And if you’re looking to start, or grow, an ecommerce business then making sure you have the right platform for your growth will be one of the most important business decisions you’ll make.
Today’s guest, Dylan Whitman of BVAccel, has been in the ecommerce space for 10+ years, which is like dinosaur years when it comes to ecommerce.
And when you consider his client list of Red Bull, Daymond John from Shark Tank, MVMT Watches, Heist, Mizzen + Main and more, then you know it’s smart to heed his advice.
His past and present experiences with all types of ecommerce platforms will guide you in making the right decision for your business.
Key Takeaways from the Show
- How to choose the best ecommerce platform for your business.
- The differences between Magento, Shopify, Shopify Plus, and the other platforms available.
- How he would design his own ecommerce store based on the tests he’s run for his clients.
- The next level beyond your virtual staffing foundation
- The biggest mistakes ecommerce store owners make and how to avoid them.
Links / Resources
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Also, ratings and reviews on iTunes (hopefully 5-stars!) help us tremendously and we’re very grateful for them. We do read all of the reviews and we’ll answer your questions or comments on future episodes.
Chad: Austin, man, another day, another dollar. Welcome to the show.
Austin: Yes. I’m excited to be back here with you man, chatting, and it’s episode number 99; one away from episode 100.
Chad: Wow, man. It reminds me of a few things. That song by Prince called 1999, and then it also reminds me of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony in Harmony, because they grew up on 99th Street in East Cleveland.
Austin: Bone Thugs. Bone Thugs was literally, I think, one of the first concerts that I went to.
Chad: That’s amazing.
Austin: It was awesome, yeah, and I was –
Chad: Wake up, wake up, wake up.
Austin: Yeah, exactly. Exactly, it was like, Bone Thugs, it was a – it was like ‘Summer Jam’ or something and ‘At the Gorge’ was one of their first ones. I really like – I remember because it was such an awesome place.
Chad: That’s why – that’s why anyone from Cleveland usually loves Bone Thugs, you know, if they don’t love rap, just because they’re Clevelanders. That’s pretty much it. Anyway, well 99 it is. 100 is next week, so let’s talk about this 99th episode. What have we got on tap?
Austin: Well, so this 99th episode, I’m pretty excited because we’re talking – we’re taking kind of a little bit of a bigger picture look at platforms. Platforms, how to choose platforms, not just for today because you know, there’s a platform like, an ecommerce platform you can choose for today, and then there’s the one you can choose to build with in the future; and that’s what we’re going to be discussing with our guest, who has spent a lot of time – a lot of time building websites for brands small and large, very large like, companies like Red Bull and he’s got a lot of experience in building these websites for ecommerce companies, and has some insight that, I think, you don’t really get until you’ve spent the time building, you know, whether – if it’s like a 100 websites for different companies.
Chad: Well, the thing is our guest who – his name is Dylan Whitman from BVAccel, and he’s built sites for people like, Movement, Mizzen And Main, and like you said, Daymond John, but I mean, he’s been in ecommerce for 10-plus years and that’s like – that’s like a woolly mammoth man. You know like, that is – that’s a long time. I mean, you’re basically prehistoric at this point. So, he’s got a lot of experience. He’s seen a lot of changes, he’s built a lot of websites on a lot of different platforms and I think today’s episode gives some incredible insights on what to do today, to make sure you’re in the best position five years from now.
Austin: And we’re going to get into some of the nitty-gritty into kind of, you know, understanding why the difference between Magento, Shopify, Shopify Plus, hosted solutions, you know, then there’s the self-hosted solutions, the difference between those; what you should be looking for and talk a little bit about that. And also, even though we go into a little bit of the weeds for a little bit of the episode, towards the end, Dylan shares some really, really tight, nice kind of, like one-off advice of things that he really recommends business owners do to boost sales, and they can do them kind of, right away, and it’s stuff that he recommends, and he sees some of his best brands that he works with, doing on a daily basis. So, it’s a great episode. It takes us kind of, through a couple of different things from a conceptual ‘how do you choose which platform to be on?’ to very specific advice at how to grow revenue like, tomorrow by doing these small things. So, we’re really excited about this episode.
Chad: Yeah, it’s definitely a good one. So, before we get into that though, Austin, I think you want to tell them a little bit about the Ecommerce Influence Insider membership?
Austin: Yes, I do. It’s my favorite thing to talk about right now, because I’m really excited about – if you’re listening and you have not yet signed up to be an Insider, head to our website, go to ecommerceinfluence.com/insider and get your free Insider membership. We’ve taken all of our resources, some of our best stuff, we’ve put them into our membership site, so they’re organized, curated for you and when you sign up, you get instant access to eight, high-impact – we call them insider guides. They’re e-books that are focused on things like Facebook marketing, YouTube Influencer marketing, hiring people from outsourced websites like, Upwork and Elance, how to do that and really get the best; the crème of the crop and filter out some of the, you know, some of the kind of, garbage you get when you post one of those ads.
