Notes

This is a place for thinking out loud, reflecting, and sharing ideas. Notes are a window into my process, thoughts, inspiration, and experiments. Explore visual gallery.

Shopify is back with another release of over 100 product releases and announcements in their Winter 2024 Edition. Updates range from improved merchandising to streamlined business ops, and enhanced marketing and development.

Aptly entitled Foundations, this release is a good representation of Shopify's continued commitment to developing a scalable platform built for businesses at all growth stages, from first-time entrepreneurs to the largest brands in the world.

Rather than attempt to turn 100+ updates into a short list of 10, I'll do my best to summarize each section within the Shopify 2024 Winter Edition—hopefully giving you a digestible overview that makes it easy to jump into areas of interest.

01—Conversion

  • The first pool of updates focuses on making it easier for merchants to create a seamless shopping and discovery experience for customers.
  • With the new Combined Listings app, merchants can better showcase product variants without complex dev work. Each product variant can have its own description, photo gallery, and URL within a single product listing.
  • In addition, Shopify will now support up to 2,000 variants per product (finally!). They've also improved variant management, making it easy to create/organize products, upload variant swatches, and showcase front-end filters.
  • Shopify Plus merchants will also gain access to a new AI-powered storefront search app built to understand customer intent and show relevant results.
  • Other updates include new discount types, higher limits on bundles, an improved performance dashboard, schedulable gift cards, new checkout APIs, and full access to Shopify subscriptions.

View all 'Conversion' updates.

02—Channels

  • Shopify's focus on B2B and POS is alive and well, with updates across both channels and more.
  • On the POS side, updates include new hardware, expanded availability of POS Go, and enhanced management features for retail operations. A favorite of mine is the new POS full-featured display, allowing merchants to create a more branded POS experience.
  • For B2B merchants, enhanced permissions, a new theme optimized for wholesale, and headless commerce capabilities underscore Shopify's effort to streamline operations and create a B2B customer experience with the same intentionality as DTC.
  • I look forward to seeing these worlds emerge more and more in the coming years. I recently shared some thoughts on the possibilities here.

View all 'Channels' updates.

03—Marketing

  • At a high level, the marketing updates focus on leveraging Shopify data for improved retargeting capabilities and new tools for measuring ad performance.
  • I'm often surprised how many brands are unaware of the power of Shopify Audiences, helping brands target relevant customers. With new advancements in its retargeting and performance capabilities, I hope to see it become more embedded in brand marketing efforts.
  • Shop Cash (available in the Shop app) is now Shop Campaigns, and Shopify is investing in it as a tool for brands to attract buyers. For now, brands can leverage campaigns via the Shop app, but Meta and Google are next.
  • The Shop app experience is also improved, from shoppable videos to lead capture. Check out my post for more details on the power of the Shop app.
  • For brands leveraging Shopify Collabs, a creator platform, there are several improvements in how brands identify and work with creators.
  • Other updates include more integrated reviews across Shopify platforms (app/collective), improved customer cohort reporting (thank you!), and customer data syncs from third-party marketing channels like Klaviyo.

View all 'Marketing' updates.

04—Operations

  • Operations updates cover a wide range, all focused on creating efficiencies for merchants.
  • One feature I'm sure we'll be hearing more about in the coming months is photo editing capabilities housed under Shopify's AI suite, Shopify Magic. When it's live, merchants will have the power to clean up product photography and even manipulate backgrounds within the Shopify backend.
  • Beyond photo editing, Shopify Magic can also help write everything from entire pages of copy to SEO-optimized product descriptions.
  • Sidekick promises to be a meaningful advisor for everything from business advice to e-commerce insights, but it still hasn't arrived. You can sign up for early access on the Winter Edition landing page.
  • Shopify Capital introduces new financing options like Capital Loans, Cash Advances, and Lines of Credit, along with Shopify Balance's annual yields on idle cash—all designed to support the financial needs of Shopify merchants.
  • Other updates include improved bulk data management to populate new stores and expand faster, turnkey tax filing tools, and an iOS widget for the Shopify app that showcases commerce insights. I use the app occasionally to access client storefronts and can imagine this will be a welcome upgrade for e-commerce managers.

View all 'Operations' updates.

05—Developer

  • For developers, there are a bunch of updates across storefronts, extensibility, apps, and the developer experience—all aimed at improving store customization and development efficiency.
  • Enhancements include reusing theme blocks without redundant work, nesting blocks for deeper design customization, and a set of new block presets to start building with a stronger foundation.
  • Hydrogen updates focus on improved performance insights and testing practices along with a streamlined deployment process.
  • New checkout and customer account extensibility features provide expanded styling options, validation functions, and the ability to build more personalized shopping experiences, now with the support for building extensions directly into customer accounts. This last feature could prove to be pretty powerful, turning a customer's account into an experience in and of itself. I recommend watching this video if you're curious to learn more.
  • Other updates include more complex discounting options via Shopify Functions and a new store credit API enabling merchants to issue, track, and report accurately on store credit.
  • Lots more in this section! If you're a Shopify dev, you'll enjoy digging in.

View all 'Developer' updates.

