Ecommerce Trends

Which Social Media Platforms Drive the Most Sales? [Infographic]

Business owners often wonder about the "ROI of social media". Is my Facebook page actually driving sales? Is…


Business owners often wonder about the "ROI of social media". Is my Facebook page actually driving sales? Is all this tweeting really doing anything for my bottom line? Should I be on Pinterest and Instagram?

Well it turns out, when it comes to ecommerce, being social matters.

To better understand how social media is impacting the ecommerce industry, we analyzed data from 37 million social media visits that led to 529,000 orders.

Here's some interesting data points we uncovered:

  • Facebook dominates as a source of social traffic and sales. Nearly two thirds of all social media visits to Shopify stores come from Facebook. Plus, an average of 85% of all orders from social media come from Facebook.
  • Orders from Reddit increased 152% in 2013.
  • Perhaps most interesting and surprising was community style site Polyvore which is generating the highest average order value ahead of Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Also noteworthly in this category is Instagram which is also generating higher average orders than those same sites. This is especially impressive considering the only clickable links in Instagram are those in profile bio's.
  • Facebook has the highest conversion rate for all social media ecommerce traffic at 1.85%

In addition to these stats, we've also analyzed specific industries to determine which platforms are performing well for them. You can check out all of our findings in the infographic below. Please click on the image to view it in full-screen. 

About the Author: Mark Macdonald is the Content Manager at Shopify. Get more from Mark on Twitter.

What the Marketplace Fairness Act Means for Ecommerce Merchants

You might have already heard about the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), also known as the “Internet Sales Tax.”…


You might have already heard about the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), also known as the “Internet Sales Tax.” It’s a bill that recently passed the United States Senate and will soon be before the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed through the House, the MFA would require ecommerce retailers selling over $1 million per year in states they do not have a physical presence to collect sales tax and pay taxes to each customer’s state and local government. Here’s what you need to know:

What is the Marketplace Fairness Act?

Right now, when a customer purchases something online and the retailer does not have a physical presence in the customer’s state, the merchant does not have to charge sales tax on the transaction. It’s up to the consumer to pay sales tax on all goods purchased online directly to their government at the end of the year. This is something that very few people do. 

Since most physical retail locations in the U.S. collect sales tax on everything they sell, this effectively makes products purchased at brick-and-mortar stores more expensive than products purchased online. The lack of “Internet Sales Tax” costs state governments an estimated $11 billion in lost tax revenue, and some say gives online retailers an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar stores.

The Marketplace Fairness Act was designed to help brick-and-mortar retailers compete with ecommerce stores (hence the name, ‘fairness act’), and of course boost revenues for state and local governments.

Response to the Marketplace Fairness Act

On May 6th, the United States Senate passed the MFA with overwhelming support. The vote was 69-27, which was more than enough to send the Marketplace Fairness Act to the House for final passage. Many U.S. states support the MFA because it will result in increased tax revenue, and brick-and-mortar stores support the Act as a way to level the playing field with ecommerce stores.

Not surprisingly, the MFA is unpopular with most consumers and online retailers. Regardless of its intent, the MFA will likely make shopping online more expensive. 61% of respondents to a recent study said that they disagreed with the MFA. 60% said they would change their online shopping habits if passed, 44% of which claim they would buy online less often.

Here are more key findings:

Implications of the MFA for Online Retailers

First and foremost it’s important to remember that the MFA is still in the early stages and may never become law. Furthermore, as drafted the MFA exempts ecommerce businesses with revenue less than $1 million per year. Many online merchants simply won’t be affected and need not worry, but other ecommerce businesses will need to take note.

