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Shopify Seattle Meetup Event March 22nd, 2018

Shopify Seattle Meetup Event March 22nd, 2018

Last night on March 22nd, 2018 we hosted our 3rd ever Shopify meetup at CodeFellows in downtown Seattle.

Last night on March 22nd, 2018 we hosted our 3rd ever Shopify meetup at CodeFellows in downtown Seattle. The following companies and people participated in the event:

Really great job by the speakers! I kicked things off by giving a brief overview of Ambaum along with some slides showing the amazing growth of Shopify. Accumula followed my presentation with a great overview of their platform for uniting instore sales with your ecommerce store. That was followed by Tom McMahon’s presentation for Flexe, if you aren’t thinking of your warehouses and delivery times as a competitive advantage for your business, it’s time you did!

Charla Session-Reed then spoke for ShipStation and had a very interactive logo game that helped draw the audience in for her presentation on ShipStation and their powerful shipping management tools. Finally, Stephen Smyth was kind enough to drive down from Vancouver and provide an update on the latest Shopify developments. There is so much going on with Shopify right now and it’s a great time to be a merchant on their platform, more announcements to come in May 2018 at Shopify Unite!

 

The final event of the night was a Shopify Plus panel. I moderated the panels and asked the merchants questions about Shopify, their favorite apps and areas where they would love to see new features in the Shopify platform. Rachel Simmons from TomboyX, John Smersh from Click! Design that Fits and Kaine Kornegay from Paradise Fibers all provided insightful advice for our audience. The app recommendations from the panelists were amazing, if you aren’t doing email capture on your site with an app like Wheelio or Privy, you should start!

I would like to thank Code Fellows for allowing us to use their space for our event, it is such an outstanding facility! We had a videographer at the event and will be sharing the slides on our YouTube channel in a couple weeks. If you want to see a past event, you can see all the videos here from our October 2018 event. We are planning another event this Fall and will make sure to get the word out so we can get even more people and companies in the Shopify ecosystem to participate.

 

(Guest Post) Enabling Ecommerce Growth: Why an ERP is Important, and how to take it to the next level

(Guest Post) Enabling Ecommerce Growth: Why an ERP is Important, and how to take it to the next level

In an ideal world, every entrepreneur looking to start a new venture would start with a carefully crafted plan.

In an ideal world, every entrepreneur looking to start a new venture would start with a carefully crafted plan.

But putting innovation and creation on hold in favour of careful planning and strategy creation is rarely the order of things. Getting live on the market motivates new ventures to quick decisions on technology, infrastructure, suppliers, and more. But these decisions — and in particular, technology decisions — can impact a business’ agility and scalability for years.

While the careful selection of all applications and platforms that go into creating a business’ technology stack should be approached with care and an eye on future goals and growth, perhaps the most important technology selection for any business is the central application that manages accounting, inventory, human resources, order management, and customer relationship management (CRM). When a business is still in it’s start-up phase, these business-critical functions may be managed by a suite of applications geared for the small business/start up market, which are then often carefully connected together via integration platforms or products. But as businesses grow into the SMB sector and beyond, these small applications quickly become too small to manage increasingly complex core business functions in a seamless way. Growing businesses with growing complexity, at a point, require an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) application. But your business’ journey into growth does not end at ERP implementation; it’s just the start.

Why an ERP is Important

If you’re looking for what an ERP is and other high-level information on ERPs, check out this great article.

When your business is still small or in it’s start-up phase, your goals for core applications are different then when you’re already beginning ramp things up. In this stage, it’s important to move quickly to get to market. Not only do technology decisions need to be made, but they need to be made quickly and have to satisfy certain requirements on functionality and budget.

But as the business grows, these applications quickly outlive their useful lives. Any business that’s been in the position of having to sunset technology already know the tell-tale signs of when it’s time to replace a platform (or more): decreasing productivity, the increasing use of work-arounds, errors and associated penalty fees, and more headaches.

The ERP (or Enterprise Resource Planning) application or platform is, for many, the next step ‘up’ for many businesses. Centralizing many core functions, the ERP functions like the brain of the business. Many businesses choose to use their ERPs as their ‘central point of truth’ of their business — the application that is the master checkpoint for all business-critical information. But upgrading to a new core application like an ERP is not the end; what good is a new, powerful brain for your business if you’re still using other undersized approaches and technology?

