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We Interviewed An Ecommerce Marketing Expert About His Top Do's and Don'ts For Building An Online Store. Here’s What We Learned.

As someone who is new to ecommerce marketing, the first episode of our new podcast, ‘The Ecommerce Marketing Show,’ with Kurt Elster was the perfect way to dive in and start learning.

Kurt is a bona fide expert on all things Shopify - he’s the host of ‘The Unofficial Shopify Podcast’ and CEO of Ethercycle, an ecommerce consultancy for Shopify merchants looking to take their strategy to the next level.

And on last week's podcast he shared everything he's learned from over a decade of experience. So I decided to publish my notes, because whether you're a newbie like me or you have as much experience as Kurt, there's something for everyone to learn from this interview. 

If you build it, they won’t come - the audience comes first

You have an amazing product. You spent hours pouring over every detail of your site. It looks exactly the way you imagined. Better, actually. 

There’s just one problem. People aren’t flocking to it. Wanna know why? You spent so much time thinking about everything but building your audience, building demand. 

And that’s the hardest part. That’s why people leave it til the very end. This is mistake #1. 

It’s like anything - when you’re seeing results, you’re motivated. If I post this thing, people will see it, love it, have to have it, and boom. I have a sale. Guess what: for most people that doesn’t happen. Let’s re-read that. It does not happen.

When it feels like you keep posting, tweeting, podcasting, whatever it is, and no one is on the other end, it can be discouraging to keep at it, but that’s the name of the game.

You know that saying, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have?” Act like you have that audience, that following you wish you had. You won’t see results overnight, but if you keep at it day in and day out and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, eventually you’ll start to make progress.

Pick a channel YOU love and your audience will feel it

If you absolutely hate writing, blogging probably isn’t the right strategy for you. You’re constantly going to dread putting your thoughts down on paper, so you’ll put it off. And because you’re not putting enough content out there, you won’t see results, making you resent it even more. I’m doing this thing I despise and on top of that, I’m getting nothing out of it? 

It’s a recipe for disaster. You’re setting yourself up for failure from the very beginning. It’s ok to drop something that’s not right for you. You don’t have to master every channel. You have to find the channels that are sustainable for you. It can’t always feel like a chore. 

Remember why you’re passionate about your product. You built a business around it, right? You have to find the medium that allows you to share that passion with the people around you. And you know what? When you find it, you’ll feel it. And when you do, you’ll want to double down and commit to it.

Be real and remind your customers you’re a human too

At the end of the day, life is about building connections. Think about how you make friends. How you create positive working relationships with the people on your team. 

You act like you, like a human. You share what you did over the weekend, funny things you saw on your way to work.

An easy way to start building a relationship is to stop only sharing your wins. Your customers can’t relate. They’re not perfect. They have hard days. They’re trying to get better. Show them you’re doing the same, show them you’re human and that there’s a face behind the brand. 

Who do you relate to more? Someone who only shares how awesome they are, or the person who is real with you? The person sharing the good and the bad? 

Easy answer, right?

You connect with people you have things in common with. Remember that. Treat your business that way, too. Your customers are human, remind them often that you are too.

Share your story. At the end of the day, people LOVE a good story. And they want to buy from people they like. By sharing your story, you’re working in public and helping people understand who you are and why they need what you’re selling.

One thing to keep in mind, though. Your entire feed can’t be about you. It can’t all be self-promotion. Remember to treat it like any other relationship - you have to give (AKA show them value) before you can expect to get anything in return. No one likes a one-sided relationship. 

Find your niche - it’s not going to hold you back (I promise)

You can’t be everything to everyone. What are people going to remember you for? How are they going to tell their friends about you? 

Kind of like those restaurants that serve everything under the sun. ‘Ok, so let me get this straight. You have tacos and sushi?’ I’m sorry, but you CAN’T be known for both of those things. Which is your specialty? I definitely don’t want to be getting sushi at a place that’s known for tacos. By pretending to be good at everything, you’re losing just about everyone, including would-be customers who are squarely in your wheelhouse. 

The way you position yourself helps focus your marketing strategy and find those people who would really benefit from your product. When they come across your site, how are you making it clear that you offer something they need? If they can’t figure it out quickly, you’ll lose them. 

A lot of people struggle with this. They think casting a wider net will help them in the long run. “Why should I be narrowing the focus when there are so many people out there I could appeal to? I’m leaving money on the table every day.” Actually, you’re leaving money on the table when you’re not focused enough.

By not being clear about the value you can add, you’re not giving people the opportunity to vet you. They don’t know who to compare you with or where you sit in the market, so they forget about you. People aren’t going to take the time to figure it out, you have to spoon feed it to them. 

Here’s an example of a powerful positioning statement: “Kurt Elster helps Shopify store owners uncover hidden profits in their stores. Unlike other Shopify experts, he’s solely focused on return on investment.”

