Episode 1 - Why Shopify

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Hello business owners. I'm your host Scott Austin. In this episode, I'm going to cover two topics. The first topic is an explanation of what this podcast, the Shopify Solutions podcast is all about since this is our first episode and the second is an overview of my recommendation for the Shopify platform. Here we go.

This is the very first episode of the Shopify Solutions podcast and something I've been thinking about doing for a while and I'm really happy that I'm finally digging into it. I've been thinking about it and now I'm taking that thought and putting it into action. So first of all, who am I? As I mentioned before, my name is Scott Austin. I own an eCommerce agency. The company's name is JadePuma. We're located in San Diego and I've been working with Shopify since 2013 and I've been doing ecommerce for decades. I actually worked at Microsoft for a while and worked on their shopping platform, MSN Shopping. I worked on the Xbox games marketplace. So I've been doing this stuff for a little bit of time. And today my agency is focused 100% on Shopify. So this podcast, I'm designing it for business owners, people that are already online or thinking about getting their business online. And the premise of the podcast is that I work with a multitude of businesses. I see different stores that are trying to do different types of things with Shopify and other ecommerce tools. So every day I get to see what works and what doesn't work. And part of my job in servicing my clients is to come up with innovative solutions to meet their business needs. Because as you guys already all know, there's not the perfect tool out there for most of the things that you want to do. There's lots of tools that exist, but you've got to figure out which ones are best for your business and then figure out how to integrate them into your current business processes.

So I've got a lot of knowledge and experience to share. And I want to help businesses grow using that collective knowledge that I've gained from all the different clients that I work with. So the way that the podcast is going to work is I want you the listener to be able to walk away from an episode with actionable knowledge, not just a thought or an idea that, hey, this thing would be good, but actual concrete, tactical next steps that you can take and do something with an implement in your business if it's right for you. So we're going to get into the nitty-gritty of how to implement certain solutions. And we're going to talk about different types of, you know, coding mutations or hacks or, you know, how you set things up kind of stuff and get into some details and highlight the things to look out for or the gotchas. So in other words, we're going to introduce a concept and then give you a road-map to follow for that concept. And one example is in the future, we're going to have an episode on Google analytics. And in that episode, I'm going tell you why I believe every store should be using Google analytics. But then I'll go to the next step and give you some details on here's the types of dashboard templates that you should be setting up. Here's the type of metrics that you should be measuring, and I'll even give you templates so you can easily implement them into your Google analytics. In this podcast, I'm going to tell you the good stuff and the bad stuff. Nothing is perfect. Nothing works out of the box. You know, if it did, we'd all be happy. But you know, in this world things are a little bit more difficult than the wrapper shows. So for example, if I recommend a product, I'm going to tell you why I recommend, but I'm also going to tell you the negatives about the product. Along those lines, as I bring on guests, I won't bring on representatives from a company trying to sell a product or a service because in that situation, you only hear the positive marketing speak from that company representative. Instead, I'll bring on a passionate customer who is endorsing that product. So you'll hear how that product has a positive impact on their business. And you'll also hear the details of what they had to do, what hacks workarounds, gotchas they came across so that you can bring all of that knowledge together and be much more informed when you make a decision of whether you want to do that for your business. So my summary of what the Shopify solutions podcast is about is that it's a concrete advice for store owners to build and grow their online businesses. Thanks for joining me.

So now let's shift gears and talk about why I recommend Shopify and why I focused on Shopify only with my eCommerce agency. In my opinion, Shopify is the no brainer platform for hosting your own store for any small or medium-size business. And for this, you know, discussion, let's just say that small to medium means you're making $10 million a year or less. So if your store's brand new and all up to 10 million a year, I think it's a no brainer that you should be on Shopify. There are other eCommerce choices out there for businesses of this size. There's plenty of them, but to me Shopify is currently head and shoulders above the competition. It's not like, you know, this solution is good for this type of scenario in those kinds of things. It's Shopify is, is so far ahead of the competition right now that it's an easy choice to make and here at five of the top reasons in no particular order, why I recommend Shopify.

