Results for 'ecommerce development'

List of 50 Must Follow Twitter Accounts for Ecommerce Entrepreneurs

Twitter is one of the best places for ecommerce entrepreneurs to get awesome info to help grow their…

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Twitter is one of the best places for ecommerce entrepreneurs to get awesome info to help grow their online store. With a few hundred million different Twitter accounts, it's tough to decide who to follow. To help all the entrepreneurs out there, I've put a list of 50 must follow Twitter accounts for ecommerce entrepreneurs. Check them out below, and follow them here.

Executives & Thought Leaders

Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki): Former Chief Evangelist of Apple.
Gina Trapani (@ginatrapani): Founder of Lifehacker.
Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee): Entrepreneur, author, and social media master.
Timothy Ferriss (@tferriss): Author, VC, and entrepreneur.
Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog): World famous author and marketer.
Evan Carmichael (@EvanCarmichael): Entrepreneur and branding expert.
Andrew Warner (@AndrewWarner): Founder of Mixergy.
Fred Wilson (@fredwilson): One of the most well known tech VC's in the world.
Hiten Shah (@hnshah): Co-founder of KISSmetrics.
Tobias Lütke (@tobi): Founder of Shopify.
Harley Finkelstein (@hfizzle): Chief Platform Officer at Shopify.
Steve Blank (@sgblank): Customer Development professor at Stanford.
Mark MacLeod (@startupcfo): Provides great financial advice for startups.
Micah Baldwin (@micah): Founder of Graphicly and startup advisor.
Jason Fried (@jasonfried): Founder of 37signals, co-author of REWORK.
Dharmesh Shah (@dharmesh): Founder of HubSpot and OnStartups.com
Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo): Every entrepreneur needs a good laugh.

SEO Masters

Rand Fishkin (@randfish): Founder of SEOmoz. SEO genius.
Matt Cuts (@mattcutts): Webspam guru at Google. Another SEO genius.

Analysts

Brian Walker (@bkwalker): VP & Principal Ecommerce Analyst at Forrester.
Gene Alvarez (@galvar60): VP & Ecommerce Researcher at Gartner.

Journalists, Reporters & Bloggers

Tricia Duryee (@triciad): All Things D reporter for Ecommerce and Gaming.
Ryan Kim (@oryankim): GigaOM tech writer.
Ben Parr (@benparr): Mashable tech guy, tweets about entrepreneurship.
Ivor Tossell (@ivortossell): Popular technology culture columnist.
Sarah Kessler (@SarahFKessler): Startups reporter at Mashable.
Jason Kincaid (@jasonkincaid): Mild-mannered reporter at TechCrunch.
Shawn Graham (@ShawnGraham): Business strategist and Fast Company blogger.
Vitaly Friedman (@smashingmag): Editor-In-Chief of Smashing Magazine.
Valerie Khoo (@valeriekhoo): Top Australian entrepreneurship journalist.
Malcolm Gladwell (@Gladwell): Author and journalist for The New Yorker.
Pamela Slim (@pamslim): Author of Escape from Cubicle Nation.

Retail & Ecommerce News

Shopify (@Shopify): Awesome ecommerce, and link to our blog.
Google Retail (@GoogleRetail): Latest industry news and data.
Shop.org (@shoporg): Tons of retail stats and info.
WSJ Small Business (@WSJSmallBiz): Updates from the Wall Street Journal.
Huffington Post (@HuffPostSmBiz): The best of HuffPost Small Business.
Practical Ecommerce (@practicalecomm): Useful commerce resources.
AMEX Open Forum (@OPENForum): Collective Ingenuity of Business Owners.
Bits (@nytimesbits): The New York Times business and tech blog.
Mashable (@mashable): Web culture, social media, and tech news source.
Entrepreneur Magazine (@EntMagazine): Resource for small businesses.
eCommerce News (@ecommerce): News feed from around the web.
Small Biz Technology (@ramonray): Tech and how it relates to business.
Linda Bustos (@Roxyyo): Runs a popular ecommerce blog.
Brian Tsuchiya (@StartupGuru): Startup advice for entrepreneurs.
Chris Pirillo (@ChrisPirillo): Content and communities expert.
Darren Rowse (@problogger): The guy behind Problogger.
Brian Clark (@copyblogger): Main Copyblogger dude.
Dear PR (@DearPR): What NOT to do when talking to media.
MailChimp (@MailChimp): Company blog, but they link to awesome content.

Easily follow these accounts here. 

