You no longer need $15K to $30K to start your ecommerce business.
You can have your dream store built for fractions of that.
Ecommerce has come a long way in the last few years. The technology is way more accessible to less tech savvy entrepreneurs. And the barriers to starting a new ecomm brand is just a mornings work away.
Having been running multiple ecommerce stores over the last 6+ years, I've had the opportunity (or maybe misfortune) to try almost every shopping cart, email service, recurring billing, review and analytics platform on the market. There's certainly LESS major platforms I've not had first hand experience with.
And in the last 3 years I've worked almost exclusively with Shopify as the basis of my stores, earning me well over $1 million in revenue. Shopify now powers over 1/2 million stores worldwide and is by far the leader of the pack when it comes to starting your ecommerce business.
As good as Shopify is on it's own it can be enhanced with some powerful add ons and complimentary tools. There's a technology stack that I've refined over the years, creating the dream build.
A dream build to help me maximise the revenue I get from every customer that visits my stores.
This extended article covers my dream build, why we use it, the pros and the cons of each tool, and how to fit all these pieces together WITHOUT needing to hire a developer or have a massive learning curve to maximise the platform.
If you're new to shopify, you may want to check out my Shopify set up in an hour videos
Once you've got your Shopify account set up you'll want to work through this dream build.
Not every tool here is necessary, but you'll at least want to give them all a try to see how it can grow your e-commerce business very quickly.
One final note, there are links within this article that if you decide to create an account with and utilise long term like we have, I may get a small commission for referring you. So I thank you in advance if you choose to use the links on this page
Klaviyo – World Class Email Segmentation
The customers you already have are the lifeblood of your business and communicating with them via email is still in 2018 your best opportunity to make that 2nd and 3rd and more sales.
No matter how much a guru will tell you that email is dead, I'll guarantee the biggest ecommerce business's in the world are STILL utilising email on a daily basis to generate sales.
DO NOT ignore this section.
One of the great things with your ecommerce business is the ability to capture data about every purchase that occurs on your store. But it's only useful if you can manage and understand that data.
Having used enterprise, weapons grade software such as InfusionSoft, I know what it's like to gather data and NOT be able to use it. The biggest problem we had in the 9 months using InfusionSoft was not being able properly use the information we had on our customers purchases. You basically needed a full time data engineer to manage and decipher it all.
Then we discovered Klaviyo.
Klaviyo set a rocketship under our ecommerce business. Within 2 hours of signing up I was able to truly understand and segment our customers based on THREE primary factors.
RFM for short.
RFM is what big retailers use to segment their customer database, so they can quickly identify their best and worst customers.
That first morning I was able to find out WHO had bought our fish oil supplement twice or more, but not in the last six months. I could then email then an offer to get them back.
I was able to find out which customers had spent over £1000 with us, so I could send them a personalised gift.
This level of segmentation allows you to tailor your email marketing, so the right message goes to the right customers EVERY time.
No longer would you send blanket offers to all customers. We'd only need to send the offer to the right people at the right time.
PRO's Of Klaviyo:
- Tightly integrates with all your Shopify data.
- Create unique one time use discount codes that are delivered by email
- Dynamically updates Facebook Audiences based on your segmentations
CON's Of Klaviyo:
- Gets expensive with lots of contacts, but regular list cleansing can keep the costs down
- Not as powerful conditional email sequences as say Drip or ActiveCampaign
- Less powerful for prospects email marketing
How much does Klaviyo Cost?
- 0-250 contacts – FREE (with klaviyo branding and limited sending)
- 500 Contacts – $25/month
- 1000 contacts – $50/month
- 1500 contacts – $75/month
Tips & Tricks With Klaviyo
We go through a regular process of list cleansing. If a prospect hasn't bought in 3 months of being added to a list we delete them or move them to another email platform, If a buyer hasn't opened an email or bought in 12 months we suppress the contact, so they remain in our system but not counted towards our account quota.
The custom discount codes allows us to create what's called discount ladders. This is only offering discounts to customers who are showing signs of not coming back. For example after 60 days offer a FREE shipping code, after 75 days offer a 10% discount, after 90 days offer a 15% discount. This powerful strategy will save you from profit creep.
Use the Facebook Custom Audiences dynamic updates to run ads in parallel to the discount ladder. As well as cross and up selling to other products and larger bundles.
Klaviyo Wrap Up
Yes there are MANY other email platforms that'll hook in to your Shopify store, but none quite as tightly as Klaviyo. Using the segmentation tools you'll make email your most profitable marketing channel.