First reason is it is easy to use. I've helped businesses migrated to Shopify from just about every other platform out there and without a doubt every single one of them were amazed at how much easier things were to do in their Shopify store than they were in their previous platform. You know, things like adding products was easier or fulfilling their products and doing shipping. Everything was just so much easier. You know, Shopify buys admin is really customer focused. It is really intuitive and it's easy for people to do things within it.

The second reason is the Shopify ecosystem. Shopify has a growing number of stores that are on its platform. I think the latest numbers I've seen are 800,000 stores on Shopify. And that number just keeps growing every time they come out with new data and means that you are not alone and you can find help and solutions for just about anything that your store may need in the first place that we see that happen is an apps. Shopify has built a rich ecosystem of apps. There are many things that your store and your business may need now are going to need in the future that are beyond the scope of what Shopify does provide with their platform. You know, an example of that might be email, but there's an app that you can add your store for just about anything that Shopify doesn't do itself. And this means that your store could have much more capability than what is provided by the Shopify platform alone. And because Shopify so down in the space just about every service that you may already be using today and want to integrate with your store, they probably already have an app built that you can use. For example, there are apps connect your store to QuickBooks today if you're using QuickBooks for your accounting, there's a number of jobs for providers are print on demand companies or email tools and they all have apps already that integrate with Shopify, so it's pretty easy to integrate whatever solutions you're using your business, different business tools into the platform today.

The next thing that's really good about the ecosystem is the number of professionals that are out there focused on Shopify. You know, there's a vast army professional services businesses that you can find to help you grow your business. Whether it's for things like site design or paid advertising or copy-writing or SEO. There are plenty agencies just like mine that are here to help, so you're not alone, if you exceed your knowledge base of what you're doing with your store, you can find somebody to help you.

And the last part of the ecosystem that's really helpful is just the amount of advice and documentation that exists for you because there's so many stores on Shopify today and so many businesses supporting Shopify stores. There's plenty of documentation that you can learn from and some of that, you know, documentation comes from Shopify itself with its forums, training courses and basic documentation. But there's also a lot of it is driven by the community. There's YouTube videos, there's blogs, there's podcasts, there's Facebook groups. There's plenty more that you can learn from. So a quick web search, if you're stuck on something, if you just say, Shopify, how do I do this? You'd be amazed at how many answers you'll find that are applicable to what you're looking for. So it's really easy to find advice and information and build your knowledge base on how to leverage this platform for your business.

The third reason is that Shopify is relatively cheap to get started. You know, the business model is designed to scale with the size of your business. As your business grows, you know, you're gonna pay Shopify more fees, but the basic fee to get started in it is $29 a month, and that's a pretty low amount of money. So Shopify really has a low entry point for you to get started using that platform.

Number four that I like about Shopify platform is its product development. I've been using Shopify for my clients for quite a few years now and I'm amazed at the amount of improvement that Shopify has done in that period of time. And it seems like every week or two there's a new feature that the rolling out on the platform that is really useful. So the platform today is much better than it was two years ago. And at their current pace of innovation two years from now, it's going to be even better than that. So I'm impressed at the rate of product improvement that Shopify is delivering.

And the last thing that I'm going to talk about as the positive benefits of Shopify is that there's a lot of technical best practices that are built in, you know, it's a hosted solution so that you don't have to take care of any software updates and patches. Shopify is doing all that for you so you don't have to worry about those things. And then things like performance, responsiveness, which is how your store behaves on a desktop and then adjust when it's viewed on a phone - we call that responsiveness, the basic level of SEO that you get out of the box. All of these things are included in the platform and are done pretty well.

So those are the, to me, the top five, you know, reasons why you should pick Shopify. And, and like I said, to me it's a no brainer decision Shopify is the platform for small and medium-sized businesses. But no solution is perfect. And here I want to talk about what I see as the three biggest downsides of Shopify today.

And the first one is stability. Stability is is the service up and running and Shopify has a service outage notification that you can subscribe to, which is great transparency on their part. It sends SMS notifications when something is not running or are not working properly. And then it also sends another notification when it's resolved, and I'm a little bit alarmed at how often Shopify has service outages. It's almost daily that some part of the system is down. I'd like to see that frequency of outages improved from nearly one a day to one a week.

