How to be successful with Shopify in 2021
If you are looking for some little tricks to boost the visits, create ads that bring you more purchases or something like that, you are going to be disappointed. If you have already read some of my articles, you know that the I am not sure about tricks; if this your first one, instead, well – now you know. The title is also misleading, I admit; this is not about the methods to be successful in 2020 with Shopify. This is about methods to be successful anytime with any activity, physical or digital.
Having that said, I suggest you read anyway because I will tell you about universally valid principles that is good to remind every now and then. If you are like me, you will forever feel the desire to open thousands of articles and videos by experts or self-proclaimed ones who want to teach you the latest trick to optimize your store and make it irresistible to your users. There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay informed, even if it is often a huge waste of time. But I see it as a good sign, a symbol of your passion.
It is normal wasting some time with gurus and shortcuts, also because they sometimes help us think of interesting strategies. The important thing, and this is what I want to tell you about in this article, is that you keep in mind the basic principles which your entire business rests on. But first, let me see if I can make you a little angry.
What is Shopify?
No worry, I do not want to explain what the platform is. For that, you can find millions of articles online, and if you care particularly, I have also written one here. This question is just a provocation because it is so easy to talk about e-commerce, but a very few people stop thinking about what the e-commerce really is.
To me, the difference between opening a physical store and a digital one, namely an e-commerce, does not exist. Do not stare, you know it. Of course, having an online store has many advantages from a practical point of view; what I want to make you think about is that the missions of an e-shop and a physical store overlap.
If we wanted to summarize it in an expression, I would tell you that a store mission is to put those looking for something (the demand) in communication with those who want to sell that product (the offer). This is it. There are a thousand frills, many facets, theories, etc. But, if you stop for a moment to think, everything can be reduced to this formula.
Do you think this is a simplification? Then surely you will be shocked by how I will try to simplify the speech even more! 🙂
E as in Experience
Experience not as in “you have to gain experience before opening a store”, of course. I do not want to tell you that this is not important, but the experience should be gained in the field, studying hard and trying to come up with something unique. The experience that I am speaking of is related to this sense of uniqueness. Follow me through the discourse.
Today, out there, shops sell products and services of almost every type. Companies that manage to sell something unobtainable are a very little few (I would even say that you can count them on one hand).
What makes a store different is the experience. And that goes for your Shopify store as well. I know, experience is a somewhat overused and fairly generic term; I will try to make you understand what I mean when I talk about experience. Experience is the set of interactions that a store has with the user, before, during and after the sale. Experience is, in a nutshell, the relationship between the store and the customer. There are many points of interaction, but I will try to touch on the ones that I consider fundamental.
To begin, there is the first meeting, the first time you hear about a certain brand or store. It may happen that you see an advertisement, that an acquaintance tells you about it, that you see someone wearing or using the product of that company; in my imagination, the first meeting is essential. How much more likely would it be for you to try a certain brand if a friend had previously talked to you about it very well, than if you were faced with a trivial advertisement while scrolling Facebook? How you connect with a brand can forever mark your relationship with it, especially if the first encounter is negative.
The first meeting turns into the first real contact. For example, people see your ad on Facebook and decide to click on it. Or a friend tells them about you and they search for you on Google (or Instagram, for example). What is it? Where is it catapulted? What do you want to show them? The first contact is the one that conveys the values behind your brand to your user. If they land on your Shopify store and read “All Out, Big Discounts” they will think of you as a generic store that focuses on convenience; if they read “dog products for dog lovers” they would understand what you sell and why you do it. There are millions of shades which you can manage the first contact with, but give them the required attention. That is what you would personally say when someone asks you, “What is your business about?”
If the first two steps convince the user, the store exploration process would probably begin. While I deserved the description of how to present the product for the next point, here I am interested in making you understand how important it is to take care every detail of the visitor’s experience when they are looking for products in your shop. Always try to remember how similar an e-commerce is to a physical store and draw parallels, even if they sometimes seem excessive. For example, if you had to open 3 doors to enter a store, and you cannot even find the handle on one of those, how would you start your shopping experience? Flood the user with banners, pop-ups, discounts, and as soon as it lands on your site it is exactly the same. Each popup or banner is a barrier that you place between your customer and your products. Are you sure that is the right thing to do?
Keep building parallels with a physical store. Think about product positioning, for example. Would you highlight the latest arrivals or best-selling products? Would you put those that cost less first to encourage the user to put something in the cart, in order to break down the barrier of distrust? There are no people born with this knowledge, so study. Study, study, study. To open any business, you need skills and abilities; e-commerce is not an exception, quite the contrary. The fact that anyone can improvise, create a professional site and claim to be the market leader in your sector should push you even more to study to be more credible and make your store unique. The product is not enough, of course, but it can help. Let’s see how.
P as in Product
Ah, the product. You already smell money just reading the word product, huh? Well, that is not what I want to talk to you about. I am very little interested in what product you decide to sell because, in my humble opinion, there is a market for everything at the right price. Do you know that service that allows you to send a box of poo to the people you hate? A service that literally sells… come on, we understand each other.
Of course, the price also falls into the product, but that does not interest me either. The same necklace can be sold for 3 euros, 30 euros or 300 euros. I am not interested in the ethical question, but I want to emphasize that the price of a product is not made from the price of production or from what people are willing to pay for it. If we want to give an example, I would say that Apple is a perfect case, no? It is a perfect example because Apple does not sell products, it sells identities.