We’ve got a lot of our best stuff in there. All you’ve got to do is sign up. It’s free. You create a little user name, and a password and you’ve got access forever; and I highly recommend if you have not become an Insider yet, to go over to ecommerceinfluence.com/insider and sign up. You’ll – I think you’ll really enjoy what we’ve got going on over there. But yeah, that’s what I would say; if you haven’t done it yet, to do that. I think, at this point, we should move along to the episode and dive into it. You want to introduce Dylan here, and we’ll get started?
Chad: Sure man. Dylan Whitman is the founder of BVAccel, a digital design development and marketing agency that acts as expert implementation and execution partners to leading ecommerce platforms; having customers that include Red Bull, Daymond John from Shark Tank, MVMT Watches, Heist and one of the – one of our previous podcast guests, Kevin Lavelle from Mizzen and Main. BVAccel is a Shopify-Plus partner as well as an Optimizely two-star solutions partner. Dylan took 250k in seed money and built a million-dollar ecommerce agency in one year. They’re on pace to grow 5x this year and open up an office in Sydney, Australia to supplement their New York City, San Diego and Charleston offices. Dylan has joined us to tell us his story, teach us what he has learned from his experiences and give you some actual insights that you can use today. So, we’re pumped to welcome Dylan to the show.
Dylan: Great to be here. Really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you guys. I’m looking forward to it.
Austin: And we’re happy to have you on the show, man. We have been wanting to get you on for a little while, and we started off – we gave our listeners a little bit of a background on you. But why don’t you take, you know, about 30 seconds to a minute, tell us a little bit about yourself personally, and give us an overview of your business and marketing experience?
Dylan: Sure. That sounds good. So, you know, I currently own the agency BVAccel that I founded with my business partner, Kyle Widrick. He is a venture capitalist and we decided that we wanted to start an agency around, you know, helping brands get online. Before this, I owned other agencies. I also had created my own online ecommerce shopping portal which generated about, you know, we could say tens of millions of dollars a year in sales and I’ve really kind of, run the game and have both sides of you know, working as an entrepreneur as well as an agency, and you know, really love helping people to sell more online.
Austin: Well, you know, we first chatted, I think, it was a couple of weeks ago, and it was a really interesting conversation and one of the reasons I want to have you on the show, we talked a little bit about like, platforms, available platforms for ecommerce entrepreneurs, whether they’re brands, independent store owners and we talked a little bit about kind of, how to choose a platform. You know, there are lots of different platforms out there; there’s Magento, there’s Shopify Plus, there’s Shopify, there’s Woo Commerce, there’s so many different platforms.
Austin: From an agency perspective and from you know, your experience working in the – in the marketplace for quite some time, how do you – how do you advise your clients on how they should choose their platform?
Dylan: Sure. That’s actually a really good question, and you know, to be frank, and honest out of the gate, I may be biased being that, we are an agency that only works for Shopify Plus clients. But that being said, that was very purposeful. In my previous agency, I worked with a variety of platforms and I think that what’s important to understand is where ecommerce platforms are going, in the sense that I believe that, you know, X amount of years ago, ecommerce platforms were really about – they were really the domain of developers and thinkers, and you know, people that wanted to continually extend upon and create their own kind of, systems, whereas now, I really believe they’re becoming the tools of marketers.
So, when I think about which kind of platform somebody needs to choose, it’s which platform is going to get the most of the things that I need to be done with the least amount of brain damage, the least amount of resources and it’s going to enable an internal team to be nimble and agile in their approach. So, how can we quickly try out with new things without trying to maintain our own infrastructure, without trying to build everything ourselves and reinvent the wheel. Does that make sense?
Austin: It does make sense, yeah.
Dylan: You know, so really, the real two choices you have, when it comes to ecommerce, are do I want a SAS platform or do I want a – you know, that would be something like a Shopify or a Demandware, or do I want a platform like a Woo Commerce or Magento, where really, I have to maintain a – maintain an infrastructure, maintain my own upgrades, all of that type of thing.
Austin: So, if you look at those two options, so you’ve got kind of a hosted solution or a SAS platform and then self-hosted, what do you see as kind of the biggest difference between, let’s pick some of the largest ones. So, let’s talk about say, Magento. Magento and Shopify and then let’s also talk about Shopify Plus because that’s one thing that I’d like to hear from your perspective. I mean, I think, there’s a little bit of – from the business owners I’ve talked about, some confusion or at least not clarity between – the difference between Shopify and then Shopify Plus and what those differences are, can you kind of, elaborate a little bit on the biggest differences between Magento, Shopify and Shopify Plus?