As an agency working in e-commerce and on the Shopify ecosystem for almost 15 years, we're constantly evolving to help clients keep up with customer needs and succeed. This release is, yet again, a lot to digest, but it feels good to see Shopify keeping up the pace of innovation. As always, I'm eager to see what the future brings.

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This post originally appeared in #64 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

I recently spoke with a client about where to take their e-commerce website next. Up until now, they've experienced incredible growth through word-of-mouth, influencer support, and social media exposure. Their business has passed the 8-figure mark but is plateauing, and they see an opportunity to grow.

An interesting thing can happen after brands like this experience rapid growth and try to level up—conversion rate falls.

Let's imagine a scenario similar to this client. The brand had a few posts go viral on social in 2020. Some popular influencers repped their products, and in months, their e-commerce business exploded. They're seeing a better-than-average conversion rate and haven't spent a dollar on marketing.

Eventually, the business starts to level out, and they see an opportunity to raise the bar. They begin investing in paid marketing campaigns across Meta, Google, and TikTok.

The brand is now spending more money to get more eyes on its products. As traffic increases, conversion rate slips. And slips.

What's happening?

During the organic growth period, most of the traffic coming to the website was highly qualified. People saw their friends or favorite influencers promoting the brand and were customers before they even landed on the website.

As the virality faded, the brand turned to paid marketing to sustain growth and build its customer base. While the ads have effectively driven traffic, folks visiting the website came through an ad—not someone they trust.

See how this plays out below. I'm using simple numbers for demonstration purposes.

In stage 2, the brand is driving 75% more traffic to the website. Conversion has fallen significantly. Revenue is steady, but the brand is paying for the traffic. CAC is rising fast.

In stage 3, the brand recognizes an opportunity to optimize the website alongside paid marketing efforts. They're able to keep traffic on track while steadily increasing conversion. It's not the same growth they saw in previous years, but they're on the right track.

To avoid the fate of stage 2 altogether, let's look at some tactics brands can explore to keep growth steady, even when conversion slips.

1—Welcome New Visitors: Does the brand's website immediately show who they are? During the viral phase, a vague website with confusing navigation may not have deterred dedicated fans, but now, first impressions are critical. The homepage should clearly reflect the brand, showcasing popular products, easy-to-navigate categories, and notable collaborations. Our client recently collaborated with a major fashion brand—the website said nothing about it. Making that first impression count for new visitors less familiar with the brand is non-negotiable.

2—Optimize for Best Practices: Is the website easy to shop and browse? Some brands are more sensitive to e-commerce best practices than others, thinking they'll tarnish the brand. It's important to find a balance that aligns with the brand. For instance, email/SMS pop-ups have proven to be effective. Maybe you don't trigger them for a few minutes or when someone leaves the website, but regardless, avoiding these tactics can make it challenging to grow. Also, considering most brands see high mobile traffic, an easy mobile-first experience is a priority, which involves everything from sizing and spacing to re-designing modules or navigation for smaller screens.

3—Get to Know Customers: How well does the brand understand its customers beyond the initial sale? Many brands think they have a good idea of their customer, but it's their target audience they can describe, not the people buying products. Setting up post-purchase surveys and customer interviews are great tools for learning more about customers and what they love about the brand. Leveraging these insights to refine the brand's marketing approach and personalize the customer experience can be a game-changer.

4—Create Synergy Between Channels: Are the brand's marketing and website efforts in sync? If the brand hasn't experimented with landing pages, now is the time. Landing pages should directly connect with any marketing campaigns running on social. Aim for parity in messaging, imagery, and products. Landing pages can focus on specific use cases, audience types, or product categories. These pages can serve as a testing ground for what engages different audience segments, making them not just a bridge between ads and the website but a strategic tool for effective customer engagement and conversion.

5—Leverage Your Community: Is the brand leveraging its user-generated content? The content that fueled the brand's initial viral success is a powerful tool for authenticity and trust. Showcasing real customer experiences and stories on the website and in marketing campaigns can attract and engage new audiences in the way it did at the start, using the power of the community to its full advantage. Tools like Tolstoy are great for activating this content throughout the shopping experience, making it interactive and integrated.

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This post originally appeared in #64 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

Whether they’ve been around for 25 or 3 years, every brand goes through stages of growth. We might not label these stages like we do in human development, but the parallels are there.

Perhaps I'm inspired by having a 5-month-old at home, but let me illustrate:

Infancy: Just as a human infant is finding their way in the world, a brand in its infancy is discovering its identity and establishing its place in the market.

Toddler: Like a toddler taking their first steps and learning how the world works, a brand in this stage experiments with its market approach, learning from successes and setbacks.

Pre-teen: As a pre-teen begins to understand themselves better, a brand at this stage starts to solidify its values and identity, carving out a distinct market position.

Adolescence: Mirroring human adolescence, where individuals go through significant growth and challenges, a brand in this phase experiences rapid expansion and begins to face more complex market dynamics.

Young Adulthood: Like young adults building their careers and personal relationships, a brand at this stage focuses on sustaining growth, innovating, and deepening customer relationships.

