It's over a year now since we moved to Shopify and in this post, I want to set out the 10 key ways Shopify has revolutionised our e-commerce business. These are both practical, day to day experiences of using the platform, but also (and perhaps more crucially) ways in which Shopify has changed the way we THINK about our e-commerce business.
For the record, I'm not re-selling anything here and I'm not in any way incentivised to push Shopify. This is our own subjective experience of Shopify based on a year of use.
We've been critical of Shopify in the past and would be fearless about doing so in the future. Nevertheless, despite some issues, we can categorically say that if you are setting out on your e-commerce journey and are thinking about a hosted platform solution (and you really should be), Shopify deserves your serious consideration.
Here's how Shopify has revolutionised our business and how it can change yours too:
1. Their Passion Is Infectious.
Over the past year, I have been struck by the relentless passion and enthusiasm of Shopify for it's mission. It's infectious and it will have a DIRECT impact on the way you think about your business in ways you might not have foreseen. I've seen so many examples of this: their first-class support, by people who are incredibly well-trained and who genuinely want to help you get the best out of the platform as quickly and easily as possible. You'll see it in their blogging - bringing you wide-ranging tips and insights into e-commerce and sharing key data and metrics. You'll see it in their social media strategy with simple features like Shopify Picks, sharing what Shopify merchants all around the world are up to. They live and breathe this stuff! The net effect is that you can't help but be positively influenced by it. Whether you realise it or not, you soak up the passion and you can't help seeing and reading things about what other merchants are doing that re-invigorates you and inspires you to develop your own business.
2. Shopify Has A Vision. And That Vision Can Change Your Business Forever.
This point is connected to the first. Passion stems from having a vision; having full faith in that vision and then having a talented team that will execute on the vision. If you want to see this in action in a company, look no further than Shopify.
Their vision, it seems to me anyway, is about unifying all the disparate strands of e-commerce under one powerful, flexible and expandable platform. Because e-commerce today is not just about an online store. You may be selling in a physical store, you may be selling on Facebook, you may be getting into Pinterest, experimenting with Twitter and maybe you have a store on Esty. Shopify's vision is to give you the tools to manage your e-commerce business across all these channels. Seriously, step back and think about how clever that is. And then assume that Shopify is already thinking further down the line on how to execute this vision - it's seriously exciting. They've already brought out a Pinterest Buy Pin and announced a Facebook Buy Button. Twitter, Esty - where will they go next? Pre-Shopify, we just had a website. Post-Shopify, we no longer think in such narrow terms and that is genuinely revolutionary. Sales Channels under a single e-commerce platform looks game changing to me.
Their recently launched Mobile Buy SDK offers merchants the chance to integrate their native apps into Shopify and manage app sales as a channel within your admin. No separate systems for app and site - just one seamless experience for your customers. We've been building out our native iOS and Android app over the past year and are just about to launch it using the Mobile Buy SDK. I won't say the journey hasn't been fraught and will blog about this separately but for the moment - the point is this: we can do this on Shopify and that's awesome.
3. Shopify POS Revolutionised Our In-Store Management
In January of 2015 after 6 months with Shopify, we rolled out Shopify POS in our Kinsale store. Now I'll be honest - there are some gaps in the POS app right now. The one major omission in my opinion, is the inability of the POS system to plug into your shipping rates and options already set up on your e-commerce store. But leaving aside the improvements needed, the central idea behind Shopify POS is brilliant. In-store, I can genuinely say it's utterly changed our customer experience and radically improved our efficiency when it comes to speed of order taking and processing. Products from your e-commerce store are easy to find and add to an order, you can duplicate products and make them visible only on your POS if you wish - a very handy feature if you're running a promotion in-store but not on your site for example. The single biggest point for me though is that I can now see instantly on my Shopify home page, what our in-store sales channel is contributing to the business on a daily basis. The potential is huge in terms of reporting for how this data can be exploited and I look forward to seeing how Shopify develop POS.
4. Shopify Experts Changed How We Commission Development Work
One of the hardest, most stressful and confusing things you can do is attempt to find a reputable developer, designer or marketeer for your new or existing e-commerce business. We've been badly burned in the past here in Ireland working with a very major Dublin based agency who promised us everything - and then promptly outsourced the work to India whilst lying to our faces about doing the development work in-house. We abandoned the project half way through - and lost thousands. You really just don't know what or who you are getting involved with until you dive in to the project.
The Shopify Experts Community changes all that. You can browse a global list of experts who have genuine and comprehensive experience delivering website builds on the platform and you can then read real reviews from previous customers.