Recharge – Create Business Stability With Subscriptions
The reliability of a recurring revenue stream will save your sanity, I can guarantee that. If you have naturally recurring products (i.e consumables), then you MUST include this next app in your tech stack dream build.
And even if you don't have an obvious recurring product… FIND one. Trust me, you'll thank me for twisting your arm on this one.
Now we sell nutritional supplements, and most of the products should be consumed within 30-45 days. So it makes sense to offer a subscription service. However selling recurring billing products is NOT always easy. There's a lot of distrust for recurring billing by consumers.
Which is understandable some of the shady practices employed by businesses historically.
Recharge is the app that manages our subscription billing, and it was the first app we installed on Shopify. Over the years it's evolved to being the killer app we LOVE paying for. Sounds mad, but the Return On Investment (ROI) on this app is insane.
Right now a subscription billing customer is worth on average, 4 times that of a normal customer. Some of our subscription customers have been with us since day 1. Buying literally 1000's of pounds of product.
When you install Recharge, you'll get helped by their team to correctly set up. Simply then hook up either Stripe or Paypal or another payment provider and you're ready to set up your first subscription product.
- 3 Months FREE Trial
- Easy management of your subscribers, including a customer portal that works with your shopify customer accounts user interface
- Multiple methods for running a subscription program, including “box of the month” style subscriptions
- Sometimes doesn't play well with other Shopify Apps as it uses a separate checkout to the standard Shopify checkout
Tips and Tricks With Recharge
Don't dismiss the up sell with recurring billing customers. We added a single line to the notification email that reminds a customer that they'll be billed in 3 days time. This line not only reduced the number of cancellations but increased average cart value significantly. The line:
“If you'd like to add a product to your next shipment, hit reply and ask Sam to add it to your box”
The MORE transparent you are with the billing and cancellation process for recurring billing the better. Do not try to trick or hide the fact you're going to auto rebill them, it'll never end well.
Know your metrics for your subscription billing program. Done right these customers will be your most profitable. As such we can make stronger offers on the front end to incentivise customers to sign up. Currently we offer a £20 Amazon gift card for every new subscriber!
Recharge Wrap Up
You can take away pretty much every other part of my business, but NOT my subscribers. They are important enough to use a bulletproof platform like Recharge. Start offering subscriptions ASAP.
Zipify Pages – Drag and Drop Page Builder
If you've been in the internet marketing space for any length of time you'll know all about landing pages, and landing page builders such as ClickFunnels, LeadPages, OptimizePress and a million others which have been built for WordPress.
Up until recently none of these platforms played nice with Shopify.
Then Zipify Pages was born. You have now got a true drag and drop page builder that works inside of Shopify.
Before Zipify Pages you had to make do with the theme templates, most of which don't lend themselves well to creating slick product sales pages, article landers or BLOG posts. Speaking of BLOGs that's one area that was truly awful in most shopify themes.
It might be easier for me do demonstrate in a video the power of Zipify Pages.
Zipify Pages PRO's
- The ability to create pages FAST on Shopify regardless of the theme you're using.
- At last a BLOG platform with the ability to embed product blocks and call to action buttons with a few clicks of your mouse
- Ability to customise the content for mobile devices for faster mobile loading.
- The high converting templates from one of the top Shopify stores in the world.
- The ROI is not obvious on this app, but the improved user experience will certainly boost your conversion rate.
Zipify Pages CONs
- Not quite as flexible as ClickFunnels for page creation, and the user interface for editing text is not as slick as ClickFunnels
- Doesn't quite do away with needing a shopify theme, but I understand that is what they are aiming for.
- Not the cheapest of tools, but one that'll save you pretty much all those expensive developer fees and more for editing your theme.
Zipify Pages Tips & Tricks
Make use of Zipify Pages initially by replacing the existing static pages, such as FAQ, Shipping Information, Terms Of Service, About Us etc… Creating these pages with Zipify Pages means you can add call to action buttons, and product blocks making these pages revenue generating, rather than just informational.
The Split Testing functionality shouldn't be ignored. Especially if you're driving paid traffic at a landing page. Simply create a duplicate and then make the necessary changes to the copy that you want to test.
It's possible to replace the front page of your store with a Zipify Pages created page. Especially good if you're still using one of the FREE themes from Shopify.
Zipify Pages Wrap Up
I wanted to not like this app, but within 2 weeks of trialing it you couldn't peel it away from me. Now 75% of my store pages are built using Zipify and it's much easier to use than any of the themes you'd normally buy from Shopify. Throw in to the mix a great support team and regular webinars from Ezra Firestone on what's working for his massive stores!