Adulthood: Just as adults are well-established in life, focusing on stability and refinement, a mature brand focuses on maximizing efficiency, market retention, and staying fresh.

Late Adulthood: In late adulthood, individuals often reflect on their lives and may seek new paths; similarly, a brand at this stage may need to reinvent itself to stay relevant in a changing market.

Elderly: Like the later years in human life, a brand in its elderly stage may either be facing a decline, needing to downsize or exit the market, or experiencing a renaissance by rediscovering its core values and adapting to current market trends.

Self Discovery

What I find interesting about the metaphor is that every stage of our lives is full of self discovery, especially the mid-to-late stages. We're continually evolving who we are, what we stand for, and how we present ourselves.

Even when we think we've figured it out, another change is often around the corner. When we're younger, it's more rapid. Just look at these photos of me in 7th, 8th, and 9th grade.

So, what's the takeaway?

Much like our personal journeys, the trick is to continue challenging ourselves and growing as we age. For a brand to sustain growth, it's crucial to continually reassess what defines it—what makes them them. To reinvent and to learn.

Brand Discovery

To aid in this process, I've developed a simple framework to identify the core elements of your brand. This tool can be useful at annual check-ins or specific milestones, such as launching a new product, entering a new market, or brainstorming new customer acquisition strategies.

On the left side are your Products & Services, and on the right, your Target Audience. Anyone can provide your same offering to the same audience, but what makes your offering unique is everything in between: your brand.

The framework is made up of a series of questions for each of the 9 brand dimensions. You choose how you want to run through it, but the intent is to answer these questions, assess where you are today, and align on actions to close the gap.

Some teams may choose to brainstorm together. Others may have all stakeholders work on it independently then come together to discuss the results. The latter approach may provide a level of clarity you won’t get in a group setting, but it depends on your team's dynamics.

Story: How you began and where you’re going

  • How do you currently tell your story?
  • What story do you want people to remember? Why should they care?
  • Do you feel this story is currently being conveyed?
  • What is the vision for the future?

Values: What you believe in

  • Are there any rules or guardrails that currently guide decision-making?
  • If your products and services were to change tomorrow, what wouldn’t change about your brand’s DNA?
  • Describe your culture in 3-4 words.

Mission: Your purpose

  • Why do you come to work every day?
  • What impact do you hope to have on people’s lives?
  • What do you aspire to achieve?

Positioning: What makes you unique

  • Why would someone choose you over competitors?
  • What do you bring to the table that no one else can claim?
  • What is your expertise? What do you better than everyone else?

Personality: The human characteristics that people can identify with

If your brand were a person:

  • How would you describe them?
  • Who would they look up to?
  • Describe their circle of friends.

Identity: How people recognize you

  • How did you arrive at your existing identity? Is there any meaning behind symbols, colors, etc?
  • Is your identity consistently being showcased across all channels? If not, what are the pain points?
  • Is there anything you would change?

Voice: How you communicate

  • Think about the Brand Personality we discussed, how would this person talk?
  • Is there uniformity in your existing voice and tone?
  • Would you change anything about the way you communicate with people today?

Perception: What people believe you represent

  • How do you think your brand is currently perceived?
  • What do you want people to think when they think of you?
  • What brand (in another industry) do you identify with?

Experience: How we want people to feel when they interact with us

  • Describe your the current experience when purchasing from your brand.
  • Are there any improvements you would make about your experience? Why?
  • How do you hope people feel when they experience your products/services for the first time?

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This post originally appeared in #63 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

When Shopify 2023 Winter Editions announced continued improvements in the Shop App, I remember thinking to myself, why is no one talking about this? In my recap of the 100+ product updates, I wrote:

"More Shop app customization (branding, shop experiences, etc): I don't hear many people talking about the Shop app; however, I think it can be a powerful tool for customers and merchants alike. It's interesting to see Shopify investing in new features. It makes me wonder if an Amazon-like experience is a long-term vision. I'll be eager to see if this drives adoption."

Nearly a year has passed and my perspective remains largely the same. The main difference now is Shopify has, in many ways, doubled down on the Shop app. Not to mention, the brand campaigns Shopify hypes often drive customers to the Shop app. Mr. Beast? Shop app.

The Shop app began as a way for customers to track orders from Shopify stores in one place. But since launching, the Shop app has quietly grown into a marketplace of sorts, uniting Shopify brands into one convenient spot. Let's go a bit deeper.

How It Works: Brands can set up a custom storefront by enabling it through Shopify, personalize it with brand assets, and sell directly through the app with easy one-tap checkouts and payment installation options for customers.

Shop app still consolidates your orders and tracks them all in one place. This feature helps brands increase transparency with real-time shipment tracking through a live-view map.

You can even connect your email to the app, and it will track purchases—even the ones made elsewhere—in one place. See below for how my app looked around around the holidays, with purchases from three non-Shopify brands.

Shop app offers a personalized shopping experience. Shop will consider the brands you have already shopped with and recommend other products and related brands you might love.

In early December, Tolstoy and Shopify announced a collaboration to enhance the Shop app's Discover feed, featuring a personalized stream of products presented via Tolstoy's shoppable videos. Brands already using Tolstoy were featured here immediately. For newcomers, Tolstoy is offering this functionality at no cost. Just sign up and you’re good to go.

