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Magento to Shopify Plus: Best Practices for your Data Migration

Magento to Shopify Plus: Best Practices for your Data Migration

This post will explore Ambaum’s thoughts, best practices and lessons learned from multiple Magento to Shopify Plus migrations.

This post will explore Ambaum’s thoughts, best practices and lessons learned from multiple Magento to Shopify Plus migrations. Going through a re-platform event is challenging and to do it right you must be skilled at: project management, programming, design, data migrations, integrations, theme development and much more. This article will focus specifically on our lessons learned during the data migration portion of Magento to Shopify Plus migrations.

Before we walk through the details of our data migration experiences let’s explore the macro trends that are driving merchants to adopt Shopify Plus. 

The Old Paradigm

Since the beginning of the 20th century manufacturers and brands have sold their products to customers through brick and mortar stores. Only in the late 1990’s was there a shift in how customers bought good and online ordering through the Internet became a real way to move your products. Initially the greatest new channel for manufacturers and brands came through Amazon as these companies leveraged Amazon’s established customer base. In 2020, Amazon now accounts for almost 38% of all online sales in the US so it continues to make sense for manufacturers and brands to sell on Amazon.

The old paradigm is a multi-step process for manufacturers to get their products in the hands of customers. A manufacturer sells to a wholesaler then a distributor, then to a retailer and finally into the hands of a customer. Amazon came along and became the online distributor for many manufacturers, but Amazon extracted a heavy toll of approximately 15% (or more) on products sold through their site.

Even with Amazon’s high take rate of ~15%, manufacturers could still make money, but Amazon was extracting a heavy “tax” on everything sold through their site. In addition, brands that sold through Amazon are unable to fully own their customer data and market to customers because Amazon really owns the customer. Brands on Amazon get access to millions of customers, but the brands remain renters, Amazon is the owner in that relationship. Amazon’s high take rate wasn’t sustainable for manufacturers and brands so they went in search of a new model.

The New Paradigm

Manufacturers and brands rely on Amazon to sell a lot of their products, but the trade-off is a heavy reduction in margins. The answer for most brands and manufacturers is to sell their own products direct to customers through the channel they can fully own – their website. This isn’t an earth-shattering revelation, but it’s an important distinction that has fueled the rise of ecommerce platforms in the last 15 years. 

Ecommerce platforms end up in two distinct camps: on premise (Magento, WooCommerce, etc) or cloud-based platforms (Shopify, etc). If you want to learn more about on premise vs cloud based platforms, check out this post from our blog. On premise solutions like Magento, were the very first ecommerce software choices for brands, but over the last 3-5 years cloud-based solutions like Shopify Plus have added enough features that have now surpassed many of the incumbent platforms in the ecommerce space.

Magento to Shopify Plus

With so many great new features being added to Shopify Plus each year and Shopify Unite, it’s driving more merchants to consider migrating off their old ecommerce software. The most popular platform we see moving Shopify Plus is companies moving off of Magento. Businesses are moving off Magento for the following reasons:

  • Tired of paying high hosting costs
  • Frustrated with the large cost of general maintenance support fees/time spent by developers
  • Unable to easily implement and rapidly iterate on digital marketing ideas
  • Loss of control over day to day site updates, general pain with making even small changes on Magento

Once the decision has been made to move to Shopify Plus, merchants want to know how the following data can get safely, securely and accurately moved over:

  • Customer records
  • Products
  • Historical orders
  • Product reviews
  • Blogs posts
  • 301 redirects

The rest of this post if going to focus on our lessons learned form moving over customer, product and order data from the merchant’s systems into Shopify Plus.Magento to Shopify Plus Data Migration

Magento to Shopify Plus Data Migration Example

Data migrations can be messy business. The migration must be planned out correctly, the data needs to be mapped from the old system to Shopify Plus and you need a way to test and handle exceptions in the process. After performing more than 10 migrations in the last 2 years, we have a pretty good idea of best practices as well as the things to watch out for during a data migration process.

We recently moved data into Shopify Plus from Magento and multiple legacy systems and data sources which presented data in vastly different formats. This client had three systems we needed to import data from:

  • Magento: ~125,000 customer records
  • Retail Point of Sale System: ~80,000 customer records
  • Mail Order Software: ~70,000 customer records

Each of the customer records was supposed to contain the following fields: customer name, phone number, email, however many of the records were duplicate or missing data. Many of the records only had a name and in order to get them into Shopify Plus we had to create dummy email addresses and if there was no phone number, we left that blank. 