**Think we missed someone? Tell us who we should add to the list in the comments. 

Shopify Apps and the Shopify Fund

The Shopify Fund is a one million dollar pool of money that we’re using to encourage the development…

The Shopify Fund is a one million dollar pool of money that we’re using to encourage the development of apps built on Shopify’s ecommerce platform. We’ve funded the first four apps, which I’ve summarized in this article, and we’re on the lookout for more! The video above (4 minutes, 11 seconds) explains both Shopify apps and the Shopify Fund.

If you’re an app developer and want to get in on some of this Shopify Fund action, take a look at the Shopify Fund page and use the form to tell us about your app idea! We might fund it.

If you’ve already applied for the Shopify Fund but aren’t one of the first four to get funded, keep working on your app idea and submit it to the Shopify App Store! The fund isn’t just about getting new apps built, but also enabling developers to work on improvements to their apps. Submit your app, go to the Shopify Fund page and tell us about it! We might fund that development.

If you’ve got an app in the Shopify App Store already and you have ideas for a revision, go to the Shopify Fund page and let us know what they are – we might fund that revision!

[ This article also appears in Global Nerdy. ]

How Two Ecommerce Entrepreneurs Took a Side Business from $100k to $3M in Revenue in Three Years

Have you heard of Crossfit? It's a strength and conditioning system that was started in 2000 and has…

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Have you heard of Crossfit? It's a strength and conditioning system that was started in 2000 and has become extremely popular in the fitness community.

It's also a movement a lot of smart entrepreneurs are building businesses around. 

One such person is Peter Keller, an entrepreneur from Texas and owner of FringeSport, a Crossfit and home gym equipment supplier.

Peter and I connected on Reddit over at /r/entrepreneur after the Beardbrand case study we published generated a lot of discussion over there. 

He introduced himself and shared his story (as well as some pretty incredible sales numbers for such a young company).

I got Peter to take us behind of the scenes of his extremely successful ecommerce business and show us how he achieved such phenomenal growth so fast. 

Describe your business and product(s) in 1-3 sentences.

FringeSport is bringing the tools of elite fitness within reach allowing anyone to build a truly world-class strength and conditioning facility in their own garage.

We combine U.S. engineering and global manufacturing with a bricks and clicks business model to get better strength and conditioning equipment to our customers faster and cheaper than ever before. From barbells to kettlebells and beyond, we outfit the functional fitness enthusiast and "Workout-of-the-Day"-junky with everything they need. FringeSport offers solid gear, great prices, and world-class customer service!



How much revenue are you currently generating?

Since we were founded in 2010, we've been on a steep upward trajectory. In 2011, we did $100k, running the business on the side while both founders worked day jobs. In 2012 we quit our jobs, got office and warehouse space in Austin, Tx, and built a team. We did just over $1M in revenue. In 2013, we've expanded to Dallas and San Antonio, and we'll pull in $3M (projected).

We've been serving our customers with a "bricks and clicks" approach that we stole from Bonobos and Warby Parker. Since we're literally shipping weights, our freight costs can be astronomical. To combat this, we've been experimenting with showrooms in Dallas and San Antonio. This approach has been very successful. YTD, we've generated about 60% of our sales online, 35% from the "bricks" locations, and the remainder from our wholesale/dropship program.

How did you come up with the idea for your business? What kind of market research did you undertake?

I've always been entrepreneurial minded. In 2010, I was working for another ecommerce business and I wanted to do my own thing. I ran through a niche selection exercise and came up with the idea to start a strength and conditioning company focused on the fast-growing CrossFit market.

I'd been CrossFitting since 2005, and I loved the community and the movement but the equipment was expensive and hard to get. With my background in product development and ecommerce, I knew I could bring the gear to market and do it better than my competition. I approached my brother as a partner, and we were off to the races!

For market research, I found our first product - gymnastic rings. I placed an initial order for two thousand dollars worth and I figured that if those sold, our market would be validated. If not, I figured I could liquidate them for what they cost me. Luckily, they sold!

How do you manufacture or source your products? What were some key lessons you learned during this process?

We currently use a mix of product that is engineered in the U.S. and contract manufactured for us, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) gear that we buy factory-direct, and product from U.S. brands. Over time, we're moving more and more to contract manufacturing.

Products that we have contract manufactured are always best for our customers and us, because they are designed better than the off-the-shelf products. We leverage our deep integration into the strength and conditioning community to continuously test and improve our designs. And, when we use contract manufacturing, we have better control over costs.

In manufacturing, relationships are huge. You're building long term partnerships with your factories so treat your interactions with this in mind. Also, everything takes longer than you think it should - build lots of buffer time into your projects.