Augmenting Your Business Beyond the ERP

The act of implementing your new ERP system into your business’ broader back-end technology stack must feel like an organizational dream, bringing together once disparate sources of critically-important business data under the roof of a single application. As with any succession of replacing old technology with new, it’s easy to become overly focused on getting a single (albeit, incredibly important) application up and running. Implementing an ERP is often a longer process when compared to other applications (with average deployment time ranging anywhere from 3 to 12 months). But reaching full implementation isn’t necessarily the finish line your team should be celebrating.

No matter how central and important an ERP is to your business, the simple fact is your ERP will never exist in a vacuum or as an island of technology. Your ERP, along with most (if not all) of your business’ other applications that comprise the whole of your technology stack exist in a single ecosystem that is your business. So if you’ve simply implemented your ERP and flipped the switch to ‘on’, your work’s not done: you now need to consider how your ERP interacts with the whole of your business — and beyond.

The first thing to consider is what other, if any, applications still kicking around your technology stack are old carryovers. From platforms that helped your startup first get off the ground, to legacy applications that have potentially been a part of your business for decades or longer, these platforms should be assessed after a major technology change like implementing an ERP. Do these applications still make sense for your business today, or are they more work than they are worth? You’ll quickly discover if more upgrades need to be made elsewhere in your business once you travel down the road of plugging in other technology to your new ERP.

Your data integration and automation strategy will also need changes or improvement; with a new, powerful ERP at your side, you’ll notice that other applications may not integrate so well anymore. Ideally, changes in upgrading other applications and pivoting integration strategies can happen almost in parallel. For example, as you implement your new ERP, you can safely begin discussions with an expert data integration partner on how you can automate data into and out of the ERP; one worth their salt will often advise on whether an older application can be integrated effectively, or if new applications should be considered. (The really good partners will even refer you on to who you should be talking to next!)

In whichever way you choose to look at it, making a major change to your business through implementing an ERP will create various cascading changes. Take this as an opportunity to improve your business as a whole!

A Chance to Reinvigorate Your Data Integration Strategy

Making sure you’ve upgraded your platform strategy around your ERP is a great start to opening your business up to organic growth. The jump to an ERP is also an opportunity to re-evaluate any existing data integration strategy, or to implement a brand-new integration strategy.

So, not only does your ERP platform not exist in a vacuum, but neither do your other applications. It’s extremely important to a growing business to ensure that data is moved between all applications in your technology stack efficiently, effectively, and accurately, but especially so for your ERP which relies on having the most accurate and up-to-date business data. In graduating up to an ERP system, your business will notice that there are far less plug-and-play integrations that will work for your business right out of the box. And this is a good thing! It means your business has developed into a highly tailored entity with a unique arrangement of applications and platforms, configured to suit your purposes. Plug-and-play integrations, on the other hand, are suited for the mass market, of which you’re beginning to move upwards and out of.

Of course, your business itself doesn’t exist in a vacuum, either; you also need to consider how data moves into and out of your business, too. Consider trading partners, suppliers, sales channels, and more; all this data is primed for automation via data integration.

So with your new ERP in hand, consider your data integration strategy and how it can impact your growth arc, scalability, agility, and more. This is the best time to move out of the plug-and-play integration space, and into a more robust solution that’s geared towards enabling growth over the long term!

About VL OMNI

Accelerate Growth with VL OMNI: Your trusted integration platform for real-time accurate customer order data, shipment details, inventory, and prices.

VL OMNI is an agile point to multi-channel data integration service. Over 200 businesses trust VL OMNI to move data seamlessly through their infrastructure as they grow, expand and accelerate their business.

Fully Hosted vs Self Hosted Ecommerce Solutions, Which One is Right for Your Company?

Fully Hosted vs Self Hosted Ecommerce Solutions, Which One is Right for Your Company?

If you are considering starting a business or choosing a new ecommerce platform, you should fundamentally understand how ecommerce platforms work.

If you are considering starting a business or choosing a new ecommerce platform, you should fundamentally understand how ecommerce platforms work. At the highest level all ecommerce solutions fall into two camps: self hosted solutions and fully hosted platforms. Each platform has pros and cons to consider and it’s important you understand the differences for your online business.

What Does it Mean When an Ecommerce Platform is Self Hosted?

A self hosted ecommerce solution is one where your company is responsible for the hosting. That means you would need to setup a server (in the cloud typically) and your store’s files and data would be maintained on that online server.

