To make a Shopify store run as smoothly, efficiently and productively as possible, to unlock the true potential of the Shopify platform, sooner or later a business will need to install some apps from the app-store. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of 5 must-have apps for Shopify - think of these as the first 5 apps any business should install whilst setting up their new Shopify store.
It's not secret that here at Ask Phill we love Shopify but frankly their default emails are not engaging enough. Businesses will spend huge amounts of time and effort making sure their website looks, feels, smells and tastes as good as it possibly can, and with good reason because the website experience is a key moment of interaction between a brand and its (potential) customer. It is a critical fragment of time that can make or break a sales opportunity - if a customer sees a strong, professional brand image that makes them feel secure they are much more likely to engage. But a brand’s interaction with their customers does not exist solely through its website. A very obvious medium for interaction is through email correspondence, and so the thought process that dictates website design should inform email design as well.
Emails convey a message but not merely through the text they contain. The complete process of receiving, opening and reading an email is an experience for a customer that should at every stage have a distinct brand identity coursing through its veins, hence creating a unity between the communications, the website and the brand itself. It is this unity that sends a message of professionalism to a customer, subsequently making the brand appear more trustworthy and hence boosting sales.
OrderlyEmails is an app that can provide a Shopify user with this unity by supplying email templates, each of which can be easily customised to match the branding of the Shopify store. Their “Magic Designer” automatically imports logos, colour schemes and fonts from the webshop and incorporates them into the chosen template, meaning that users do not need any experience in design to create engaging, on-brand emails. Here are some impressive features of OrderlyEmails that make it a must-have app:
- Discount codes and automated product recommendations can be included, aimed at upselling and boosting the amount of sales generated in every email.
- OrderlyEmails tracks the engagement and conversion rates of all emails, displaying the data in Shopify Admin’s marketing reports and enabling users to see key statistics such as which links/offers were clicked on by specific customers. This extra feature comes as standard, absolutely free of charge and won OrderlyEmails a Shopify Commerce Award.
- Emails can be translated into 18 different languages with just one click.
- There is no risk of duplicate emails. OrderlyEmails does not send emails itself, it simply modifies the emails that are automatically sent out by Shopify meaning there is no risk of customers being bombarded with streams of identical emails.
- Finally there is no signing up fee for OrderlyEmails, nor is there a fixed contract, users simply pay for each template they want to use and with each template purchase comes 18 different varieties of email. The templates can be completely customised and test emails can be sent out before any purchase is made, and even after payment the customisations can be altered for no extra charge.
OrderlyEmails covers email correspondence between a business and customer once a purchase has been made, however there are plenty of other types of email that a business should be delivering. Email campaigns are arguably the most fundamental and most effective mode of marketing. They are the best way for a message to reach a large audience, and their performance can be closely monitored allowing for continuous tweaks and adjustments until an optimum is found.
However this is no secret. Every business knows the importance of email campaigns so every business is busy creating them, to the point that our inboxes are being ever filled with more and more subject lines fighting it out for a piece of our attention and the prize of that precious click. In this increasingly competitive environment it is difficult for an email campaign to be successful, i.e. to be opened and to deliver its information to the target audience, so an app that can help a business make theirs more effective would be invaluable.
Luckily there is such an app. Mailchimp is an email marketing tool for creating automated email campaigns that are powered by precise data analysis to make them as efficient and effective as possible. Shopify integration is very straightforward and once synced Mailchimp will automatically store all previous customers in a list - either subscribed or unsubscribed, depending on which was chosen at the time of purchase. Subscribed customers are then sent automated email campaigns for whatever purpose a business deems necessary.
It is unlikely that every subscribed member will need, or want, to read every email a company sends out, so Mailchimp users can create segments of the subscribed list to send more specific emails to designated sections of customers - i.e. first time customers, customers that purchased on a specific date, customer’s that have more than 5 orders etc. Targeting email campaigns to only the most relevant customers is just one way in which Mailchimp increases their efficiency and effectiveness.
More importantly Mailchimp provides all of the salient information about each campaign in easy-to-digest reports that give businesses a number of crucial insights. The first of these is increased information about the customer. Growth, engagement and revenue reports tell Mailchimp users which kinds of content resonate with which kinds of customer and hence enable them to modify future campaigns to make them more personalised. Mailchimp will even look for patterns in a contact list to discover specific times to send out emails - times during which customers are most likely to engage - and then schedule the emails to be sent at the same time across different time zones. Mailchimp will track the sales generated by marketing campaigns, displaying the figures in the monthly reports and enabling a business to monitor its ROI. These figures can be especially useful for a business trying to decide whether to upgrade their subscription in return for more advanced features.