How did you promote your business initially and where did your first sales come from? Any major media mentions or PR wins since then?

Initial promotion was largely through Google Adwords. I would not recommend this unless you really know what you're doing, as you can throw a lot of money away while you learn. In hindsight, I would work social media much harder.

Currently, Facebook is a great marketing channel for us. Also, we're members of a number of forums online and the traffic we get from the forums is very targeted.

We have not reached out much on the PR front, but we did get a great mention in Lifehacker this year, which came from outreach to the author some months prior.

What channels are currently generating the most traffic and sales for you?

Organic and direct traffic are our top sources, with direct converting best - which makes sense because these visits come from people who have an idea of who FringeSport is. Facebook and forums drive a god amount of targeted traffic. Additionally, our PPC (mainly Google Adwords) is pretty dialed-in these days, and our spend there is ROI focused - so this traffic converts or it gets shut off.

Our physical locations drive excellent traffic and sales, plus a high level of repeat business.

A lot of your products are heavy. How do you handle shipping and fulfilment and organize the back-end of your business? Key lessons/tips for doing this successfully?

Shipping and fulfillment is a key core competency for us. From an early stage, we emphasized shipping product as fast as possible. What this means today is that we promise to ship out all in-stock product ordered by 2pm CST on the day it is ordered (business days). Shipstation is a lifesaver in this regard - we route all shipping through the app. We also recently installed BrightPearl to handle much of our backend - this should streamline systems as we scale.

To ship heavy products cost-effectively, we go to the mat with UPS, freight carriers, and USPS to find the best rates and service. In negotiations with UPS, finding a sales rep that believed in us was huge! Our previous rep didn't care about us and basically was forcing us to prove our volumes before he gave us the rates. Our new rep believed in us and our story and gave us some preferential rates based on our growth projections.

Finally, have you seen that post office campaign, "If it fits, it ships" for Priority Flat Rate boxes? We use and abuse that program.

You operate three physical locations in addition to your online store. What challenges does this present and how to you tackle them? What advice do you have for other retailers looking to do multi-channel?

The physical showroom initiative has been a huge success for us from a customer engagement and service perspective, as well as a financial perspective. However, it has created a lot of inventory and backend problems including carrying costs for additional inventory, avoiding stock-outs at our showrooms, and managing the front-end point of sale (POS).

We've recently implemented BrightPearl to help us manage the backend, and Shopify POS (we were formerly on Square) for the front-end.

I would advise other retailers to give a look at how they could implement the bricks and clicks approach. Shopify's app ecosystem has a lot of solutions to help manage this approach and you can drive the highest level of engagement by allowing your customers to have real-life, face-to-face interactions with your brand.

And of course, it's a multi-channel world. Find out how to best reach your customers, and pursue the options that make sense.

What software, tools and resources are crucial to your business?

Shopify, of course! Additionally, we share documents on Google Drive as much as possible, plus we use Dropbox as well. We use Basecamp for project management and Google Apps for email. Google Analytics is hugely important and free, so get that installed and learn how to use it.

I'm a big Apple fan, and we use Mac + PC in the office, but our tablets are all iPads running various apps, and most of our team use iPhones.

A few great apps are Shipstation and Meta Tagger. We recently installed Yotpo and we have been amazed. We now have a steady stream of user reviews coming in and it's great! And we have high hopes for BrightPearl and Shopify POS.

What were your biggest mistakes or wastes of time and money (if any)?

We were slow to move strict oversight and accountability over our PPC campaigns. We now have a process by which our PPC campaigns have a few months to prove themselves out on an ROI basis or they get the axe. We should have moved to this system earlier.

We should have utilized social media, especially Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter earlier and better. Social media is time consuming but "free", so while you have time, get online and hustle. Even now, we can use those networks more efficiently. I see a lot of young brands using Instagram really well, and I know we're not there.

We were slow to start building our email list, but we have recently started focusing on this, and sending emails regularly. These don't take much time with properly formatted templates, and they drive sales and engagement with your fans. So get a MailChimp or Aweber account from the start and build your list!

What other key advice can you offer to entrepreneurs looking to start a successful ecommerce businesses?

If you have an idea, get to work! Shopify makes it super fast and easy to get a great looking site live. Plus there are a ton of resources online to help you. One of the best ways to validate is to just (cheaply) get your idea out there and get real-world market feedback.

Once you've gotten rolling, figure out where you will truly add value to your customers' lives and hit that angle hard. Don't ever stop improving your product offering. If you build a better mousetrap, keep improving it, plus keep expanding your selection and finding other ways you can help your customers.