The next thing is the user interface stability and by these interfaces I mean the Shopify admin itself. It's a browser-based application and the reason it's a browser-based application, that means you open up a web browser and go to a web page and the the app, the admin application is working inside of your browser and the reason that it's a browser-based application is that you can access that app from anywhere that has a browser. So if you're on your mobile phone, your laptop, your TV, as long as you have a browser, you can open up the app and use it. It's actually hard to build an app in a browser because you have to make it work in all these different environments and screen sizes and input paradigms. So it's a lot of hard work and that Shopify is definitely working on, but there's a bunch of little quirky things that happen inside that app today which become a frustration. Sometimes when you take an action in the Admin, your action doesn't get fully registered. For example, often as I try to add a section to a page, I'll have to open up the same menu two or three times that listed the section options that I get to add because it automatically closes before I get to click on one of them just because of the way the app is working. Another example is when I want to paste content into some rich text boxes that text doesn't get saved; that doesn't get registered automatically inside the app. The save button doesn't change states that I can click on it, so I'll have to edit that text a little bit before that save button and turn on. What I normally do is I just add a space and then delete that space and then the save button turns on and I can save my changes. These aren't big issues, they are just little nuances, but they are the kind of things that you know as you use it, you just start to incorporate these little best practices of how to get the things to work. But it is, it is one of those annoying things that can affect your productivity and it's good for me to tell you about them so that you realize you're not alone. It's not you that's making these mistakes. It's just the way the interface does work.

And the last one that I want to talk about as a downside is the support knowledge. I'm very disappointed with the quality support that Shopify provides. And by support in this case, I mean customer support, answering store-owners questions about problems. They have a lot of people and they're very responsive to customer support inquiries. But the knowledge of these people was very limited and surprisingly they're often just wrong about the answers that they give. For example, on Shopify forums, the support staff is answering a lot of the posts that customers put up there. And all too often their solution is just to point to an APP that the store owner should download and install in the store. It's sometimes that may or may not solve the problem, but I've also seen many cases where the Shopify staff could easily document in a couple of lines of code that they would recommend to, to make to the theme that could have met the solution that the customer is looking for without having to go through the whole process of adding an app and taking on that extra monthly fee. So I think that they can be a little more in-depth in their answers when we're responding on the forums. I've also had my clients tell me that, you know, support pros, solution XYZ for a problem that they called them up about. But I didn't believe that XYZ would work. I just thought it was the wrong implementation. And I went and did a completely different solution than what the support staff had recommended - this has happened more than once with my clients and the way I did it end up working perfectly well for the client. And I just think that Shopify was wrong. And my last example, was when I was building my first Shopify Plus store. When you upgrade a store to Shopify Plus and add a basic theme into it, there's some code changes you need to do to that theme to handle some additional functionality that Plus provides with cart scripts. So you got to go into the cart templates and update a couple of things, add a couple of fields. It's not that hard, but I'd never done it before. So I asked, support for documentation on those and none existed. Their solution was appointed to another Shopify expert instead of providing what I thought was a pretty basic level of documentation that just wasn't there. And as a Shopify Plus client, I think they should have given me the answer instead of pointing me to another Shopify Expert in this situation. I don't think that's true in all situations, but in this one I just thought it was such a basic level ask for them not to answer it even if they didn't already have documentation. It was a big miss on their part, especially since Shopify plus is their flagship product. So my advice to you is that when you're dealing with Shopify support, be a little bit skeptical about the advice that they're giving you. If you think that the things that they're stating aren't true, it actually might not be and you should double check with another resource. And that goes back to that earlier benefit we talked about with the rich ecosystem. There's plenty of ways that you can get really good advice on Shopify, without going through Shopify's support.

So those are the top negatives. None, I think, should dissuade you from Shopify, but I just want you to be aware of the pros and cons of what eCommerce platform you're going to be on. Because that's gonna impact you for quite a while. It's not like you're going to be on a platform today and switch next month. You know, it's a long term investment that you're making.

So that's all for our show this week. Thanks for listening.



Jade Puma is a certified Shopify Expert. If you need any help with your Shopify store, we can help.


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