You know who the target market is (Shopify store owners), what the benefit of working with Kurt is (you’ll uncover hidden profits in your store) AND you get the competitive advantage (other experts out there aren’t focusing on ROI like he is). Powerful, right?

If you don’t have a Shopify store, you know working with him won’t be a fit and you didn’t have to go looking for that information - he tells it to you straight up. When you think Shopify expert, you think Kurt and you’ll go to him if you ever need someone to help you figure out where your biggest opportunities are.

Don’t think of positioning as losing out. You have to reframe it as finding those people whose needs overlap most closely with your offering. When you start thinking of it with that mindset, you’re on your way to finding your most qualified leads and landing that next sale. 

Let’s get tactical: The do’s and don’ts you need to be thinking about


Do: Switch up your creative - ideally every 2 weeks

What separates the good from the mediocre when it comes to Facebook and Instagram ads? The creative. The people crushing it in this area are coming out with new visuals and headlines regularly. They’re constantly experimenting and it’s paying off.

Ok, but how often should I be changing the creative? Once a week? Every few days? Kurt recommends changing things up twice a month. In the grand scheme of things, not a crazy lift. Especially considering all the resources at your disposal. Canva is the ultimate design for dummies tool and there are so many options available for stock photos, video, you get the idea. Don’t let a lack of design skills be the barrier here.

Don’t: Be scared of Google Shopping

Largely, this is an untapped opportunity. And that’s probably because it’s a beast to get set up, but relatively low maintenance once you’ve got it up and running. 

It’s less expensive than Facebook or Instagram ads and you’re getting highly qualified traffic and the ability to easily do display remarketing with Google.


Do: Find the right cadence - weekly is better than monthly

With email there’s always the fear that you’re annoying people, and the truth is, they’re barely paying attention to you. If you get in a rhythm of emailing your contacts every week, they start expecting it and they get used to seeing your name in their inbox, whereas if you’re emailing monthly, the chances that your contacts forget about you and mark you as spam are actually higher - something to consider. 

Just because they’re expecting it are they guaranteed to open it? Of course not, but generally this cadence isn’t doing any harm. Just keep an eye on it - if your unsubscribe rate jumps significantly, scale it back a bit. Always let the numbers dictate the next move. Remember to use it as another opportunity to be yourself and tell your story.

Don’t: Strictly send HTML

Mix some plain text in there, too. It can be really effective, especially when it’s coming from a person rather than a brand (ie Kelly from [company name]) . Don’t box yourself in and be willing to switch things up from time to time. 

Especially if you’re going to start sending out more emails. The more data you have, the better informed you’ll be as you make future decisions.


Do: Take your learnings from email and apply them to text

The pool of people who are opting in understand what they’re agreeing to and they’re usually the most-engaged segment of your audience, so use it to continue building the relationship. The flows working in your email campaigns will likely work well through text, too.

Where you can really see results with SMS is when you create urgency - think flash sales, limited edition lines, that type of stuff. Just don’t be scared of it. Figure out what’s working well in email, try to apply it to SMS and go from there. 

But don’t fall into the trap of making it a flash sale feed. You’re still trying to form that relationship with your customers and you can use SMS as a channel that allows for a 1:1 interaction if people respond. 

Don’t: Ignore compliance - it can be costly

This seems obvious, but make sure you’re doing your homework. You need to get consent - and it can’t be buried deep in some document, people have to know what they’re signing up for. It’s worth noting that this also applies to imported contacts, so make sure you’re absolutely sure the contacts you’re including in your outreach have opted in.

It’s also important that people know what they’re signing up for. Will they be receiving order information like shipping and delivery updates? Special offers? Reminders? How often should they expect messages from you in a given week or month? When it comes to nailing SMS compliance, transparency is critical. It’s not hard, you just have to follow the rules.

Pop Ups

Do: Include a free gift with purchase offering - your customers will go nuts

A welcome pop up (triggered on scroll seems to work really well) is a great place to include a free gift with purchase. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, something small is totally fine. That’s because consumers are more drawn to free products than discounts

Think about the free samples at Costco - there’s a science behind it, which is why you should consider leading with it. Try different offers and figure out what really sticks. Use the psychology behind it to your advantage.

Don’t: Let them leave without a reminder

This could just be a standard discount code. Something along the lines of, ‘But wait! Before you go, here’s a 15% off code for your first purchase.’ Anything that makes the person think twice before leaving. Once you have their email, you’re on your way to building that relationship with the customer. Don’t take advantage of that. Be human, tell your story, and be willing to iterate along the way. Don’t be afraid to pivot.

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Written by Lauren Hall

Lauren is a Brand Marketing Associate at Privy. She's the brains behind all things content. When she's offline, she's obsessing over her Bernedoodle pup, Monster, and plotting ways to being a full-time Vermonter ASAP.

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