Here are some other things to consider:

  1. Traditional retailers (brick-and-mortar stores) only collect taxes where their stores are located. This process is fairly straightforward since there are only a few different tax rates to deal with. If the MFA is made into law, online stores would be forced to collect sales tax based on where their customers are located, which could potentially mean dealing with more than 9,600 different tax-collecting jurisdictions, if including state and local governments. Since each government has their own unique rates and rules, this will be a logistical nightmare. Example: In one city a chocolate bar may be considered a taxable good but in another jurisdiction it could be classified as food and not subject to sales tax. Also, there are many different city tax laws, like clothing and footwear under $110 is tax free in New York City, but if it's over $110 there is a 4.5% city sales tax and a 4% state sales tax.
  2. The MFA claims to have no effect on nexus. The bill is not intended to be an extension nexus — or connection — to a particular state. This clause is important since without it, states might seek to extend further jurisdiction over online business. Imagine being required to get a business license in every city in the United States.
  3. The MFA is not mandatory for states —each state will have the opportunity to become a member of the "Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement," but no state will be required to do so. But as mentioned above, since becoming a member will likely result in increased tax revenue, it’s unlikely that many states would choose not to participate.
  4. The MFA requires states must simplify tax collection — states must participate in a new tax program, mentioned above as the “Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement,” aimed at making tax collection easier. This clause was added when online sellers pointed out that there was nothing fair about a brick-and-mortar store collecting taxes in one or two jurisdictions while online sellers would have to collect them for many.
  5. The MFA requires states to offer free tax collection software — the bill also requires each state to provide any and every online retailer with free software meant to calculate and collect taxes. It isn’t clear how this software would work with ecommerce platforms or whether it would involve manual entry.

What’s Next?

Although the MFA passed the United States Senate with ease, the Act is less popular in the U.S. House — where it faces its next vote — so its fate is in the hands of the Republican-controlled House which is traditionally against new forms of taxation. There is no hearing or vote date set for the bill to be seen in the U.S. House. If the Marketplace Fairness Act does pass the House, it will move onto the desk of U.S. President who has already declared support. 

Share Your Opinion

We have a poll on our Facebook page. VOTE here and let us know what you think of MFA. 

The Rise of Mobile Commerce

Mobile commerce is huge, and it's only getting bigger. With the holiday shopping season just around the corner,…


Mobile commerce is huge, and it's only getting bigger. With the holiday shopping season just around the corner, there has never been a more important time to understand the significance of mcommerce within the online retail world. We analyzed mobile data from over 35,000 Shopify stores and found some really interesting trends. 

This Christmas, 1 in 4 purchases will be made on a mobile device. We estimate that next Christmas, 43% of all purchases will be made on a smartphone or tablet. 

Tablets have the highest average order value of $47 per order, which is 12% higher than Smartphones at $39 per order. Almost everyone making purchases from their tablet is using an iPad. Android tablets account for only 5% of sales via tablets. 

The number of mobile orders in America has skyrocketed this year, and the steepest growth is coming from unlikely States. For example, Wyoming has the highest mcommerce growth of 1,280%, followed by North Dakota, Arkansas, South Caroline, and Louisina. 

Check out all of our findings in the infographic below. Please click on the image to view it in full-screen.

How Pinterest Drives Ecommerce Sales

Pinterest is now the 3rd most popular social network site in the world, and ecommerce stores can leverage…


Pinterest is now the 3rd most popular social network site in the world, and ecommerce stores can leverage its popularity to significantly increase traffic and sales. 

To better understand how Pinterest is effecting the ecommerce industry, we analyzed data from over 25,000 Shopify online stores. Interestingly, referral traffic from Pinterest to Shopify stores is equal to traffic coming from Twitter. Of that traffic, shoppers are 10% more likely to make a purchase compared to those who arrive from other social sites. Furthermore, of those purchases, the average order is $80 which is double the average order from Facebook. Pinterest has already become a huge player in the world of ecommerce.  

Check out all of our findings in the infographic below. Please click on the image to view it in full-screen. 