Dylan: Sure. So, from the outside, I can say, you know, from Magento, compared to Shopify Plus, the biggest thing out of the gate is, I think people should be investing their money into acquiring customers and retaining customers and converting customers, instead of maintaining a technology stack. And that’s one of the key things right out of the gate and Magento, when you’re talking about the enterprise level, people are paying the retainers of 10000 dollars-plus a month, just to keep the damn thing alive, and that’s because, you know, there are tons of issues around extension conflicts on Magento because you know, they are capable of modifying the core of the platform, and there are a lot of issues in that ecosystem whereas Shopify, being that it’s a self-hosted solution, everything is done from an app perspective through the API layer and never touches the core of the platform. So, that’s one big difference. And then of course, on Shopify, you are – you are not worried about that infrastructure. Shopify stores don’t go down and one of the big challenges I personally see with Magento is, you constantly hear horror stories of people’s sites going down, cable crashing because you have to deal with all that hosting, you have to deal with everything and make sure that’s always perfectly fine-tuned.
Austin: For our listeners, you mentioned something that I hope you can elaborate on. You said that changes are done in Shopify and Shopify Plus to the app level and app level through the API. Can you define that maybe and at least elaborate on that for people who don’t understand the difference and what that – what that actually means?
Dylan: Sure. So, Shopify is really just a frontend platform, right? So, I’m – Magento, you’re going to download that and you have access to all of that source code, which some people love, but the challenge with that is, people often can do things that will make their site not perform well if they’re not working with a great agency and there are some great agency’s out there that do some phenomenal work, but I think for the average person on Shopify, because that’s a frontend platform, and you’re not really touching that internal code of the system, it’s just a lot less than you have to deal with and I think for most people, people who are in the business of selling their products or their widgets or marketing their products, they’re not in the business of creating a technology infrastructure and that’s what I think
Shopify does really, really well. Magento kind of gives access to do everything in the world you could possibly imagine you want to do. Shopify says, here’s a system that is just going to work and is going to get done everything you likely need it to do, but you can’t necessarily go in and update the internal code of the system. But you can use their APIs which are very robust, to create a custom app, that will interact with that system. The benefit being though that as Shopify is upgraded, it’s not breaking things on your site, because that’s backwards compatible and perpetuity whereas Magento, a lot of times these extensions for the developers that work on them, they modify the core code of the platform and when an upgrade has to occur, that may break some of the functionality that you created or break your site, and that’s where I see a lot of people have a lot of challenges. Does that make sense or did that answer the question hopefully?
Austin: It does. I mean, what about – there’s one – another part which was the difference between Shopify and Shopify Plus, could you just go over those and give us kind of, a brief understanding for people who are – maybe they’re on Shopify and look at Shopify Plus and don’t know totally what the benefit would be to upgrading.
Dylan: Yeah, that’s a good question. So, there’s a few key things. Number one first and foremost is that anybody that’s doing any kind of, somewhat significant volume on Shopify might as well be on Shopify Plus because there’s no transaction fees. So, all of the standard paid levels of Shopify, unless you’re using Shopify payment, will have some level of transaction fee that varies, and you can see that on their pricing page, whereas Shopify Plus has zero transaction fees. Number two is, Shopify Plus gives access to many different APIs that are not available on the standard version of Shopify. So, that would be things like the discounts API, gift cards, customer API. So, it really creates a situation where you have more flexibility in how you want to work with those APIs to create additional functionality on the site. And then, another key important component between Shopify and Shopify Plus is that Shopify Standard redirects to checkout.myshopify.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and Shopify Plus, you can have your own branded checkout. So, for a lot of people, especially on the enterprise-level of the brands that we typically work with, you know, that’s not even a question.
They’re not going to have a checkout that’s at, you know, a Shopify domain name. And then lastly, and really importantly, I think, is that with Shopify Plus, you get a dedicated account manager. That could really act as a resource 24/7 for you, with questions that you have about the platform with pointing you in the right direction for things; it’s just really great to have somebody there that you can call any time that’s your advocate internally at Shopify and I think that’s something that often gets utilized more than people would expect when they use the platform.
Austin: Well, when you’re – when you were making the decision, right, and I look at it – it’s interesting because your background, you’ve started agencies, you’ve run other agencies, you did use multiple platforms.
Austin: What made you so confident? You mentioned earlier that you only work with Shopify Plus clients, and that’s kind of, tying yourself to a certain platform. Why did you choose to align your business with Shopify Plus at this time, and what makes you so confident that it is the right choice for your business?
Dylan: Right, so that’s a really good question, and definitely two years ago, when I started this agency, I had people very skeptical of this choice because, you know, at the time it even still, to somewhat of a degree, people look at Shopify Plus as an SMB solution, when it’s really not; or Shopify in general as a SMB solution. They don’t really realize where Shopify Plus is going. The big thing for me, from a business perspective, you know, even in an outside of you know, why I believe in the platform is, really a strategic decision in the sense of a blue ocean opportunity versus a red ocean opportunity. So, if we look at you know, a Magento, Demand Ware, Hybris and kind of these other leaders in the ecommerce space, there’s already a million agencies doing those things.
