Shopify First Impressions

Having worked at Pro Athlete for 16 years, authored much of the E-Commerce software, and then managed the team who released code, to then starting VinoPair.com, where everything is cloud-based and Shopify is the hub - changes everything.  

Shopify is designed like no other E-Commerce software I've ever seen.  There's no server-install, database passwords, or firewall ports to open.  There's no credit card gateways, fumbling with scripts or code (unless you want to), or web hosting.  Truest definition to Turnkey E-Commerce software that I've seen.

It seems like every week there's some new option that's being pushed out for Shopify Merchants to use.  Some I like and use, and others I do not.  That's not the point.  I'm getting great features for my website and paying a small subscription fee.  It's like there's a team of programmers working on my site 24/7.  There's is a team, but they are working on the platform that my site resides and since it's all cloud-based, new feature installs are button-clicks away.  When I engage the button and click it, I get enormous value.  I know what it takes, in some cases, to write that functionality and I just installed it in seconds.  Not to mention, I get a little jealous knowing just how simple it's gotten to start an E-Commerce Store on Shopify now.

Security is a big part of E-Commerce software.  Keeping the bad guys out and making sure all credit cards are safe requires some effort.  As the bad guys get smarter and more motivated, the effort required to protected your homegrown business assets with a quarterly PCI scan takes more resources, and can become counter-productive.  Shopify absorbs that layer of security, so as a shop owner and retailer, I don't need to worry about that and can focus on more important issues.

Integration of software can be another huge resource hog.  Especially enterprise software where specialized consulting is required and fees are charged in the hundreds per hour. Shopify offers an eco-system of apps to make installing add-on's a fun exercise. When something comes up, there's a directory of service providers all around the world that specialize in Shopify Apps / integration and are there to help.

There were a few issues that I ran into while setting up VinoPair.com and I needed some help.  I dreaded the unknown, and potentially expensive consulting fees.  That's all I've ever known.  After reaching out to a few experts in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, I found someone to help.  Not only did they help, they recreated a copy of my entire store, inventory, and accounting system to showed how to properly solve my problems.  It was an amazing experience because the problems were fixed so fast and the cost was unbelievable.

Email templates are refreshing in Shopify.  Why?  The templates provided are for all kinds of communications. Just turn the store on and they are there.  That in itself, is a huge value.  Then, tailoring them to your needs is just as simple and straight-forward as the rest of Shopify.  It's simple to add logos, graphics and HTML to the emails, too.

Lifting the hood in Shopify reveals a mature liquid scripting engine and robust, yet simple theming system. There's a set of hotkeys or admin keyboard shortcuts to quickly move between screens in Shopify.  There's lots of liquid scripting variable cheat sheets programmers have authored.  There's a Shopify API wrapper for about every modern programming language.  Once you create a private app api key and plug it into a program, custom code can be run against your Shopify store front.  

Shopify, as a software development company, releases some amazing open-source projects, too. Vino Pair uses the dashing software as it's visualizations at the Parkville Commercial underground cave location to manage operations.  There's many pre-built widgets that can be plugged-in and integrated with outside services for real-time data flows which makes this dashboard software expandable and versatile.

Cheers shopify!

Cheers shopify!

Winning At eCommerce Product Reviews

Winning At Product Reviews - Just Remember CDSD

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  1. Allow anyone to review your product. - You can always turn this off.
  2. Purchasers need simple, friction-less way to provide review for maximum conversion. - Inline form in email works best.
  3. Asking people to “help others” with their expertise works.
  4. Incentivize reviews at anytime, but at first it really helps momentum to create review content.
  5. “Be first to review this product” incentive.
  6. Amazon’s got a program called “vine” where they send products to customers for free, but they must write a review.
  7. Amazon touts the program as a method to showcase top reviewers, so there are requirements, but most can get it - https://www.amazon.com/gp/vine/help
  8. Queue results for customer service / marketing teams - or outsource.  Auto-post could be disastrous.
  9. Profanity Filter / Skin Filter / Competitors Filter / Products Filter / Vendors Filter / Duplicate Review Filter / Similar Review Filter / Whatever you desire filter.  Just use filters.
  10. Must Q/A for other odds and ends - people are weird.
  11. Differentiate by tailoring reviews specifically for your product.

Display

  1. Theme - Display everywhere with savior faire
  2. In product grid show stars.
  3. In quick view, show stars.
  4. Product marketing - show stars.
  5. On product page, above fold, show stars.
  6. Below fold, create clean review area showing summary, number of reviews, and scrollable list of reviews.
  7. Allow community voting.  Just allow one IP per product and obfuscate score to prevent gaming.  
  8. When lots of reviews for a product, don’t hide, overflow to a separate webpage page with buy box and canonical back to /product page.
  9. Create review tools using product filters that customers can use to slice and dice the products they want - use /reviews in the url to attract customers adding “reviews” to their search terms.
  10. Category landing pages need an aggregate rating for all product in grid - This is new.  

Syndicate

  1. Sitemap for content - Share with Google through webmaster central
  2. Submit product review feeds for PLAs - https://developers.google.com/product-review-feeds/  -Share in Google merchant center
  3. Web site - Schema.org markup for reviews, review-aggregates - Validate here - https://developers.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/
  4. Off-site, use product comparison engines.
  5. When emailing customers asking for reviews, include other reviews for the same product - “See what others said”.
  6. When sending customers a marketing email, include product reviews in the email.
  7. When sending customers a marketing email, include highly reviewed, similar products in the email.
  8. Build extranet so partners can review their own product ratings, download results, and improve products on their own time.