In the case where we had no email record, we would take the first and last name of the customer and combine with @noemail.com to create a dummy record. Because there were so many generic names such as “John Smith” we would encounter a problem with non-unique records. If there were multiple “John Smith” records, we ended up having to use their phone number + @noemail.com for their email record. Excelify and Shopify API will migrate data differently

Things to Consider Prior to your Shopify Plus Data Migration

  • Practice proper data hygiene – there is a direct correlation with the hygiene and quality of data going in with the data integrity post-import. The GIGO acronym applies here: garbage in, garbage out
  • Phone numbers can live in different places in Shopify – when importing phone number into Shopify, they can place those records at different levels, depending on how you import the data.
    • Import via Excelify or CSV – the customer record will end up in the “Customer overview” field
    • Import via API – the customer record will end up in the “Default address” section
  • Pre-clean your email addresses – make sure they are correct format and email domains are real
  • Pre-clean your phone numbers – ensure there is a proper phone format, pick a phone format such as: 12063456789, +12063456789, or 2063456789 and use this format for all phone numbers
  • Determine the source of truth – If you are importing from multiple data sources, first and foremost determine which data set is the master and import that last (since Shopify will overwrite previous records). If you are only doing a Magento to Shopify data import with no other systems, this won’t be an issue.
  • Shopify will use different customer data fields to create a unique customer ID – If you have incomplete customer records Shopify checks the customer data fields (in this order) to find the:
    • Shopify ID
    • Email Address
    • Phone Number

For example, if your new data contains a Shopify ID that already exists in your Shopify dataset, Shopify will overwrite the new customer data on the old record. If your data is missing a Shopify ID, your unique customer email address will trigger Shopify to create a new unique customer ID. If your data is missing a Shopify ID and missing an email address, your customer phone number will trigger Shopify to create your unique Shopify ID.

  • Customers should be imported before orders – If you import order data before customer data, Shopify will look at that order data and create a Shopify ID so that the order data is associated with a customer. If you then go in and import new customer data you could end up with data integrity issues because you didn’t follow the proper order of operations.
  • Blank fields in a CSV import will overwrite existing data in Shopify – When you are importing new customer records, if your customer ID matches an ID already in Shopify and your import is missing the address field, your customer record in Shopify will no longer contain address information, it will be blank.
  • Shopify checks email address formatting – Customer and order records will not import if the email address is either:
    •  An improperly formatted email address such as: danny.companyx.com
    •  Not a registered domain name. Shopify is most likely taking each domain name and comparing it to a master list of domain names that have been officially registered.

Migrate your .CSV and JSON files to Shopify Plus

General Data Migration Best Practices

  • Data formats – the data you plan to import should be in one of these formats: 1) JSON, (2) CSV, (3) XLSX, (4) XML (but this is a last resort- XML can be hard to work with sometimes)
    • If you anticipate that scripting will be necessary, then JSON is probably the best option for exporting data
    • There are online tools available for converting file formats, here is one we like to use: CSV to JSON file conversions
  • CSV imports are faster than the Shopify API – the Shopify API imposes a rate limit of roughly 2 records per second, so large datasets can take days or even weeks to import into Shopify via the API
  • Utilize Shopify metafields and tags to deal with custom data fields – For example, a merchant might have a custom field for BOGO sales, so in Shopify a tag can be created and then with some code you can look for the tag and then display a sale message on Collection and Product pages to the customer.
  • Leverage migration apps – Excelify is a good one that we have used and had success with, but keep in mind that apps can’t do everything. For example, Excelify is good for importing WordPress Blog Posts into Shopify but it’s not good for importing WooCommerce Orders. The Excelify developers have built the app to automatically map the blog post fields to Shopify but the app will not automatically map the order fields. Store owners can use migration tools to Migrate from Magento to Shopify Plus (including Magento 1, 2, CE, EE, Shopify, Shopify Plus) from Litextension – a company specialized in shopping cart data migration.
  • Migrate a test batch of data and then start analyzing
    • Compare Shopify data to source data and start figuring out what needs to be fixed. For example, maybe the “cost per item” showed up in the “compare at price” field or maybe all product reviews are missing their images. You’ll need to troubleshoot those types of things. Issues might need to be addressed by a custom script, an app, or some configuration in the export or import.
    • Keep in mind that every e-commerce platform has different fields available to shop owners and Shopify might not have a good solution for migrating all of the data. There will be some situations where you need to get creative and find a way to not only migrate the data but how to use it on the frontend. For example, one client had some data that was being used to link customers to specific magazines. We dumped all of the data into a Shopify metafield as a JSON object and then wrote some code to find the link that was needed on the frontend. It turned out to be a good solution because it provided a single source for the client to maintain the data and it was fairly easy to access the data from the frontend.