Shop app also has an AI shopping assistant to help guide your shopping and discover new brands and products.

Shop app offers app-specific rewards. Every time you make a purchase, you earn 1% Shop Cash that you can use on future purchases from the app, and sometimes they have multiplier promotions that earn you even more.

During Black Friday/Cyber Monday, I was surprised by all of the multiplier promotions. Some brands were offering 20x my Shop Cash credit to shop with them. You can see an offer for me below that's 14x my $2.05 balance.

Shop app has built-in monitoring and management for brands. It allows you to collect customer feedback, respond to reviews, and view analytics to leverage insights.

Here's why I'm excited:

  • Shop app still seems somewhat under the radar as a brand discovery and shopping tool; yet, there are 100m+ engaged shoppers on the app, according to Shopify. From my experience, due to the original intent, people aren't going there for discovery. They get notified about a package update, check in, and end up sticking around and discovering brands.
  • With seamless integration to Shopify, it's a no-brainer for Shopify brands for exposure to customers who are likely to be interested in their products.
  • Shop app continues offering more and more customization to allow for a fully branded shopping experience that you rarely find in other similar channels.

What's fascinating to me is there are over 2 million active sellers on Amazon but over 4 million e-commerce stores built by Shopify. I'm not suggesting the Shop app will become the new Amazon, but the possibilities of scale are pretty incredible.

Learn more about Shop app for brands here.

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This post originally appeared in #62 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

Have you ever found yourself online shopping and ending up with more items in your cart than you initially planned?

I remember when I finally decided to upgrade my iPhone case to a Quadlock. I was excited about having a case that could effortlessly mount to my bike and motorcycle. Upon visiting their website, I emerged not only with the case and mounts but with additional accessories that seemed indispensable.

So, what happened?

Quadlock wasn't haphazardly featuring other products, hoping I'd buy them. Instead, they took a customer-centric approach, thoughtfully presenting products that complemented my needs. And it worked!

We all know that AOV can be a powerful lever for brands as they look at opportunities to grow e-commerce, but it's not enough to merely suggest some products pre and post-checkout. While there's no magic wand for increasing AOV overnight, putting the customer's needs first is a great place to begin this transformation.

Strategies for Getting Started

Bundle Offerings

  • Thoughtful Combinations: Bundle items in ways that reflect common customer purchase patterns. This isn't just about increasing sales; it's about simplifying the customer's shopping experience.
  • Value and Convenience: Provide bundles that offer not just savings but also ease the decision-making process, showing customers that you value their time and money.
  • Brand Introduction and Use Cases: Consider which of your products serve as the best introduction to your brand, or cater these bundles to different use cases, allowing customers to see the practicality of your offerings in real-life scenarios. Blueland does this effectively with their 'Starter Kit' bundles.

Educational Upselling

  • Informed Choices: Educate customers on product combinations that work well together, helping them make decisions that align with their needs. Use tools like Rebuy to make these suggestions dynamic so they're changing throughout the full customer journey. In skincare and beauty, products often fit within a specific regimen. Let customers know why using the products together is most effective.
  • Deepen Relationships: Helping customers understand your brand and products isn’t just good service; it builds trust and credibility.
  • Post-Purchase Engagement: Don't neglect post-purchase! Use this phase as an opportunity to drive AOV. Engaging customers through emails and post-checkout suggestions, based on their recent purchases, can encourage additional sales. Wonderment makes this easy.

Relevant Experiences

  • Relevant Suggestions: Use customer data wisely to offer product suggestions that truly align with their past behaviors and preferences. This demonstrates that you understand and care about their unique needs.
  • Personalization: Employ tools, like Nosto, that aid in providing customers with a more personalized shopping experience. This could range from AI-driven recommendations to adaptive website navigation.

Adopting a customer-first strategy to AOV is about truly understanding and catering to customer needs. This approach not only aims to drive sales but fosters a lasting relationship with customers, built on trust and satisfaction.

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This post originally appeared in #61 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

From Shop Pay's availability on external checkouts to numerous investments in B2B and POS, Shopify is no longer zeroing in on e-commerce but looking at the entire customer journey and how they can play a role in creating an integrated commerce experience. So, I'm not surprised we're seeing an uptick in interest from our clients in Shopify's B2B and POS offerings. They're eager to simplify and integrate channels, and Shopify is working to make it easy.

In a recent informal interview with a product manager from Nosto, an e-commerce personalization engine, they asked me about trends we're seeing with our clients, and I mentioned POS. Naturally, we went on to talk about the future of personalization, and I started thinking about where POS could play a role.

While the ideas are simple by e-commerce standards, it's exciting to think about how, when applied to POS, they could level up the in-person experience for customers and drive results for brands.

Here are some scenarios for a clothing or accessories brand.

Online to Offline

I find myself increasingly more interested in shopping online because of the ease of discovering new products, filtering through collections, and so on. Sometimes, I'll research before I head into a store or even pull up the website while shopping. I love the idea of more connectivity between my activity online and my experience in-store.

