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Welcome back everyone to the e-commerce marketing podcast. I am your host Arlen Robinson and today. We have a very special guest. He is one of the most highly regarded independent consultants in his industry Kurt is a senior eCommerce consultant who helped Shopify store owners uncover hidden profits in their websites Kurt is the founder of e-commerce agency ether cycle host of the popular e-commerce hacks weekly video series.

Author of e-commerce bootcamp and host of The Unofficial Shopify podcast these resources have helped thousands of Shopify store owners create impact freedom and wealth. Welcome to the podcast. We appreciate you joining us. How you how are you today? I'm good. Thanks for having me. Yeah, not a problem.

Yeah, you've got a pretty diverse background and you know become before we get into the topic of the day which by the way we're going to be talkin about user interface and conversion rate optimization and how to boost boost your return on Advertising spend. But before we get into all of that, why don't you tell me a little bit about how you got going what you were doing before you were got started the agency you're at right now and you know a little bit about yourself sure well, I suppose I I never intended to be involved with e-commerce, but it just kept choosing me over and over and starting in in college.

I was selling stuff out of my dorm room on eBay like twice just running afoul of of eBay's regulations because I knew so little I didn't even know I was doing selling essentially like unlicensed counterfeit Goods had no idea. Okay, and then after that ended up as a Ecommerce channel manager for a local.

Aftermarket auto parts drop shipper. Okay, and that was just really because I had you know business experience new cars and had this eBay experience and I you know after doing that job for a while. I thought you know, I still had that strong entrepreneurial bug I couldn't work for someone else at felt wrong and felt like.

Betraying myself. So I quit with no plan and then kind of not knowing what I know said, you know what I'll make my own e-commerce platform and I was gonna do a eCommerce platform exclusively for bike shops and that turned out to be way harder than I thought so I ended up to keep the lights on we started doing development.

WordPress websites for local businesses and then climb the ladder pretty soon. We're doing development work for big agencies. So we're constantly NFL hotels and at the same time we were doing e-commerce work for local businesses. And that was the stuff. We really liked because design wasn't subjective there.

It was tied to Value as really instead of having a conversation. Like well, my dog doesn't like blue so we can't use blue and you're like, oh good with e-commerce. It's very much like all. This is the design we're going to go with because this is what's going to make you money. Right and that was just such a relief from dealing with like traditional design that's not tied to anything.

And the I said why we messing with any of this other stuff, let's do we Commerce and then within that we try, you know, worked out a budget Commerce platforms and said Gee when we finish the shot by projects, we always go that was easy. What was that was easy is that we were good at it. Okay, and it was the it was the right platform for us.

So I said, all right, let's let's just stick with that. Let's do only that and having that clear. Focus in positioning was like the best thing best decision we made okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. Yes, that's awesome. Yeah, a lot of the guests that I have on it's always interesting to see people's background and how they kind of get to where they're at today.

And so your experience with e-commerce early on like you said that dabbling with the. EBay and you know like you said selling unlicensed good and then, you know get into where you're at. It's always interesting to see where people have come from and you know, so for today as I was mentioning at the beginning you're gonna give us some insight on the user interface and conversion rate optimization how to use that and optimize those things to boost a return on your advertising spend, which is a very great topic good question because.

You know here at Omni said we talked to eCommerce store owners all day and we're you know, everybody's looking to to maximize the return on their advertising spend. That's the bottom line. And so, you know, where would a merchant start when making conversion rate optimization improvements with regards to their shopping cart product detail Pages or even category Pages, you know, before you get into that what you can let a let our audience know a little bit about exactly what conversion rate optimization really is.

Sure. So conversion rate optimization is taking. Well. You know what your conversion rate is you get the percentage of people who visit the site and what percentage of people visit this I by right that's our conversion rate, right? But if you break that and idea ideas to well, let's make let's make all of our changes with that number in mind.

How do we move the needle on that number? So we're not going to do things. You know, like I said, like my dog doesn't like blue so we can't use blue now instead of doing stuff really. Kind of arbitrarily like that. We're going to do take this data driven approach. We're all we care about is moving that number right?

That's our big key performance indicator in our business and that if you have committed to that idea, okay, cool. Now you are you've taken the first step into data-driven design, which is great because it eliminates a lot of this a lot of this packet before and like, well, what should this look like doesn't matter just go try it see what it does see what it does for your numbers your key performance indicators.