Project Management and Data Dependency Considerations

Think about dependencies. Which data is dependent on other data? For example, Orders need to be linked to Customers and Products and Product Reviews need to be linked to Products. So with that in mind, I suggest migrating Products first and then Customers. After that the order doesn’t matter but I think this would be a good order: Products, Customers, Orders, Product Reviews, Blog Posts, Pages, Discounts, and then any custom data such as QuickBooks for example. 

After all of the data has been migrated then you need to take care of the redirects because Shopify has different folders structures. For example, WordPress blog URLs look like this: “domain.com/blog-post-name” and Shopify blog URLs look like this: “domain.com/blogs/blog-name/blog-post-name”. The redirects prevent 404s.

Also, keep in mind that while you are migrating data there are still customers shopping and shop owners making updates. So just before launch you will need to re-migrate anything that has been updated, added, or deleted. Such as Products, Customers, Orders, Product Reviews, and Blog Posts. Check with the client to get an idea about what has changed and be sure to work that into the timeline and budget.

Communicate Often to Keep Everyone in Alignment

It’s important to update the client regularly if you are helping perform a data migration. Merchants want to know that progress is being made and they also want to know when something isn’t working as expected. If there is an issue that you need to tell the client about, be tactful and try to present a solution at the same time. 

Data can be complicated, and it pays to plan way ahead when doing a data migration. Hopefully these tips we presented in this post can help make your next Shopify Plus data migration just a little smoother!

6 Ecommerce Strategies for 2020

6 Ecommerce Strategies for 2020

2020 marks the beginning of a new decade and that means it’s time to rethink your ecommerce strategies.

2020 marks the beginning of a new decade and that means it’s time to rethink your ecommerce strategies. Take your ecommerce journey in a bold new direction. Dump the baggage of 2019 and create a faster, better ecommerce experience that not only engages your customers but boosts your bottom line.

Ready to make 2020 your best ecommerce year yet?

Get ahead of your competition by embracing these 6 ecommerce strategies for your Shopify or Shopify Plus store.

Strategy 1: Multimedia

High-quality photos will never go out of style, but your shoppers want more, they need interactive media. This gives more context to your product, not only minimizing returns but boosting customers’ perceived value. This helps them convert more quickly and increases the likelihood that they’ll buy again. 

Video content is becoming more popular in the ecommerce space. But keep in mind that this can’t be a low-quality YouTube rant about your product. It needs to have top-notch production quality and helpful content. Consider doing a product unboxing, sharing an unbiased third-party product overview, or showcasing the product in the real world. Shopify Plus allows merchants to upload these videos directly to product pages

Sometimes, not even video makes the cut and customers will still say the product isn’t what they thought it would be. This leads to pricey returns, which digs into your profits. Go beyond, with truly experiential product visuals like interactive 3D or Shopify AR. These let customers experience your products as much as (if not more than) they could in-store. The experience of in-store without all that fuss of actually having to go anywhere.

Strategy 2: Personalization

Did you know that personalized homepage promotions persuade 85% of shoppers to buy? That’s pretty powerful. When you personalize a product to a customer’s interests, they’re more likely to buy. It’s a perfect way to increase value per order, too. 

We know personalization is important, but how can you implement it for Shopify Plus? It’s easy: put Shopify apps to work for your site. 

Use the Personalized Recommendations app to show related products to your customers. This will help you up-sell and cross-sell with the power of AI. Simile is another intelligent Shopify app that uses customer browsing and purchase history to display personalized content.

Strategy 3: Voice search optimization

50% of all search queries will come from voice-only users this year. With more customers shopping through Alexa and Google Assistant, Shopify stores should pivot to serve these customers. 

