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Episode 59 takes us into the eCommerce platform Shopify. We had the chance to chat with Shopify expert Kurt Elster. His eCommerce Bootcamp gives Shopify store owners a proven method to boost traffic and conversions. Today, as a special treat, Kurt brings us some of the insights he shares in his bootcamp.
If you are selling online, no matter what platform or plugin you are using, you get some excellent tips in this show brought to you by our sponsor, Bluehost.
We chatted about:
- Why we shouldn’t try to sell to people
- Tips to help you optimize your store for conversions
- Some insights on what makes Facebook one of the best social platforms for promoting your online store
- Connecting your Shopify store with WordPress—and why it works
- One of Kurt’s favorite examples of a marketing strategy around a specific Shopify store
Thanks to Our Podcast Sponsor: Bluehost
You can also download the transcript of this show: WordPress eCommerce Show Episode 59 March 15 2017
Bob Dunn: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the WP eCommerce Show. Bob Dunn, here, also known as BobWP on the web. Today we are going to shift things a bit and dive into the popular eCommerce platform, Shopify. But we aren’t talking the tech details. Instead, we are looking at two essential pieces that will make your Shopify store a success: traffic and conversions. Often, something many store owners struggle with this. So, to get us on the right track, I’m bringing in the big guns.
Kurt Elster is one of the two brains behind the eCommerce Bootcamp, which is a proven Shopify marketing process that any Shopify store owner can use to improve traffic and conversions. Kurt is also a Shopify expert and fellow podcaster. Hey, Kurt. Welcome to the show.
Kurt Elster: Thank you for having me. It’s my honor and pleasure.
Meet Kurt Elster, Shopify Expert
Bob Dunn: So, Kurt, I did cover a bit of who you are, but fill us in on the details for those who do not know you.
Kurt Elster: Sure. I quit my job in 2009 and tried to start my own eCommerce platform. Didn’t know what I didn’t know, and creating a SaaS is incredibly difficult. To keep the lights on, I started developing websites. That was seven years ago, and now, after the last two and a half years, we’ve worked exclusively on Shopify. We were one of the first Shopify Experts. Recently became the 85th Shopify Plus Expert.
Predominantly, we help Shopify store owners uncover hidden profits in their websites. It’s a lot of conversion-rate, revenue-optimization stuff. I like to work with entrepreneurs, fellow enthusiastic entrepreneurs. So, we’ve got folks from Shark Tank and Kickstarter and a lot of Amazon sellers. I just love selling stuff online. It was a thing we were good at. I’ve just made it my full-time job. I love what I do.
Bob Dunn: Very cool. What I want to do on today’s show is, you have this eCommerce Bootcamp, and I know it’s packed with information for the Shopify store owner, but to give them a taste of what they might get there, as well as helping them with their traffic and conversion, I’m going to see if I can pull out five tips from you Plus maybe a couple other goodies to help them with their stores. Sound like a deal, Kurt?
Kurt Elster: Sounds great, yeah. I think I can get you five or more.
Kurt’s eCommerce Bootcamp: download a free chapter
Bob Dunn: Okay. Well, if you want to throw in some bonus tips, we’re always welcome. One of the first things you talk about in your Bootcamp is that you shouldn’t try to sell to people, I saw that on your site. Can you give us that concept in a nutshell, without giving away the farm?
Kurt Elster: Sure. Well, actually, if you download the free sample, you get that whole first chapter.
Bob Dunn: Okay.
Online shop owners should not try to sell
Kurt Elster: There’s my first plug. Ding. All right, but no. Trying to sell is one of the biggest mistakes I see new store owners making, and this is really about mindset. We talk about B to B and B toC, when really, we should be talking about H to H, Human-to-Human Selling. When people try to sell online, especially early on in their career, they start talking like a used car salesman with a megaphone. That voice is just toxic. No one wants to be talked at. No one wants to be sold to. Instead, your marketing should be doing two things. Educating people to turn them into your ideal best buyers, so sales through education. Or, we’ll say, “Seducation.”
Then focusing on solving the pains and problems of those best buyers with your solution. Then the second half of that is, you just want to show them a better version of themselves with whatever your solution is. That’s sales without selling. It’s entirely focused on them and making their lives better. First through some kind of content marketing. It usually means it’s some kind of education, and then through saying, “Hey, we’ve got a solution. It’s going to fix, solve, whatever this pain or problem is, and you’re going to live a better life. Even if it’s like one-tenth of 1% better, as a result.”
