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Today, I’m thrilled to have Kurt Elster on the show. Kurt was introduced to me by my good friend Nick Loper who I had back on episode 80 of the podcast. Kurt runs EtherCycle.com where he helps private label sellers launch their own ecommerce websites.
Specifically, he’s a Shopify platform expert who helps Shopify users uncover hotspots in their designs to improve their conversion rate. Anyway, I’m a firm believer you really need to own your own platform in addition to Amazon which is why I brought Kurt on the show today to discuss the transition.
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What You’ll Learn
- How to get traffic to your site.
- How to create a high converting website
- The biggest mistake that new store owners make
- How to transition from Amazon to your own site
- Kurt’s recommendation on shopping cart platform
- Whether Kurt recommends working with the spouse.
Other Resources And Books
Now if you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes, and if you want to learn how to start your own online business, be sure to sign up for my free six-day mini course, where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100k in profit in our first year of business. Go to www.mywifequitherjob.com, sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the mini course right away via email, now onto the show.
Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle, so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.
Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have Kurt Elster on the show. Now Kurt was introduced to me by my good friend Nick Lopa who I had back on episode 80 of the podcast. And Kurt runs ethercycle.com, where he helps private label sellers launch their own ecommerce websites. Now specifically he is a Shopify platform expert who helps Shopify users uncover hotspots in their designs to improve their conversion rate.
And incidentally I’m a firm believer that you really need to own your own platform in addition to selling on Amazon, which is why I brought Kurt on the show today to kind of discuss the transition from Amazon to your own branded website. And with that welcome to the Kurt, how are you doing today man?
Kurt: I’m doing great thank you for having me, it’s my honor and pleasure.
Steve: So Kurt how did you kind of get into ecommerce, and why did you decide to start a consultancy and specifically a Shopify based on?
Kurt: Sure I mean so — I mean I have been involved in ecommerce in one way or the other over the last decade. I was selling counterfeit t-shirts on eBay in college. I didn’t know enough to know that there was like intellectual property was a thing, and then from there I was product manager for a drop shipper, and then started my own web design agency. And that was its own business learning curve going from generalist web design back to my roots as ecommerce, and then finally niching down to just the Shopify platform.
So I’m biased, I have got a horse in the game, but I really, really love the Shopify platform, because they do so much to foster a community. There is always someone available be it an expert or other store owner who can help you whenever you have a road blocker problem, plus all the great apps and services that integrate with it.
Steve: So just curious, did you start out supporting a whole bunch of different carts?
Kurt: Yeah we actually — so overtime we narrowed down. Originally we were doing like — no we went from like generalist to doing work for creative agency. So I have worked with huge brands like [inaudible 00:03:15]. But at the same time we were part of the Shopify experts program, and we were getting traction there.
So I said well maybe I foolishly said let’s expand by doing other platforms, but none of them were as satisfying as Shopify. And finally about two years ago I said wait why are we doing anything other than the thing we love. And niche down to just Shopify. So even though like as a service person having a niche is great just as an ecommerce having a niche is great.
Steve: Interesting, so was there demand? I’m just trying to get an idea of like the landscape right now. Was there demand for some of the other platforms, or you did you just choose one just for the sake of niching down?
Kurt: I chose it because we were authentically happy with Shopify. Like every time we finished any project we kind of reflect, and we were a small team at the time. We’ve always been three people, five people now, but we kind of reflect on like what — was that project good or bad, how do we feel about it? And it was Shopify was like 99% of the time we are like wow that just felt easy.
And that was what we were, why we chose to stick with it. But no we had worked with BigCommerce of course, LemonStand, Magento; I think are the other ecommerce platforms we used. And they’re good. Yeah there is really no bad one, they have slightly different features. But again with Shopify I think the huge advantage we are getting is that community.
Steve: Okay and then in terms of open source is that still popular at all just based on your experiences?
Kurt: I don’t think nearly as many people are rolling their own anymore just because you get in into such — no it’s probably — its technical that as soon as you — if I’m on Shopify I worry about ecommerce. Versus if I’m on — if I have got an open source thing, now suddenly I’m in the IT business as well, so I need to worry about like setting up my server and keeping things secure and there is all these new problems that get introduced when you go open source. Not that open source is bad.
Steve: So would you say that you can do everything that you want to with a fully hosted platform that you could probably do with open source even though you own like all the code?
Kurt: At this point through all the extensions and services and apps that are out there, that used to be the critic as well. Oh you are limited, I don’t think it’s the case anymore and especially it’s never been the case design wise.
Steve: Sure, of course.
Kurt: Shopify has always said hey you can access to everything design wise, don’t worry about it. And there was kind of a misunderstanding where people were like, oh you can do responsive, what are you talking about. But no, the limitations seem to have worked themselves out.
Steve: Let me ask you that question in a different way. Is there anything that you wish that Shopify for example could do where you felt that you would need more control?
Kurt: That’s a great question. So one of the — well a couple of common feature request, there is no native wholesale solution for Shopify that maybe other more enterprise focused platforms might have. That often is a common request that tying its people, and there is ways around it. I mean my answer is run two stores and one is a sub domain like wholesale dot whatever .com.