One Click Upsell – Increase Average Cart Value By Up To 30%
Unlike Zipify Pages, One Click Upsell (OCU) WILL provide a direct ROI.
Browse the shopify app store for a few minutes you'll find a whole host of up sell apps on there. One Click Upsell has one fundamental difference.
It's a TRUE up sell.
Most other apps offer an up sell on the cart page of the checkout flow. This type of up sell can interrupt and cause higher cart abandonment.
OCU makes an up sell offer AFTER the checkout has been completed. But crucially will not require the customer to input their payment information again.
Make the right offer and on average 20% of your customers will add the up sell to their order.
Here's how we're using it…
- Someone adds our signature product to their cart.
- They complete the checkout process and press “Buy Now”, where their card is billed.
- The next page the customer sees is the up sell offer page from OCU, where the customer has 10 minutes to accept the offer or decline. For us that's 20% off an additional tub of our product.
- If they accept their card details are automatically billed and the extra tub is added to their order.
At the time of writing, we have 32% of customers accepting the up sell!
Now OCU does have it's challenges, the page builder is pretty rudimentary (but effective!), and the only payment processor is Stripe, although you can get Paypal set up too, but requires specific permission and some settings changed on your paypal account.
Despite these challenges I'm not going to turn off the app anytime soon, it earns us too much extra revenue!
One Click Upsell PROs
- Another really well support App from the folks at Zipify.
- If you get the offers set up right, this can increase your average cart value significantly, making your marketing efforts even better
- If you've got some natural up sell products in your range you'd be nuts not to give this a try
One Click Upsell CONs
- Not the most intuitive page builder, but I understand they are porting the builder from their Zipify Pages app very soon
- Uses it's own checkout, separate from shopify which can sometimes clash with other apps (but does work with Recharge)
One Click Upsell Tips & Tricks
I'll admit, I got kinda lucky when I first got my teeth in to the app. I set up a very simple offer, for 20% off an extra unit of the same product they'd just ordered. It gave £9 off, which is a significant saving. I know folk who've got lower priced products struggle to get the up sells with the same percentage discount. So it definitely pays to have a significant monetary value offer.
Interestingly people who buy our multi-pack bundles are FAR more likely to buy the up sell offer for an additional unit.
Start with your BEST selling product and create an up sell offer to another unit.
Complimentary products work better with existing customers rather than new customers
One Click Upsell Wrap Up
Second only to Recharge, OCU gives fantastic ROI to the cost of the app. It's well worth adding in to your dream build and it can immediately increase your average cart value with the right offer in place.
The support team at Zipify are stunning, helping with all my technical integration type questions. Plus they have a full on development roadmap, which is in stark contrast to a lot of WordPress plugin developers I've come across.
OCU is a definite candidate for automatic installation on ANY shopify dream build
Stamped.io – Reviews But So Much More
I've been royally screwed by certain review companies with horrific cancellation policies. And because many of them know you're trapped with them once you've started, ironically their customer service is horrible.
If you're looking to be running your business for a decent length of time, getting reviews and having the 5 stars showing on your Google organic listings means you'll need a review app.
The basic one supplied by Shopify is ‘OK' but that's about the most I can say about it. It's thoroughly unremarkable. And given that reviews are now also part of your social media impact too, you need a review tool that can handle the many different channels your reviews are available for display.
Stamped.io is our chosen app for this dream build.
It delivers a lot of the functionality above, but along with epic customer service and sensible billing policies make it the only choice. However the top level account with ALL the functionality doesn't come cheap. However this is a ‘dream build' not a budget build!
Besides sending out emails to request product reviews, Stamped also has Net Promoter Score built in, Checkout reviews, Instagram Shoppable, widgets that are fully customisable to display on your product pages and anywhere else on your store. Plus integrations with anything from Google shopping, Slack and Klaviyo too.
The killer features of Stamped is the product recommendations in the review emails, encouraging repeat purchases. As well as integration with Facebook for displaying product reviews as adverts for cart abandonments and web page visitors.
- Probably one of the most mature review apps on the shopify platform with updates being added all the time. This means you'll be able to deliver your reviews to whatever platform is the most prevalent at this moment
- First class support. I was able to export all the reviews from my previous reviews app, and send the file across to Stamped.io where they imported the data for me. Meaning I was able to keep most of the reviews I'd collected over the previous years.
- The product recommendation feature in review request emails helps this product provide a direct ROI. Anytime an app can create more conversions means it can more easily justify the expense of running the app.