  • Imagine when a store attendant asks you if you need assistance, and they pull up your account (if you have one). They can proactively help you with styling advice and sizing information through past online purchases, recently viewed products and any other preferences you've shared.
  • Upon checkout, the cashier can identify an abandoned e-commerce cart and let you know the items are available in the store to try on. Maybe they offer a discount for completing checkout, depending on what's holding you back.
  • Or the cashier can see your wish list. When they scan your items, they can suggest complementary products you have saved and offer a discount to add them to your purchase.

Offline to Online

There are also opportunities to use the offline experience to drive online behavior and improve that experience. If you've ever been to NYC, you know how much foot traffic the pop-ups downtown get. I can imagine many of these are new customers. Getting their email at checkout is a start, but there's more potential.

  • If you ask a store attendant for help, they pull up your customer account if you have one, and if not, they get your email to create one. They take note of items you're interested in or trying on, much like viewing them online.
  • At checkout, the cashier can see the items you were interested in but didn't buy. Let's assume you've been there for a while, so they ask if you'd like to review them before you checkout, a potential AOV booster.
  • One of the strategies I love for driving repeat purchases is offering a discounted post-purchase gift card via Rebuy. After checkout, the cashier could do the same but encourage you to shop online. Perhaps you're prompted to answer a few post-purchase questions to receive the gift card. These responses are attached to your customer profile which sits in Klaviyo and can be used for future personalized experiences.
  • A day or so later, you receive an email showing you some of the items you didn't purchase in-store but were interested in, along with some similar items.

It's no secret there's a lot of innovation happening in this space. I remember the first time I went to my local Amazon Fresh, pulled up my shopping list on the Alexa app, could see where items were in the store, checked out via my cart, and walked out. Unbelievable, but believable. However, I like the simplicity of these ideas and think about them more as thought starters for what's possible and accessible. For brands leveraging Shopify for e-commerce and POS, they feel like a natural way to level up the omnichannel experience.

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This post originally appeared in #60 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

From KIND Snacks to ParmCrisps to Hu Chocolate, we've collaborated with various consumer-packed-goods (CPG) brands in redefining their online presence over the years. The journey hasn't always started with e-commerce. For many, it's about understanding where their website fits into the grand scheme and how it can become a key player in driving growth.

Despite rapid growth in retail and Amazon, many of these brands grapple with understanding where their website, or e-commerce, can meaningfully contribute to their growth. Some are concerned with how e-commerce may strain long-standing relationships with traditional retailers; others struggle with the cost of fulfillment, and most don't know where to begin when it comes to creating an effective digital ecosystem.

The good news? There are many opportunities for these brands and several ways to think about tackling these challenges.

Defining the Purpose of the Website: Why Visit Your Site?

When I chat with CPG brands, I often ask them why someone would go out of their way to visit their website. I often picture someone standing in an aisle, holding two products, trying to determine which to go with. They go to the website (hopefully through a QR code) on their phone to learn more. Another popular use case is customers looking for where they can buy a product locally.

Regardless of whether or not your website has e-commerce functionality, it's critical to consider this question. For most CPG brands, table stakes for a website redesign include:

  • Brand Background: Many CPG brands have a compelling background story that sets them apart from competitors and connects with customers. Take our client Sweet Loren's as an example. They make vegan cookies, but why? Founder Loren Castle survived cancer in her twenties. Her personal battle inspired a profound mission to revolutionize her relationship with food and eliminate processed ingredients from her diet. It's a huge miss if customers miss out on these stories. Platforms like Tolstoy can help brands bring this story to life on their website through interactive videos with just a few clicks. Check out Sweet Loren's website to see it in action.
  • Ingredient Story/Sourcing: Depending on your value prop, customers may be most interested in understanding the ingredients in every product and where they came from. Don't gloss over this—put it up front and center! We once built an ingredient library and tracking tool for a vitamin brand that took pride in its sourcing.
  • Recipes: Your website isn't just about conversion; it's a tool to keep customers engaged and coming back. Chances are, they're buying our products every week or month. Recipes are critical for showcasing different ways to put the product to use, whether it's having fun over the holidays or creating a quick, refreshing treat.
  • Robust Store Locator: With so many opportunities to discover new brands today, users may seek out your website to find out where they can buy your products in a nearby store. Your website should address this need with a robust store locator. For brands with more than a couple of SKUs, get as specific as you can so customers know exactly what stores carry what SKUs. Here's an example we built for Patagonia Provisions using Destini.

What about E-Commerce? How to Start Strong with Shopify

For most of the CPG brands we work with, we'll recommend getting started on Shopify from day one, regardless of whether or not they offer e-commerce. In doing so, we can accomplish all of their content needs and leverage the Shopify app ecosystem for features like reviews, quizzes, and user-generated content, UGC. When they're ready to turn on e-commerce, it's a minimal effort vs. another re-platforming project.

For brands excelling on Amazon, we often recommend enabling Buy with Prime to start. Because Buy With Prime shares all customer data with the brand, this can help the brands establish a relationship with their customers, so when they launch new products or enter e-commerce, they have an audience to engage with.