What Does it Mean When an Ecommerce Platform is Fully Hosted?

Fully hosted ecommerce solutions maintain your store’s files and data in the cloud. You would not need to setup your own server, the ecommerce platform is storing your data for you.

Examples of Both Types of Ecommerce Platforms

Fully hosted solutions are also commonly referred to as SaaS products (software as a service). Here are some common examples of fully hosted ecommerce solutions:

There are many self hosted platforms, but the two most popular are:

As you think through the correct platform for your store there are a number of features you must consider. For each of these features you will need to understand how they work on self hosted platforms compared to fully hosted platforms.

  • Design
  • Functionality
  • Server Maintenance and Backups
  • Credit Card Security and PCI Compliance
  • Site Uptime & Content Delivery Networks (CDN)

Getting Started with Design

On the major platforms listed above if you want to get started with your new store you will have a myriad of options for “themes” or ready made designs to get you rolling. If you want to customize the design of your store you can do that on a fully hosted solution just as easily as you can on a self hosted platform. If you want to do customization to the design of your store you are going to need to know front end programming: CSS, HTML and some JavaScript. Day to day maintenance of your products in your store can be accomplished with either a self or fully hosted platform no problem assuming everything was initially setup correctly.

Site Functionality

Self hosted solutions are a blank slate so you can customize them 100% to what you want.

Fully hosted solutions are hosted in the cloud and you don’t always get full access to everything you might be accustomed to if you are coming from a self hosted platform. However even with self hosted solutions there are often workarounds that will get you what you need. For example on Shopify there is a robust app store with over 1,500 public apps that will extend the functionality of your store. You can create a loyalty program, collect customer reviews, integrate email marketing and much more through a variety of free and paid apps. If you can’t find the perfect public app you need on Shopify you can always create your own custom app to give you the exact functionality your store needs.

Server Maintenance and Backups

If you go the self hosted route you will be responsible for managing your own server and backup process. You can choose to use a server hosted in the cloud, but you will need to perform regular server maintenance and upgrades to make sure your site stays up and is loading fast for your customers (to check your Google page speed score go here) . This work can be outsourced, but if you go the fully hosted route you won’t need to worry about server maintenance and backups.

There is no need to perform server maintenance for fully hosted solutions as your provider will take care of that for you. Many fully hosted solutions will also take backups, but even on a fully hosted solution you will want to consider setting up your backup process to make sure you cover the following: your theme, customers, products and order data.

Credit Card Security & PCI Compliance

If you choose a self hosted solution like Magento or WooCommerce you are going to have to make sure any credit card data you store is completely protected. Even if you choose a self hosted platform you will want to do everything you can to avoid storing credit card data, one common solution we see for this problem is to use something like Stripe Checkout. Stripe checkout allows your customers to store their data in Stripe’s servers and if you return to the store you can reenter your phone number to validate your information and quickly checkout. If you don’t use Stripe Checkout (or a similar service) it’s necessary to know the PCI Compliance rules to make sure your store is in compliance with storing financial data.

Fully hosted solutions will take care of your credit card security and PCI Compliance automatically so unless you do some unique and extensive customizations to your site you won’t want have to worry about this.

Site Uptime and Content Delivery Networks

Ensuring your site stays online is the #1 priority for self hosted sites. If your site goes offline you could lose out on a lot of sales and create a negative perception for your brand. Your server needs to be able to scale with traffic so that it doesn’t get overwhelmed with the volume of people making purchases all at once. The biggest peak days are often Black Friday and Cyber Monday and they are the last days you want your store to go offline. With a self hosted store you need to make sure your site stays online and you have contracted with a content delivery network (CDN) so your site loads quickly all around the world.

If you choose to build your store on a fully hosted solution your site goes down only if the entire SaaS platform goes down. There are ~500,000 stores on Shopify and if they all go offline Shopify is strongly incentivized to get them all back online quickly. Major SaaS ecommerce solutions often have built in CDN’s, Shopify uses Fastly to make sure your site is fast all over the glove.

Do you Already Have a Store?

