7 Shopify Apps to Improve Your Business

Shopify is home to over a million stores, with thousands of apps competing for your business’s attention.

But not all Shopify apps are created equal, with many serving to muddy the waters more than drive sales.

That may be fine for those who run a Shopify store as a side hustle. But if your e-commerce store is your primary source of income and you’re serious about sales and taking care of customers, you don’t have time for useless apps.

So how do you know which Shopify apps are worth the hype?

We did all the research, so all you have to do is sit back and read what we found out.

Continue reading 7 Shopify Apps to Improve Your Business

Shopify Plus: Is Shopify Good for B2B?

Shopify is a popular platform for direct-to-consumer e-commerce businesses. But it has also proven to be a powerful tool for established B2B e-commerce shops as well.

In fact, Shopify Plus was created to satisfy the growing need for a platform that manages large-scale B2B services.

So what is Shopify Plus?

We’ll examine what it offers, compare it with traditional Shopify and other B2B platforms, and consider which businesses benefit from its services.

If you’ve wondered whether Shopify is good for B2B e-commerce and are curious about Shopify Plus, stay tuned. Continue reading Shopify Plus: Is Shopify Good for B2B?

What is Headless Commerce and How Can it Help Scale Your E-commerce Business?

When you dip your toe into the wide world of online sales, it can feel like a “Welcome to the World of Buzzwords” seminar. One of those buzzwords you may hear is headless commerce. What on Earth, right? How could something that sounds like literally losing your head possibly help your e-commerce business thrive?

We’ll tell you.

What is Headless Commerce?

In a nutshell, headless commerce is what happens when you decouple the front end from the backend of your e-commerce site, application, or platform. What does THAT mean? Let’s break it down.

The front end of your e-commerce solution is customer-facing. It’s the piece that houses all your branding, user experience, and content.

The backend is everything that happens behind the scenes. It’s where you process payments, inventory, restocking, shipping, order capturing, shipping details, PCI compliance, and all the other elements that make your business a business and not just a pretty website.

For many online storefronts, these two elements are interwoven completely. When they want to update something on the front end, they have to simultaneously update the backend to ensure a smooth transition, which risks breaking the site and causing no end of trouble.

By decoupling and creating a headless commerce solution, you increase your agility and adaptability, allowing two teams to operate simultaneously and independently without crossing any wires. The two communicate vita APIs so your backend remains functional and undisturbed while your front end receives updates on any schedule you choose, which is essential in a rapidly changing marketplace.

Why Make the Shift to Headless Commerce?

website code

Now that you know what headless commerce is, you’re probably wondering what benefits it offers and why you should make the shift. There are a number of reasons why this type of solution will improve your business operations and satisfy your customers.

Flexibility and Speed

One of the biggest benefits of opting to decouple your front and backend is that it offers you a ton of flexibility, which in turn grants you speed. In a rapidly changing online marketplace, speed is of the essence when you’re trying to remain relevant and keep up with customer expectations.

Online sales continue to take a larger and larger piece of the overall sales pie every single year and those numbers show no signs of slowing, especially with 2020’s pandemic and less access to brick-and-mortar stores. The internet is oversaturated with e-commerce sites looking to earn their business, so they’ve become much more discerning. It’s not only about who can provide the best price – it’s also about who can provide the best experience.

The ability to quickly refresh your customer-facing site with a new design, updated branding, relevant content, and new product marketing is essential to keep up with customer demand. Trends shift and you have to remain on the ball. With a coupled e-commerce solution, you can’t update your front end without also ensuring the backend is right there step for step. Decoupling lets you focus on user experience first while you work steadily in the background to deliver.

Reliability

Headless commerce allows the front end and backend to operate with a level of independence that ensures reliable performance from both. You don’t have to worry about crashes and slow load speeds on the storefront due to an overworked backend.

Of course, to make this solution work, you’ll need a dedicated team and lots of testing to ensure your site can handle a high-volume load. However, headless commerce gives you the opportunity to perform plenty of tests without having to alter the backend every single time. Once you have all the data you need, you’ll be able to reliably predict how well your site will perform during busy seasons, which matters a great deal for a positive user experience, which in turn affects your sales.

Personalization

If there’s one thing customers love, it’s a personal touch. With traditional sites with integrated front and backends, an e-tailer typically has no choice but to work off a predesigned template that pairs with the backend. This leads to a generic site without much customization. That can be a killer when it comes to creating a cohesive brand.

Decoupling provides the opportunity to maintain the integrity of essential business operations like payment processing while offering personalization and UX focus on the customer-facing site. Customize and brand your site to your heart’s content without losing any critical functionality, ever.

Multichannel Capability

headless commerce development

Is your brand accessible on multiple platforms, including social media? Have you considered customers who shop on mobile? Do you offer in-person pickup? You need to have a cohesive brand experience across all platforms and devices in order to maximize sales. Unfortunately, that can be tough to manage when you’re dealing with a storefront with a predefined template.

Harvard Business Review goes into great detail about how today’s customers are shopping. Very few people shop only online or only in stores. Instead, they use all the tools at their disposal. That includes mobile apps, in-store technology like interactive catalogs and tablets, various shipping and pickup options, price comparison tools, and more.

The linked article also details how customers who spend more are also doing more research online before making a purchase, and even looking up products online through multiple venues before ultimately making the decision of where to purchase.