Bob Dunn: At least they can download that. See, I overlooked that, but it’s always good to have it on the show, too. Also, you mentioned that there are three secrets that make conversion optimization easy, and I know people struggle with conversion. They freak out about it. Care to share one of those with us?
Three secrets to optimizing your conversion rates
Kurt Elster: Sure. I can walk through it. I know people have a lot of anxiety about their conversion rate. I could give you benchmarks, but it’s tough to compare conversion rates.
Really, for any store, a good conversion rate is one that’s better than last month. It’s a process of constant revision and iteration. But, referring to those tips, I think, to conversion-rate optimize your site, you need to design your site around an assumption that the user is a crazy, lazy, drunk. Those are my three assumptions. Of course, the user is not a crazy, lazy, drunk. But, it helps to think of them that way.
Your user is crazy
What I mean by that is, number one. Our users are crazy because they’re narcissistic, so they’re only interested in themselves. You need to make sure your website is almost always talking about them. I see sites that suffer from I-arrhea, where they only talk about themselves, which is, “I, I, I.” You want to make that site you-focused, and not you, the store owner: you, the customer. All of your copy, 90% of it at least, should be talking about the customers. Your customers, and their problems.
Your user is lazy
Number two. They’re lazy, so you need to work on reducing the number of choices that they have to make on your website. There’s only so many decisions we can make in a day, as humans. The fewer you force on me, as a customer, the more likely I am to stay on your site. So, every decision is a potential conversion-killing choke point on your site. You want to get them to the right product in as few clicks as possible, and then get them through checkout as quickly as possible.
Here’s an example. What happens when people click Add to Cart on your product page? In most cases, it’s going to be you get a message that says like, “Oh, Added to Cart,” and then just stops. Okay, well, guess what? If you did that, you just added a whole series of decisions I’ve got to make now. So, do I continue shopping? Do I go find the cart? Where is it? How do I check out? What would be easier, is if they click Add to Cart, we know they want to buy. So, click Add to Cart. Just dump them in the checkout. You just skipped a whole series of steps and decisions and problems for them.
Some people say, “Well, I’m decreasing my average order value.” Okay, fine. Well, then let’s just take them to the cart, and then upsell them there. Or, not even worry about it. Let’s just get them through that first purchase with us, because we know they’re that much more likely to make repeat purchases, and then sell them after that first purchase through emails, and really extend that lifetime value to them with your brand, and to you, for them as a customer.
Your user is drunk (well, not really)
Then number three. Your website needs to be incredibly easy-to-use, because the user is drunk, right? Buttons should look like buttons. Extraneous elements removed, etcetera. One of the ways is to walk through it and write down every frustrating and eyebrow-raising thing about it. Fixing just those elements can double your conversion rate.
Bob Dunn: Well, you gave us three of those. Three out of three. 100%. Hey, I’m impressed.
Kurt Elster: Thank you.
I think it’s because your biggest competitor isn’t another person, isn’t another website, it’s the back button. Because if your website’s got anything frustrating about using it, finding products, whatever. People are just going to click the back button and find an easier product to buy elsewhere.
Bob Dunn: Yeah.
Ask someone with fresh eyes to navigate your site with usability in mind
Kurt Elster: Now, of course, the problem here with doing this yourself is you spend more time on your own website than any other person on the planet, right? So, you can’t see the forest through the trees, and that’s where it’s nice to have someone with fresh eyes to look at the site. It could be a customer, a friend, a consultant. It probably can’t be you though. Because you’re just on the site all the time. This happens to me on my own websites.
It’s just easy to overlook the problems and the frustrations, because you’re used to it. Interestingly, there’s actually a Usability Testing Consultant, named Richard Littauer, and he will get smashed. He will do like eight shots of whiskey, and then he will screen cast himself trying to buy something on your website.
Bob Dunn: Oh, wow. Oh, God. That’d be great to see. I love it. Now there’s a job I never thought of. Well, maybe that could be a side thing in the evenings. All right. Well, I’m going to kind of move over to social a little bit.
Kurt Elster: Sure.
What about Facebook marketing?
Bob Dunn: I’m going to assume that Facebook is talked about quite a bit as, I think, even on your site, and just hearing others around eCommerce and marketing and advertising. It’s one of the better platforms for our promotion. Can you give us a nugget or two about Facebook that you think is a must-do?
Kurt Elster: Sure. You said, “Well, it’s this big platform. It’s huge for social and advertising.” There’s a couple reasons for that. There’s a billion people on Facebook, everyone has it on all their devices, right. I’ve got it on my desktop, I’ve got it in my pocket on my phone, I’m checking Facebook every time I poop, right? This is everybody who’s doing this, at this point. It’s an infinity pool, where you can just keep refreshing your timeline. I don’t care what you’re selling. The chances are, your customers are on Facebook. If you’re not marketing on Facebook, you’re leaving money on the table.