Identities, in what sense? Fake documents? No, but it sells its buyers the opportunity to be part of a certain group of people. People who see the world in a certain way, who want to convey certain values to those around them. Yes, you now get it: I am coming to Simon Sinek. “People do not buy what you make, they buy why you make it.” If you do not know Simon Sinek, I suggest you to see his very famous TED Talk (here the link).
This is exactly what I mean by product. Nobody cares if your dog brush has 1 cm or 3 cm long teeth. Sure, you have to show the technical specifications at the bottom of the page; but tell people why your shop sells this brush. It tells a story related to the use of the brush. Start with your user’s problems, explain to them why you want to help them, and finally show them how. Think of teleshopping on TV. Why do they last so long instead of throwing the product in front of you with a super discounted price? Because they tell you about your problems (you sleep badly, you wake up with back pain, the day becomes a nightmare), they tell you why they care (Mattresshop explains to you that they have always been alongside families to make their life more active by making young and old ones rest better, and blablabla) and how it can help you (here is the new Venus air space mattress for only 15 euros, etc.).
An extreme example? Try selling a glow-in-the-dark collar. If you saw it like this, thrown on a website, with a technical description and two photos, you would think that it is a useless obscene and you would not buy it even under torture. But if I told you about the thousands of cats that die every night hit by a car, and how this collar that lights up in the dark saved the cats of three buyers who, over the years, have never been able to keep a cat for longer than three months without being them hit by a car? How would you see this product now? You would talk to your friends who have cats, right? It would create a deep connection with the product, almost emotional (if you love animals, of course, this has to do with the target).
You will not be able to sell a product simply by throwing it on the site with a mega discount and a timer that says “only 3 left”. You can certainly sell some for the law of large numbers, but success over time is achieved with a real strategy, similar to the one that big brands adopt to occupy a place in the customer’s heart. The cool thing? The techniques exist, they are out there and, to a large extent, they are accessible at a very low cost (if not for free). Be wary of those who promise you quick success: build something worth sharing and you will see that success will come.
Luckily, once you have built the store, told your story, and convinced the customer to buy your work, it seems done. Sure, right? Well, it has only just begun. Assistance is the part of the process that can really make your business explode. You believe it, right? Let me tell you how I feel about.
A as in Assistance
I have to admit that things have now improved considerably when it comes to successful brands; almost everyone has understood that the battle is won in assistance or, as we used to say, in after-sales. When I talk about assistance, I do not onyl mean a chat where the user can write to you asking for help while visiting your store. Assistance is a huge topic that embraces all those that I have talked about above and, in reality, so many more.
I always go back to my initial speech: e-commerce with or without Shopify is no different from a physical store. When you are in a shop, a visitor can ask for information at different times and in different ways. I frequently ask for information when I enter a store, to find out if they have a particular product; in e-commerce, this part should be managed by an effective product categorization strategy and a well-done search function. While browsing the store, I may also have questions about the specifications of a certain product, which may not be indicated on the packaging; in an e-commerce, you could manage these curiosities with a mix of well-written technical specifications on the product page, a section with frequently asked questions and a chat for the most sophisticated ones.
An then we have questions about shipments, gift wrapping, returns and refunds, origin of products, advice… so on and so forth. Some of these aspects can be mitigated with automations (an in-depth section of the answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ), a chat with a bot that leads the customer to the answers, etc.) but a large part will have to be managed directly with e-mail, chats in the store, social media chats, etc.
The key, in assistance as in any other aspect of your store, is transparency and honesty. If you sell products that come from China, say it. If you work part-time in the shop and can only answer customer questions an hour a day, do not write that chats are active 24/7. Users are not dumb and they understand perfectly well when you are fooling them. Honesty always pays. If you know that your supplier ships the goods in 21 business days, do not write “fast shipping worldwide”. Every little lie will backfire, perhaps in the form of negative reviews, a wave of refund requests, suspensions from payment providers that block your business for weeks.
Did the last point scare you? I hope so! Remember: e-commerce = physical store. Put your face to it, do not write half-truths, always be honest in your transactions with the customer and you will build a reputation that will lead your business to success. Anyone who promises you to earn quickly and easily with a couple of tricks of the trade (perhaps by selling you a course worth thousands of euros) lies, and they are aware of the fact that they are lying.
Be careful, I absolutely do not want to say that the courses are not useful. In e-commerce, there are a myriad of things to learn and there are many experienced people who can help you avoid some mistakes. But avoid the psychological trap of the “secret method to earn € 10,000 a month without working” because – drum roll – it does not exist. You can earn 10,000 euros a month, you can automatize part of the process, you can get to work much better (not less, ok? better) but only after having worked hard to lay the foundations for your success, after having overcome moments of despair, after making mistakes with your social strategies, the price of the products, or the refund policy.
Do not improvise. Study, try, learn from your mistakes and you will be able to build a successful business. What matters is that you do not lose sight of the concept that e-commerce is no different from a physical store; the satisfied customers cannot wait to talk about you. Hence, again, pay attention to experience, product and assistance. Success is only a natural consequence of the attention that you put into these three aspects.