It’s important to develop your touchpoints or the points at which a customer “touches” your business – sales reps, advertising, product exposure, branding, and similar. Headless commerce gives you the ability to create new touchpoints without dropping big time and money investments into creating a new backend for every new site. Storefronts can link to the same decoupled backend!

Scaling for Growth

When business picks up, it’s a time for celebration, but that celebration can be marred by a storefront that can’t handle the increase in traffic. When the site is decoupled, the front end can be appropriately scaled to handle a surge of new customers without adversely affecting the backend, which is huge.

Ideally, you want to see those touchpoints and sales channels from the previous topic result in steady growth and an increase in sales. A headless commerce solution gives you plenty of opportunities to operate in real-time to keep up with customers while protecting your essential operations from getting bogged down.

Using Shopify Headless Commerce

Shopify is one of the many headless commerce platforms available to retailers today, and in our opinion, easily one of the best. When we discuss Shopify headless commerce options with our clients, it’s all about customization and flexibility.

Users who migrate to Shopify have the opportunity to access robust personalization options for their storefront while enjoying the strong selection of useful applications and backend software. There’s a great deal of support for marketing and reaching customers through newer technological touchpoints like home assistants, smart speakers, and smart appliances.

When you want to enhance your customer experience via mobile access, voice shopping, and custom apps, Shopify is the perfect all-in-one platform.

Through decoupling, Shopify users can now treat their customer content and backend logistics as separate entities, which means no waiting on one to update before the other can launch. Your teams can operate independently and operations go a lot smoother!

Are You Ready to Lose Your Head?

Not literally, of course! What we really mean is, do you think you’re ready for headless commerce? We’ve given you a lot of information to help you determine whether it’s the right choice for your business. Consider the following when making your decision.

  • Does my current infrastructure allow for fast updates and no downtime for the live site?
  • Am I ready to reach customers through new channels?
  • Is my site mobile-friendly?
  • Is my checkout experience fast and easy for my customers?
  • Can I build a custom storefront or am I limited to templates?
  • Are my load times abysmal during high-volume periods?
  • Could I use more apps to streamline my marketing and logistics?

Depending on your answers, headless commerce could definitely be the solution for you. It’s not for everyone. You may have an e-commerce site that works exactly the way you need it to without having to worry about decoupling. However, if you want to adjust quickly and keep customers happy, you may find it’s a great option.

Shopify offers its users a great deal when it comes to building a cohesive e-commerce business. You may not have the scope or budget to have multiple internal IT teams for each element, but there are Shopify Experts available now who can offer the support you need. At SKU, we offer our clients services including storefront customization, logo and branding updates, data migration, custom applications, and a lot more. We’re happy to help you brave this new world.

Do you have any other questions or thoughts on headless commerce and whether it’s right for your business? Please reach out anytime.

How Can Shopify Partners Improve My E-Commerce Business?

Whether you’re brand new to the Shopify platform or creating your tenth online store, step up your game by partnering with Shopify experts. They’ll take your e-commerce site from acceptable to spectacular. How? Read on.

What are Shopify Partners, anyway? A Shopify partner is a business or agency that has partnered directly with Shopify and been vetted on their expertise with the platform. They are experienced in working with Shopify storefronts, marketing, site design, customization, and much more. Their purpose is to create a smooth road to success for merchants in the online space.

Why Do Shopify Partners Matter?

Shopify is a robust online selling and marketing platform and the preferred system for many online retailers, from small mom-and-pop sellers to major Fortune 500 companies. It’s extremely customizable and capable of acting as a hub for order tracking, email marketing, social media, inventory, customer support, and everything else you’ll need to run a successful e-commerce site.

However, all that capability is only useful if you know how to tap into it. That’s where Shopify Partners come into play. Working with a Shopify Expert gives you access to their breadth of knowledge so you can take your store to the next level. Whether you’re setting up a shop for the first time or you need help expanding you existing site as you grow, your partner will help you make the best choices and streamline your process.

The biggest benefit of working with a Shopify Partner is their tech-savviness and familiarity with the platform. If your strengths are in retail, marketing, and selling, you may find yourself spending far too much time battling with your online system. Having your partner take care of the tech side while you focus on your strengths is what’s best for your business.

Who Gets to Be a Partner?

This question doesn’t have a cut-and-dry answer, because there are levels to Shopify’s partnership program. In a nutshell, anyone can technically claim to be a Shopify Partner if they regularly refer new clients to Shopify through the referral program. This doesn’t make them Shopify Experts, however.

In order to obtain the Shopify Expert designation in the partnership program, a service provider must have a proven track record of successful Shopify storefronts under their belt. That includes setup and execution. This portfolio of work is reviewed by the Shopify team and must include at lease five successful stores, if not more. After review and internal approval, the provider earns the title “Shopify Expert.”

When selecting a Partner to work with, it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure you’re working with someone with the Expert ranking. While a basic Partner may very well be able to set up a functional shop, they don’t have the proven history that an Expert does. Before you hire an individual or agency, you can look up their Shopify listing for details about their experience, portfolio, reviews, services, and more. It goes a long way toward making the right choice for your business.

What Can Partners Do?

We’re glad you asked! Your Shopify Partners are capable of constructing an entire e-commerce site from scratch using the Shopify platform, as well as provide marketing solutions, customization, unique code, migration or integration, and much more.

Here’s a breakdown of the areas a Shopify Partner can help with. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a solid start.