Customer Data Through Online: Unlocking Insights for Success

One of the top advantages of investing in a website that acts as an online flagship is getting to know your customers. Platforms like Fetch are working to help CPG brands better get to know their retail customers, but this has always been a challenge, leaving some of the most successful CPG brands who don't have accurate insight into who their customers are and why they buy their products.

By establishing a website as a channel for customers, brands can begin the journey of getting to know their customers. For those who don't offer e-commerce, some tactics to do this are creating engaging content via email, building product finder quizzes, and offering exclusive access to discounts and coupons.

Platforms like Brij can help 'bridge' the gap with retail by creating digital experiences via a QR code, prompting customers to share information about themselves to gain access to new aspects of the brand. With e-commerce in place, brands can do all of the above while optimizing the pre and post-purchase journey to engage customers and drive repeat purchases. Over time, these inputs can also help better personalize customer's experience and messaging.

Okay, I'm Ready for E-Commerce: Strategic Approaches for Success

Once a brand decides they are ready to launch e-commerce, it doesn't always make sense to go live with their entire suite of products. Here are some ways to think about creating an e-commerce store that will engage customers without cannibalizing other channels:

  • Offer Subscriptions: Introduce a subscription model to encourage recurring purchases and build customer loyalty. Launching build-a-box subscription functionality for our client Once Upon a Farm has been a big win despite success in other channels.
  • Exclusive Products: Provide exclusive products or limited-edition releases to create a sense of exclusivity among your customer base.
  • Larger Quantities: Offer larger pack sizes, providing value to customers while helping with shipping costs.
  • Membership Model: Explore a membership model where customers subscribe and gain access to additional benefits such as voting on new products, community engagement, exclusive recipes, and more.
  • Personalization: Utilize customer data gathered through e-commerce to personalize the shopping experience. Implement post-purchase surveys to understand customer preferences and tailor future interactions accordingly.
  • Engagement Strategies: Develop post-purchase engagement strategies, such as branded order tracking via Wonderment, targeted emails, or special offers, to keep customers connected and interested in your brand.

In case you missed it, I joined the 3 Squares live podcast last Friday to talk about much of what I covered today: how CPG brands should think about leveraging their website and e-commerce. You can check out the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or anywhere else you check out podcasts.

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This post originally appeared in #59 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

I spent most of my young adulthood working at Wegmans Food Markets. Front-End Coordinator was the position I held the longest. In short, it meant I was in charge of managing the cashiers on duty, and if any of them had questions or customer issues, they'd call me over by flashing their register lights. I saw customer issues of all shapes and sizes, ranging from folks looking to return cooked meats (yep, sometimes with an empty container) to mislabeling produce in hopes of saving money (e.g non-organic price for organic) to attempting to use expired coupons.

Much of what I learned about customer service is still relevant for me in my role today and applies to businesses of all kinds, especially in e-commerce.

Here are some tactics your CX team can use to keep customers happy and diffuse tense situations.

Empathize through Emotion Mirroring

Connect with the customer by understanding how they feel and mirroring their concern. It's not about faking it but creating a genuine connection by acknowledging their emotions. Asking a few probing questions at the start of the interaction can help gauge where they're at and how to handle the conversation. Then, listen.

Agree, Don't Argue

Instead of sparking a debate, opt for agreement. Acknowledge the customer's perspective without trying to prove them wrong. Doing so paves the way for a collaborative conversation rather than a confrontation. Don't stoke the fire.

Apologize with Heart

Apologies go a long way when they come from the heart. Show genuine remorse for any inconvenience, assuring the customer you understand their issue and why it's a pain. If you don't understand, ask more questions. Humanize the interaction to let them know their concerns are heard and understood.

Pull Back the Curtain

Share insights into what's happening behind the scenes. Transparency builds trust, and keeping customers informed about the problem-solving process can ease their worries. The more they know, the more they'll trust you.

Refund, Replace, or Find A Resolution

Sometimes, it's not enough to say sorry. Suggest practical solutions by offering a refund, replacing the item, or finding out what matters most to the customer. The ladder can sometimes be the place to start. Some customers want a discount. Others want to tell a supervisor about their experience. Creating tangible steps to resolve the customer's problem shows your commitment to their satisfaction.

Bend the Rules

Sometimes, bending the rules or making an exception can go a long way. Breaking from standard policies to accommodate a customer's unique situation can leave a lasting positive impression and foster loyalty.

As a customer, I've had experiences dealing with customer service that I actually enjoyed because the person was so pleasant. Some have made me laugh because they appear to be looking for a new friend, sharing more about themselves than necessary. And others that were so frustrating I vowed I would never shop with the brand again.

I'm sure you can recall some of the best and worst customer service experiences you've had and how they made you feel.

Unhappy customers love to share their horror stories with anyone who'll listen. But the magic happens when you fix their problem while making them feel like royalty. Those are the stories they'll be excited to share, turning them from dissatisfied customers into your biggest fans.

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This post originally appeared in #58 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

Now that the cyber dust has settled and we transition into a new year, you may be feeling the post-sales slump, emotionally and as a business. But the work is far from over!

Whether your BFCM was a success or a learning experience, you likely have an influx of new customers currently getting to know your product and brand.