How Pinterest Drives Ecommerce Sales

To get your ecommerce store up and running on Pinterest, check out our Ultimate Pinterest Ecommerce Guide. Also check out our Pinterest account

Shopify's most popular online stores on Pinterest are: Esther, Asuyeta, & Emmy Lu

Facebook Timeline Cover Image Optimization Tips

  With Timeline pages, viewers spend more time looking at the cover image than they do looking at…


With Timeline pages, viewers spend more time looking at the cover image than they do looking at content.

Facebook Timeline presents a number of new challenges and opportunities for online store owners. Not only are profiles reconfigured in layout and appearance, but the manner in which information is revealed to viewers has changed as well. One of the most noticeable differences to Facebook is its focus on visuals. To capitalize on this overhaul, here are three things every ecommerce store owner should keep in mind: 

1. Pick The Right Timeline Cover Image

The banner image that greets people is called a "cover image" or "cover photo" and is particularly important. It's larger than anything else on your page, and it's the first thing people will notice. In fact, a recent eye-tracking study conducted by EyeTrackShop, found participants spent less time looking at Wall posts and ads and more time looking at the cover photo. "The new Facebook Timeline limits the effective branding space, and the top portion of the page must be effectively utilized," suggests the study's authors. 

The study also found that in every case viewers looked at either the left, or the right column of content last - after your logo, navigation buttons, and ads. 

The cover image is the most prominent visual element on your Facebook  page, so you should invest an appropriate amount of time and resources into making it awesome. Check out what Shopify store Nyåks has done with their cover image: 

Nyåks didn't just repurpose an image from their website; they used a professional photographer to take a picture specifically for their cover image, and the result is gorgeous. The picture reflects their brand perfectly - it's bright and colorful, clean, modern, and they have their company logo strategically placed. 

2. Play By The Rules

Facebook has a whole bunch of restrictions on what you can and cannot display on your cover image and profile picture. The following is a list of elements that breach Facebook's guidelines and can get your account suspended:

  • Pricing or purchase information: Your image can’t say “40% off” or “Download it at our website.”
  • Contact information: You’re not allowed to display your email, telephone number, URL, or any other contact information. 
  • References to User Interface: You can't display anything that references “Like” or “Share” or any other Facebook site features. 
  • Calls to Action: You can’t write “buy now” or “try our free trial” or anything that directly tells people to do something.
  • Other: Cover images may not be false, deceptive, or misleading.

Just because you can't display blatant calls to action or advertising material, doesn't mean you can't instantly tell a visitor what you you're all about. Take a look at what Shopify store Factory 43 has done with their cover image:

Factory 43 is a Seattle based manufacturer of quality graphic goods. Can you guess what they sell just by looking at their cover image? You got it - posters, letterpress, and shirts. They quickly convey what their online store is all about without breaking any of the rules. 

3. Integrate Your Profile and Cover Pictures

You've probably seen some of the super creative Facebook Timeline pages that integrate both their profile picture and their cover picture. One of my favorites is by Jerome Vadon, who obviously took a lot of time and effort to conceive the idea and get everything to line up properly. If you plan on integrating both your profile and cover pictures, it's important you get your resolution and sizing spot on. I've found that your profile picture should be 120 x 120 pixels, and your cover image should be 851 x 315. 

If you plan on using photographs, it's important you get the lighting the same in both pictures. Also, since most cameras don't take pictures that will fit properly, you can use Aviary's free cropping tool designed specifically for Facebook Timeline cover images. 

Check out what Shopify store Bubble Soap Factory did with their Facebook Timeline page:

Bubble Soap Factory took the main picture used in their online store and did some fancy cropping work, then put their logo on their profile picture. The result is a brand page that perfectly reflects their company's look and feel in a professional way. Also, take a look at our Timeline page - we've subtlety integrated both our profile and cover images:

When we were coming up with ideas for our cover image we knew we wanted to display a bunch of our merchants products, but we also needed to incorporate our company logo so visitors knew that it was our page quickly. This is the design we ended up with - it clearly shows our Shopify logo while also showing various products sold by Shopify stores. 

