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 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

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

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.

Shopify Theme Optimization Tutorial

by Kurt Elster

Is your website turning customers away? Let me show you how I setup Shopify themes for stores with seven figure revenues. By the end of this webinar, you'll know what your store needs to boost conversion and your bottom line. Never be confused by your Shopify theme optimization again. Learn how to set up your theme for success.

Shopify Positioning Workshop Webinar

by Kurt Elster

"Uncover hidden profits by presenting & positioning your Shopify store in the best light to potential customers."

How to Email Busy Experts

by Kurt Elster

Hey store owners, I wanted to give you a glimpse into the other side of the table, and help you increase your chances of success when hiring any vendor (me or otherwise.)

As a Shopify expert, I get more leads than I can handle, and I want everyone to have a great experience, so I actively disqualify people who aren't a great fit. Many folks email me with stuff like "I need SEO." I delete those emails. You need to put in 47 seconds of effort and write a five sentence email.

Tell me:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What problem are you facing?
  3. How can I help?
  4. What's your deadline? (Don't say ASAP unless it actually is and you're prepared to pay a rush fee.)
  5. Give a budget range. No one expects you to know what something should cost, but as a business owner, you should know what you can afford. This will help determine the best solution.

The key takeaway is that Shopify Experts want your success, but we can't want it for you. Demonstrate you're a serious business owner and you'll have better experiences with your vendors.

Are you cultivating your top 1% customers?

by Kurt Elster

This is a guest post by Michael Bower who joined us in season of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast. He's spent twelve years running and servicing ecommerce companies, which means Michael gets the growing pains merchants feel. We're big fans of his offering BLLD ME.

I just learned a great stat from RJMetrics: In the average ecommerce store, the top 1% of customers spends 30x more than the average customers!

RJM expanded on this in their white paper report. I was so excited about this I got their permission to link directly to it.

30x more spending above average. That's an insane amount!

This is similar to a phenomena I first noticed years ago when working with a nonprofit client— most of their revenue consistently came from a few donors.

This is a great example of Pareto's Principle in action. I'm sure you've heard of it, it's often called the 80/20 rule. 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. Those are your VIP customers. You want to segment them in your marketing and customer service and give them preferential treatment because they're the most important to your business.

Rather than try to find and court new VIP customers, you'd be better off saying thank you to your known VIP customers by providing them with additional value.

Some quick wins you should try:

  1. Make smart, personalized recommendations to your top 1% (if it's an automated or batch email, make it look like it was crafted just for them. Klaviyo can do this.)
  2. Segment them and reach out to them with special "VIP" offers.
  3. Show your appreciation by giving them the occasional freebie. Offer upgraded shipping, free sample of other products, promotional swag, whatever makes sense. Just something to say thank you.

As a brand, it's hard to have a one-to-many relationship. By identifying and segmenting your top VIP customers, you may be able to reach out to them personally and build a 1:1 relationship with them. Depending on the volume of your business, this could be 20% of your customers, or 2%, you should be doing it.

"How do I SEO my Shopify store?" For Dummies

by Kurt Elster

Yesterday I spent the whole day at the Shopify Retail tour. They'd invited me, along with a few other folks, to answer questions about Shopify and Ecommerce from existing and potential Shopify customers. From 10am until 4:30pm, I talked to a diverse and interesting lot of folks.

But every single person asked me some variation of one universal question: "how do I SEO?"

I get why they're asking. If your site appears at the top of google searches for a variety of things related to your products, you'll have loads of traffic. And potentially you didn't pay for it, if only you could crack the code on SEO! If only you knew the magic formula of H1 and alt tags to make the google machine happy.

But that's not realistic. It's at best an attempt to game a hugely complex and constantly changing algorithm into giving you traffic you don't deserve.

I say you don't deserve it because you're trying to cheat the system. Instead, let's come up with a real strategy that works.

Step 1: Let's forget about obsessing over html. If you're using a new premium theme from a good developer like Pixel Union or Out of The Sandbox then you've already done 99% of everything you need to support technical SEO efforts. Open graph, schema markup, etc. All there and done. Don't waste more time and money on this because you'll never get a good ROI out of it. Let's face facts: google engineers are smarter than you.

Step 2: on site SEO. Google wants what your customers want: relevant, valuable content. You have to write articles, guides, interviews, and all the other valuable content you enjoy on other sites. My most successful Shopify Plus couldn't care less about SEO. Instead of fussing with alt tags, he hired three writers to produce great blog content for him. It only costs $1200/mo which is way cheap for the ROI he gets. Here's the best part: he never worries about writing the perfect SEO copy, because he's instead creating on-topic and relevant articles. You can do the same thing. Write on your own or hire someone.

I already know your objection: "Kurt I'm a lousy writer and I can't afford a writer." I've got a hack for you that I use. Dictate your articles using the text to speech already built in to your device. Macs are great at this. Then send it to a copy editor. I pay $30/article on average for copy editing.

Step 3: off-site SEO. Links to your site from sites with a similar audience are massively important. (Note: The spammy blog comment links you buy from a snake oil salesman SEO pro for $500/mo are the opposite of this.)

Here's where we need to again forget about SEO; start thinking like a public relations firm. The best SEO strategy I've ever seen is PR outreach. Find blogs, forums, YouTube channels, and Instagram rockstars who are in your niche. Now email them. Email them and offer them free product in exchange for an honest review. This is a numbers game but it's the only way you'll get relevant links with qualified traffic. This tactic is powerful in that you'll be able to trade up the chain. You'll start with small blogs and as word of mouth grows you'll be able to build relationships that move you up to blogs getting millions of daily visitors. This tactic isn't particularly difficult but it is time consuming. You can hire someone to do it for you which will save you time and speed things up because outreach professionals already have a network to leverage. (I personally recommend Kai Davis for this kind of work, he's pulled great results for my clients.)

What's the takeaway here? Instead of trying to learn the finer points of semantic HTML while guessing at google's algorithm, all you need to do is share your passion. Make your love of your niche infectious and the SEO will follow.

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