Hello Shopify World (Harley's Intro)

Hello Shopifyers, I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself to the Shopify Community. My name is…

Hello Shopifyers,

I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself to the Shopify Community. My name is Harley, and I am Shopify’s General Counsel & the Director of Business Development. Prior to joining Shopify, I was a startup entrepreneur, a Shopify store owner (Smoofer.com), and I practiced corporate/commercial law with a Toronto based law firm.

When I’m not Shopify-ing, I blog via SuperAngel, and write articles for a variety of publications in the ecommerce and startup spheres. My latest article, ‘Have E-Commerce Your Way’, can be viewed HERE.

I am really excited about joining Shopify’s already amazing team, and getting to know many of you in the Shopify community.

Please don’t hesitate to hit-me-up by email should you wish to share any shopify-related feedback, or even just to say hi (Harley[at]shopify.com).

My best, Harley.

Attention Contract Developers: Shopify Wants You!

Shopify has some big customers with online stores that need apps written for them. We've been getting a…

Shopify has some big customers with online stores that need apps written for them. We've been getting a lot of custom work requests from customers who need applications for their ecommerce website's fulfillment workflow - that is, making sure the right things get put into the right boxes, and sending them to the right people for the right price. We also get requests for other things that online shops need: analytics, promotions, CRM-integration-jazz, or some kind of automatic client-retention. But for now, I'd like to talk about fulfillment.

Fulfillment: it's that part of the shopping cart transaction where the order has been placed and paid for, and now it's time to send something to the customer. This sort of app is a web application that will typically talk to a couple of APIs:

  • The Shopify API, which will have the relevant data from the shop, most notably information about the order that was placed,
  • Webhooks (see Dave Underwood's Syncing with a Store tutorial in the Shopify Wiki to find out what they are. Webhooks are used for about 90% of all Shopify apps),
  • and some fulfillment API, which the app will use to get the order to the customer.

If you're looking for some contract programming work writing software that does useful stuff for reliable customers and you're a reliable, responsive type who can be counted on to write stuff that people need to make their businesses go, Shopify would like to pay you for your services. The application you're writing will be interacting with APIs, which means that you're free to use the programming languages, frameworks and technologies you prefer, as long as you can solve the problem. And because this project is about fulfilling ecommerce orders and not socially networked cat pictures, this  contract will pay nicely.

Is this the sort of development you can do? If so, drop me a line at joey@shopify.com and let's talk.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

How to Growth Hack Your Ecommerce Business for More Traffic and Sales

It seems like growth hacking is the latest marketing buzzword. And for good reason. It's the mindset and…

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It seems like growth hacking is the latest marketing buzzword.

And for good reason. It's the mindset and methodology that's been used by famous Silicon Valley startups to achieve phenomenal growth. 

But now growth hacking is something marketers everywhere are attempting to understand and use to grow their own businesses.

So what exactly is growth hacking?

It’s still a new term for many and it can be easily confused with traditional marketing.

But there are a few key differences that set growth hacking apart from traditional marketing efforts and understanding how to adopt a growth hacking mindset could help you uncover new opportunities to drive more traffic, sales and most importantly, repeat customers to your business.

But before we dive into how to do that, let’s take a step back and establish a working definition of what growth hacking really is.

Growth Hacking: A Definition

Growth hacking is all about finding creative and clever ways to use your product, or other technology and content, to get more users or customers - all with the goal of achieving sustainable growth.

Typically, growth hacking strategies are inspired by data and analytics. Creativity is required to figure out how to use that data to get more customers.

In other words, coming up with ‘growth hacks’.

To help clarify this concept, here are a few definitions from some smart folks around the web:

A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth. - Sean Ellis (Tweet This)

Growth hacking isn't the best term, but it describes a new process for acquiring and engaging users combining traditional marketing and analytical skills with product development skills. - Josh Elman

Growth hackers utilize analytical thinking, product engineering and creativity to significantly increase their company’s core metric(s). - Gagan Biyani

A growth hacker finds a strategy within the parameters of a scalable and repeatable method for growth, driven by product and inspired by data. - Aaron Ginn

It's the idea that an entrepreneur can take a clever or non-traditional approach to increasing the growth rate/adoption of his or her product by "hacking" something together specifically for growth purposes. - Andy Johns

Growth hacking is just: GET USERS! - Gary Vaynerchuk

Traditionally growth hacking has been applied to software startups and online services as a way to help them get more users. But there’s no reason a growth hacking mindset can’t be adapted to ecommerce to help drive more sales for your online store.