And to your point if you have the higher, you can get that conversion rate the higher your return on investment on your marketing spend is going to be so if I know it costs me, you know, my budget for Facebook ads is ten thousand dollars a month and I can double my conversion rate. Well now suddenly I have I've doubled the of my my ad spend so this that's why we you want to be thinking in those terms.

Gotcha. Gotcha, you know, I know a lot of the listeners out there have various shopping carts, like Shopify and know you guys are of course Shopify consultants and you know, they're they're wondering a lot of the listeners and people that I deal with on a day-to-day basis typically use the built-in templates with either Shopify whatever shopping.

Aren't they use they make some tweaks. I've have a few customers that have you know done some custom things, but all people use the standard designs. And so you know with that in mind get a really what are some of the basic changes. Somebody could make to try to optimize their return on that investment with regards to just a basic theme.

So I'd love using those those out-of-the-box themes because really it's like people look down their nose at them because it's like well, I only spent 150. Bucks on this theme that everybody has where I could have spent $30,000 on a custom thing and it would be exactly what I want and perfect for me.

Yeah, but the premium themes have to be built to handle hundreds or thousands of stores and they're all special snowflakes are a little different. So the themes often have tons of stuff thought through and settings that you wouldn't have in a custom theme. So actually I'm a big proponent of those those premium themes and especially fig most people benefit absolutely benefit from starting with it and.

If you can't achieve something or you really need this very specific branding then jump to the custom theme but going back to that data-driven approach. I say look at your your conversion funnel, right? So like the conversion rate really is the final number prior to that what percentage of people reach check out well prior to that what percentage of people had to cart?

That's the one if you move the needle on that one the others all go up to and that's oftentimes. You want to work a little bit backwards here. So if you get that add to cart number up, so like let's say your add to cart number was 5% If you can get it to 10% in theory that conversion right number May double as well and it's often way easier because it's granular sooner.

So typically one of the easiest optimizations I we've been doing for probably like the last 18 months the most impactful. Anyway early on our relationship to improve conversion is just make it utterly effortlessly simple for a new visitor to get to the right product for them as quickly as possible.

Right? And I think what that does is build momentum. You you go to the bar. You see a girl. Hey, can I buy you a drink? Yes. Hey, can I hey, what's your name? Yes. Hey, can I get your number? Yes. Hey, can I take you out? Yes. All right. You're You're Building momentum there versus if you just walked up to someone and said will you marry me answers 100% of the time gonna be?

No, right? Hey. Same things got your building a relationship using your website your website is your best sales person. So when the customer lands on that site for the first time, that's how we got to think and that that like very first step that thing we need them to do is find the right product for them get to the product and add it to cart and then everything else from there.

Okay. Great. Now we can start optimizing for that stuff. But until they added to cart. What was the point? Yeah, right. So I think a lot of people start way too late in that conversion funnel. So that's why I look at it. Can you just get the right product to the right person faster? Right? Right that makes a lot of sense and I love that analogy at a bar.

You would never go up to girl and just ask her to marry you. I mean, I'm sure it happens. But you know the results on that like you said about 100% that you're gonna get to know on that and it's the same way. The website in e-commerce sites, you're not going to just present someone a product without, you know doing any type of lead into that.

Now, you know many of our customers out there today. The world is changing a lot with regards to the economy and with e-commerce and conversion rate optimization. How really has that evolved now that mobile e-commerce is really big. Now. Most people really do a lot where a lot of people do purchase on mobile devices.

Is it any different? It's absolutely different. It's cool. But it's harder. We all have this device in our pocket that is straight-up addictive and we could sit on the couch anywhere like everyone. In the bathrooms on their phone, they're on the couch on their phone. We've got this thing all the time in front of them.

And then the whole thing is built around essentially creating distractions for you know, because God forbid you have a terrible moment of introspection in your own life, right? You got to keep looking at this phone for fear of thinking about our lives. All right. That was a joke, but it really it's the physical form factor changes our behavior and we've got like a laptop use it a totally different way now.

You'd use your phone and it also changes conversion rate optimization. It changes our Behavior pretty dramatically. So like a phones got a small screen, but it's also it's a vertical screen. So totally changes that form factor, where now we need like very single Columns of content and it's going to be very easy to read and mobile phones don't have keyboard.

And even though people are like texting constantly, they don't want to type in there like as soon as you like. Are you gonna type in your credit card address? I want to do it, right? So you have to make like a four dances to the stuff to make it really easy to do but here's a really interesting one.