Voice queries are different than text queries. Take a new approach for your Shopify SEO, targeting more conversational, long-tail keywords. You can check out Shopify’s voice optimization guide for an in-depth tutorial.

This is still new territory for Shopify stores, but the new Voice Search app shows some promise as a plug-and-play solution.

Strategy 4: Create a brand experience strategy

A clean, mobile-friendly website is just the beginning. For 2020, customers care about the mood on your site. What vibe do they get from your store? It’s just as important in-store ambiance. You know as soon as you walk into the store (or even at the door) whether you are even going to spend the time browsing the products. Customers need to be sold on the brand before they will even bother with the product.

Great products and quality content are no longer enough to keep customers from bouncing at first click. To make it in ecommerce, you have to present your site in a visually-pleasing package. Now isn’t the time to rely on shoddy in-the-box templates. For a brand experience that delights customers, invest in good graphic design and storytelling.

Strategy 5: AI tools

AI was once unimaginable for most businesses, but it’s 2020 and we are here for all of the technological advances that now make AI tools attainable for the merchants that need them most. Use this tech to keep your Shopify operations lean, productive, and profitable. There are AI tools available for many different aspects of your Shopify store, like AI-powered marketing or analytics.

One of our favorite AI tools for Shopify is Octane AI, the FB messenger bot made for ecommerce merchants just like you. This tool is customer service on auto-pilot, with the ability to provide customers basic information about products, their orders, shipping, and more. Save time and boost customer satisfaction.

Strategy 6: Influencer marketing

Are influencers talking about your ecommerce store? If not, 2020 is your year to embrace influencer marketing. Don’t think influencers are in your budget? Think again. Smaller influencers (called micro-influencers) are more affordable and have engaged, niche audiences that are primed to buy. It’s all about finding the right influencer for your brand.

If you sell niche products on Shopify Plus, influencers are a slam-dunk for your bottom line. Consider hiring an Instagram influencer to promote your products organically. You can connect Shopify to Instagram so the influencer’s followers can shop your store directly from Instagram, too.

The Bottom Line

Ecommerce brought in $3.5 trillion in 2019. Are you part of that sweet, sweet statistic? Stay relevant in 2020 by following these 6 ecommerce strategies, overhauling your Shopify Plus journey to earn more loyal customers.

Ready to embrace the future of ecommerce? Get in touch with us to brainstorm your ecommerce store’s strategies for 2020.

Ecommerce Data Visualization Tools

Ecommerce Data Visualization Tools

There is an astounding amount of data in the ecommerce world waiting to be collected.

Foundational Tools for Ecommerce Data Collection

There is an astounding amount of data in the ecommerce world waiting to be collected. As an ecommerce merchant, it is necessary to use a variety of tools to capture all relevant information. Here are some of the core data collection tools a Shopify Plus merchant would use:

We will refer to these as foundational tools, used by merchants to collect information about products, marketing campaigns, sales, and customers. Foundational tools are the primary method of capturing data that have a very close proximity to an ecommerce transaction.

These foundational tools hold strategic insights into the overall health of your business. With Google Analytics you can segment your site visitors, see the average time on site, create goals to track conversions and much more. Shopify (and pretty much all ecommerce platforms) have integrated reporting and analytics that will convey your average order value, conversion rate, sessions by traffic source and details about your conversion funnel. Google and Facebook advertising platforms also have insightful data about your ad spend, conversions, ad effectiveness, cost per click and cost per customer acquisition.

How do Shopify Merchants Analyze their Data? 

Foundational tools collect much of the data that you need, but the sheer amount of data can be overwhelming. To find valuable information within the data, time must be regularly spent on each tool’s dashboard. However, your time is also valuable and your focus is likely needed in many other areas of your business. This can make it difficult to dedicate your limited resources towards data analyzation.

In addition to too much data, there are attribution issues that arise between these different foundational tools. For example, if your customer clicked on a Google ad, landed on your site, went away for 2 weeks and then clicked on a Facebook ad and made a purchase, which ad gets credit for the conversion? That is just one scenario among many that may arise where it’s necessary to use attribution modeling for Google and Facebook. While attribution modeling isn’t perfect, it’s still the best method for choosing where to allocate marketing dollars.