You can get involved in these huge fancy Facebook sales funnels, and that’s one of the things we set up. But any Facebook advertising is better than none. If you’re new to Facebook advertising, you will make yourself crazy trying to get new customers to your site. You could just use a look alike audience to do this. But, at the very least, try starting with remarketing and then plowing those profits back into experimenting. I say, “Remarketing,” because most people won’t purchase on the first visit to your site.
If you’re lucky, let’s say you’ve got a really great conversion rate. Maybe one in 30 people will purchase on the first visit to your site, and that would be great, but that still means 29 people didn’t purchase. So you need to help build familiarity with those 29 people who didn’t buy. Remarketing ads on Facebook are an incredibly inexpensive way to do that. It lets you reach otherwise anonymous visitors, across all of their devices, for a few bucks a day. It’s this great ROI, and I think any remarketing is better than none.
On tying your Shopify store to your WordPress site
Bob Dunn: All right. Well, now we’re going to talk WordPress and Shopify. Some people think those two words don’t go together, but we know they do. I know I will be having somebody from Shopify on, maybe in a month or so. They’ll be talking about their plugin that lets you connect. I’m not sure if you’ve used it much, or you have much experience, but is there a tip you can share with us, if someone is considering tying their Shopify store to their WordPress site?
Kurt Elster: I love the introduction to this. That you say, “Alcohol and water, they don’t mix.” What’s funny is, before we exclusively said, “Hey, we’re going to niche down and only work on Shopify stores,” I used to do WordPress work and we did custom development for big brands, working with creative agencies. We built sites for Verizon, the NFL, Hilton Hotels. So, I’m definitely familiar with WordPress, and I can tell you right now. The highest converting brands I’ve seen with Shopify stores, the highest converting Shopify stores, worked with WordPress together to run their site.
So, generally, they’d run like a content marketing site, or a blog on WordPress. They pick up organic traffic, just as you would expect them to. On that blog, by providing valuable content, and then they like them, retarget them, or otherwise advertise to them with a Shopify store that lives on a subdomain of that WordPress site. So, like shop.whatever.com. Then then when that traffic ends up on the Shopify store, it’s really already very warm, because naturally, these things should be very related. Like the content and the product, of course. Then those are the stores that I see.
This is the only time I’ve ever seen stores with double-digit conversion rates, where on the front end, the person goes from anonymous visitor, to reading through this blog, getting familiar with it, getting comfortable with it, and then going through to the store. Then that does mean, “Yeah, okay. You’re running two separate sites on the same domain.” There is another simpler option you could use, which I like, and that’s to use Shopify’s Buy Buttons. They’re a bit like the PayPal Buy Now buttons, except they suck way less.
It just lets you embed. You can manage your inventory, manage all your fulfillment in your Shopify products, and then you just get a Buy Button. It’s just HTML, you paste it into your WordPress site. Then when people click on it, it gives them this very nice checkout experience. That may not convert as well as having the standalone store, but if you’re just looking to stack the bricks, and building your business, and quickly add this eCommerce channel, that’s probably the easiest way to bolt a great eCommerce experience onto your WordPress site.
Bob Dunn: Yeah, I think that some people in WordPress, and maybe some of my listeners even, get a little bit too, I don’t know, possessive.
Kurt Elster: There are evangelists, I get it.
Bob Dunn: Yeah, yeah, but it’s … Hey, I’m also somebody … I worked with clients for a long time coaching, and teaching, and stuff like that. To me, it’s always about ease. What is going to work for you best here? If it’s, like you said, either one of those options, I don’t sit there and say, “Oh, my God. You’re going to put Shopify and WordPress together? Why don’t you use this plugin or this plug instead?” But, hey, whatever works, and it’s very interesting to hear about the two sites, and the conversions. That’s something, I hope, in fact, I might even put that at the very beginning of this podcast, because I think everybody needs to hear that.
Decide on your goal, then decide what works for you
Kurt Elster: Yeah, please do. I think people should be tool agnostic. It’s like, “Decide on your goal and then whatever tools work for you, just use what works.”
Bob Dunn: Exactly. Now lastly, we have one more question. I want to just hear your favorite story of any marketing strategy for a Shopify store that you’ve worked with. I’m sure you probably have several examples, but you found it unique, interesting, intriguing. Something just a little bit off the wall or a little different?