If you are looking to migrate your business from one ecommerce platform to another it’s important you know what type of platform you are getting into. Ambaum has migrated stores from fully hosted to self hosted solutions, but the biggest trend we are seeing recently is companies moving from self hosted to fully hosted platforms. If you have any questions about ecommerce platforms, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Shopify Flow – Increase Productivity by Automating Tasks

Shopify Flow – Increase Productivity by Automating Tasks

Shopify Flow is a brand new Shopify Plus app designed to increase your productivity by automating manual tasks in your Shopify store.

Shopify Flow is a brand new Shopify Plus app designed to increase your productivity by automating manual tasks in your Shopify store. Shopify Flow allows you to create automated workflows from “trigger” events that happen every day. If you have ever used If This Then That (IFTT), you will quickly understand the purpose of Shopify Flow and how powerful it can be for streamlining your day to day operations. Flow will help you save time and can free you (and your employees) up to spend time creating new products, exploring partnerships or testing out a new customer acquisition channel.

Sample Workflows

You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to Flow, there are many types of workflows you can create. I recommend first cataloging all the manual tasks you have to perform in your store on a monthly basis. What are the top 3-5 manual tasks that take up your time each month, can you automate the entire task or at least a portion of it? Here are some ideas for workflows:

  • Add Tags to customers – loyalty tags for customer spend
  • Cancel orders based on Shopify risk level
  • Archive orders after fulfillment
  • Notify a Sales Rep when a wholesale customer places an order
  • Send reorder emails when inventory quantity drops below a certain threshold

Creating Triggers

With Shopify Flow you can build multiple workflows by combining the following concepts:

  • Creating Triggers
  • Establishing Conditions
  • Adding Actions

Triggers are all based on internal events that run with Shopify. Here is the list of trigger events that Shopify Flow allows you to create:

  • Customer Triggers
    • Creation of a new customer
  • Order Triggers
    • Order creation
    • Order fulfillment
    • Order paid
    • Order payment
    • Order risk analyzed
    • Refund created
  • Product Triggers
    • New products added to store
    • Inventory quantity updates

To create your first workflow you will need to select just one of the triggers and then create conditions and actions. No coding is required to utilize Flow, there is an easy to use graphical interface (screenshot below) to set up your workflows.

When Shopify Flow is enabled you will see the first thing you need to do is create a Trigger:

Flow Triggers

Establishing Conditions

After you have chosen a trigger for your first workflow you will want to develop conditions. Conditions make sure that your actions only run when the conditions you create are met. Think of your conditions as one (or a series) of IF…THEN statements that occur once your trigger event initiates. The order of your conditions matter, so keep in mind that each of the conditions cascade down, the conditions at the start will take precedence (in order) over the conditions at the end of a series.

You can see in the image below there are many conditions you can use (the screen shot only captured a few of them) for your workflows. I chose “Order created” as my trigger and the list of conditions (on the right of the screenshot) available will differ based on the initial trigger event that you select.

Sample Workflow

You can combine multiple conditions, in my sample workflow my trigger is an order creation and my 2 conditions are order discount code + order discount code starts with November:

Workflow Conditions

Adding Actions

Now that my conditions are set, it’s time to create an action (or even multiple actions) for my workflow. In my example I have an order creation (trigger) and checking for a discount code (condition) + checking to see if the discount code starts with November (condition) and now it’s time for my action. My action is to send an email to our sales team so they can follow up with the customer directly.

Adding Actions

You can see that over on the right there is a template for structuring your emails, you can add multiple emails, a subject and a message.

Once you are done creating your workflow you can save it and come back to it later to edit if needed. Also if there are issues with your workflow and it can’t run you will get a validation error from Flow letting you know where you need to make the update. You can also see how many actions and triggers happened in the last 7 days for each of the workflows you create.

Get Started with Flow

If you have any questions about how to use Flow or set it up, drop us a note we would be happy to help!

The Numbers will Make or Break Your Store

The Numbers will Make or Break Your Store

The calendar has only just turned to August (it’s almost 100 degrees here in Seattle!)

The calendar has only just turned to August (it’s almost 100 degrees here in Seattle!) but the holiday season is right around the corner. Your peak selling season is fast approaching and it’s time to get geared up for the November and December rush. The best way to prepare for the busy season is to understand the metrics that matter for your store.

Learning your numbers will make you understand what it costs to acquire customers but even more importantly what you earn over the lifetime of each customer. You can then scale your marketing channels by doubling down on the areas that are the most profitable. So without further ado, let’s get started on some of the key metrics.

What are Customer Acquisition Costs?