Use this opportunity to grow your customer base by cultivating lasting relationships and maximizing your potential together. Here are some tips to consider.

Returns are sadly inevitable post-BFCM, but they don't have to be so depressing. Rather than viewing them as setbacks, consider returns a strategic move to get to know customers by finding out why they're unhappy or increase AOV by offering discounts on higher-priced products or additional related products. Even if you can't win them back, an incredible customer service experience can be enough for them to return later or tell a friend. Check out this post on how to set yourself up to avoid returns as much as possible.

For subscription-based businesses, tackle potential one-month churn by offering gifts or exclusive perks, showcasing the ongoing value of their subscription. Additionally, reach out to subscribers now with an email that reinforces the power they have with their subscription to avoid accumulating excess products.

There's no better time than post-BFCM to launch a loyalty program to drive customer engagement and repeat purchases. Whether you go with points or credit is up to you and depends on what you think will resonate with customers. Either way you go, a well-structured loyalty program is a must-have for customer retention.

If you haven't unlocked the potential of personalized email/SMS automation, get started by segmenting your customers based on buying patterns and start gathering data now. Post-purchase surveys, quizzes, and reviews are the perfect inputs for improving segmentation. You can then use this data to create more automation that connects with new customers on a deeper, more meaningful level.

While phone calls might seem outdated, there's nothing like hearing from a customer directly. Reach out to new customers, showing appreciation and a genuine interest in their experiences. Learn about their motivations and purchase journey. By making customers feel valued, you increase the likelihood of their return and transformation into brand advocates.

Once you've created a new group of fans, they'll need an easy way to tell all of their friends. A referral program is pivotal in capitalizing on your most loyalty customers. Provide incentives for customers to share positive experiences with friends, creating a cycle of customer satisfaction and brand growth.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 169 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

Imagine running a retail store and being able to zoom out to understand what drove your customers to come in and shop. Did they see an ad? Notice the storefront while driving by and pull off to visit? In the e-commerce world, we call this website traffic source. Luckily for us, we have that visibility.

The origin of a brand's website traffic isn't just a set of numbers; it can be a roadmap that unveils opportunities for improving your website's performance.

Let's examine the five most common traffic sources and the insights they can provide.

1) Organic Search

When it comes to organic search, high traffic is a sign of strong SEO. The specific keywords bringing users to your site act as signposts pointing toward relevant content, but that doesn't mean they'll stick around.

To optimize, make sure the top landing pages are delivering both what the user is looking for and what you want them to know. For instance, feature products or brand content on blog posts. If the content lends itself to visual storytelling, lean into it and create a memorable experience.

Use a tool like Semrush to do some research on what other keywords might resonate with your target customers. Consider expanding your keyword portfolio with more content for increased visibility via search.

2) Direct Traffic

Consistent direct traffic is a testament to brand recognition and user loyalty, while fluctuations may reflect the impact of offline campaigns or notable brand events.

Whether you're launching an out-of-home campaign or aiming to drive traffic via packaging in retail, consider creating custom URLs to both gauge the efficacy of your efforts but also make the experience more personalized to the customer.

3) Referral Traffic

Referral traffic can be a signal of effective partnerships and collaborations. Analyzing referral domains can help identify external sources that drive significant traffic to your site.

If you notice an unfamiliar domain that is a strong source of referral traffic, this is an opportunity to build a relationship and understand why it's been successful. Beyond that, you can double down on referral traffic but identify like-minded publications and websites that may be interested in featuring your brand.

Another way to do this is through affiliate marketing. If you haven't yet explored the world of affiliates, check out tools like Refersion to get started.

4) Social Media

Social media traffic reflects the outcome of your social media marketing efforts. Engagement metrics, such as likes, shares, and comments, provide insights into the performance of your content. Identify the most effective social media platforms for your brand and concentrate your efforts there. Tailor your content for each platform and strategically leverage paid advertising for targeted reach.

Influencer partnerships can be another great way to build up your social presence while driving traffic to your site from their channels. If you do this, be sure to create a special destination and unique promo code for influencers's followers. Like direct traffic, this can help better understand the performance of these investments.

5) Email Marketing

Email traffic offers a window into the effectiveness of your email program. Monitoring click-through rates and conversion rates can provide valuable insights, but it's important to continually test and optimize your email content, timing, and frequency to enhance results.

Segment your email lists for more targeted campaigns. If you haven't implemented a post-purchase survey, do this to better understand customer segments and send more personalized messaging. At a baseline, make sure all e-commerce transactional emails are set up, look on-brand, and are in line with your overall brand strategy.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 168 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

Any time I make a return on Amazon, I end up sharing some level of detail about why I didn't hang on to the item. I always hope the feedback makes its way back to the seller and if it's an issue, they can find ways to improve.

I don't think we spend enough time talking about returns when brands are looking to optimize their e-commerce websites. As important as it is to talk to your customers to understand their wants, needs, and desires, returns can shed light on actionable opportunities to improve.