This is universal with any site. It is much easier to get people to scroll than it is to get them to click through different pages. So a mobile device touch device it really easy to scroll. So the idea of like the fold and you know, Only on a page doesn't exist nearly in the same way on a mobile device.

You can have these really long Pages without a problem and that will often convert better because you don't have people jumping from page to page to page. Yeah, and you got to be really mindful of load times to that's like even. Like yeah your were in Chicago I've got and we all have LTE works great.

It works fast right up until you don't have you've got poor signal because you're in you know the center of some building or you're on the subway and now the phones on 3G and you better hope that your website is small enough that it will load properly on those devices. That's some of the couple that interesting things.

I've found with Mobile versus desktop. It makes total sense. And like you said as far as the scrolling is concerned people are already so accustomed to scrolling. I mean, there's so many apps where you got, you know, you just scrolling through I mean Facebook and Instagram for instance. I mean, it's a never-ending Scroll of of different posts.

And so people it's a looking pool. Yes stare at it forever. Exactly. It's a never-ending looking pool. I like that and people are comfortable doing that. So if you're comp e-commerce site, you know takes on elements of that where there's a scroll and not too much clicking. Yeah, you definitely well.

Let's say you get like here's an easy optimization for mobile setup in your collection Pages load a whole bunch of products. And the first go avoid pagination use infinite scroll now, okay. Now I don't have to click to other Pages. The thing just loads seamlessly for them. You're eliminating steps and decisions.

They have to make like do I really want to click next page? Then they'll just keep scrolling Facebook has trained us to do it take advantage of that stuff. Exactly. Yeah, but everybody has been drained exactly, you know. I know this is um, the next question here is something that I always look at as uh, you know, as a way to kind of model things.

And so what would our e-commerce companies what are some of the big Ecommerce companies doing to get people to pay attention? What are they doing? You know, what are they doing? Right or getting right in terms of conversion rate optimization because I think you know, you can really learn from some of the big players in the game.

Certainly. There are things we could point to. But it's an interesting dilemma. So the largest e-commerce players. We got Amazon jet Walmart Target. They're all teaching us how to shop right? So it kind of doesn't matter what they're doing right or wrong. We assume that they're investing in data-driven research, but for all we know Jeff Bezos is just making things up doing what he thinks is cool for own shit against the wall.

See what's dick, right? Who knows? I mean the thing is it doesn't matter right? They're teaching us how to shop so For Better or Worse those big players are setting the standard. For us. Yeah, and like it's your business that your site you should do what you want, but you never want to have to teach your users how to use your site.

If you can avoid it, you know, it's homework and no one likes homework. So sticking to those design patterns that have been employed by your largest competitors like Amazon can improve your conversion rates because then when someone lands on your site their customers, they'll recognize those patterns, even though they don't think about it and intuitively know what to do.

So if Amazon has a clever one the. They use color theory to the primary call to action on any page is always lies is generally reserved for one look. So if you notice like add to cart initial search button, then the add to cart button then the proceed to checkout button. Those are all the same color and style.

They trained you. It's cool. Yeah, that's a simple thing you do that on you can do that in any Commerce platform. It's not gonna cost you anything. It's easy, but it's that stuff and often sit. Like we've got three Shopify apps two of them exist solely because there were cool features. I saw in Amazon and thought man.

I wonder if we could make that work and that's it. Like that's it. So it really whether they're doing it right or wrong kind of doesn't matter if they're huge. They're just they're training us and we should we should all kind of adopt those standards to make life easier. Right? Right. And the main thing in another point to that is they're definitely training customers would at the same time.

You always have to look at these large companies because you just have to understand the amount of money marketing but dollars they spend and you know, they have teams and teams of design folks that are going through the site they're doing you know, Doing case studies there or they're doing what I'm what I'm looking for.

They're doing you know analysis of every little detail and all of that is going behind and you know, there's so much money behind it. So, you know, you don't as a small business you don't have to go. And you know reinvent the wheel you just have to pick up those small things. Like you said a little design elements that they they stick to there's reasons why they do that because all of all of the decisions that they're making is backed on a lot of money and a lot of research and so definitely can't forget that now, you know speaking of some of the design elements of a site what are actually some specific design mistakes that you actually see Merchants making.

Oh, the biggest one I'm going to say is I could go and Leslie but right now my my big complaint is crufty sites. So crafty sites are the the result of flailing business owners. They're just trying trying stuff hoping to God. That they get the one app or feature. That's like yeah, it's gonna text her business.