Do you know your customer metrics down cold? As Kevin O’Leary on Shark Tank often laments, many entrepreneurs don’t know their numbers. If you are trying to run your company by feel and are afraid to dive in to statistics, you are putting your business at risk.

The first data point you need to know is your customer acquisition cost or CAC for short. For your business to flourish new customers have to come to your store and make purchases. Acquiring these new customers has an associated cost and it’s best to think about your CAC by channel:

  • Paid Advertising (by source)
  • SEO
  • Content Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Events and Conferences

I recommend using an Excel spreadsheet to calculate your numbers and pick a time period to evaluate everything (I prefer looking at yearly data to get a large enough sample size).

What is Customer Churn?

Before I founded Ambaum I was doing some freelance work for other agencies. Mark Portrait from Snapshot Group gave me a great quote that I will never forget: “10% of your customers have fired you, they just haven’t told you yet”. This is the reality with all businesses, but instead of accepting an arbitrary number as your churn rate, you need to calculate it.

Here is how you calculate customer churn: Pick a time frame to review (I like to choose a year) and then determine how many customers you had at the beginning (say 1,000) and how many you had at the end of the year. This is easy to calculate for ecommerce companies that sell monthly or yearly subscriptions. If you are like most ecommerce companies you will want to look at a longer time period for customer churn because many customers might skip a couple years between orders. I recommend looking at a 5 year period and if a customer goes the last 3 years without an order consider them dormant and churned.

Average Order Amount

This is an easy metric to calculate, take a time period (1 year is usually fine) and then sum up all your orders and divide by the number of orders and this equals your average order amount. You should calculate this every year and compare year over year numbers to see if you can find a way to increase your average order size. Work on improving your cart and checkout pages by adding related products and exit popovers and you can bump this number 10-20% with minimal effort.

Order Frequency

For Order Frequency I like to pick a longer time interval, I think 5 years is a good time period (similar to the churn measurement). Download a list of all your customers and then determine how many times each customer orders. If you are getting an average order frequency of 2.5X or higher your doing well, many businesses I have reviewed have order frequencies in the 1.25 – 1.75X range.

Customer Lifetime Value

Now that you have determined all your baseline metrics you are ready to ascertain your customer lifetime value (CLV). The customer lifetime value, is the value you get from a customer through the lifetime of their purchases.

There are many, many ways to calculate your CLV, here is a simple one:

(Order Value x Order Frequency) – Customer Acquisition Cost = Customer Lifetime Value

The key here is the first part of the equation (Order Value x Order Frequency) must be larger than your CAC. You will also want to segment this calculation by channel to get the most useful results. Let’s assume we have been advertising by using Google Product Listing Ads for the last year, here are some sample numbers:

(Order Value $60 X Order Frequency 1.5) – $40 CAC = $50 Customer Lifetime Value

Customer Lifetime Value with Margin

To further refine your CLV calculation you may want to apply your gross margin to the formula. Here is how that would look in our sample above:

(Order Value $60 X Order Frequency 1.5 X Gross Margin 70%) – $40 CAC = $23 Customer Lifetime Value

Many people like to add gross margin into the formula to account for the overhead required to sell each product.

Sample Customer Acquisition Strategies

Now that you you know your numbers it’s time to find some new customer acquisition channels! If you happen to be looking for more sales, here are some great suggestions:

  • Reach out to a supplier or partner about a co-marketing/co-branding opportunity. For example we host Shopify events in Seattle and are able to leverage the Shopify customer base to get a large group of people together. Shopify loves this as we are marketing for them and it puts us forward as an expert in our industry.
  • Resend your email newsletters a 2nd and a 3rd time but just to the population of users that never opened your original email.
  • Scope out websites that rank for your product phrases. Identify key acquisition targets and send them an offer to buy their site. If the site is mostly informational you can 301 redirect that site to your main site or install a store on the information site and sell through a new brand.
  • Update old content and republish in a different channel. For example if you wrote a great blog post last year but never sent an email out about it, repurpose that post for your next email newsletter.
  • Create an affiliate program. If you have a lot of people talking about your product, incentivize them to help sell more by giving them credit for each new sale they refer to your store.
  • Answer questions on Quora. If your product vertical has a lot of questions on Quora you can create an account and respond to questions posed by others. This will put you out there as a 3rd party expert and help drive traffic to your store.