Here are a couple of scenarios:

  • Most protein powders arrive with a big open space at the top of the container. Customers return the product saying it's defective and they didn't get enough. The truth is, the powder settles and that's how every container arrives. So, make sure every customer knows what to expect before they buy!
  • A brand sees their boots being returned at an uncomfortably high rate, but about half of the customers buy a bigger size. When they add a question to the return process, they learn that most customers wear the boots in colder months with thick socks. They fit fine, but they need the extra room to be comfortable. So, make sure every customer knows to size up if they're thick-sock lovers!

What was the last return you made? Was it a product issue or something that could have been prevented with an update to the website pre-purchase?

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 167 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

There was a time when every new client we worked with was looking for a quiz. It didn't matter what they were selling. They thought a quiz "like BuzzFeed" was just what they needed to lift sales. They know better now.

Quizzes can be great tools for engaging customers and simplifying their decision-making process. However, they're typically best suited for extensive product categories with multiple variations and specific use cases, such as beauty, skincare, or food.

When a quiz feels like overkill, creating a product comparison chart can often have the same impact. Comparison charts are ideal for products like tech gadgets and furniture, allowing customers to easily compare features, measurements, and materials side by side.

While these two tools can coexist, less is often more! Offering too many features may overwhelm customers and divert them from purchasing.

We're currently working with a client whose catalog includes three variations of the same hero product with several accessories. Their website has a quiz AND comparison chart. When you take the quiz, you end up on a comparison chart. The quiz gets more traffic than the comparison chart, but neither feature gets much love or drives conversion.

With so few products, this client will be better off highlighting what makes each variation unique and integrating a comparison chart in as many touch points throughout the website as possible. Customers will quickly understand what makes sense for them without having to answer any questions or be asked for their email addresses.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 166 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

I was chatting with a client last week who sells mostly in retail and Amazon rather than their own e-commerce channel. They mentioned a recent product launch and how they plan to drive customers to Amazon to purchase the product. Their decision had to do with getting better margins via Amazon.

There's been a lot of chatter about Amazon's new integration with Shopify via Buy With Prime and this couldn't be a better use case. Rather than driving traffic to Amazon, our client can offer the benefits of Amazon Prime to customers through their own website. Given their sales channels, understanding their customers has always been a challenge. Buy With Prime would give them access to customer data for every purchase, which is not available through Amazon, making it easy to re-market to them for upcoming launches, discounts, and more.

In case you missed it: Amazon launched its Buy With Prime Shopify app today! Learn more. For more information on Buy With Prime, check out my post here.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 165 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

The team and I were looking at the subscription side of a client's business today and noticed a trend: sharp drop-off from the first to the second month of a subscription. We often see this when customers can get a discount for subscribing. Instead of making a one-time purchase, they subscribe and cancel.

While this is considered "normal," all hope is not lost. While most customers aren't likely to let you in on their little scheme, it's always worthwhile to ask subscribers what led them to cancel. These insights can serve as valuable puzzle pieces to improve the subscription experience and maintain customer engagement.

While there are numerous tactics to address this issue, one approach emerged from our discussion today: use the start of a customer's subscription to re-educate them on why they subscribed and the benefits of doing so.

Here's how to put this into action:

  1. Initial Welcome Email: As soon as a customer subscribes, send them a warm welcome email. Remind them of the key reasons they subscribed and the value they'll receive from the service or product. Make it clear that you're here to make their life easier.
  2. Regular Communication: Throughout the first month, send a series of well-timed emails that highlight different aspects of your product or service. For instance, showcase real-life use cases with success stories or share tips on how to make the most of their subscription.
  3. Flexibility and Customization: Emphasize the flexibility your subscription offers. Mention that they can customize their subscription to fit their needs. This can include adjusting quantities, delivery schedules, or even adding new features or products to their subscription.
  4. Feedback Loop: Encourage customers to provide feedback during this time. Actively seek their opinions on how you can improve their experience. When customers feel heard, they're more likely to stay engaged.
  5. Vacation and Special Circumstances: Make it clear that you understand life can get in the way, and that's okay. If they're going on vacation, explain how easy it is to delay shipments. If they feel they have too much product, guide them on how to adjust their orders or reduce quantities.
  6. Personalization: Whenever possible, personalize your messages. Address customers by their name and tailor your content to their preferences and behaviors, such as their purchase history.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 164 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

Customer retention is the name of the game in today's competitive landscape. With the ever-increasing difficulty of acquiring new customers, brands are shifting their focus towards keeping their existing customers engaged and coming back for more. We continually see an untapped opportunity in this shift, and it's all about collaboration.

In a blog post I recently wrote for Wonderment, I discuss the benefit of merging the efforts of marketing and customer service (CS) teams to prioritize customer retention, and how Wonderment can help. While marketing traditionally concentrates on attracting new customers, CS teams are in direct contact with the existing ones. They hold the key to understanding what drives customer satisfaction and what improvements can be made.

The numbers don't lie: retaining customers is not only cost-effective but also more profitable. It costs significantly less to retain an existing customer, and they are more likely to try new products and spend more. That's where the magic happens when marketing and CS teams join forces.

Click here to read "How to Bridge the Gap between Marketing & CX teams to Increase Customer Retention" on the Wonderment Blog.

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This post originally appeared in Edition No. 163 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.