- If you want ALL the features you need to invest in the top tiered package at $100/month. However they do have a FREE package for up to 50 Review requests a month to get you started. And their ‘Premium' package is only $30/month
- Almost too many options and settings, it's easy to get lost in the range of ways to ask for a review
Stamped.io Tips & Tricks
With any review app, timing is everything. Test different times for sending out emails, when gets the best response in terms of reviews generated. We've found approximately 21 -30 days after purchase gets us the best response because that's the length of time it takes someone to consume the product.
The text in the email, asking for the review, is critical too. Because we have an on-boarding email sequence for new customers using Klaviyo, the email asking for the review fits in with the same language and engagement approach as our normal emails.
With Stamped the email a customer receives has the capability for them to simply click the ‘star' rating within the email. This makes responding super fast and as friction free as possible.
Stamped.io Wrap Up
If this article was about “budget builds” this app would probably not be included. However if you want the BEST experience for your customers and building a strong brand with strong reputation, then you can't beat Stamped.io for its ability to collect great reviews and conversion assets for your store.
Refersion – Build An Army Of Salesman
Affiliate marketing is such a big piece of my business success. I would estimate 30-40% of our sales come from referrals. In particular from our dedicated affiliates that support our brands. However the biggest challenge with affiliates is finding good ones, and secondly having a platform that supports their unique needs.
In 2018, affiliate marketing is becoming more challenging as more browsers are not supporting long term cookies, the method that most affiliate platforms have operated.
For the non tech nerds, this basically means it's harder to attribute sales to the right affiliates if it takes longer than 24 hours for a conversion to occur.
Thankfully the affiliate platform I recommend for your dream build has multiple ways to ensure the right affiliate gets rewarded for recommending products to their site visitors and clients.
Like all the apps in this dream build, Refersion tightly integrates with your shopify store, meaning set up and installation is just a few button clicks. No developer needed to code stuff.
Again, Refersion is not the cheapest affiliate platform on the market, but it makes it in to the Dream Build because of it's impact on sales to our business.
Building a team of great affiliates can be tough, so many stores opt for a managed service with one of the big affiliate networks such as Awin. If you're not generating 7 figures plus, I'd strongly urge you to stay away from these services, they are expensive and probably the biggest con in the world of online business, as I experienced to my cost in 2017. (This is a story for another day)
Refersion allows you to take control and self manage your affiliates. We've found this to be a better way if you put the effort in.
Here's why Refersion makes our Dream Build. Integration.
It's one of the few affiliate apps that works really well with both one time purchases on our store and with Recharge to offer recurring commissions to our affiliates, when a customer joins our subscription program. This feature alone, keeps our affiliates happily promoting our brand, knowing they'll get commissions for as long as someone stays a customer with us.
Our affiliates are found from blogger outreach and working with other businesses with complimentary products and services like personal trainers and nutritionists.
- Super tight integration with Shopify, and the other incredible app in our dream build, Recharge. Multiple ways to trigger a conversion, including discount codes and email addresses
- Easy set up and management of affiliates with plenty of options for helping your affiliate team promote your brand
- Whilst the development of the app is not as prevalent as other apps, their support is very responsive and willing to help.
- The reporting is pretty dreadful, but you are able to extract data to a CSV file if you need to do some deeper analysis of conversions
Thank You Page With an affiliate offer on it, works like gang busters!
Refersion Tips & Tricks
If you have the staff to do it, make it someone's role to manage, support and build your affiliate program. It's something that requires nurturing and someone willing to help affiliates get the best from the program.
Create custom discount codes for EVERY affiliate to use in their BLOG posts, emails and social postings. This was a huge game changer in the last 12 months with Refersion, and why it appears in this Dream Build
Thank You pages are an area which is under utilised by most complimentary businesses. We've started creating custom thank you page offers that sit on an affiliates opt in form thank you page, or post payment success page. About 20% of all visitors to these pages go forward and buy through their affiliate links!
Refersion Wrap Up
Don't underestimate the work required to run your own affiliate program, but the rewards do make it worth while. Finding a platform that tightly integrates with Shopify was one of the primary reason for choosing Refersion. I just hope they have a stronger development program to continue enhancing what is a pretty decent app.
Analytics Buddy – Real Useful Analytics Data
OR, if you do look at the data it's practically impossible for normal folk without a data engineering degree to understand what it means!
Enter the next app on our Dream Build. Analytics Buddy
And for such a useful app, whats more impressive its largely FREE.
Analytics Buddy deciphers the data from Google Analytics and makes the data have meaning.