There are so many unique things you can do to drive incremental traffic and revenue to your ecommerce store. If you know your numbers and can capitalize on the channels that are the most effective for your brand you can dramatically increase sales.

Acquisition, Activation, Retention and Engagement

Acquisition, Activation, Retention and Engagement

I attended a local Vistage Technology event yesterday and had a great time listening to Jason Gowans give a presentation on ecommerce personalization and data.

I attended a local Vistage Technology event yesterday and had a great time listening to Jason Gowans give a presentation on ecommerce personalization and data. Jason is a Vice President of Marketing Analytics & Technology at Nordstrom and he shared strategy as well as tactics on their approach to customer data, segmentation and personalization.

Nordstom’s is unique in that it has a full price brand – Nordstroms.com and a discount brand, the Nordstrom Rack. A question that came up during the presentation asked if The Rack brand cannibalized sales from the full price brand. Jason said they had done numerous studies and they found that the discount brand is additive to the full price brand, in fact customers that shopped at both spent 25% more on average than a customer that just shopped full price.

Jason referenced a favorite book of his: How Brands Grow, a 2 part book on how advertising really work, what price promotions mean for your brand and how loyalty program impact customer loyalty. Jason did add a caveat that the book isn’t overly favorable towards loyalty programs, but the data they have at Nordstrom shows that loyalty programs are absolutely a success.

My biggest take away from his presentation was the acronym AARE that Nordstrom uses internally when referencing the customer journey. AARE stands for: Acquisition, Activation, Retention and Engagement. I think this acronym is a fantastic way to look at your ecommerce customers and evaluate your customer data at each step.

For example, do you have defined customer acquisition strategies? When you evaluate the following channels: paid search, paid social, email marketing, content marketing, influencer marketing do you know which ones perform the best for you? How well do you know your numbers?

For activation, how many days on average does it take for your customer to make a 2nd purchase? Nordstrom found that customers that make another purchase in the first 90 days had a markedly higher lifetime value than customers that took longer to make their next buy (online or in store). What are you doing to incentivize your customers to make that 2nd purchase?

Retention is a critical and overlooked component of the customer lifecycle. What are you doing to keep your customers interested? Are you informing them about your new products? Have you created win back emails to offer discounts for customers that haven’t bought from your store in a long time?

How are your customers engaging with your brand? Are you using CRM (customer relationship management) software to manage all the touch points with your customers? You can get really sophisticated and track click stream data for visitors to your site and find out the products and pages on your site that resonate the most.

Personalization and segmentation is an exciting topic, there is so much data available to store owners it can almost be overwhelming. I find all the data interesting, it’s your store and your opportunity to give your customers a fantastic experience with your brand.

Shopify Seattle Meetup

Shopify Seattle Meetup

Last night at CodeFellows, Ambaum hosted a Shopify Seattle Meetup.

Last night at CodeFellows, Ambaum hosted a Shopify Seattle Meetup. There were over 60 attendees, many from the greater Seattle area and some people flew in from Ottawa, Austin, Vancouver and even Brazil. Shopify did a great job providing us the support to pull off the event and we are excited to do this again in the near future!

Most every week we hear a story about drone delivery, autonomous vehicles and floating distribution centers. The shipping and logistics market is going through a structural revolution and to operate a successful eCommerce business you need to stay on top of the latest trends. Because of this, we wanted to host an event that would provide real-world examples from people who have been through it. Our event featured speakers from Shopify, Flexe and Shipstation who explained their company’s role in the new shipping and logistics world order.

The event kicked off with speeches from Chad Fisher (Ambaum), Phil Vanstone (Shopify), Matt Yip (Flexe), and Josh Burdick (ShipStation). These speeches were followed by a panel of Shopify Plus merchants who engaged in a lively discussion that covered what it takes to run an ecommerce business and how Shopify Plus has impacted their business.

The 4 Shopify merchant panelists were outstanding and really opened up about their experiences working in the fulfillment space. The audience asked great questions about the panelists favorite tools and apps they used (ShipStation was popular!) in their logistics process.

Overall, we are very happy with the results of the meetup. We really appreciate everyone who attended and want to give a special Thank You! to all of the speakers and panelists. We hope to see you at our next event!

 

Email Marketing

Email Marketing

Many people have been foretelling the death of email for years, but it’s not going anywhere and only continues to grow in importance.