An interesting client story: everestbands.com
Kurt Elster: Sure, okay. Truthfully, this is my go-to anecdote, but I love this story. It’s a really powerful example. So, we’ve been working with this brand, everestbands.com. Everest, like the Mountain, and Bands, like Rubber Bands. They had a successful Kickstarter, and then sales were slow after that. After the Kickstarter, they had a Shopify store. It was okay. This was about two and a half years ago. What they sell is replacement watch straps for Rolex watches. If you don’t know about Rolex, It’s always a steel bracelet. They started selling.
This guy was into watches and he said, “You know what? For whatever reason, I wish I had a rubber strap for my Rolex that wasn’t garbage. I would buy like a $20 strap, but it’s silly to stick a $20 strap on a $5,000 watch.” He said, “I can make one that fits really nice, really premium stuff, use Swiss rubber.” Like charting and successfully backing a $200 rubber strap. I started helping him improve his Shopify store, starting with what I laid out. Like, “All right. Let’s fix the conversion and then later, just totally redo the site.”
A small survey and a surprising results
We’ve been working together, and the whole time, we’d been operating under the assumption that people just wanted to customize the Rolex. They wanted, maybe give it a different, youthful look. Personalize it. That was true, that was part of the reason people were buying. That’s why I bought one for my own, but one day I said, “You know what? Let’s send out a survey. Can I send out a survey to your list?” He said, “Yeah, go ahead.” I asked like five or so questions, but my two favorites were customer post-purchase survey questions.
Two simple questions and sales doubled
Is, number one, “Who would you recommend this product to?” That question tells us how the buyers see themselves. I follow that up with, “Why would you recommend it?” That tells us why they bought, personally. The answers totally surprised us. They were very consistent, because they were contrary to what we had been assuming and what the site had been growing with, as our assumption. We, watch nerds like myself, thought they were buying these things to dress up their Rolex. It turns out that it was active, young professionals.
I remember one example that stood out was a registered nurse. They were buying them because they wanted to wear their Swiss watch, every day, all day. While golfing, swimming, biking, doing these active sports, but they didn’t want to scratch up the bracelet. This steel bracelet was all the Rolexes came with. So, they were buying the Everest Rubber Straps to preserve that bracelet. We took New Lifestyle, we’re like, “Okay. We can work with this.” Totally surprised by it, but we were wrong about our assumptions, so we took New Lifestyle photos of the strap in action.
Like, one was, literally, it was raining that day. It’s me on a mountain bike with my wrist in the photo, in the rain, and one where I just took a $5,000 watch and dropped it in the puddle with the strap on, took this great photo of it. We put those up there, and then we used the tagline, “Preserve your steel bracelet,” as a unique selling proposition in our descriptions. Then. eventually, we ended up introducing a new product, which was a case to preserve the steel bracelet, just to hold it.
Bob Dunn: Wow.
Kurt Elster: Sales doubled as a result. So, all we had to do was ask, “Hey, why are you buying this and who are you?” Because you don’t know. We discovered, until you ask, you really have no idea why people are buying. You’re just kind of guessing at it, and it’s an informed guess, but you’re still guessing. Whereas when you ask them, in this kind of third-person way where you say, “Hey, who would you recommend it to? And why would recommend it?” You really get this very interesting insight into why people are buying your product. Then hold up the mirrors. Take those things, use their own language from those surveys in your taglines, in your ads, emails, et cetera. Really, that’s one of the best conversion-rate hacks you can do.
Bob Dunn: That’s a great story. We tend to sometime make assumptions, based on whatever, the quality, the price. And I loved the actual case for it and how that just kind of created a whole new product and people are thinking, “Oh, now I can store my nice bracelet in my case. It’s all well-protected.” Love it.
Kurt Elster: Yeah.
Where to find Kurt on the web
Bob Dunn: Well, there you have it. I know we could probably talk onvand on, and may have you back again sometime, but I believe we’ve given our listeners a taste of what they will get with the eCommerce Boot Camps. I’m hoping they’ll head over there, check it out for the full enchilada. Also, I’m sure people want to connect with you, Kurt, so where can they find you on the web?
Kurt Elster: Probably the best way is go to my personal site, kurtelster.com, and sign up for my newsletter. Immediately, you’ll get an email, it’s from my real email address. Just hit Reply. If you ever send me a thoughtful question, I promise I will send you a thoughtful answer back.
Bob Dunn: Cool. Well, again. Thanks for sharing these tidbits with us, Kurt. I think you’ve given us some really good thoughts to move on with Shopify. Much appreciated.
Kurt Elster: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you.
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