And I didn’t really think that there is – I didn’t and don’t necessarily believe now that there is room for more players to come in and do something different and special for those ecosystems. You know, they’re kind of –you’ve got these guys that have really got it down; agencies like Gorilla Group, agencies like, BORN group, agencies like, Blue Acorn that are all doing you know, really, really fantastic work with the Magento and Demand Ware. I didn’t think there was – there was much that I could offer beyond what those guys were doing. That’s one thing whereas in Shopify, because it was focused as an SMB solution, and people were kind of asleep on where Shopify Plus was going, I felt that there was an opportunity for an agency to come in and bring a level of professionalism to the ecosystem, and to the implementations that didn’t necessarily exist yet. And so that was really the big focus of it. Beyond that though, and most fundamentally, I believe that Shopify is going to crush the competition and I believe that Shopify is the future of ecommerce, and there is a few key reasons for that. Magento to me, is in a decline as a platform for a few key reasons. Number one is, I don’t believe that there is any real inspiring leadership going on at Magento right now, granted take this with a grain of salt, you know, this is just one opinion and hopefully I don’t offend anyone, but I just don’t believe there is.
Austin: It’s all right, we offend people on this podcast a lot, so –
Dylan: Okay, fair enough. I just don’t believe that there is a real passionate force driving Magento to a new place and you know, they do have Magento 2, that just came out but that’s going to be a complicated situation to start deploying that, I think and training people up on that because it’s a very complicated system to work with. But I don’t think there’s that force, and I also don’t think that the model of platforms made for tinkers is going away. So, you know, five years ago, there weren’t really many viable, mid-market ecommerce solutions that were SAS and you know, Shopify has really done a great job of doing that now and so people got really fired up on Magento and yes, you can do a million different things with it, but I think that what people are moving forward to is a situation where you have a platform that is for marketers versus a platform that’s for developers. And I think it’s funny because yesterday, I was reading some collateral for Hybris that said, you know, we built our platform for developers.
I think that’s a backward way of thinking. Platforms now need to be intuitive. They need to be simple to work with and just work. And they need to create a situation where marketers can really test across, you know, kind of, the key three pillars of ecommerce that I look at which is acquisition, conversion and retention. So, do I really want a platform that can do all these crazy features or do I want a platform that can rapidly let me try out a lot of different things across acquisition, conversion and retention, and focus my dollars and efforts towards those things that work best? Are there situations where Demand Ware and Magento are a great fit? Absolutely. You know, there’s definitely cases for that. But I think, across the board, you know, I’m focusing on Shopify because I think that’s where – I’m not looking to build an agency around edge cases. I’m looking to build an agency that becomes the best implementation partner in the world for the platform that’s going to be the best platform for the most amount of people in the world.
Chad: And look at – you made this comment a couple of times now, and I had written it down, but tools for marketers. I think that is such a big indication on where this is heading because let’s look at somebody like me. I have no development skills whatsoever, but I could go on a Shopify today and start a store and with the marketing experience I have, I can look at the entire digital landscape and say, oh my God, Shopify can allow me to plug all these things in and become [crosstalk] need to be. I think that’s a fantastic way to look at it. Shopify is a tool for marketers and that’s what every ecommerce store owner who is listening now really is. That leads me to my next question. We have a wide range of people who listen to this podcast, and I think you have a wide range of businesses that work with you guys from large to small.
Chad: You guys work with a lot of sexy brands out there, but what’s the biggest difference that you found between larger brands and these independent store owners that you have worked with? Like maybe in terms of mindset and how they’re – how they’re looking at their designs at the same time.
Dylan: Sure, so you know, from a mindset perspective, I can tell you as an agency owner, on one hand, I really love working with smaller – to small or medium sized businesses and you know, because everything you do is so impactful, right? And that can – if you have a win, I mean, that can really be something special for that brand. The challenge on the flip side is that everything you’re doing, small to medium, small to small, medium-size businesses are looking for that to essentially make their business. So, I think that there is a lot more emotion on the side – an emotional decision making on the side of smaller businesses versus large brands where, you know, yes, what you’re doing is important, but they’re not counting on you to save their business or to make their business, if that makes sense.
Chad: Sure. It totally makes sense. I think you had mentioned that in – you did an AMA on ECOM Talk, I believe it was, and I think you had mentioned something like that. And so maybe – you’ve been doing this for a while but you’ve got these small businesses, have you been able to watch small businesses progress into these enterprise level clients, and like —
Chad: And you have. So, what would you say is like the main differentiator between those who can go from level 1 to level 2 as you’ve watched them progress?
