By Tom Sailors | Tom and Tracy have been Shopify Partners since 2010
Since early 2009, Tracy and I have been working exclusively on Shopify. We operate our own stores on Shopify, have worked with close to 300 Shopify store owners, and have built and sold 3 e-commerce stores on Shopify. We were one of the first Shopify Experts, and today manage our own stores and clients from our home office outside Omaha, Nebraska.
In late 2008, Tracy and I owned a small web development company that we had been running for the previous 7 years. Our specialty was creating animated "Flash games" using Adobe Flash, and we had built up a loyal client base in Omaha and throughout the United States.
Unfortunately for us, at the time Apple products started gaining popularity and the devices did not support the Adobe Flash Player which was required for our games to play on the iPad, iPhone, etc. Subsequently, our clients gradually began moving away from the Adobe Flash projects, resulting in decreased revenue for us, and eventually left us contemplating a direction to take our small company.
The Decision to Start an e-Commerce Site….
In 2009, we learned that we were expecting our first baby. A few months into her pregnancy, Tracy received a gift from a friend - a baby hat. This unique gift lead to a search for more baby hats in preparing for newborn photos.
A Google search for "baby hats" found just a few stores that were selling them exclusively. This led to an aha moment: we were looking for a fresh focus for our small company and found a fun niche that appeared to be unsaturated.
In retrospect, it's funny to think that this was the extent of our research, but that was really it. So from that point on we were full speed ahead in creating our "baby hat store" with the wishful thinking that "if other stores existed, they must be making some sales", so we would give it a try and see if we can build an e-commerce business.
Months after comparing different available options, we approached our team with the idea of creating our first e-commerce store. This was a daunting suggestion at the time, as none of us had experience in e-commerce, payment gateways, SSL's, SEO or most of the other terms involved in operating an e-commerce site.
It was a mere Google search that led us to Shopify. At that time, there were plenty of platforms available for building an e-commerce site. But we were drawn to Shopify because it made the seemingly complex and costly tasks of building an e-commerce store very simple. The two most intimidating for us were "How do we build a website that is secure?" and "How do we take credit card payments online?" As it turned out, these were two of the easiest questions to answer when we discovered Shopify.
So, thanks to Shopify, our first store was born. We named the shop Melondipity.com (originally named "Baby Melons" and rebranded shortly after launch).
Getting Started with Melondipity.com on Shopify
Back then it was still easy enough to launch an e-commerce store on Shopify, but to customize the store required a more in-depth knowledge of the Shopify's language, called Liquid. Tracy and another member of our design team first designed the store and then Tracy integrated the design into Shopify using Liquid. This forced Tracy to learn the language very quickly, but by the end of the project she had the confidence to program on Shopify moving forward.
Eventually, this led to Tracy being selected as one of the first Shopify Experts. Long story short, we ended up launching Melondipity.com in early 2009 and invested two years in operating it. In August 2011, we sold the Shopify store to a couple in Florida, and they continue to do very well running the store on Shopify.
Five Reasons to Use Shopify:
These are as true today as they were 5-6 years ago when we built our first store on Shopify:
1. Simplified way to create, build and operate a successful store: In the past 5-6 years, we've worked with close to 300 Shopify stores owners. Our clients rarely call us with questions on the day-to-day operating of their online stores. It's simple to manage orders, ship orders, fulfill orders, process refunds, etc. Our clients tell us they feel in control of their own stores. They also comment on the stability; we have worked with multiple clients that have appeared on the television show Shark Tank. As you would assume, these stores were bombarded with traffic when their show aired, but in each case we experienced zero issues with the uptime of the stores.
2. Store Optimization for Increasing Sales: In October '14, Shopify released a responsive checkout. This was a free upgrade for store owners, and the change came from thousands of hours of usability research and millions of dollars in real transactions. By being on the Shopify platform, we benefited from this research by way of simply being on the platform, as this change was based on real data and has led to real results for our stores and clients.
On this particular upgrade, our team measured our abandoned carts before and after the upgrade, and since making the change have seen a significant decrease in abandoned carts, less customer service emails (e.g. where do I enter the discount code?) and a slight bump in conversion rate, resulting in increased revenue. It's these types of global changes that Shopify continues to test and implement that benefit all store owners on Shopify.
3. The App Store: We use a number of apps from the Shopify App Store, both in our own stores and for the clients with which we work. Some apps help automate our business, while others just make things easier for us, but my favorite part of the app store is the incredible marketing potential and creativity behind many of the apps.
Boosting sales is sometimes as easy as installing one of the numerous marketing apps available in the app store. One practical example: We installed the rare.io app from the app store in November '14 (about 4 months ago as of this posting) which has resulted in additional, trackable sales of $6407.63 (screenshot). That's ~$1600/month in additional revenue, and we pay $39/month for the app.
4. Built-in Search Engine Optimization: It took us less than 3 months to rank #1 on Google for "baby hats" in 2009. Since one of my responsibilities was to handle the SEO and online marketing for Melondipity.com, I'd like to take full credit, but the truth is that our store was optimized better than our competitors from day one since it was built on Shopify. The same holds true today. Tracy and I launched a new Shopify store in September '14, and within two months we ranked #1 for a competitive key phrase. This key ranking helped launch our business to nearly 400K in revenue in our first 6 months in business.
5. Outstanding Support Team (Shopify Gurus): Shopify has assembled the friendliest, most knowledgeable and efficient support team we've experienced. Tracy and I have depended on them almost daily over the past 5-6 years to help address questions for own stores, as well as questions on behalf of our clients. The Shopify Gurus are helpful, thorough and patient without exception. They can be contacted via phone, email or live chat.
Our Future on Shopify
Tracy and I plan to continue to work with our clients via Shopify Experts, as well as continue to create and operate our own stores on Shopify. If you have any questions for us, please always feel free to email us at email@example.com.