Site Development

Before you can focus on anything else, your storefront needs to exist. Working with a Partner gives you the freedom to focus on your business while they take on the technological challenge of building an online store for you. They know the Shopify platform inside and out and will be able to provide the design and development expertise your business needs.

From there, they can recommend various tools and applications that will give you full control over your sales, marketing, inventory, shipping, and anything else you need to succeed.

Logo and Branding

Some, though not all, Partners may offer logo and branding design services. This is worth consideration if you want a custom look for your site that matches your current branding, or you’re developing branding for the first time. Shopify is highly customizable, so now’s the time to decide on your company design Bible – fonts, colors, look, feel, and language.

SEO and Content Marketing

Shopify SEO

Search engine optimization and content marketing are going to be major players if you want to be found in the massive sea of the online marketplace. With search engines becoming more sophisticated with every passing year, a site’s content must be on the ball to make a dent. That means content that is relevant, engaging, and informative.

SEO strategy used to be fairly straightforward. No longer. Search engines now recognize keyword stuffing and attempts to “game the system” by sneaking in keywords inauthentically. The new normal is in understanding what customers are searching for and giving them what they need. Your Shopify Partner will be able to guide you in crafting content or, in some cases, offer services to provide blogs, web page copy, and email content.

Custom Themes

Similarly to custom logos and branding, a custom Shopify theme incorporates your website’s look and feel so that your storefront doesn’t feel like a different site. When users are browsing your shop, they want to feel a consistent follow-through from page to page. Utilizing a custom theme gives them that consistency. Shopify Partners are able to both design and integrate these themes for you.

Custom App Development

Shopify offers hundreds of apps to make online retailers’ lives easier, from restocking options to review apps. Even so, some sellers may find they require a unique solution on their site. Perhaps you want to have a closed system to keep your customer data safe or you’re interested in creating a pop-up quiz or game for customers to play.

Whatever your needs, Shopify Experts are capable to building custom private apps for use on your shop and your shop alone. You may already have something in mind or you might have a general idea of your goals. All you need do is let your Shopify Partner know what you need and they can offer you a solution.

System Migration

There are many other e-commerce platforms out there, but more often than not, online sellers find Shopify to be their preference. When they’re ready to make the move from Magento or another system, they may need help migrating their store to a new platform.

Partners excel at both integration and migration. They’ll be able to move your carefully created code, data, customer information, and everything else to the new platform so that you’re not starting entirely from scratch. Your life will be easier for it.

Backend Development

Shopify Design and Development

As mentioned above, Shopify offers literally hundreds of applications to help sellers maintain their storefront and marketing in one central location. Shopify Partners can offer recommendations for the tools that will most benefit their clients on the backend.

Those tools can include automatic tax calculation, shipping information, drop shipping, order details, email notifications, inventory tracking, restocking, discounts, and a whole lot more. Your Partner likely has favorites that they’ve worked within the past and trust, so let them know what you need.

Online Marketing

Speaking of apps, we can’t forget to mention Shopify’s extensive catalog of online marketing tools. From a central hub, you can easily manage email marketing, social media, coupon codes, newsletters, remarketing, and everything else you need to succeed.

For anything Shopify doesn’t offer in an app, such as the content you need to fill those emails or the social media management you don’t have time for, Partners can provide solutions. If they don’t offer the services outright themselves, it’s likely they have trusted recommendations they can offer.

Shopify POS

If you are a multi-channel retailer and have a brick and mortar location (or locations) then a POS system is imperative to the success of your business. Good news, Shopify has a full-scale POS system which is fully integrated with your entire Shopify e-commerce backend. Add a product and make it available in your online store on your retail location(s) and keep the inventory in sync across both channels. Managing your multi-channel operation has never been easier. Finding the right Shopify Partner to manage the migration from your existing POS system or setting up your Shopify POS from scratch is an important decision. As a 5-star Shopify POS partner, SKU Agency has the know-how to bring your multi-channel business online and provide the right growth marketing strategies needed to grow your business. 

Where Can You Find a Shopify Partner?

Your perfect match is out there waiting for you! Sounds a bit like a dating site tagline, but it’s true.

Shopify does offer an extensive listing of available Shopify Experts and Partners that you can review by services offered. Consider your needs, then use the tools at your disposal to find the Partner that’s right for you.

You can also naturally find a Shopify Partner by searching online for local providers in your area. More often than not, you have a nearby agency to contact and work with directly. If it’s important to you to meet with your team face-to-face, this is an option worth considering.

Of course, with today’s digital accessibility, you can choose to work with the agency of your choice. Our advice is to lay out your budget and list of requirements so you have a reference point on your search. Odds are good you’ll find a Shopify Partner that can provide everything you need on a pay scale that meets you where you are.

When Can I Get Started?

Right now! SKU Agency has been proud Shopify Experts since 2017. We offer our clients an extensive background in e-commerce from our very own shops, as well as those build for other successful online sellers. We invite you to check out our portfolio to see what we can do. Our services include everything you’ve read about in this post. We’d love to get to know you.

Have any other questions or need us to help you design/development and grow your e-commerce business, please reach out. 

Shopify Expert

How to Develop an Email Marketing Strategy to Grow Online Sales

In the United States as of 2019, more than 90% of internet users have and check email. That’s more people than those who use social media, watch videos, play games, or even use online search engines. In fact, email is the most commonly used internet utility in the world.