We used this community to great effect when researching who to hire for our job. We were able to get various quotes, flesh them out and get a sense from each company we spoke to about how they would handle this project.
Sure, you may still be unlucky and hire the wrong outfit but Shopify has done a lot to make hiring an expert a less intimidating and more secure experience.
5. Thanks to Shopify, We've Started Blogging And It's Working!
Okay, we're not big bloggers. Like a lot of micro businesses out there, the day to day stuff can get in the way of our writing aspirations! But my point here is that Shopify makes it a whole lot easier for us to blog than we ever experienced before. And that in turn, makes it more likely that we stick to our goals and push some new blog content regularly. This year (2016), I've made it a key goal for me personally to do a little more blogging.
Our old site was a custom build from an agency in Dublin that had zero blog integration and they weren't that much help in creating an easy to use blogging platform that linked well to our site. With Shopify - it's all there - right down to the SEO. The blog posts we've done already have been picked up by Google and refer a little traffic our way. It's all about reducing the hurdles!
6. The App Store Has Materially Improved Our UX And Put Revenue on Our Bottom Line
The shopify App Store is a genius move! Some are wonderful - some are not but it's never been so easy to add killer features to your e-commerce store that can put real dollars on your bottom line and materially improve your customer experience at the same time.
The one that stands out for us is YOTPO - a customer review app that gives visitors to your site compelling social proof about the quality of your product and service. All our customers get a request to review a certain number of days after purchase and many do. We get incredibly useful feedback on our service levels and site features along with morale-boosting praise and validation. Crucially, prospective customers see real reviews from real people and gain in confidence about the market leading service and products we try to offer.
We use quite a few other Apps from the Store across marketing, sales, customer service and accounting. We've tried apps that work and some that don't work. That's the beauty of it - if you find something is not right, just install and move along.
Prior to joining Shopify we could only dream of having this level of bolt-on functionality for our store. We spent thousands of Euro custom integrating Kashflow with our last site. If it went down or failed, it cost more money to put it right and it never fully worked as well as it should have. With Shopify? It's an app install that took a few minutes and a low monthly charge. I know which one I prefer.
7. Our Organic Rank Has Improved Since We Launched on Shopify
So we know this is fluid and we could lose page rank too but since we launched on Shopify, we have improved our organic ranking on key search terms. Shopify is fast! Their CDN must be having a positive effect on our rank. It's mobile friendly so that's another gold star for Google. Combined with the blogging and the fact that we've also been picked up on Shopify Success Stories, it's all helping to improve our visibility on Google and elsewhere.
8. Our Custom Theme is Easy to Manage and Update
Now I realise this is not unique to Shopify. And as I made clear at the start - there are other platforms out there that will offer many of the same features and functionality. But I'm comparing Shopify here to the incredibly limited site we had before when it was a fairly featureless stand alone e-commerce site built by a local web agency in Dublin.
Back then we could barely make a single change to the front end of our site without having to ask the agency to do it for us. And that came with a bill - every single time. When we joined Shopify, it was like we stepped out of the dark ages. All of a sudden, almost every part of our site was customisable and updateable in a few clicks. It's changed how we plan promotions, it's improved our ability to react to quiet periods by rolling out tactical offers and crucially - it's enhanced the experience of our customers when they visit our site. They see an up to date site from home page to checkout - just how it should be.
9. We're Mobile Ready - Right Down to Checkout!
This is a big one. Like us, you've probably seen the stats. The world is moving to mobile and e-commerce is migrating with it. If you're not planning for this right now, you're behind the curve. In 2014, Shopify released some data that showed mobile accounted for 50.3% of all e-commerce traffic on their network. It's only going one way. But with Shopify, we feel prepared. They released their responsive checkout last year and with Mobile Buy SDK, your native apps can now integrate seamlessly with your Shopify admin, allowing you to manage app sales from within your Shopify store.
10. Shopify's Growing - And Taking Us With Them!
There's no doubt about it - Shopify is a company on the move. So when you decide to hitch your wagon to a hosted e-commerce platform, you need to pick one that's going in the right direction. Everything I see from Shopify tells me this is a company with a unified, exciting vision for companies like ours. Just last week, they rolled out comments on the homepage timeline - another lovely feature that makes you feel like you're partnering with a company that is going places. For us, we've seen signs that we can capitalise on their growth and momentum and plan to ride on their coat tails whenever and however we can. And that's what I believe they genuinely want us to do. It's a two way street on Shopify and we're liking the direction of travel!
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