Here are three questions to help guide your ecommerce growth hacking strategy and get your creative juices flowing.

How Can You Use Your Online Store as a Primary Means of Distributing Your Online Store?

While this might sound a little confusing, what we’re really asking here is how can you create ways for your online store to automatically drive new traffic to itself?

In other words, you want to look for opportunities to bake distribution into your website, the purchase process and your products themselves.

A classic example of a company who has done this brilliantly is Dropbox. To help them with their growth strategy they brought on Sean Ellis (quoted above).

Sean knew he needed to get Dropbox more users and he did that by incentivizing people to share the service with their friends and followers in exchange for extra free storage.

The result was rapid growth that built on itself as more and more people use the service.

So, how can you do something similar with your ecommerce website?

Try and think of every interaction point someone has with your business and ask yourself if there’s a way you can insert a distribution mechanism.

For example, you could add a link in your order receipts and confirmation emails that takes customers to a page on your website that offers an incentive if they share your store with their friends and followers. That incentive could be a discount code or a free gift with their next purchase.

Services like Pay With a Tweet will allow you add a 'viral share' button that blocks access to the incentive until the user shares your store (or product) with their Twitter followers or Facebook friends.

Another option is adding distribution mechanisms to your actual products themselves. For example, when you order a pack of business cards from Moo, they include a little ‘pass it on’ card that you can give to a friend so they can get a discount on their first order.

They also include a word game to make the distribution card more interesting and sticky. 

Baking these distribution incentives into the shopping experience could lead to more traffic and sales for your store if done right.

Where Are Your Potential Customers Congregating and How Can You Reach Them There?

Whether it's online or offline, right now there's someplace that your potential customers are gathering.

Figuring out a way to tap into these places with technology or by other means could allow you to drive a ton of traffic to your store.

In fact, AirBnB got their first major traction using this exact growth hacking strategy. They created their own software that automatically cross-posted new AirBnB listings to Craigslist. The Craigslist posts all contained links back to the original posts on AirBnB.

By going to where their target market was congregating, AirBnB was able to drive loads of traffic to their site and get the word out about their service to potential users.

How can you adapt this tactic to your business?

Think about where your potential customers are currently gathering online. Then try and think of creative (and ideally automated) ways to reach them there.

More advanced (and grey hat) approaches like creating email scrapers and auto-posting software may require coding skills that the average online store owner probably doesn't have. But if you're comfortable with the ethics of these types of strategies you can always use services like oDesk to find someone to create relatively cheap hacks and scripts for you. 

But if that's not your cup of tea, don't worry. There are plenty of other creative ways you can tap into places where your target market hangs out.

Dodocase is a company that makes beautiful iPad cases and they are a great example of an online store that used this approach - even before they were ready to launch their product.

When the first edition iPad came out, they hired street teams via Craigslist to handout postcards with individual coupon codes to people waiting in line at Apple stores in major cities. Here's an excerpt explaining the strategy from and interview Dodocase founder Patrick Buckley gave on Mixergy:

We went on Craigslist and we found people in different cities to basically go out to Apple stores and hand these out. We gave everyone a code so we could track who sold what and we gave them a commission on whatever they could sell. So, they only got paid on what orders they could generate so there was very little risk for us. We were able to get college students and people who were just enthusiastic and energetic about a new Apple product. So they went out and they evangelized our product before we even had any product. We made basically two cases at that point. And that just snowballed, really. I think we spent about $500 on marketing and that’s it.

What Free ‘Attraction Strategy’ Content or Technology Can You Create?

This strategy is all about creating high quality tools, resources and content that has independent value that gets people to visit your site and nudges them to buy your products in an under the radar way.

In other words, giving something away for free and selling something related. 

Moz is a great example of a company who uses free tools as a way to attract people to their site and get exposure for their paid, premium SEO tools.

To use a previous example, AirBnB has done a great job of this with content by creating really compelling neighborhood guides in order to try and connect with people who are still in the research phase of their travel planning and maybe haven't decided where they are going to stay yet.

When it comes to ecommerce, Luxy Hair has marketed their hair extension products by creating high value video tutorials that offer hair styling tips. Their YouTube channel has amassed over one million subscribers and over 150 million total views.

What kind of resources can you create for your audience to attract people to your website and grow your business? 

Connecting the Dots

When it comes down to it, applying a growth hacking mindset to your ecommerce store is all about being scrappy and creative. Start with your existing data, see what's working and what's not and try and figure out clever ways you can 'hack' growth.

And if you have any ideas or suggestions, or have already tried some of these strategies, please share in the comments.  


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