If you aren’t doing your level best to utilize this powerful platform, you’re missing out on a major avenue of sales conversion. As online retail continues to build year after year, online merchants must develop a long-term email marketing strategy as part of their digital marketing toolkit in order to succeed.

E-commerce sales grew by a remarkable 14.9% in 2019 and the trend promises to continue with a boom in 2020. The numbers were expected to increase regardless, but with more consumers than ever before at home and looking for safe alternatives to in-person shopping, digital commerce is going to break the mold in ways we’ve never witness before.

To compete with major retail giants who have access to their own shipping channels, online merchants need to be creative in their digital marketing. One of the most effective methods of growing your online sales is through email marketing.

How to Create An Email Marketing Strategy

Email marketing strategy for e-commerce means getting potential and existing customers to opt-in to your marketing by signing up for an email list. Once they’ve done that, you’re free and clear to begin sending out marketing emails and getting those coveted conversions.

Email engagement numbers remain fantastic year after year. An email campaign can see 50 or even 100 times the number of clicks you’d get from a Facebook ad campaign! Open rates for emails are at about 20%, which is pretty incredible.

The reason email performs so well is simple. The vast majority of internet users have email, and most of those users check it daily. It’s frequently the first thing people check in the morning and they check repeatedly throughout the day. You’re also not battling an algorithm and competing with companies to be the first thing the customer sees. All of the emails end up in the same place and customers can check at their leisure.

All you need to do is end up in a customer’s inbox. The question is, how do you get there in the first place?

Tips on Enticing and Increasing Email Signups

email marketing strategy pop-up

There are a variety of ways to build your email list, which will, in turn, improve your e-commerce online sales. Here are some of our best tips on incorporating more signups as part of your email marketing strategy.

Use pop-up invitations, but sparingly.

Customers tend to dislike pop-up invitations to sign up for email lists, so you have to be careful about how you implement them. They are certainly effective for grabbing customer attention since they show up in the middle of the screen, blocking out the content beneath. Your best bet is to make them simple and to-the-point. Add something to sweeten the pot, like 10% off the first purchase. Avoid snarkiness or guilt-tripping, customers don’t respond well to it.

Place a sign-up area on every page as part of your email marketing strategy.

Make sure your signups are accessible on every page of your site, whether it’s on a sidebar, at the bottom of the page, or via a link on the navigation bar. This gives customers easy access and provides a constant reminder.

Place a call to action wherever appropriate.

Believe it or not, customers are more likely to do something if they’re explicitly asked to. Remind them to sign up for your email list near the signup box, on social media, and even at the end of blog posts.

Offer a great deal.

You’re more likely to get a wide variety of signups if you offer something enticing like a freebie or discount for doing so.

Let them in on a desirable secret.

Are you an expert in a field relevant to your product or service? Give your customers a taste of your knowledge through accessible blog posts and web pages, then invite them to sign up for your email list for free resources, an ebook, or a newsletter series with interesting advice.

After the First Interaction

You’ve managed to receive several email signups. Awesome! Now it’s time to take advantage of them.

A robust email list does you absolutely no good if you’re not using it. If you want to see that nice boost to your online sales, make sure you develop a complete email marketing strategy.

Understand Your Audience

The very first step of literally any email marketing strategy is, of course, knowing your audience. Ask yourself these fundamental questions:

  • Who is my ideal customer?
  • What problem do they need solved?
  • How does my product or service solve that problem?

From there, you’ve got a solid foundation to build on. Every product solves a problem, no matter how abstract. Fashionable clothing solves the problem of a dull wardrobe, pizza solves the problem of a grumbling stomach, and card games solve the problem of boredom. Use that solution as the core messaging of your e-commerce email marketing.

Practice Good Email Segmentation

email marketing strategy

Want to improve your clickthrough and open rates? Learn to embrace email segmentation!

This is a method of fine-tuning your campaign to reach different audiences with unique messaging. Once you’ve figured out your audience, you can divide them into groups to market to them even better.

Some segments you should consider include:

  • Demographics (age, gender, income, interests)
  • Active or inactive users
  • Last purchase (amount of purchase, time between purchases)
  • Items left in cart
  • Location
  • Online behavior (from your website)
  • Sales funnel position

All of these segments will give you a deeper understanding of how to reach that particular customer. Offer up something that appeals to the interests of fashion-forward customers while designing different messaging for a mother looking for children’s clothing. Be mindful of how long the average customer takes to repurchase your product and send them a reminder email when they’re about due. Offer enticing deals for inactive customers to bring them back into the fold.

Set Up Email Automation

Drip systems aren’t just for gardeners! An email drip campaign is a strategy that sends out multiple pre-written emails over a set amount of time. When someone signs up for your email list, they’ll receive an introductory email, followed by additional emails over the time period you set.

There are tons of best practices for drip campaigns, but the rule of thumb to remember is to avoid annoying potential and existing customers. Repeated emails are shown to get results but overwhelming a customer’s inbox will end in an unsubscribe or delete without open.

Drip systems can be set up in a variety of ways:

  • A series of related emails sent at regular intervals
  • Additional emails based on customer behavior
  • A nudge to remind the reader that a sale is ending
  • Onboarding after a free trial ends

Get creative with the possibilities. Ultimately, keep it short and sweet.

Write Great Subject Lines

Spending hours crafting the perfect email is all well and good, but if a customer never opens it up, it’s all for nothing. Increase your open rates with compelling email subject lines!