In this era of big data, how do ecommerce businesses draw logical and actionable conclusions? We reached out to our Shopify Plus merchants. Here are their answers:

  • Do very little digital marketing (surprising!)
  • In-house digital marketing team
  • Use an outside marketing agency

The first approach may seem a bit shocking but is not entirely uncommon. Some of the merchants we support were born in an analog world and grew through word-of-mouth, then transitioned to online, transferring their offline customers with them. This cohort of merchants already does well enough with an outdated strategy, image how much growth they could achieve with a digital marketing team.

Some of our more digitally-inclined clients have in-house marketing teams managing their ecommerce ad spend and looking at a variety of digital tools. They employ many of the foundational data tools discussed, such as Shopify, Google Ads, Analytics, and SEM Rush to find SEO and SEM opportunities and to monitor performance. Overall, these in-house teams agree on the effectiveness of the tools as well as the lamentation of resources (time and people) necessary to properly use them.

For some ecommerce merchants, the best solution to the resource strain of data analysis is in using an outside digital marketing agency. This approach allows a knowledgable agency to sort through the foundational data tools for the merchant and deliver comprehensive and actional reports based on key metrics. The success of using an outside agency is closely related to the strength of the relationship between both parties. You want your marketing agency to care about your success as much as you do. Simple.

Data Visualization Tools that Sit on top of Foundational Tools

Even simpler? Aggregating the data from foundational tools and displaying that information in a report or dashboard format. Currently, there are many of these data visualization tools. Here are some examples that target the corporate environment (Fortune 5,000 companies are the sweet spot):

These data visualization tools are predominantly geared for industries like health care, hospitality, manufacturing, education, and financial services. They will work for ecommerce, but they are not explicitly designed to accommodate ecommerce merchants. These visualization tools have a lot of functionality but are often overkill for SMB companies on Shopify Plus.

What is Missing in the Market? 

The next wave of digital tools will likely be data visualization software geared for ecommerce merchants on platforms like Shopify Plus. Leveraging foundational tools and providing real-time information and data visualization on the following metrics is the current gap in the market:

  • Average Order Amount
  • Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC)
  • Order Frequency
  • Customer Churn
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
  • CLV with Margin

These metrics will make or break your store. It is amazing how many companies operate without really knowing their core numbers. Understanding your Customer Lifetime Value relative to your Customer Acquisition Costs is the holy grail for an ecommerce business. When you take that information and segment by customer cohort and, more importantly, by marketing source, you know whether your business is profitable and why it’s profitable.

It still feels like ecommerce is in “Day 1” and this could be the next big opportunity for companies that step in to fill this gap.

Thank you – Shopify Plus Seattle Meetup – September 20

Thank you – Shopify Plus Seattle Meetup – September 20

The event on September 20th, was a lot of fun!

The event on September 20th, was a lot of fun! I really appreciate everyone that made it down to Code Fellows and a special thanks to our speakers! The following companies and people presented:

 

After I gave a brief introduction to Ambaum and our services, David Stober from Guided came on stage and we hosted a Q&A session that walked through David’s experience as one of the first companies ever on Shopify Plus. David went through the apps he’s tested and tried – some examples: Kit.com, Intercom, Product Reviews and many more and explained how they each help his business on a daily basis. David was very open about his business and walked us through how Shopify has helped him increase sales!

Janice Yao presented and discussed multi location inventory and multi-currency updates that will be rolling out very shortly to Shopify stores that are currently using Shopify Pay. She also gave some examples of Shopify Flow and automating tasks within your Plus store, this is an untapped area that a lot of Plus merchants should start using. She also gave us a explanation of Transporter, a new tool for importing customer records, orders and even bulk product loads. It was Janice’s first time presenting and she did fantastic!

The final presenter was Brian Mackin from Avalara and he walked us through all the new tax laws that are rolling out over the next year. There has a been a big shift in how states are going to collect taxes, moving from the old system of primarily using physical location as the primary rationale for collecting taxes to the new way of economic nexus – which many states will use a threshold of $100,000 or 200 transactions a year in that state as the baseline. There are many different rules on a state by state basis and the big takeaway is that if you are selling products all over the US you should really consider using Avalara to help you manage a very complicated compliance process!

Here is a link from Brian’s presentation that contains tons of helpful information regarding the tax rules that you might run into as an online seller:
https://www.avalara.com/us/en/learn/sales-tax/south-dakota-wayfair.html

I would like to thank Code Fellows for allowing us to use their space for our event, it is such an outstanding facility!

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.

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!