Each month, I ask my Instagram community to join me in a focused, crowd-sourced discussion on a specific subject. For the month of September, we rolled up our sleeves to chat about websites. Your own website is one of the most critical tools in your entrepreneurial toolboxes + I’m thrilled to see so many Lucky Break clients putting theirs to good use.
Which e-commerce platform do you use? What do you loathe or love about it?
THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…
bburford: at Bang Candy we have used many of the platforms you’ve mentioned and moved around for various reasons. Shortly after I joined the brand last year we started working with an incredible local brand called CoHub that brought all channels of our business together. I don’t know if it would work well for you, but for me it’s great because I’m talking to a support team that is 10-15 minutes away from our shop. It makes my job slightly easier to maintain.
horsefeathersgifts: We’ve used many different platforms and Shopify is by far my favorite. It’s so user friendly!
valerieoba: Shopify is simply amazing. So user friendly and so detailed at the same time!
alliedattilio: Love Squarespace!
normalsoap: We get tickled every time we get to tell our customers our website. Shopify has made this wonderful and it’s helped with direct sales at markets, getting great sales data and tracking inventory!
ebornbeauty: We use Big Commerce and love it… many things like reporting, integration with Square and Paypal, etc are included and you do not need to pay for additional apps. Their customer service is stellar and 24/7.
woodenheartdesigns: I’ve been an Etsy seller since 2012 with my personal website forwarding to my Etsy shop. After reading something you wrote about how important it was to have your own e-commerce site, I signed up for Shopify and have been teaching myself how to tweak it and now trying to increase traffic. I love how it’s coming together and have found it pretty easy to use…and if I didn’t know or understand how to do something it’s easy to find tutorials. Thanks for the nudge to get my own shop vs just Etsy!
shopmilked: From Wix, to Shopify! I love that Wix allowed me to tweak my site, and make it incredibly beautiful without the added fee for a theme. But ultimately, I moved to Shopify for the integrated customers accounts, shipping and reporting. I do dislike the fact that Shopify still doesn’t have certain features like store pickup, or customer reviews, or more free theme options.
bubblebabez: Big commerce here, too.
sheabath: Went from Etsy to Indiemade. Best decision I ever made!
bougiequaintrelle: BigCommerce. I like the ease of use. I loathe the fact if you want to make further customization, you lose tech support.
stellachroma: Started with Etsy, moved to Big Cartel, and am currently with Shopify. I’m loving it with no complaints!
grayzenacres: I’m a Shopify convert. Love the support and apps…not fond of their payment gateway. When I installed my bank processor, Shopify added a 2% processing fee, needless to say I uninstalled bank processor otherwise it’s the best!
zhibathandbody: I’ve been with Weebly for 10 or so years now. LOVE that so many cool features come with the free and paid accounts. Love that they listen to the users on adding new features. LOATHE that those features take so long to implement. LOATHE that they now seem to nickel and dime you on advanced features and services.
makermountainfabrics: I use Shopify and love it, mostly. I do NOT love their calculated shipping as it is way overcharging and I am losing a lot of sales over it right now and need to get it in line.
sumamsworld: I love Shopify for its one-stop-shop convenience, but the shipping charges are super huge lately (like triple the actual cost if I took it to the Post Office).
pillowcandyllc: We use Shopify. I made this decision after going through your linesheet/wholesale training. So glad I did!
The answers above are pretty consistent with what I see reflected in my client base as a whole. Shopify is the most beloved platform among my roster of product-based brands. A distant second and third are Squarespace and Big Commerce.
I’m a big (unpaid) advocate of Shopify and recommend it almost universally. It’s not as easy to design as something like Wix, but the design capabilities- and (more importantly) the technical capabilities- leave platforms like Wix and Weebly in the dust. Shopify is fairly cost-effective, extremely robust, and highly adaptable. If online wholesale ordering isn’t a primary aim of your business, then Squarespace and Big Commerce might be good options.
I wrote a detailed, two-part review of the most popular platforms a year or two ago and my opinion hasn’t changed much since then. Check out Which E-commerce Platform is Right For You? and Which E-commerce Platform is right For You, Part 2. I can tell you this: when you update from Wix, Weebly, or WooCommerce to Shopify, you’re going to feel like upgraded from a Ford Focus to a Ferrari. You truly don’t know what type of functionality you’re missing (or how your current technology might be hamstringing your sales and operations) until you see how the other half lives.
PRO TIP: Many of my clients report that Shopify will throw in the real-time shipping for free if you agree to pre-pay the Shopify site fees for the first year. If that appeals to you, then reach out to them directly and sweet-talk your way into a deal!
Do you offer a “loyalty” program via your website? If so, what program do you use + would you recommend it?
THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…
dorneenaturalbodyluxuries: I need to set up an actual program.
stellachroma: Interested to hear about this!
doubleclutched: I use smile.io on my site but no one uses it.
bobodesignstudio: I just saw smile.io is an integration with Privy which is what I use! I haven’t looked into it yet, but I’m curious.
priiacosmetics: We use a VIP points program. Customers earn 1 VIP point for every dollar they spend. 10 VIP points is equal to $1 in savings off of future purchases. Our clients LOVE our program!