There are all kinds of ways to craft a great subject line. Ask questions, promote your content, offer up a delicious deal, share great information, and a whole lot more. Delve into your personal specialized knowledge to figure out what you can offer the customer and distill it into a subject line you’d be eager to open yourself.

Some examples:

  • “Free art lesson inside!”
  • “There are products waiting in your cart!”
  • “Are you a Carrie or a Samantha?”
  • “5 Steps to Better Sleep”
  • Literally any Buzzfeed headline

Improving Online Revenue Growth

It’s all starting to come together. You’re building your list, creating a stellar email marketing campaign, and crafting great copy. Now it’s time for those sales to start rolling in!

Easier said than done, right? No worries. You’ve done the hardest part already. There are only a few more steps to ensuring your clickthroughs turn into conversions.

Most importantly: always make sure your emails match your current site! This seems like a no-brainer, but e-sellers routinely forget to turn off emails for a sale or special before they deactivate it on the site. If you’ve promised the customer something in an email, you must make sure your site delivers on that promise.

Further, always double-check landing pages and links to make sure a click goes where you intended. If a customer clicks on a photo of wine and ends up on a page selling corkscrews, they’re more likely to leave than stick around and try to find the item they really wanted.

Get Emailing!

You’ve got this! All the tools you need to create world-class emailing marketing set up are at your disposal. Make the leap today and see the immediate uptick in your online sales.

As always, the team here at SKU would love to help you out with any of your e-commerce needs. We’re certified Shopify experts and Klaviyo Masters, ready to help you build and implement a site that makes your life so much easier. You can count on us for help with content marketing, email list setup, and a whole lot more. Reach out today!

Web Accessibility Standards and How Can They Enhance E-commerce?

You’ve worked hard to get your website up and running. It’s polished, it’s professional, and the design is stunning. Before you hit that launch button, however, you should really stop to consider how accessible your site is.

Why should you care about web accessibility standards? To put it simply: creating an accessible site ensures every customer who visits your web pages can navigate, read, and understand them. If you don’t follow accessibility standards, you’re losing out on potential customers and higher search engine rankings.

From a customer service standpoint, you should want to create a site that all your customers can use. From a business standpoint, failing to consider your site’s accessibility could earn you several dings from major search engines like Google because your user retention dips. We’ll explain more as we go.

The Basics of Web Accessibility

Let’s begin with the basics. What do we mean when we talk about accessibility? What are the factors that make a site accessible to all? For a detailed guide, we recommend you look through Google’s own accessibility guide for web developers. In this guide, they also reference the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

These guidelines were developed by accessibility experts to address recommendations for best practices. While the document itself is very dense, we’ll summarize the general idea for you here. Web developers should familiarize themselves with the full set of guidelines.

What you’ll want to remember is the acronym POUR, which stands for Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. Here’s a simple checklist for you to keep in mind.

  • Is the content on your site perceivable to everyone, even if they have visual, hearing, or cognitive impairments?
  • Is your user interface operable for someone with a disability who can’t use a mouse or touch screen very well (or at all)?
  • Are you providing content that is understandable to people of all education levels and cognitive function? Is the interface easy to follow?
  • Can your website be viewed by a robust variety of browsers and devices? If a customer were using assistive devices to view your site, would they work?

Many of these guidelines are focused on users with disabilities, but in reality, they’re generally good advice for web development. There are a variety of ways to implement these standards on an enhanced e-commerce site that will improve the experience of every user.

5 Ecommerce Web Accessibility Tips

web accessibility

Here are our top five tips for creating a great e-commerce site with web accessibility in mind.

Use high contrast colors

One of the biggest complaints any web developer hears about a site is that it’s difficult to read. Most often, this is because the text on the site doesn’t differentiate enough from the background color, or a pattern complicates things.

This issue affects all kinds of people – those with low vision, blindness, colorblindness, light sensitivity, pattern recognition disorders, and much more. A customer doesn’t have to have any specific disability at all to find low contrast sites bothersome. Elderly users, people who wear glasses, and even people prone to headaches might navigate away from a site that doesn’t work well for them.

A WIRED article from 2016 discusses the issue of web design trends opting for lower contrast designs in this piece on how the web became unreadable. There are examples of contrast ratios and the preferred ratio for text opacity.

Many sites, including major players like Apple, have opted for designs in the past that used gray text on a white background. While this may look aesthetically pleasing for many minimalist designs, readability instantly becomes an issue.

A visit to Apple’s current website shows that while they’ve largely rethought this trend and opted for higher contrast options, they still fall back on that gray text in some areas – typically the areas where they want people to pay less attention.

When selecting appropriately contrasting colors, it’s advisable to use a standard color wheel. The color opposite your first selected color is going to offer the most contrast. We don’t advise red text on a green background unless you really know what you’re doing, but these elements can be incorporated into your overall site design to distinguish different information or navigation buttons.

Test your site on a variety of browsers and devices

A digital storefront that looks amazing in Google Chrome might look terrible in Mozilla Firefox. Something built for desktops may fall flat when viewed on an iPad.

E-commerce has been steadily growing to a larger portion of overall retail sales with every passing year. No matter what happens or where people are, they always have access to the internet via their desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. It’s vital in this commercial landscape to have a website that meets the needs of shoppers.

That means sites should work on mobile, and more than that, they should be incredibly fast and easy to navigate. A person shopping on mobile is more likely than not looking for a specific product and ready to make a purchase. They want to access the buy page, perhaps read some highlights and stats on the product, check the images, and make their purchase.