Many people have been foretelling the death of email for years, but it’s not going anywhere and only continues to grow in importance. As a merchant you send your customers order confirmation emails, shipping emails and a few other standard emails that come with Shopify and WooCommerce, but are you really driving revenue with your emails?

Why does Email Matter?

You need to start thinking of every email you send as incremental revenue. It’s hard for many merchants to make this transition as they only see email as a cost for their business and that’s the wrong mentality.

For example let’s say that for every 100 emails you send you earn $5 of additional revenue. Only $5 you say? Well now let’s get into some larger numbers, if you send 1,000 emails a day you are now making an extra $50/day from your store. If you double your customer base in 6 months and start sending 2,000 emails a day, now you’re making an extra $100/day just from your emails.

Different Categories of Emails

There are many types of emails that are relevant at different points in your customer’s life cycle. For example a brand new person on your site might only be interested in learning about what you are selling and we will call that person a lead (or a prospect). Eventually a percentage of those prospects will turn into a customer and some of those customers will end up dormant, this is the life cycle of your customers. Here are different categories of emails:

  • Lead Capture Emails (for Prospects)
  • Lead Capture Welcome Series Emails
  • Order Confirmation and Shipping Emails
  • New Customer Welcome Series Emails
  • Abandoned Cart Emails
  • Win Back Emails
  • Promotional Emails
  • Segmentation Emails

If you don’t already have these emails setup and customized for your business, it’s important you start making plans to create emails for each of these categories.

Email Services

There are some fantastic email marketing options for both Shopify and WooCommerce. Here are 3 that we recommend:

  • Mailchimp (their Mandrill service)
  • Klaviyo
  • Rare.io

We are very familiar with Mandrill and have installed that on many client sites. It works great and can be an extremely cost effective solution.  Klaviyo is newer to us, but the reporting dashboard they use is really impressive. In addition you can create many custom emails from their dashboard and it works well with Shopify. Rare.io is brand new to us, but it’s received outstanding reviews on the Facebook Shopify Plus Private Facebook Group.

Time is running out on Magento 1.x are you Prepared?

Time is running out on Magento 1.x are you Prepared?

All Magento 1.x store owners will stop receiving support from Magento in 2018. When Magento 2 was released in 2015

All Magento 1.x store owners will stop receiving support from Magento in 2018. When Magento 2 was released in 2015, Magento made it clear that they will provide 3 years of support to Magento 1.x users and then store owners would be on their own for updates and security patches.

Here is the scoop straight from Magento Tech Resources : “Use the latest version of Magento to ensure that your installation includes the most recent security enhancements.” Magento is very clear that when support for Magento 1.x runs out you are on your own.

When summer 2018 arrives what will that mean for my Magento 1 Store?

If you decide to stay on Magento 1 past the summer of 2018, you are accepting the following risks with your store:

  • No Security Patch Support
  • Unsupported Extensions
  • Increased Monthly Maintenance Costs
  • Difficulty Maintain PCI Compliance

Magento 1.x Security Support Stops

In 2018, Magento will stop releasing security patches for your store and you will need to support your code base in house or with external programming support. With no central authority releasing regular security patches there is an increased risk that your transaction and customer data could be vulnerable to hacking attacks.

Outdated Magento stores running older versions of the software are susceptible to scripting attacks. Hackers can use scripts to steal users’ credit card information and in late 2016 it was estimated that over 4,000 Magento store were left vulnerable to an attack.

Magento 1.x Extensions Unsupported

Support for Magento 1.x extensions will start to wane in 2018 and then accelerate into 2019 and beyond. Development companies that have built Magento 1.x extensions will have no incentive to maintain support for a dying platform and will sunset their older extensions. Many extensions have complex code that would require professional programming experience to update and maintain. In addition, when old extensions are not supported they can become susceptible to external security threats.

Increased Monthly Maintenance Costs

Running Magento requires you to manage your own server, CDN and website with a team of professional programmers. Most merchants outsource this work and pay significant monthly retainers to contractors to ensure their site is running smoothly and stays online. When the summer of 2018 comes along your monthly maintenance costs are going to go way up because you will now be responsible for your security updates and the maintenance of your extensions.