Of course, it doesn't work like that. And when I say crafty, I mean say a big big boats big ships. The older ship is the more Barnacles that accumulates right and everyone I talked to before we build a site for them says I I want it's got to be clean. I want a really clean site. I don't want no one has ever wanted my I want a really messy cluttered site, right?

All right, so then why do they all feel the need to tell me they want to. But right it's because everybody over time the site's get crafty because it's like all right. They you're cruising around your on a competitor site. They do something cool. So you go I got to do that too. And then to and you see kuelap gosh, I gotta try that too and pretty soon.

You've got this 20 Mega homepage with two dozen widgets. I'll screaming at your visitors and like and it's just a disaster. Yeah, so I think that. You have to start thinking in terms of of expected value and have like an approach and process for this and asking yourself hard questions. Like what purpose does this serve right and that really is it's hard because I'm your website.

It's your it's your sales tool which your salesperson your 24/7 365 sales person. So I think the site's got a job and it's sell your stuff. Right and each page has a job. It's to get them to the next step and each element on that page should have a job. And it's whatever it is, whether it's like bust this objection and urgency, you know, get them to the next step qualify them whatever it is.

And that's how you have to approach it. Like so I look at the site just go. Why is this here? I know I thought it was cool. Then get rid of it. Right cool isn't a good reason to have that's correct. Its it doesn't make sense to have it. If it's not if you're not seeing in a return if it's not being a benefit to your customers or your prospects and yeah.

I love that analogy you mentioned as far as you know, everybody wants a clean site but is clean they just years after two years and then it's like this disaster exactly and it's the main thing is it's kind of like what you're saying. It's it goes down to everyone. It's trying to keep up with the the quote-unquote Joneses and you know, they see something cool and another side one of their competitors.

I got I got to have it even though it may not make sense for their you know for their business, but they gotta have it so it's just one of those things but. It happens to everybody sometimes like I've certainly have done some very silly stuff just because I'm like, I want to try it. Okay. I did a YouTube series from my car just because I thought I was watching a bunch of car Vlogs.

I wonder if I could do that almost taking a series about Shopify from my own damn car. Wow, it worked. Okay, it's fine. I get leads from it. But like. What was the real logic there there wasn't it was just something cool. I wanted to try sometimes there's there's advantage in that. Yeah, there is, you know, there's sometimes you can pick out some things that others are doing that.

You know, it'll it'll be right for you and you may hit a home run but there's other times where a lot of those times that may not be a good fit. Now. We talk a lot about the design elements of the site and things that you can do with respect to improving that but what about the messaging for the site like what specific mess?

Mistakes have you guys seen that you know companies have made mistakes and what could they do to improve them? Oh, and I'm glad you asked because this this is my number one issue so truthfully, but this whole time I'm talkin about design and features and patterns and really the number one thing we've ever done that has had the most dramatic results on boasting conversion rates.

Is copywriting like a changing headlines taglines descriptions that has been the most impactful thing and it you have to have good messaging and the core to that good messaging is going to be a good positioning statement. So really I have to say the big messaging mistake. I see people making is two things they have soggy messaging.

As opposed to crispy like if you go Kurt, what do you do? I said well, I hope Shopify Merchants uncover hidden profits in their store. That's really crispy. That's fast that takes less than 10 seconds for me to say and you know immediately. Okay Shopify Merchant. Yes. No, so if you're not we rule you out we get rid of you and if you are shuffling Merchant now, it's kind of like I just said you I'm a dog lawyer where you're like, I got to know more about that.

What's a dog lawyer? Right? They gotta ask? All right. So you uncover hidden profit. How do you do that? And then that then okay. Creates the conversation and that's but having that positioning statement is really hard to do writing a positioning statement and you could do it yourself right now sit down ago.

I helped target market achieve, you know desirable outcome unlike my competitors competitive Advantage. So that's occurred elster help Shopify store owners uncover hidden profits in their stores unlike my competitors. I'm solely concerned with return on investment. Boom 10 seconds, you know exactly what I'm doing.

Who I'm doing it for and why? Yeah, and that's that sound like when I you know rattled off like that it sounds easy, but I went through dozens of iterations. It probably took realistically years of of experience to come up with that. It's really hard to do. It's really hard to write a positioning statement.

So the result is people have soggy messaging like mine is crisp. Sorry messaging is where like it takes you a full minute to explain to me what you do in which point I have 100% checked out. And I stopped listening, you know 20 seconds in do you want to have that crisp messaging and I think where people get into trouble is they're they're trying to they don't want to have like a clear Niche a laser focus Market.