If you can’t give them what they need, they’re off to your competitor.

While this is clearly good general design advice, from a web accessibility standpoint, it becomes even more important. Many people can’t easily navigate a touch screen, while others prefer the ease of their mobile devices and the ability to increase the size of text or use a screen reader.

Some browsers offer extensions that help with a variety of accessibility issues. For every user to get the most out of your site, they need to be able to view it in their preferred browser and on their preferred device.

You’ll also want to test how your site looks when text is enlarged on the screen. It could block other essential elements of the site or become unreadable.

Consider the reading level of your content

There are countless business owners out there who want to plug their content full of fancy buzzwords and lengthy descriptions. They want to impress their customers. Instead, they could be putting them off.

It sounds counterintuitive, but most adults prefer to read at a lower reading level than they can comprehend. It’s easier on them. Few people enjoy feeling like they’re doing homework while browsing an e-commerce site.

The average user will be most comfortable reading content at about a middle school level (7th-8th grade). That means less jargon and multisyllabic words (like, well, “multisyllabic”), shorter sentences, and fewer nitty-gritty details. It’s absolutely possible to give potential customers the information they need without overwhelming them.

Again, this is a tip that works well in general, but for specific web accessibility standards, you want to consider anyone with a cognitive disability, learning disorder, or even advanced age. These factors can all make processing dense or complex text difficult.

When you’re developing content, pause for a moment to consider your ideal customer. For example, a mother of teenagers. This mother may have no issue reading your content, or she might have a processing disorder that makes focusing for long periods of time difficult. Disabilities affect any and all demographics. Keep that in mind with your content.

Keep assistive technology in mind

There are many different types of assistive technology for web accessibility. You may be familiar with some of them, such as screen readers or speech-to-text, but others may be out of your realm of experience. Regardless, web designers should keep a variety of assistive technology in mind when planning an e-commerce site.

Some of the assistive technology customers may be using includes:

    • Screen readers
    • Text readers
    • Speech input software
    • Screen magnification software
    • Mouse-less technology (eye or motion trackers, hands-free devices, etc.)

As previously mentioned, doing the legwork required to ensure your site works on multiple browsers will also cover much of this software. Overall, you want to make sure your site is still usable for people who aren’t using a standard mouse or keyboard. This ties right back in to creating a user interface that’s easy to navigate.

It’s very common for companies and their web designers to go for something flashy and unique, but even the coolest effects can overwhelm assistive technology, rendering a site completely unusable by potential customers.

It may seem odd advice to recommend fewer bells and whistles, but ultimately your site will be better (and more accessible) for it.

Your media may require additional information

Anyone who’s delved into search engine optimization should be familiar with ALT text on images. This text serves an important SEO function, but it’s also a way to make your site accessible.

How? By describing images using ALT text, you’re giving customers who use screen readers access to those images. For users who are blind or have other vision impairments, an image-heavy site can be frustrating because they can’t properly see the images. Use ALT text to describe everything from the color of a product to its finer details.

As we move ever more into web commerce, many sellers are also relying on video or animation to grab customer attention. However, many still fail to include closed captioning or a transcript for customers who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing. 

Colorblindness is another factor to consider. We discussed contrasting colors in an earlier point, and that still holds true here. If your site largely depends on color-coding for navigation, consider how a person who’s unable to see certain colors would navigate your site.

How Enhanced Ecommerce Helps Your Site Succeed

We’ve gone over several reasons why accessibility standards ultimately help your site stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace. When you make sure all users can access your site and what you’re selling, you’re making sure every single visitor can purchase from you.

At the end of the day, taking the extra necessary steps to make your site accessible will improve your viewership, your search engine ranking, and your business. There’s no reason not to!

If you need any assistance setting up an accessible Shopify storefront, we’re here to help. Drop us a line any time to receive our expert guidance.



What is Augmented Reality and What is The Future of AI in E-Commerce

 

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed augmented reality fitting into everyone’s daily life in a multitude of ways. From the rise of Pokémon GO and other related Niantic games to Instagram filters, internet users everywhere are experimenting with programs that overlay the real world and give them a more immersive experience.

While this sort of technology is ready-made for gaming and selfies, it may be less apparent how to harness it for e-commerce. However, many companies have managed to do just that, and we’re already seeing augmented reality and AI in e-commerce settings.

We’re watching this trend closely, as Shopify itself has unveiled its very own AR-powered software to help online retailers make more sales. By staying ahead of the curve, your online storefront could reap the benefits of this rising technology.

What is Augmented Reality?

Let’s get down to brass tacks: what is augmented reality, anyway? What does it look like?

In the examples we mentioned above, we discuss Niantic, Inc., a revolutionary AR platform that utilizes geolocation and mapping to give users a unique experience right in their own backyard – literally.

Augmented reality uses existing cameras or images to overlay elements and create an immersive experience. In a game world, it might be an adorable blue monster hopping around in your neighborhood. In the world of e-commerce, it can take the form of placing a virtual piece of furniture in your living room or testing the way a certain lip color looks on your face before you buy.

Many current AR platforms rely on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. In theory, a user gives an app or website access to their phone’s camera, which in turn looks at the surrounding area to detect ground, floors, walls, faces, and more. With this detection software, it can then project and appropriately place 3D rendered objects into the environment, viewable on the user’s screen.

