYSIWYG editors are tools of the devil). So I just took our ODT file and used Calibre to convert it to EPUB. If you read a lot of ebooks, Calibre is a must-have tool for converting between file formats, tagging your books, and fixing them so they (correctly) use left justification instead of (clearly incorrect) full justification.

This resulted in a sloppy EPUB file. The words themselves were correct, but the font sizing, spacing, alignment, etc were inconsistent and not what I wanted. Now here's something your might not know: EPUBs are just zipped-up HTML and CSS files with a little bit of extra stuff thrown in. You can use a simple tool like eCanCrusher to “unzip” your EPUB and you get this:

From here you can use a text editor to edit the HTML and CSS to do whatever you want. You're essentially making a visually pleasing text-based website. Because I'm picky, I just put in the raw text and hand-coded the whole thing. I wanted to make sure all my heading sizes were correct, what would be ordered lists vs. what would be unordered lists, blockquote margins, etc. TextMate's Option-Shift-W is your friend. The CSS is pretty simple and you can use it to define exactly how your text is laid out. Chapter breaks are done by adding page-break-before: always; on each H1.

See the Pen EPUB CSS by Paul Reda (@paulreda) on CodePen.

Calibre's EPUB exports use an older standard of the format that was based on XHTML and CSS2, so when you're marking up your book, pretend it's 2004 again. Complete with weird browser quirks! (Such as Nook readers might barf if you use CSS shorthand like margin: 10px 0;)

Everything else in your unzipped EPUB should be pretty straightforward. A folder with images you may be using, the title page of your book, and content.opf, which acts like a <head>for your book. A file you will need to worry about editing is toc.ncx, which is the Table of Contents.

See the Pen EPUB TOC by Paul Reda (@paulreda) on CodePen.

Just add a navpoint for each chapter, and have it link to an anchor tag inside the text of your book. Again, it's just like making links within a page.

After you get things working right in your EPUB folder, run it back through eCanCrusher to get it back to a single file. Now you can take that, pop it back in Calibre, and convert it to whatever other ebook formats float your boat. Remember, we're back in 2004, so it's a good idea to load it onto different devices and do some "browser testing" to make sure everything looks fine.

Nobody Respects Digital Creators Because Digital Creators Don't Respect Themselves: A Twitter Rant

by Paul Reda

Shopify Tutorial: The Ultimate DIY SEO Hack

by Kurt Elster


I recently recorded a screencast for my friend Micheal DiMartini of Everest Bands to show him how I use a simple SEO hack to easily up his search rankings, yet another in the many small steps we took to help grow his business to seven figures. (I'll admit... I'm a wee bit jealous of his watch collection!) Last night, I recorded an even more in-depth version of that screencast, for you, showing exactly what real SEO pros don't want you to know.

This is just one of many actionable and in-depth screencasts I've prepared for the launch of Ecommerce Bootcamp: The Insider’s Guide to Building a Million Dollar Sales Funnel for Your Shopify Store, for which pre-orders start next Tuesday at 10 am Central time.

Learn the secrets of the world's most successful Shopify Entrepreneurs:

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