Difficulty Maintaining PCI Compliance

With Magento you will need to make sure you are compliant with the PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). If your store is processing more than 20,000 ecommerce transaction levels a year, you will be required to meet the bar of PCI Compliance Level 3. There is significant work involved in meeting PCI Level 3 and you will need to bring in outside consultants to conduct security and vulnerability testing. Your security testing after 2018 will reveal security issues that were previously covered by Magento security patches. It will now be your responsibility to update the security vulnerabilities in Magento 1.x software to maintain PCI compliance.

What are my Options for Moving off Magento 1.x?

If you decide you want to move off Magento 1.x you have 2 primary options:

  • Upgrade to Magento 2
  • Move your Store to another Platform

Magento 2 is a substantial upgrade and it’s important you think through the pros and cons before committing to the best answer for your store.

Upgrade to Magento 2

If you are familiar with Magento 1.x your initial reaction is to upgrade to Magento 2 so you can receive support from Magento. However the upgrade from Magento 1.x to Magento 2 is significant and there are some issues:

  • Magento 2 Issues & Performance
  • Magento 2 Extensions are not all Compatible

Magento 2 has many known bugs and issues and new Magento 2 stores have reported extremely slow page speed times. With any new platform it takes time to stabilize and these issues will hopefully be ironed out over time, but your store may suffer initially after the upgrade.

Magento 2 doesn’t have all of the same extensions that exist in Magento 1 so when you go to upgrade you may be missing some core functionality.

Move your Store to another Platform

Moving to a new platform is a major decision, but if you are currently on Magento 1.x this is the time to consider a move. If you are going to re-platform your store you should consider moving to a fully hosted platform like Shopify Plus. Shopify Plus will help you:

  • Save money on license and server fees
  • Save time moving all of your customer, order and item data each time Magento releases a new version
  • Save time and money managing your own server

These are the primary reasons that many people are thinking of switching from Magento to Shopify Plus and now let’s do a detailed side by side comparison.

Magento 2 vs Shopify Plus Feature Comparison

Price and feature comparison of Magento to Shopify Plus based on a store with ~$10M in yearly sales.

  Magento 2 Shopify Plus
Server & Database Self Hosted – MySQL Cloud Based – Proprietary
License Fees/Cost* $4,000/month + $2000/month
Server & CDN Costs $1,000/month + Included
Security & SSL Certification Your Responsibility Included
Maintenance Hours Significant Limited
PCI Compliance Your Responsibility Included
Feature Enhancements Extensions Apps
Mobile Friendly Yes – with Customization Yes – with Customization
Wholesale Ordering Yes – with Extensions Yes

*License Fees/Cost estimates based on $10M/year in ecommerce revenue.

We have created an in depth guide that compares Magento 2 to Shopify Plus, click here to get access to our free comparison and migration guide.

Are you currently on Magento 1.x and want to consider your options? Send us an email and Ambaum can help you find the best answer for your ecommerce store.

Set up Recurring Orders

Set up Recurring Orders

Recurring orders are the key to many successful online retailers.

Recurring orders are the key to many successful online retailers. What is a recurring order? A recurring order is when one of your customers wants to receive one (or many) of your products on a periodic basis. A common time frame is to repeat the order monthly or even quarterly. 5 Hour Energy, Nickelodeon, Hallmark, Callaway Golf and many other companies have set up recurring orders and seen a huge boost to their top line revenue.

If you have a product that is used frequently you are primed to set up recurring billing. Dollar Shave Club is a great example of a recurring product, every month for just a few dollars you get razors shipped to your home. To properly set up recurring billing, think about delivering an experience to your customers and not just a product. Think about Amazon Prime, you pay each year and you get 2 day delivery, but now you also get access to Amazon Music and Amazon video. Amazon keeps adding additional services to their recurring billing product and that further reinforces membership.

If you sell candy to your customers, can you create a monthly candy subscription where you send them new candy each month to try? Monthly subscription boxes are their own category and have taken of like wildfire. Birchbox was one of the first monthly subscription boxes that offered women cosmetics (among other things) and there are many other companies in this space.

If you have clients that reorder often, consider setting up the Amazon IoT button for one click reorders. The IoT button is a programmable button that can be configured to repeat the previous month’s order at the click of a button. We have a bakery client that is considering setting this up for their coffee stands to click the button when they want to repeat the order from the previous month.

Recurring Orders by Bold is a great Shopify subscription app that will allow your customers to check out and select the option for a recurring order on individual products. You can even set up a test run for 2 months free on all of the apps that Bold provides.