To see what other Shopify stores have done with their Facebook Timeline pictures - take a look here

If you have any design tips for Facebook Timeline, let us know in the comments!

Google's Algorithm Update to Benefit Small Businesses

Last week, Google announced another update to their search algorithm that will penalize what they call “webspam," and…


Last week, Google announced another update to their search algorithm that will penalize what they call “webspam," and reward high-quality sites that haven't went overboard with search engine optimization. The update is called Penguin, which some SEO practitioners are calling the “over-optimization penalty” has been expected for more than a month, since one of Google's top dogs Matt Cutts made comments about leveling the search results playing field at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in March. 

Cutts, who was taking questions as part of a panel titled, “Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better,” responded to concerns that some markets had been saturated with optimized content that provided poor quality search results and made it difficult for small or mid-sized businesses to compete with larger company with army of optimizers - often a difficulty faced among ecommerce store owners.

Here is part of his response: 

“The idea is basically to try and level the playing ground a little bit so all of those people who have sort of been doing — for lack of a better word — over optimization or overly doing their SEO compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site — we want to sort of make that playing field a little more level. And so that’s the sort of thing where we try to make the Googlebot smarter." 

"We try to make our relevance more adaptive so that people don’t do SEO, we handle that and then we also start to look at the people who sort of abuse it, whether they put too many keywords on the page or whether they exchange way too many links or whatever they’re doing to sort of go beyond what a person would expect in a particular area and so that is something where we continue to pay attention and continue to work on it and it is an active area where we’ve got several engineers on my team working on that right now.”

If this new algorithm change, which Cutts officially announced on Google's Webmaster Central Blog last week, does, in fact, do what Cutts promised at SXSW, it could prove to be great news for small and mid-sized ecommerce merchants. As with all things related to the Google search algorithm, the particulars of this change are secret, but its safe to say Google will be focusing on penalizing sites that violate their quality guidelines

The following SEO practices are considered 'black-hat' optimization and will likely take the brunt of the new algorithms wrath: 

  • Hidden text and hidden links.
  • Cloaking or sneaky redirects.
  • Sending automated queries to Google.
  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords.
  • Multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with duplicate content.

It's safe to assume most Shopify stores aren't practicing black-hat optimization, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take note of this new algorithm change which is said to affect 3.1% of English language queries to a degree that a regular user might notice.

Cutts insists that Google is increasingly rewarding high-quality sites, so this change gives you a good excuse to go over your website and ensure you're properly optimized. A couple months ago I wrote an article entitled 10 Crucial SEO Tips for Ecommerce Entrepreneurs, which gives ten easy to implement strategies specifically written for online store owners. You should also check out Google's Webmaster Guidelines, a fairly comprehensive guide on how to help Google find, crawl, and index your site. 

When all is said and done, Google makes hundreds of algorithm changes every year, so you shouldn't expect anything drastic to come from this specific update; however, it's nice to hear that Google's top dogs are actively making changes to benefit small businesses who produce good quality content and don't have the funds to hire expensive SEO optimizers! 

The Shark Tank Effect: Traffic & Sales Results

In the past couple weeks, two Shopify online stores have been featured on ABC's hit show Shark Tank. Last friday,…

In the past couple weeks, two Shopify online stores have been featured on ABC's hit show Shark Tank. Last friday, an impressive 5.7 millions viewers tuned in to watch entrepreneurs pitch their businesses for a shot at an investment from business moguls: Daymond John, Mark Cuban, Kevin O'Leary, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Herjavec. 

Rachael Mann and Mackenzie Burdick are two sisters who entered the tank pitching their body jewellery business Litter. They asked for $80,000 in exchange for 51% of their company:

So what happened right after the episode aired? We asked Rachael and Mackenzie what the "Shark Tank Effect" was, and they were kind enough to let us share with you the traffic and sales details. 