I L-O-V-E loyalty programs and it’s one of the things we dissect in Brick House Branding. Why? Because they encourage repeat customers. They can blissfully easy to manage thanks to new technology. And they can allow you to reward your best customers without getting into a pricing war with your wholesale stockists. I adore a good win-win-win.
Big Commerce wrote a deliciously detailed blog about customer loyalty programs that’s absolutely worth a read. Shopify recently published a robust, data-driven blog that certainly makes the case for rewarding your customersm while Smile.io dissects some popular loyalty programs to get at the heart of why they work. Speaking of Smile.io, I hear good things about their loyalty technology, which is compatible with Shopify, Shopify Plus, and Big Commerce. They offer a stripped-down, completely free version, too.
Loyalty programs need to be continually promoted in order for them to be successful. Tuck periodic reminders in your email marketing campaigns, add verbiage at checkout to invite customers to join, and feature the account login prominently on your website. Mention that program at least once per month on your social media, too. The effort can yield massive results.
One new evolution I’ve been keeping an eye on? Paid VIP memberships. Check out what wildly popular shoe company Freshly Picked is doing with their new program, The Fringe. Customers join for $10 a month (the plan can be cancelled at any time) and they enjoy: a $10 monthly store credit that doesn’t expire, 20% off everything sitewide, free shipping, and early access to new releases. Ca-ching!
Do you collect product reviews on your website? If so, which software do you use + would you recommend it?
THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…
bobodesignstudio: I do, but I struggle to get people to actually leave one! The one I have is an app from Shopify called “product reviews”… innovative name, I know.
herbanrootsllc: The product reviews app with Shopify is awesome! Customizable, automated emails after every purchase, free and paid options. I also send out a pretty printed piece with every order listing ways that customers can connect, including writing reviews.
halfpintnaturals: Yotpo app on Shopify.
urbanessencesalonspa: I have a hard time getting folks to actually leave a review. I use AmeriCommerce for my website and after a customer makes a purchase it sends out a review request in about 10 days. When I see customers out at vending event I ask them to leave a review and they always end up leaving the review on my Facebook page.
treats4chickens: We have used Yotpo for several years on a paid plan. I include small pre-printed note card letting people know they’re going to get an email asking for a review. I also select one review a month and send that person product freebies. It seems to be working quite well.
Product reviews are increasingly powerful tools that play a large role in converting eCommerce browsers into eCommerce customers. They serve as powerful social proof that either ignites interest or throw a bucket of water on it, depending on what’s said about your product. If Amazon, Yelp, and Google have taught us anything, it’s that customers look before they leap.
I’m a firm believer that product reviews are an absolute *must* on any eCommerce site. As brand owners, we need to provide a platform for reviews, respond to reviews which are less-than-flattering, and actively invite our customers to participate in the process. The unboxing experience should proactively promote customer reviews.. a simple reminder in that key moment can make all the difference. And it’s much less intrusive then repeated post-purchase emails reminding customers that they’ve yet to read a review.
Interested in getting a product review program going? Here are a few of my favorite resources…
- Need inspiration? Lucky Break Clients Leahlani Skincare and Osmia Organics both do a fantastic job of collecting and featuring customer reviews.
- Yotpo is the third-party review app that I hear the most consistently good things about.
- I recommend two books that have helped me both understand the importance of critical feedback and better navigate these tricky customer service waters. Check out Hug Your Haters and Zombie Loyalists.
What’s your #1 pet peeve when shopping from product-based websites? What one thing would you change about your website?
THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…
north.oak.apothcary: When I have to jump through too many hoops to get to the end.
bathedinglaze: I visited a website just yesterday to order a gift. The banner at the top of the page advertised free shipping. When I checked out, shipping was charged. Looking further into the page to see if I could contact someone, I came across their info page that had words spelled wrong and run-on sentences. It turned me off, and I left their site without ordering.
mistybluebotanicals: I hate having to click through too many pages to find what I am looking for.
theryssa: Zulily makes you sign up to just look around. I won’t do it on principle!
mysecretmusicbox: I really dislike having to enter my shipping address etc. more than once and having to click through more than one page to complete a purchase. If they could make the journey through those pages a little more entertaining or charming it would help a lot. Great food for thought!
All the amen’s to these answers! Typos on websites don’t inspire confidence. Missing contact information is the kiss of death for most shoppers. A lack of search functionality, fuzzy navigation, or illogical product categories are laborious and drain energy, slowing conversions except for the most committed of shoppers.
The checkout process, in particular, routinely drives potential buyers away. A few questions you can ask yourself to audit your own checkout process:
- If the entire checkout process can’t be completed on one screen, is there a progress
bar at the top of each checkout page so that buyers always know where they are in the process?
- If a “free shipping over x dollars” incentive is offered, does the cart reflect how much more must be spent in order to meet the necessary minimum to score the incentive?
- Can payments be completed on site or must they be sent off to a third party site like PayPal?
- Are multiple payment options available?
- Are customers able to check out without needing to create an account on the site?
- Is there an option for hurried customers to copy their “billing address” information over to the “shipping address” field to save time?
- Are any unnecessary main navigation links removed during the checkout process to keep the user moving forward with their purchase?
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Be sure to stop by the Lucky Break Instagram, where every month we chat about all things business. I’d love to hear your thoughts and hope you’ll lend your voice. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in! In October, we’re chatting about all things systems.