For a quick example, all you have to do is open Instagram and start an Instagram Story. You’ll immediately have access to all kinds of filters that create a range of effects, from applying virtual makeup to objects floating around your room.

The possibilities for e-commerce are endless, regardless of your product. Cosmetics, hair products, clothing, jewelry, furniture, food, décor, electronics… any vertical can benefit.

What is AI (Artificial Intelligence)?

 

artificial intellegince

When we talk about artificial intelligence in an e-commerce setting, what do we mean?

In this case, we’re not talking about androids or plotting supercomputers. We simply mean any technology that’s able to manage itself without human involvement.

In the automotive industry, this level of automation is known as “Level 5,” or “full automation.” This would be a self-driving car, operating completely on its own without human intervention. There are all sorts of legislative hoops for cars, but in the world of e-commerce, expect something more along the lines of a virtual help desk or programs that can recommend a product based on a customer’s needs.

For the most part, this technology is still out of our reach as a general rule. Many automation programs used in online shopping are good at algorithmic recommendations, but they can’t necessarily answer a nuanced question about which blouse will best accentuate a pear-shaped body. That information still has to be programmed in or augmented by a human being.

The future is coming, however. Companies are investing heavily in this technology (upwards of $15 billion by 2021), so it won’t be long until workable AI is available on a wider scale.

What is the Role of AI in E-Commerce Now?

Currently, AI can be used to enhance your customers’ shopping experience by answering simple questions and recommending items related to their purchase. Many algorithms are currently available through Shopify to enhance your site navigation and predict products that will be most appealing to customers based on what’s already in their cart.

Platforms like EPICA are already being used by major brands like Adidas and Coca-Cola. Their AI engine, called Sophia, uses available data to detect patterns in customer behavior and deliver personalized results. This is one of the AI platforms offered by Shopify.

Every time you’re shopping online and you see a product page that includes a section for “customers who like this product also like…” along with a variety of similar products, you’re witnessing algorithmic AI in action.

You may also witness AI in a simplistic customer support capacity, where an automated system is able to understand basic customer questions and offer answers. This may take the form of a branching FAQ section or even a pop-up letting customers know a representative is ready to chat. While the program itself might not be able to handle lengthy customer interaction, it can notify a representative that someone is waiting for their response.

These are only a few of the ways you can merge AI and e-commerce.

What is Augmented Reality and its Role in Shaping E-Commerce?

What is Augmented Reality? We’re seeing AR technology grow by leaps and bounds in the e-commerce sector and it’s very exciting.

While we’ve already discussed filters, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Social media is rapidly pivoting toward using filters both as ad space for their clients and a creative playground for their users. Both Instagram and Snapchat allow user-created filters on their platform, and many users have taken off with this newfound freedom.

Much of the available content is moody or silly, offering users a specific aesthetic, but advertisers are also very much getting in on the game. Certain ad buys for some platforms are very affordable and a great way to build awareness and create interest in your products.

Major makeup brands, musicians, food and beverage brands, and more have made an impact through branded filters. While branded or promotional filters do not show up in the Effect Gallery for users to find, you can still create them for access on your Instagram page. You can also make creative or social cause filters that don’t necessarily promote your brand but will show up in the Effect Gallery.

Read all about how Instagram AR filters can increase your reach and improve engagement to learn more.

Beyond social, augmented reality branches into mobile applications and many online shops are using AR platforms to give customers a more intimate experience with their brand.

When we think of online shopping, what’s one of the biggest hurdles toward purchase? The fact that a customer doesn’t have a tangible product to examine, touch, or try on. They may not be able to picture the exact dimensions or how it will look in their home. Many customers won’t pull the trigger on an item because they’re just not sure it’s right for them.

Augmented reality completely changes the game here. Using Shopify’s own 3D Warehouse app, you’re able to create 3D rendered versions of your products that any user with an Apple mobile device can view in their chosen environment.

How to Use 3D Warehouse from Shopify

The process for creating your very own augmented reality experience is pretty straightforward. It requires you to sign up and install the app on your Shopify store domain, and from there, you get to work with an expert via the Shopify Partner Program.

After you sign up, you’ll go through several steps to flesh out the app with your products.

  1. Hire a Shopify expert to create 3D models of your products.
  2. Answer any required questions and provide the necessary product photos and dimensions.
  3. Receive the renders from your expert and check them over for accuracy.
  4. Make changes if needed.
  5. Add your approved 3D models to the app.
  6. Update your theme to allow the app to function, then add the AR badge to your product images.

Seems pretty simple, right? Of course, getting the necessary photography and dimensions can be time-consuming, and hiring a Shopify expert does require a service fee. However, the investment is well worth it.

Video by Shopify and Pure Cycles

AR products allow customers the opportunity to really test out your product in a way that was previously unheard of for online sales. This increases the likelihood of a purchase dramatically.

You also have ample opportunities to upsell based on your industry. Do you offer styling services? Have your stylists make recommendations to online customers and give them the ability to “try on” the clothes by using AR. From there, once they like what they see, the stylist can recommend accessories and complementary items, or similar outfits.

The possibilities are endless!

The Future is Now

Our current world and the technology available to online sellers is extraordinary. E-commerce continues to forge its own path and every year its share of overall retail sales grows. In order to stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace, it’s vital to keep a close eye on emerging trends.

Augmented reality and AI in e-commerce are two of those trends. Offer your customers everything they crave from the brick-and-mortar experience and watch your sales soar.