After the show aired Friday night at 8pm EST, over 250,000 visitors flocked to their Shopify store That weekend, Litter had their most successful weekend ever, selling over $25,000 in 72 hours. After a successful investment, Rachael and Mackenzie have worked with their new business partners Daymond John and Mark Cuban to grow Litter's sales and distribution across the globe. They've also been contacted by industry leading fashion designers and major publications wanting to cover their designs. 

Just weeks earlier, another Shopify ecommerce store, KissTixx, successfully pitched the Sharks, receiving $200,000 for 40% of the company from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. KissTixx saw traffic increase of 3,000% overnight to their online store that sells playful mix-and-match flavoured lip balm.

Curious how to be featured on Shark Tank? The application process is fairly straight forward. Check out the details here, and fill out this applicant questionnaire.

Helping Invisible Children's KONY 2012 Campaign Through Technology

  Invisible Children's KONY 2012 campaign is the definition of viral. In less than one day, the campaign…


Invisible Children's KONY 2012 campaign is the definition of viral. In less than one day, the campaign has penetrated all corners of the earth. People around the world know the name Joseph Kony after watching the campaign's 30-minute documentary on the horrific circumstances in Uganda. The documentary tells the story of the 30,000 children who have been kidnapped and made into child soldiers by a resistance army in Uganda - Kony is the army's leader.

Invisible Children launched their online store with Shopify yesterday at 3pm three hours after their former ecommerce platform crashed because of a Tweet from Oprah Winfrey. It took Invisible Children 3 hours to setup their online store with Shopify, and in the first 18 hours they have received over 15 million hits. In layman terms - that's a whole lot of shoppers in their online store. To support this cause, Shopify has waived all fees associated with their online store.

Here's the video that everybody should watch:

Invisible Children's online store sells three different t-shirts, bracelets, posters, and a package that comes with it all. 

The insane amount of traffic that invisible Children's website and online store has seen is coming from all directions, including: Oprah Winfrey, Zac Efron, Justin Bieber, P-Diddy, Rihanna, Sophie Bush, Kirsten Bell, and Zooey Deschanel. 

Check out Invisible Children's website, and their online store. You can also follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

The Ultimate Pinterest Guide for Your Online Store

You've probably heard of Pinterest by now. It's a new social networking site that literally everybody is talking about.…

You've probably heard of Pinterest by now. It's a new social networking site that literally everybody is talking about. Pinterest's growth is staggering - the site already has over 1 million members, and it receives almost 12 million unique visitors a month. The whirlwind of excitement that surrounds Pinterest provides online store owners a great opportunity to leverage it's popularity (and overall awesomeness) to bring attention to their online store.

Whether you're already setup on Pinterest or you're a complete newbie, this is a guide that will teach you the basics, and also help the more experienced pinners get the most from this popular social media platform. 

The Basics

What is Pinterest?
Pinterest is a pinboard style social photo sharing website that allows people to share and discover beautiful images, videos, products, and discussions. For an ecommerce store owner, it can help your best products get discovered by other users. 

How to Get a Pinterest Invite
Pinterest is still "by invite only" so you'll have to request an invite to start using the site. This sounds more annoying than it is - most people receive an invitation within a day or so.

How to Get Pinterest Mobile
You can download Pinterest Mobile from the Apple App Store or you can get it from Pinterest's website. The mobile App will allow you to browse pins, repin, like, and comment all from your phone or tablet device.

The Buttons

How to Get a Pinterest "Pin It" Button for your Browser
The "Pin It" button is a button that you install on your web browser's bookmarks bar. Once installed in your browser, the "Pin It" button lets you grab an image from any website and add it to one of your pinboards. Pinterest automatically grabs the source link so the creator of the image gets credit. This is the easiest way to start pinning items and images. To get started, you can add the Pinterest “Pin It” Button from the Pinterest Goodies page to your browser's bookmarks bar. 