The real reason that Mailchimp is in the top 5 must-have Shopify apps, however, is because of its automation and time-saving capabilities. As mentioned, email campaigns are a constant requirement for online businesses and the moment one is sent out to customers, most likely after some considerable period of time spent creating it, another needs to be devised. Mailchimp allows its users to achieve more with less effort by automating email campaigns. A company designs the template for a first-time-customer-welcoming-email, for instance, and Mailchimp will automatically send out the email to the appropriate recipient every time it is required - and another for summer sales, newsletters, valuable customers etc. Once a company has designed the template, Mailchimp will take care of the rest, making it a must-have app.
One disadvantage to online retail is that customers can feel disconnected from the product they might want to buy, only having a very limited knowledge of it. Often an online listing will offer maybe a handful of small images, some information about the colour, if you’re lucky some dimensions or information about the material and not much else. In a face-to-face situation a customer can get more of a “feel” for the product - they can hold it, touch it, try it on, get a proper sense of the scale of it, whatever it might be there is no denying that it is much more appealing to buy a product that you have had a broader experience of. We are probably not far from VR comprehensively ending this issue for online retailers, but until that becomes a reality the tried and tested means to provide this broader experience has been via product reviews.
Product reviews give customers a number of pieces of information, and subsequently achieve a number of things for an online retailer. First of all, answering the disadvantage described above, they provide information about the product or service. In fact they can provide information that even experiencing a product “in real life” cannot deliver. In the face-to-face setting, other than whatever image they may be able to conjure in their mind, a customer cannot glean much information about what it is like to actually own a product, to live with it every day, its faults and idiosyncrasies that may appear somewhere down the road. Product reviews can be like drawing back the curtain for a peek into the future as fellow customers either praise or lambaste whichever feature has caught their attention. This helps to counteract the disconnect felt by customers when buying online, and is a tactic that has been employed for as long as retail has been available online.
But customers do not only review the products they are buying - they review the companies they are buying from. Customer service, levels of communication, speed of delivery, quality of packaging, all of these things are under intense scrutiny and will be commented upon in the review section of a website. The benefit from the company’s point of view is that these reviews build trust with their potential customers (assuming the reviews are positive, of course) as they learn more about their practices and reliability. This is especially important for smaller and lesser known companies because buying online can appear risky - nobody would hand over their credit card details to a stranger in the street, but this is what purchasing from an unknown online company can sometimes feel like. Everyone has at some point asked Google “is insertcompanynamehere legitimate/safe/reliable” in the hope of finding reviews from others that will exorcise their fears, so having such reviews readily available on a company’s website can only bolster the desired air of trust.
As a true testament to the importance of product reviews, Shopify offers its product review app absolutely free of charge and it is consistently one of the most downloaded apps available in the app-store. There are direct correlations between positive reviews and an increase in sales because customers learn more about a company and their products, and because of the improvements in SEO results that reviews deliver. The review section itself is flexible and will match any chosen theme, reviews can be imported from previous stores and companies can manage which reviews are available to be seen on their site. The app is simply a must-have.
In almost every case, the fulfilment stage for ecommerce business will involve printing something. Whilst some businesses may keep their invoices and receipts in electronic form most do not, and every company that is delivering products will need to have some sort of label on the packaging, with most choosing to print them. It makes sense, then, to collate everything that could need printing into one place and have the opportunity to either print in bulk or individually. It makes so much sense that it is a wonder why this does not come as a default feature with Shopify…
Instead, however, Shopify provide Order Printer - the free app to that can facilitate bulk printing of order forms and packaging labels directly from the Shopify store. It is a relatively simply app that performs a pretty simple task, but in terms of ease and time saving it is simply a must-have for any online business.
We’ve said it before but it cannot be stressed enough, SEO is an absolute necessity in ecommerce today. A joke exists online that the best place to hide a dead body is on page two of Google and, to be frank, it’s true - when was the last time you ventured deeper than the opening page? If a business can increase its ranking on search results there is no doubt that they will see an increase in traffic and subsequently in sales. And if they can reach the coveted front page of Google they are well on their way to that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Plug-in SEO is a free app for Shopify that greatly helps with achieving this by doing a lot of the number crunching. It can assess an entire Shopify store and identify which features are not optimised to their full potential, displaying the results in an easy to digest format. More than this, however, it details ways in which the optimisation of each feature might be improved, giving step by step instructions of what to do.
But our favourite feature of Plug-in SEO is that it gives a verdict on whether the issues it identifies are really worth fixing - i.e. whether the required time, money and effort will result in a significant enough boost in traffic or sales. It would be easy to simply identify problems and tell how to solve them, but this extra piece of information shows an understanding of the real world from the developers of Plug-in SEO. Of course SEO is important but in reality not every feature need be optimised to the absolute extreme. Improving from 60% to 80%, for example, might take a considerable amount of effort but deliver a considerable increase in revenue and hence be a worthwhile venture. However moving from 80% to 100% might involve the same, or greater, level of effort and only return a smaller improvement in sales.
Having an insight into this information allows a business to make an informed decision on whether to work on their SEO, rather than charging full steam ahead when in reality it is not worth their while. This makes Plug-in SEO a must-have app.