For every order it'll show you where the customer came to your site eg. from google ads or facebook etc, how many visits to your store they'd made prior to purchase, what products they looked at.
Every product it'll give you real data on the number of add to cart and conversions and conversion value.
It'll show you site page speed, any 404 error pages.
It also does an audit of your site and your analytics account to make sure everything is set up correctly too.
A nice little feature is it'll email me a short report on every order we get. It does get a bit much after a while, but it's a great way to get a rough idea of what sources are generating the most sales.
Analytics Buddy PRO's
- It's FREE! If anything just to get your Google Analytics account correctly configured this app is worth the effort to install. It'll highlight errors in your store and analytics set up in minutes.
- It humanises the data most people would never be able to extract from Google Analytics
- With Google adding product cost data to Analytics it is possible to understand true profit margins from your store on an order by order basis. This feature has been picked up by this app in a premium version making it even more useful.
Analytics Buddy CON's
- Not many downsides, other than the information it gives you is only as good as the data in Analytics. We've continuously had poor attribution from Facebook advertising which kinda messes up the stats a bit. Not really this apps fault, but you do need to be aware of it's limitations
Analytics Buddy Tips and Tricks
Data and proper metrics can help you business grow, but only if the data is good. So invest time in getting your Google Analytics account set up properly. When you know which traffic sources are generating customers you can make smart business decisions.
Stay away from some of the other analytics tools out there with big monthly fees. They are only as good as the data coming in to Analytics most of the time. Which makes this particular app invaluable especially when you're starting out.
Analytics Buddy Wrap Up
Don't be fooled by the price tag on this app. It's one of the best FREE tools I've invested in for my Shopify store.
JSON-LD – The Most Powerful App You Won't See Working!
I know weird name. But what this app does is essential to getting better data about your products on to Googles organic search results. It probably creates your “Rich Snippets”
WTF is a Rich Snippet?
Rich Snippets are a search enhancement product by Google (though Bing, Yahoo, and others have their own variants).
Rich Snippets are a way to get your product data directly into the search results.
A good example looks like this:
And one without the rich snippet correctly configured:
Not all themes in Shopify create Rich Snippets particularly well which is why I recommend the services of Eric Davis from JSON-LD.
For a one time fee the app will automatically recreate your rich snippets so they are configured exactly as Google desires, and within a few weeks normally, this is reflected in the search listings.
Eric also has a premium version of the service (again a 1 time fee) where he'll guarantee the results within a certain time period, and also personally monitor and make suggestions with your store set up to maximise the effect of these Rich Snippets.
Eric's always been on hand for me to answer my questions and makes suggestions of things like review apps and other SEO set up on the store. So if you have the funds definitely look to his premium service.
- Being a one time fee, it is a set and forget process largely. It feels like you're spending money for no reason initially, but then you see your enhanced listings on Google a few weeks later and it becomes a obvious how valuable the service is.
- Most stores in your niche will not know about or bother getting rich snippets configured correctly, meaning your organic listings will stand out, especially when coupled with smart SEO management too.
- At $299 for the premium version it's a bit steep for the smaller business. However the standard $69 service will suffice for most new stores. Cheaper than hiring a developer to guess what you mean by JSON 🙂
- If you're not also doing SEO optimisation on-site and off-site then this app will largely be pointless as you won't be seen anyway.
JSON-LD Tips & Tricks
Hire a SEO team such as RankBoss at SupremecySEO.com to get your site optimised and back links steadily built to make this app even more effective.
Now this many not be the most obvious thing to include on a Dream Build for Shopify, but this one strategy has helped our business enormously over the last few years.
Grab yourself a business credit card account with AMEX.
Seriously, it's made running a shopify store much easier and allows you to pay for all the different tools through the card, and manage the costs of running a Shopify store better.
We stick practically 99% of our business expenses through our AMEX cards. This includes all the monthly subscriptions for all the tools above and also all our ad spend from Google Adwords, Facebook and other platforms. It essentially gives us 40+ days of additional cash flow credit.
When you get in to running a product business, cash flow becomes a critical factor for growth. By having the extra credit period it means we have longer to convert new customers in to profitable repeat customers.
The other benefits of an AMEX card, depending on the card type you go for, you'll have access to airport business lounges, car hire benefits, preferential hotel booking and much more.
Add in to that your spend on the card will give you points, which can be converted to air miles and paying for other things too. The points do add up very quickly too. If you're gonna be spending the money anyway, it makes sense to get some extra benefits from that required spend.
Go grab an AMEX card today to cover the spend on this dream build