They're trying to cast a super wide net. So they write these very convoluted positioning statements the other the second half of it. You know so number one have clear and concise positioning and in it. I say I help so I'm starting with I that's the only time I want to hear you use I after that I hate a lot of sites because when we talk we talk about ourselves, but when you're in marketing mode when you're in your sight, man, you got to talk about me.

Like I'm not talkin to a person. I'm reading a website. So at that point I am full on narcissus mode. I only care about myself. So I don't want to see sites with area where the phase just i-i-i-i all down the copy you have talked about me. To me and what you're gonna do for me. So I think like those two things alone having that that Cornerstone piece that clear positioning statement even like a three to five word tagline hugely beneficial so that you have a clear idea of what you're doing of what your marketing messages and your and your customers will too it'll carry through through everything and then just going to go through copy.

How many times you talkin about? I yourself versus your customers and even if it's in the context of like here's what I'm going to do for you just. The dam Sutton so it's about what you are going to get out of it. Right? Right, and it is definitely a lot harder than it seems and I come of those things really tough.

It is it's not easy and you say okay just come up with a crisp statement. But yeah, I come across this all the time where we have uh business owners that approach this to to look into our software and you know, a lot of Niche businesses that are selling a lot of. Stuff you just would never imagine and you go to their sites and you're like, you know, you just you can't figure it out from within, you know, 10 to 20 seconds with a quick glance and you're like, okay.

What is this? If you really have to just get to that point where if somebody can't figure out what it is you're providing and who their target is within, you know, just that initial glance, then you have a problem. So. But you know, it does take time to really massage it and make sure it's very clear on to your audience now wrapping things up.

Well, what are a few things that separated enduring e-commerce business that you've seen, you know from just a typical flash in the pan or just a hobby type business. That's just out there just because you know, they have free time. So I was lucky I was in a position where I had you know, I didn't I was a young guy I had.

Like no expenses. No kids. No family is easy for me to just go and jump feet-first into a business not everyone is in that position that it is that lucky and I certainly couldn't do it today. So a lot of you know a lot of these businesses, they'll talk to people that really successful businesses and they're like, oh, yeah.

Well, I still have my day job like how the heck and that's that's where you get into trouble is like you have to develop so the short answer to your question is one of the things that separated would be mindfulness. If purpose but above all else being able to flex your no muscle. Okay early on there's a lot of there's a lot of creative play that entrepreneurs engage in and it's helpful at first you got experiment and over time.

It could start to and I see this a lot it'll lead to entrepreneurial ATD. So at some point like you had a hobby business you're doing it like nights and weekends at side hustle that kind of thing. Yeah, and you're experimenting but then the business concept was validated where you know, you're probably.

Market fit and you're making money. So now what well now you got you need to focus the only way you're going to scale that business does if you really focus and the counterintuitive thing there is you got to start saying no tea all the new the opportunities that your new success is brought like people are gonna start coming out of the woodwork.

Oh you start a business. You start this Amazon business. Can you coach me? No, I can't sorry like you got to start saying no to stuff and you got to stay focused avoid burnout. And then start delegating tasks writing a standard operating procedures and quit your day job. It's really that some point you got to say to yourself.

Okay. There's a Tipping Point and you have to say is this a hobby or career? And it's fine to have hobby businesses, but you just you need to recognize it for what it is. Right, right. Yeah at some point every body that starts to visit you have to get to that point like you said where it's no longer hobby you're gonna you know, you know go head first into it and don't look back.

So that's that's very important. That's that. Key, uh, well Kurt. Well you gave a wealth of information. We definitely appreciate you joining us here on the e-commerce marketing podcast and if there's any Commerce businesses or listeners out there that want to get in touch with you. How do they do it?

Google may head to my website Colonel sign up for my newsletter and if you you that those yeah, it's automated emails. They come for my real email address. If you hit reply and ask me a thoughtful question. I will be glad to send you a thoughtful answer. Okay, great. That sounds awesome. Well, thanks again Kurt, and we appreciate you joining us.

You have a great rest of your day my honor and pleasure. Thank you for listening to the Commerce marketing podcast to access the e-commerce videos and other resources to help your business. Grow. Please visit get forward slash videos subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for e-commerce marketing podcast, and please leave a rating and a review.

Thanks for listening. See you next time.

Podcast Guest Info

Kurt Elster
Founder, Ethercycle