With the complications facing us in 2020, it’s never been more important to offer customers an excellent online shopping experience. Need help setting up the AR app or creating a one-of-a-kind Shopify experience? We’re happy to offer our services.

How to (Legally) Grow a Cannabis E-Commerce Business

The Cannabis Business Is Growing

Times are changing, and one industry that’s really feeling those changes right now is the cannabis business. Marijuana legalization is spreading across the nation state by state. The federal government is now regularly considering legislation that would overturn the federal cannabis ban and allow states to make their own call without interference.

For those in the cannabis industry, things are looking up.

However, as with many controlled substances, there’s no ability to sell cannabis online through an e-commerce storefront. Naturally, that puts a damper on anyone’s plans to expand into online sales. If your cannabis dispensary can’t sell the product that acts as your main source of income, then what can you sell?

We have an answer for that.

Continue reading How to (Legally) Grow a Cannabis E-Commerce Business

Top 5 Core Shopify Apps for New Merchants

New to Shopify? Welcome to the powerhouse! You’re now using one of the most diversified and effective platforms for e-commerce available today. Using it to its fullest potential, on that note, can be easier said than done for the unfamiliar. No worries, though. As seasoned Shopify users, we know the best tools for getting the most out of your new Shopify store. We know you’re probably on a shoestring budget, so we’ve kept the price point pretty low. Learn all about the Shopify apps below.

Yotpo

Before we delve into anything else, we need to talk about one of the best ways to increase traffic to your storefront: word of mouth and reviews. Any small business owner knows how challenging it is to get that ever-elusive customer content, and Yotpo helps with that. It’s a fantastic management and curation tool that encourages customers to generate content through a number of different channels (email, social, review sites, etc.) and collects them for you to use to generate more traffic. Neat! You can also take advantage of Yotpo’s expanded growth options with coupons, rich snippets, product recommendations, and more. The core app is free, with additional options available for a fee.

Product Reviews Add-On

We’re going to push these review apps quite a bit, so buckle in. They really are that important! Product Reviews is another (free!) app that offers great features to encourage customers to leave reviews. They offer a few exclusive features, like Checkout Reviews and Video Reviews, which are awesome additional methods of getting great customer-generated content. The most powerful visual social media giant, Instagram, is included, too. Any of this content can be collected and used to drive new sales to your storefront.

Privy

Using review content will get people to your site, but how do you go about email collection once they’re there? You use an app like Privy. By utilizing a number of cool features like coupons or “spin to win” games, Privy uses exit pop-ups to get potential customers to pause and take one more look at your site before they leave. It’s super customizable and mobile-friendly, allowing you to determine how and when users receive a pop-up for the best results. You can focus on number of visits, cart abandonment, referral site, and tons more. This is a high-conversion application that integrates well with most, if not all, email marketing platforms.

Omnisend

Now that you have an email list to use, you need some help with email and SMS automation. No problem! All you need is Omnisend. If composing snappy marketing emails isn’t your strong suit, you can use one of their many effective templates to get the job done. Manage your welcome emails, newsletters, campaign boosts, cart recovery reminders and more all from the same convenient app. It maintains lists, segmentation, and website tracking so you don’t have to. Make your life easier and install this app. Omnisend offers you a 14-day free trial of their Premium program, which requires a monthly fee, or you can choose to switch to their free base program.

Product Upsell

You’ve got the reviews, you’ve got the email list, you’ve got email segmentation marketing on lock… what else could you want? More sales, of course! This app manages your cross-marketing and upsells for you. You get to select relevant add-on items, bundles, or related products to show customers when they add a product to their cart, checkout, or even after a sale. If you’re not sure which products will lead to the best conversions, let the app do the work for you – it crunches the data from your Shopify store to figure out which products upsell best. If Amazon can make 35% of their revenue off of upsells and cross-sells, so can you! Plans for this app start at $9.99 a month for smaller e-shops (200 views) and can go up to $89.99/month for unlimited views.

These are our top five recommendations for new Shopify users, but there’s tons more on offer. If you have questions or need some additional guidance on how to take your e-commerce business to the next level, hit us up.

Start & Grow Your E-Commerce Empire at San Francisco Small Business Week

SKU Agency at SF’s Small Business Week

San Francisco’s Small Business Week is coming up fast – May 15th, to be exact. This is an awesome week-long celebration of small businesses and the people who make them work. More than 80 speakers and facilitators are offering up presentations, workshops, and more designed to help business owners succeed. This year, SKU Agency is excited to take part with a presentation of our own.

Now more than ever, the internet makes it possible to reach a variety of audiences and find consumers who want your product. As our Managing Partner, Ramin Ramhormozi, likes to say, “The barrier to entry to starting your own business is the lowest it’s ever been in history with e-commerce and Shopify leading the charge.” In our 1.5 hour workshop, that’s exactly what we’ll be discussing. Learn everything from where to source product to how to succeed at digital marketing, with an emphasis on the powerful Shopify platform.

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SKU Agency is headed by Ramin Ramhormozi and Michael Trang, both of whom have extensive backgrounds in e-commerce, graphic design, SEO, business development, and more. From them, you will learn how to take your product from concept to storefront. Also learn how to find your customers based on where they hang out in the digital world, what they are interested in, and what is important to them. Want to learn more? Join us on Tuesday, May 15th at 10:30 am at San Francisco’s Small Business Association on Market Street!