Ross Allchorn is an entrepreneur and specialist in ecommerce and digital marketing. He is the founder of ShopCreatify and the creator of the Shopify Content Delivery Toolkit. In this article, Ross provides a structured approach for collecting and organizing client information before undertaking an ecommerce project.
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The challenge of building an online store
When building an online store for a client, as you may know, there is a lot of information required from them to set things up properly. Text, images, currencies, tax information, product data and more. This can easily devolve into a messy exercise with bits of information being delivered in strange formats over different channels of communication. The problem here is that your project doesn’t kick off as smoothly as it possibly should, which ultimately results in a delayed launch date or a case of things being rushed at the end.
If you find that collecting all the client’s information is a tedious task, you’re not alone. The often piecemeal chore can take far longer than needed. Be it their page content, product content, product images, a first blog post, their legal information or a bunch of other stuff that you could be loading for them you need a plan. You need a structured approach if you want to do it quickly and effectively.
Identifying pain points
In our experience, you can’t rely on your customer to send you everything you need without some seriously solid guidance. Giving them access to their store admin area can also be a bit of an issue. We used to call this “handing over the loaded gun.” For this reason, we prefer to load our customer’s initial content for them, and then hand over control. All within reason though, and it depends on the tech savviness of the client.
Some of the major pain points we were encountering included:
- The time from signup to store launch was simply too long — even for small stores.
- Our customers were struggling with some of the more technical requirements in preparation for their store assets (products, pages etc.).
- It was too easy to miss small things. Some issues were only getting caught in the pre-launch testing phase.
The unstructured approach was just too inefficient for my liking.
Finding a solution
Faced with these issues, we started out by compiling a single document to give to our clients. In this document — called The Content Delivery Guide — we explained everything that we thought we’d need from them. It detailed how they should deliver everything to us. We tried to cover everything: file formats, methods of delivery, file sizes and more. The product CSV file was explained in detail. We even elaborated on Shopify’s existing documentation to make things easier for them.
The content delivery guide is the “master document” that explains everything, including how the supporting documents are to be used. The printable checklist allows your customers to track their own progress.
Was this enough?
Sadly, no, it wasn’t. We were still receiving content in dribs and drabs and in strange formats and sizes. Almost like they didn’t read our lovely document. One of the problems was the fact that not all clients had one designated person to deal with everything to do with their store. In some cases, there was one person dealing with products, another doing page content and blog posts, and perhaps another handling other aspects (fulfillment, legal etc.). To work around this issue, we needed to expand our content delivery guide into a more comprehensive toolkit. So we developed the Shopify Content Delivery Toolkit.
We fine-tooth-combed the entire Shopify system and noted everything that needs to be captured. Every single field that requires a value or setting to be specified.
The form files allow your customers to complete very basic Microsoft Word format questionnaires that have the added benefit of them using a program they are likely familiar with (Word). We fine-tooth-combed the entire Shopify system and noted everything that needs to be captured. Every single field that requires a value or setting to specified. This resulted in a set of documents, some of which are editable in Microsoft Word format, and others that are for reference or printing and therefore in PDF format.
What we ended up with was the following set of documents that make up the current iteration of the toolkit:
- The content delivery guide details every aspect of the toolkit and explains how all supporting documents should be used.
- A printable checklist enables our clients to print out a physical reference sheet of their content delivery status.
- A store information form enables customers to easily complete all required preliminary store information in one place and send this off to us for insertion. This includes all the store details, address, analytics, standards, formats, taxes, payment methods and shipping.
- Legal content samples are all packaged up for the customer to edit and return to us. We make a strong point that we’re not lawyers however, and that legal advice should be sought to complete and/or proofread this document before sending it to us.
- A reusable page content form allows our customers to supply us with all their page content in Word, a format they likely already know.
- An initial blog post form allows the customer to complete and supply us with their first blog post so they can go live with an introductory message in their blog.
- Our radically simplified product spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel) allows our customers to more easily complete their product data in a format we can quickly and easily convert to CSV and import.
The kit now allows us to fire off this set of tools to new customers to fast-track the initial stages of their store development. It by no means covers every facet of building a store, but it serves as a solid foundation. Additional features, apps, theming and functionality can all be layered over this well-formed base.
The CSV file that you or your customers normally complete has been made a lot more self-explanatory with a comprehensive explanation of each field in the guide document. In real-world use, the toolkit has saved us a fair bit of time in collecting information from clients. Does everyone always follow every instruction to the letter? Do you always read the manual when you get a new gadget? I think you can answer that for yourself. That said, it has saved us real time both in explanations of requirements and in preventing us from having to fix or correct things down the line. You can also rest assured that you’ve upheld your side of the bargain in terms of supplying them with as much information and tools to get the right stuff to you on time.
The toolkit saved us real time both in explanations of requirements and in preventing us from having to fix or correct things down the line.
Needless to say, this toolkit will grow, change and evolve over time. For now it gets us the stuff we need to get the project kicked off beautifully from the beginning.We have already gladly taken on some suggestions for additional features like the rolling out of a Google Docs version of the toolkit. This and video explanations of how the toolkit can be best put to use, as well as the possibility of implementing macros and form validation into the documents. For now it is a ready-made onboarding kit that you can white label and roll out almost immediately with your own branding.
Get a copy!
If you’re interested in getting a copy of the toolkit, we’re giving the kit away to the first five commenters of this post that express interest.
If you miss that, you can purchase it for $29 from our site. We’re very interested to know how people are using it, so please do let us know if you do get yourself a copy.
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