Dylan: Sure. So, a couple of key things: number one, I think that specifically businesses that have done, I’ve seen do really well, what they’ve done is they’ve tried to focus on what they’re good at, which is their product and have not tried to do everything themselves. So, what I mean by that is, look, ecommerce is, you know, is an incredibly competitive space. I mean, it’s insane, the level of competition that’s out there and so in order to win in ecommerce, you really have to be doing the right things and be doing them in the best way and a mistake that I see a lot of you know, starting out businesses make is, they’ll hire, you know, they’ll say, okay, I need social media, I need the email marketing and I need pay per click, I need these different things, and rather than go out and you know, focus on just one or two of those key things and then hire the best people in the world they can find at that, I see a lot of people go out and try to bring in a bunch of interns, or try to hire junior level, recent college graduates to come in, and they think that they’re saving money by doing this and that they’re maintaining control by doing it in-house.
But in reality, they’re setting themselves up for failure because you’re simply not going to be able to compete at the level you need to if you don’t bring in the qualified people. So, you know, finally to answer that question, it’s just pick one or two things. You don’t have to do everything. If you’re not truly prepared to be incredibly effective at social media, it’s not doing anything for you to post something to Facebook every couple of days for the purpose of doing it. It’s not doing anything for you to have a half-assed pay per click campaign going just you heard you should be on Google. Pick one or two things and do them impeccably well. I think that’s the biggest piece of advice I can give; and hire the right people to do it.
Chad: Yeah, that’s good advice. We tell that to people all the time. We tell that to ourselves all the time. [Crosstalk]
Austin: Don’t do – don’t try to do too much. It’s so easy to fall into that trap, you know. I got to post on Twitter, I got to post on different things.
Dylan: One other thing to add to that also that you just made me think about is, don’t get ‘shiny object syndrome’. There’s like, you know, it’s great that you can go into the shop via app store and there’s a million different things that you can do, and that’s fantastic; but people get so distracted and they think, oh, I heard this new referral program and here’s this other thing and here’s this other thing. They try to jump in and jump from thing to thing to thing and you know, that’s not just going to be effective. Again, it’s just really having that focus on the things that are actually going to work.
Austin: Well with the referral program thing, we talk a lot about referral programs on this podcast. We advise a lot of clients on building referral programs and the biggest thing that I always tell them is that it’s going to take a while to figure out.
Austin: You’re going to really have to work at it, and you have to test different things and it’s not, you know, plan on six months to have something that’s very, very effective for you. From your vantage point right, because you – you’ve built a lot of websites, you’ve helped a lot of different companies, and you’ve – you guys are also a two-star partner with Optimizely;
Austin: If you’re going to be designing a store for yourself, let’s say a clothing company, how would you design the website? How would you approach it?
Dylan: Sure. That’s funny because I’m actually building a small ecommerce site right now just to try things out with and I’m a big, big believer in giving an MVP in whatever you’re doing. So, you know, a lot of people we work with don’t necessarily take that advice, but I don’t – my thought process is, let’s start out as simply as possible and then let’s start adding in things that we think will be great from there, but let’s not overwhelm the users with too many choices out of the gate, half of which may be wrong. So, I’d rather start out really, really simple. How can I have the most basic functions baked into of selling a site – for selling a product on a site and then, how do I add in those other features and test it along the way, and ignore everything except the data, because your intuition is wrong so many times, in my experience.
Austin: That’s something that people, you know, I hear a lot. Like, follow what the data tells you, test the different thing – test different things, and you know, your answer there is start with the minimum viable product. What does that minimum viable product look like? Does it have home page sliders? Is it not – what do you – I mean, what do you see if you were to say, it kind of generally. I know it’s always case by case but –
Dylan: Yeah, that definitely is really relative. You know, I actually – it’s funny. Home page sliders are something that – I think are never going to go away because people just love them. In every test that I’ve run, they perform worse and the same with category hero images. Every test I’ve ever done, they perform worse. You take away those category hero images, push your product up on the page. People are there for product, and the problem is, people, marketers and designers often look at a website as an aspirational reflection of who they think their customer is or where to be, and in reality, people just want to buy stuff in the most seamless way possible. But what I think it looks like, I mean, it really depends on what the product is.
I’m like, look, if you have a single – one thing that I think is funny is, when I see people like, a single or you know, maybe two or three skew catalog just so we have just a couple of products, I mean, I wouldn’t even have anything except a home page on that. You know, and I still see people on that like, look I have a home page and then I’ve got a product page and then I have a category page and I only have three products. Like, what am I doing here? It doesn’t make any sense. So, I guess, put – create a document like, when we do a CRO testing, we create what’s called a waiting document, and that waiting document, you know, we create multiple hypothesis around you know, things that we think will be important to test on the site, but then we create a waiting document which is, here are the things that we’d really like to test, here is the level of effort to complete those, and here’s the potential impact of those tests, you know, based on what we think and what we’ve seen and so, I guess, I would just look at what is really the absolute minimum amount of features that I need to get those done and then slowly add in from there and test it.
Chad: Good advice, it always comes back to less is more. Go simpler.
Dylan: Absolutely. And I think that people just really forget about that.