How to Get a Pinterest "Follow Button" on your Website
The Pinterest "Follow Button" is similar to the Twitter "Follow" and Facebook "Like" button - it allows other Pinterest users to follow your account. To get the button, just go to the Pinterest Goodies page and select the button you want to embed. Currently that have 4 to choose from. Simply click on your favorite button and it will generate the HTML code that you can cut and paste onto your site. Below is a Pinterest "Follow Button" that links to Shopify's Pinterest account:

Follow Me on Pinterest

The Product Specific "Pin It" Button
This is the most important button for online stores! These pins will allow customers to pin a specific shirt, hat, gadget, or anything that you're selling to their pinboard. To get these buttons on your online store, you have two options:

  1. Shopify store owners can simply add a free app called ShopConnection, and it'll get you setup with Pinterest, Tumblr, and Fancy buttons for your products. If you just want Pinterest that's no problem. This app is absolutely free and is the easiest way to get your store setup with Pinterest buttons. 

  2. If you want the DIY version, here's a step-by-step article on how to get a Pinterest button on your Shopify product pages

Pinterest Gift Tab

Pinterest has a special drop-down menu that allows users to browse a random collection of "gifts" between certain price points. There are currently six different price ranges: $1-20, $20-50, $50-100, $100-200, $200-500, +$500. 

When a Pinterest user clicks on one of the prices it takes them to a screen with various products selling in that price range. To have your products show up on these curated gift pages, you need to make sure you have a price in the description of your post. Pinterest will automatically apply a ribbon that displays the price onto your image. That product will now show up in Pinterest's gift search. Every ecommerce store owner should make full use of this functionality! 

Six Strategies to Leverage Pinterest

1. Don't Just Pin Your Own Products
Pin products and images you find interesting and any cool stuff your customers might like. This will boost your reputation as a tastemaker and not merely someone who spams their followers with their own products. Shopify store HOLSTEE has a great Pinterest account - they currently have 8 different boards, and many of them don't link to anything they sell. Check out their "Appreciate Every Last Bite" pinboard - none of these pins link to a product in their store:

2. Don't Pin Every Item You Sell
You may think you're missing out on a great opportunity to list every product you sell, but you're not. It's better to tease your followers and other Pinterest users by giving them a glimpse of your best few items, and encourage them to visit your store to check out the others.

3. When you Do Link to Products - Do it Tastefully
It's okay to link to products you're selling, but you have to do it right. HOLSTEE's famous "Holstee Manifesto" is in their "Words of Wisdom" pinboard along with other non-commercial interesting material. Check it out below, you'll see their Manifesto at the bottom left:

4. Think Visually with Product Photography
Pinterest is all about gorgeous design so it has a huge emphasis on aesthetics. It's really important that you have beautiful product photography that displays the items you're selling beautifully. If your product photography sucks - nobody is going to click on it. 

5. Create a Re-Pin Board
A re-pin is when you pin someone else's pin on one of your boards. This is an awesome way to make Pinterest friends and engage others. You'll boost your Pinterest follow count and you'll also have a pinboard of great curated content. Shopify store Hopps Limited sells fashionable athletic apparel and accessories. They have a re-pin board on Pinterest that has nothing to do with their own products - but it brings attention to a whole bunch of awesome stuff their customers will undoubtedly enjoy:

6. How to Get Pinterest Followers
Chances are you already have a pretty good following on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ (Maybe). Stream some of your followers to your new Pinterest account by frequently posting Pinterest content to those streams. Remember to keep the focus of your posts on things that are visual appealing. 

Check out Shopify on Pinterest

Shopify Featured on World's Most Innovative Companies List

Today, we're thrilled to announce that Shopify was named one of Fast Company's most innovative companies in the…

Today, we're thrilled to announce that Shopify was named one of Fast Company's most innovative companies in the world! Every year, Fast Company publishes a list of "The World's 50 Most Innovative Companies." We ranked number 9 in the retail category, alongside Amazon, Square, and Patagonia. Here's what they had to say about us: 

Check out the full-list on Fast Company

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