Debrief

  1. Create reporting system with criteria to organize and “filter” bad reviews for discussion.
  2. Meet with key product managers to discuss and fix problems with products.
  3. Meet with external vendors and suppliers to improve products.
  4. Review customer interaction with reviews on website using Analytics.
  5. Review KPIs

5 Star Develops Entire Digital Marketing Presence Plus ECommerce for WestonTownMouse.com

The Town Mouse Logo.

The Town Mouse Logo.

I met Stacy and JD Shipman while promoting local marketing at the Weston, MO Chamber of Commerce.  Might seem old school to develop a slide deck and speak to groups, like a chamber of commerce, but there's something I've learned about business, "Sell yourself before you sell anything else." So, I would say, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce is a unique opportunity to sell yourself and I wouldn't pass them up or any other opportunity like that in a lifetime.   

When I met Stacy and JD, they had just purchased an 800 square foot retail store in Weston, MO.  It was a cute little shop on Main Street called The Town Mouse.  Since the town of Weston began promoting itself as a destination in the 70's, The Town Mouse has grown to become a well-known gift shop / boutique with all the Weston charm and character you've come to know and expect - if you've been there.  Stacy and JD had the dream and taking The Town Mouse to the next level and they entrusted 5 Star Net to help.

Together, an extensive plan with timeline and milestones was developed to create a new logo and new website on a new domain name.  Eventually, we'd go full-blown ECommerce, so let's not focus on that objective now, just know and plan for it down the road.  Also needed are Google Apps setup on that domain, content and copy written, and website photography must be captured/gathered.

Stacy and JD were committed from the beginning.  Within the first month, they had worked with 99designs and received their new logo set.  Nice work Stacy, JD and 99Designs!!

Although the 99Designs process requires lots of attention, they do great work as you can see by the quality above.

Although the 99Designs process requires lots of attention, they do great work as you can see by the quality above.

While Stacy and JD worked on the logo, I acquired WestonTownMouse.com.  I thought it was the best domain available and secured it within a few minutes of looking.  It includes the name of the town and the name of the business, so anyone searching should not have any trouble figuring out which Town Mouse we are.  There are several out there.  There's even one in Australia which is a restaurant.  Modern day local marketing can be tricky.

Once the logo and domain were selected, we stuck with the plan to begin collecting information/content for the website.  We wanted to start with a simple site which promoted the store, location, hours, history, info about the local town, etc.  Also, the site needed to work on all types of devices - responsive design.  As we met and discussed progress, I could tell Stacy and JD wanted to move faster and wanted the online store faster than I anticipated.  I could tell because in May 2014, Stacy and JC introduced me to Harrison and Tyler - their two sons.  They were going to help us.

Shipman Family - 2013

Shipman Family - 2013

There are many reasonable platforms for small ECommerce retailers - Yahoo Stores, Squarespace, Shopify and many others.  I look at my customer's requirements when I choose a platform for them.   How many products/SKUs are they planning to sell? Do they have any specific needs?  What kinds of faceted search/navigation are required?  Special payment types? What kind of customer account needs setup?  Email marketing needs?  How techie are they?   Many business owners do not know how many different ways ECommerce transactions take place on the Internet.  For CamoChic.com, a Yahoo Store was a better fit.  CactusCreek runs on Shopify.  Stacy and JD needed something simple to use so they could focus on adding new products and integrating shop and online inventories, so I selected SquareSpace.

During our first meeting, JD asked about product photography.  I asked about the relative size of all the products they sell.  He said they are usually small items, but they have big pillows and some apparel.  I advised them to get a simple light tent to use with their Canon 50D DSLR camera.  JD bought the light tent, and began shooting all the products in the store.  Stacy and her office staff began writing copy for each product and her kids helped organize all the information in Google Drive.  The teamwork was incredible.  The Shipman family worked together in ways I could only wish some corporations I've worked with would do.  Within a month, they had about one hundred products ready.  

Before everything was ready to turn on, the social media accounts, which were captured before the domain was purchased, needed to be setup.  I've heard horror stories of people having their social media accounts held for ransom if they do not plan well and obtain them first using a temporary email account.  I used westontownmouse@gmail.com.  With all the new logo assets from 99 Designs, it was simple and easy to setup and hook up auto-posting with SquareSpace.com.  

Weston Town Mouse Twitter Page

Weston Town Mouse Twitter Page

Weston Town Mouse Facebook Page

Weston Town Mouse Facebook Page

Google Plus Local Page With Customer URL

Google Plus Local Page With Customer URL

Turning on the final Squarespace ECommerce engine took a lot of partner setup and patience. Square is the only payment service that's offered and they hold my client's money for seven days before releasing it.  That's got to be the worst terms - ever.  SquareSpace and Square - please fix this!  Ship Station was another partner that we needed to setup and configure.  All products in SquareSpace need to have weight parameters or your customers cannot checkout.  Customers also go to SquareSpace.com to checkout, so if you want your customer experience to include customers staying on your domain, SquareSpace is not for you.  For that matter, Yahoo is not for you either.

Here's the final site.  Check out the Weston Town Mouse.