Chad: I think we all do at some point, right? We always want to add more and more and more but – one question I do have and maybe this is – this is something I’ve actually noticed, or I was looking into this myself and I keep finding people’s different takes on it for – from – in the Shopify community etcetera, but what about – what about the creating a content site or an authority site and how you actually would have hooked that up to your ecommerce store? For example, you’ve got Nasty Gal. You go to nastygal.com, they’ve got a blog and then redirects to a subdomain blog.nastygal. Then you’ve got somebody like, Beardbrand which has a WordPress site and they just basically you know, link back to each other. How does that work on a Shopify store? What’s best for a Shopify store and does it even matter?
Dylan: So, from a technical SEO standpoint out of the gate, Google is going to look at a subdomain as a different domain than your normal domain, right? So, as that – content hopefully is actually going to be one of the key things that starts to develop links to your website. So, you’re always from an SEO standpoint, going to be better off having that in a subdirectory rather than on a subdomain so that’s not really looked at as a separate domain.
Chad: Got it.
Dylan: That’s why it equally as important to set you know, to chose if you are going to be with or without www and to have canonical text which are already built in to Shopify in the case that it is resulting in two different places. But, yeah, I would always do it in the subdirectory. Shopify, that being said, I wouldn’t say that their blogging platform is a strength of theirs –
Chad: And that’s actually the main question, I guess that’s really figuring out because I was talking to somebody about this and they really want to build a lot of content and then in my research, people were like, ‘Well the Shopify blog is not that good, yada-yada-yada.’
Dylan: Here’s the question though; I think this goes back to the keeping it simple; right?
Dylan: People go overboard with the stuff, like what do you really need in there? You are putting some good content and you got some imagery in there, are you going to do some crazy build cnn.com on Shopify? No. But, can you get what needs to be done, done? Yes. And I think that one of the big challenges with content marketing that I have seen is that it’s a really hot thing right now, everybody wants to talk about content marketing and for good reason because when it’s done really well, just like anything else, it can be really effective, but the challenge that I see is that another one of those things that I see people approach social media, it’s like oh, we should be blogging. So, they write some half-assed blogs, get it out there, nothing ever happens with it, they don’t get any value of it, but they just keep going though this madness of creating this content because they think they should be. I think the content like anything else, you need to have professionals doing it and a professional copywriter who really knows what they are doing to create amazing content. It’s not cheap and you need to invest in the right people if you are going to do it, is my thought process.
Chad: So, that leads me to another question; that’s a really good point, because you’re right, I mean, why do anything if you are not going to do it well, and especially in the world of ecommerce like you said it’s so competitive, it’s like you can’t just half-ass anything. There’s nothing worse than half–assing five different areas when you really should be focusing on one.
Dylan: Doing one of them really great.
Chad: Exactly. So, that leads me to my next question and it’s about growth channels. A lot of people are looking at content marketing, and they are looking at Facebook, and they are looking at YouTube Influencer marketing and there’s all these different areas that they get technically half-assed and screw up.
Chad: Where should somebody listening to this podcast right now, be starting that growth channel if they are to build a Shopify store today or if they are already there doing a million a year, like where would you start?
Dylan: Sure. So, there’s two answers to that; the first is that I look at channels like content organic, social – some of these things can be really effective for people if they are doing them right, I also know somewhat look at them like hope marketing ‘cause you hope they are going to work, and you have no real basis to understand if they are or not going to work for you. I’ve seen incredibly well-done campaigns that just did not perform, and I’ve seen, you know, ones I’m surprised how did this go viral? But in any of these situations, there’s never any true real expectation about how that is going to perform for you. If you go to a social media agency and they tell you, this is going to on average be your result from working with us, then I would be scared of them because half the time, it just doesn’t work. If you go to some of the largest brands on the internet, like let’s say even like Tory Burch who has you know, their creative director
Honor Brody who is, you know, everything I have heard is an amazingly talented person, still if you go into their content platform, there’s not that much interaction. We’re talking about a passionate, vibrant community of staffers who are really excited about something, and it’s still not working out that well for them. On the flip side, you go over to other brands that you don’t even understand what’s going on, and they are working really well. So, that’s kind of one answer, but the other answer is, it depends on the type of – so basically I would go into best of breed approaches to very measurable solutions, and so that really depends on the type of product you have, but as an example, let’s say that you have a really visual product that it’s something that people see it and they either make up their mind in ten seconds, do they want to buy it, or do they not want to buy it. Facebook to me is still the number one channel hands down.
I think that if you have a good visual product, and you do some decent Facebook targeting, especially now that they have improved their tools, you will get results to some level. Are they as good as the results from a cost per action standpoint as a really well done content marketing or a social campaign, probably not because you know, when those things really work, like let’s say you know, whose done a really great job on social, it would be Frank Body, who is also on Shopify. We don’t work with them, but they have done a phenomenal job with their social channel. They have probably got a ton of low-cost sales from that channel, but that being said, you are still better off for the average person getting a baseline through something like Facebook that is going to be really targeted and that is going to get you some level of success and then reinvest that into other channels to see if you can do something better. Does that make sense as an answer?
Chad: Absolutely. I actually have been thinking that way anyway, and it’s good to hear from somebody who is working with these types of brands as well.
Austin: It’s interesting because you hear like when people define it, there’s like demand capture, versus demand generation, and then there’s also – I think when you look at demand generation, there are two types of demand generation. There’s what you mentioned, hope marketing, which is where you don’t – it’s not, I mean you potentially measurable but not nearly as measurable, and then you have also got demand generation through Facebook that you are doing advertising and it is measurable and they have done a really good job of setting up tools.
Chad: I think the combination is you know, you talk about this content marketing how it’s the fad, it’s only going to work if you do it right, but I think combining this content marketing with that base level Facebook understanding and being able to use retargeting as the major driver is really to me where a lot of these people who are listening should probably start focusing on.
Dylan: Absolutely. I think it has a lot to do with what are your resources. You know, I think if you can do all that effectively and pair them together and create something where the sum is greater than the parts, that’s amazing and – but if you have enough time, resources, fiscal capital to do one thing. Try to do what’s going to get you at least some level of results out of the gate and that’s right, it’s funny because like I said, Facebook is such a no-brainer as a marketing platform, but it’s not sexy anymore. So people like are always looking for something new to do and they say, ‘Oh well, Facebook is over, I heard
Facebook is dying and I’m going to start posting to Instagram instead’ or whatever. There’s lots of new opportunities but don’t discount a platform that is the most hit platform that is out there, which by the way is also – most importantly, this goes back to Shopify too and why I love Shopify. Who has the best ecosystem in place? Who has you know, the best infrastructure in place? Like one of the reasons I think Shopify is going to win the war of ecommerce platforms, Demand Ware, for instance, has like 350 clients or something right, that’s not that exciting for people to go extend upon and build apps for Demand Ware’s linked marketplace whereas Shopify has 200,000 storefronts. If I am a developer and I built something really cool, there is a massive ecosystem there that I can deploy that too and really make some serious dough. Nobody is making that much money off of Demand Ware apps. You know, their platforms are already that the customers were going to use, not making money off the apps. So, the same thing with Facebook, like Facebook’s toolset is just so much more sophisticated than any other platform now that’s why it makes sense to start there because they have created a system that is the most viable opportunity for success with people with the least amount of skills to execute.
Austin: I guess, this is a good transition to a question I want to ask you, which is, what resources – but in this sense, I’d like to focus, if possible, on Shopify apps that guys recommend to brands you work with, ecommerce store owners, that you feel like you really are top-notch and that you would definitely make sure – the people who are listening, they don’t have, they should definitely pick up.
Dylan: So, right out of the gate, I’m a huge fan, you know, I love the Bronto email marketing platform, that’s a fantastic platform, but you know, a real contender that is kicking some ass and is really affordable is Klaviyo, which has an app to integrate with Shopify. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with that platform, you probably are –
Austin: Yes, very familiar.
Dylan: I don’t know what you guys think, but I think Klaviyo is really killer and I think that they have done a great job of creating an app integration and a platform with Shopify that will allow people to at least get a good baseline of retention marketing going. That’s one. Kind of off the cuff, one that I have been running some tests with Optimizely on, that’s really simple, it’s not that you know, exciting but I think it’s called Notify and it’s interesting because it’s an app that all it does in the corner of your storefront, it pops up a little notifications when people buy things and other people are browsing and it says you know, ‘X person just bought you know, Y product in you know, Sacramento, California’. And I think that that is such a cool app because it’s showing people like, hey, people are buying this and there’s nothing people love to do more than follow what other people are doing.
Austin: I love that app. I haven’t heard of that, but that’s awesome.
Dylan: Yeah, and it’s like super cheap and super simple and we ran Optimizely tests against it and it definitely had an impact on revenue. So, that is like something people can do right out of the gate. What else – you know what else I think is really cool is the guy that has created Sauce.ly. I like that because – I’m sure you guys are pretty familiar with that as well, but it’ll integrate with your Facebook remarketing, your Optimizely instance, as well as your Klaviyo instance and then it allows you to create symmetrical messaging campaigns across those three so that – somebody is in a particular buyer group or a particular segment you are marketing to, it really allows you to have that symmetrical messaging which I think time and time again, studies have shown really increases conversion and loyalty.
Austin: That’s a very, very important, huge – yeah, this is a good example and we are going to check out Notify, it’s really good, it’s like the hotels – all the hotel websites when they tell you somebody just booked a room –
Austin: –and people are like ‘uh-oh, maybe that is going to run out’ or whatnot.
Chad: It’s funny, I was just having a conversation with Lisa, who is on the team and we were talking about – she made a comment, ‘Well, everybody is doing it’ and I was like well, just ‘cause everybody is doing it, doesn’t mean you should do it. Well, in this case, you should.
Chad: It’s like, hey it’s popping up, everybody is doing it, I’m going to do it, I’m going to buy it.
Dylan: And this is a great example, like on Optimizely, you know, Optimizely interestingly has moved to an enterprise-only model, they have gotten rid of all their kind of paid accounts that were for the average storefronts; so really if you are not going to be putting down 2K a month for the software, you are not going to use Optimizely, but they are going to use a free version that they have left out there and it’s very limited in its tool sets, but that Notify app is a great example of something you could test through Optimizely, kind of get your feet wet with understanding you know, how things impact your sales and your website. And you could just use the free version of Optimizely and that app is like, I don’t know, I think it was less than 20 bucks a month. So, probably get you one or two extra sales and it’s worth it.
Austin: Yeah, that’s a great little action tip. Well, if people are listening here, and they are interested in learning more about what you do, about BVAccel, where would you typically direct them to go?
Dylan: Obviously, they can go to our website, bvaccel.com, but you know, I’m very very open with people so hit me up on Twitter, dylanwhitman or find me on LinkedIn and I’m happy to chat, you know, I’m happy to talk about this stuff, probably too much, so – but I probably ramble on a bit but I’m happy to chat with anybody about anything. You just talk about what they have going on and they can hit me up on LinkedIn or Twitter, probably the two best places.
Austin: Yeah, and if you are looking to make the transition over to Shopify, or are looking to upgrade, I mean, I recommend definitely reaching out to Dylan because some of our clients have worked with BVAccel and that is how we got introduced and always had a good experience working with them kind of side-by-side, so definitely get our endorsement in terms of an agency that can build some really cool stuff and that is – actually I do want to ask one more question which is –
Dylan: Yeah, please go for it.
Austin: – something I’ve been thinking about because I listen to people talk about reasons not to move over to Shopify or Shopify plus, a lot of that, it’s changed over the last couple of years, the reasons why they wouldn’t, but there’s usually one which is, they feel like they can’t build certain things on Shopify. You have a lot of experience and a big team, building different things using the Shopify platform, is there anything that you have found that you haven’t been able to build using Shopify?
Dylan: Sure, so I want to start answering with that one statement which is, the first thing I always say to people is number one, have you actually looked if you can do it. A lot of people out of the gate, think they can do things they can do. Number two is, don’t build a death star to across the street. I think a lot of people get so caught up in all the crazy features they want, instead of focusing on things that are actually going to drive sales so those are the first to winds of caution I would say. Thirdly, yes, there are specific used cases that are not great for Shopify. I would say one area where they are week is that they have an incredibly complex wholesale component. So, like very granular customer-level pricing for wholesale, things like that, the system is just not there yet. So that would be one example, but one thing I will tell everybody is, and Austin, I think when you and I first talked, this is something I told you, another reason why we chose platforms we choose, beyond the reasons I already said is, you are building – what people
I think often forget with ecommerce is, you are building an infrastructure for the long term and on any given day, Demand Ware is going to have a feature that Shopify doesn’t have and Shopify is going to have a feature Demand Ware doesn’t have. The same with Magento etcetera, but when you are building an infrastructure for a long term and it’s really important to pick the platform, that is the platform you want three years down the road and not just a platform that works best today. You know, same thing with Optimizely, you are building all kinds of personalization around Optimizely, you don’t want to have to rebuild all of that in two years because now you used Monetate, but now two years from now, Optimizely is just completely crushing Monetate; you want to start now with the most likely winter in the long run. Shopify is just hiring, right now, 300 people and like 200 developers just to work on the Shopify Plus side of things, to build that platform and it’s features, so you know, probably beating a dead horse here, but that is what I would be looking at. Who is the likely winner in the long term, because that is the horse you want to ride on now.
Austin: I think that is very good advice; very good advice. We’re inching to the same horse aswell because we can see it.
Austin: Dylan, thanks so much for joining us, and it was really interesting to talk to you and thanks for your insight today.
Dylan: Awesome. I really enjoyed it, this is cool.
Chad: Yeah, it was good to have you on man.
Austin: We appreciate it, we will talk to you soon.
Dylan: All right, take care guys.
Austin: Thanks again Dylan for joining us and thanks for listening guys, if you have not, if you are still here and you are listening, and you have not head over to EcommerceInfluence.com/insider to claim your Insider membership, go ahead and do that now. You will be able to download all of our best resources there for absolutely free. You could get your own username and your password, and you’ll be able to have those and save those on your end. If you are listening to this episode and you found that it was something that resonated with you, you felt like you got some value out of it, the best thing right now is I think forward it to somebody else, who you think will find some value from the episode as well. That would mean a lot to us, we appreciate it, and we have one last ask for you guys; if you have been listening for a while, you know, if you have listened to over five or six episodes and you haven’t gone to iTunes to write us a review, just write that down, just please help us out. Go down to iTunes, write a review, that is something we love to read those reviews and it helps us a lot to inspire more listeners to join on the show. So, until next time, thanks a lot and we will talk to you on the next episode.
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