So that’s a common request and for people who have a ton of products Shopify doesn’t necessarily do nested categories the way you might like typically think of an ecommerce set up. It’s all individual collections and that could trip people up.
Steve: Any complains on the check out?
Kurt: Well so the number one issue is in the check out that’s the one template you are not allowed of total control over, you are not allowed to mess with. There is a number of workarounds for it, so you can use translations to change labels to whatever you want. And you now could style it to match your form. But I think it’s a very clean checkout, I think it’s whether they say sort of now, I think its inspired by Amazon because you get transitioned from store into this very clean white easy to use check out. I like it a lot, and with qualified traffic it converts very well.
Steve: Okay, and so it just sounds like in general you can do most of what you want with Shopify with the exemption of maybe some major things that owning the code might actually help.
Kurt: Yeah, once until you are out like extreme some kind of like extreme Enterprise level thing with either like a million products or crazy features like, oh I want to build a market place. And there is still waste too, there is always some clever walk around like it never seizes to surprise me the stuff that people manage to come up with. So even if a feature is not native there is some clever guy out there who can do it.
Steve: Okay, and so what I was going to today Kurt was a lot of people are selling on Amazon right now. And it’s really easy to kind of get addicted to Amazon because the money just comes and you don’t have to worry about anything. But in the long run you really need to have your own platform, so from the perspective of an Amazon seller who only sells on Amazon I would like you to kind of walk me through the process. Like let’s say I came to you as a pure Amazon seller, how would you kind of guide to the right way to design my ecommerce store?
Kurt: Sure, well and so if we back up the — I get a lot of people who are — they have established businesses on Amazon. And Amazon is great because it’s a market place, they are delivering the traffic to you. But you don’t own the customers and you are at the whim of Amazon, so when people come to me and they are on Amazon and they want to move to Shopify. Often I’ll say, “Well what’s the impetus for this, why do you want to do it?”
It’s something like well I want to own my own audience, I want to build this relationship and I can’t do it with Amazon. And I have got this single point of failure, like for some reason you upset the Amazon gods. Now you’ve got this single point of failure, this single channel versus if you are on multiple channels Shopify being one of them, you are much more in control and you don’t — like it’s diversification.
Steve: Sure, sure.
Kurt: So I think that’s the reason most people want to make that switch. And it’s not that they want to switch, they run both concurrently, and it works well. But probably the biggest thing that people run into is when they switch to Shopify or rather add that as a channel to their business, is they are not used to getting traffic. Like that’s never had to — with Amazon you are paying this big percentage to them, but they are delivering the traffic to your door. Versus Shopify is like okay now you are on your own, and that’s a hard transition for a lot of people.
Steve: Plus you have to worry about conversion optimization, getting the website looking trustworthy, and all those things as well.
Kurt: Yeah, and I think, probably the biggest problem you run into with setting up an Amazon store on Shopify is that they don’t have that collateral that adds that trust, that adds that confidence, because it’s very much like I have optimized my product title. Amazon people always have great photos, I’ve got a good product description, and I can pick it from some reviews.
Beyond that there is rarely content marketing that’s come along with it for me to use. There is rarely an about page. There is all these other trust indicator pieces of a business that when you are coming purely from Amazon are often missing.
Steve: Let’s start from the beginning then. Let’s say I’m coming to you for the first time, what are some of the thing that you will kind of walk me through, or questions that you might ask me?
Kurt: Number one is I want to know who your audience is. What kind of people are buying your product? Who is it for and why are they buying it? An Amazon seller may or may not know this, but what is fantastic about Amazon are the reviews. I will go through, like when I see a product that has got 1300 reviews, I get excited, because I will start going through those reviews. First thing I could do is I get a great sense of who’s buying it, why they are buying it, because on the reviews they reveal it.
You now know the pain and the problem that you are solving in people’s lives which automatically … I want to start with; my first step is what’s your positioning, so it’s who you sell, like what are you selling to who and why? Ideally is there a unique selling proposition there, some kind of competitive advantage. Often what the Amazon seller tells me is different than what the reviews tell me. I have discovered like people don’t necessarily know what they don’t know, so going through those reviews is enlightening.
Steve: Can you give me an example of when they will be a disconnect there?
Kurt: Sure, I will use, well this isn’t the best example because they work purely on Amazon, but I have a client who sells replacement rubber straps for Rolex watch bands. We thought it was people who wanted to customize their watch, they have got a fancy, “I spend $8,000 on a watch, why not have like 6 straps, and then I can change it out depending on my mood.”
That was our thinking and that makes sense, and then when we started asking people, and we started going … They started selling on Amazon, and I started looking through the reviews. We discovered it was actually a little bit of the opposite. People, yeah they wanted to custom like customize their watch sounded cool, but what really was going on was they spent $8,000 on a watch, and they wanted to wear it all the time without scratching it up. They were saying things like, “Now I can …”
One review was really enlightening, it was a launch, she was, “Yeah, my husband bought me a Rolex, I wear it to work, I’m a nurse, and I have to run my watch through an auto-clave and I got sick of scratching up or messing up the bracelet, so I just use my evers [ph] band.”
It was this incredible thing where it’s like, “Oh my gosh, you have a literal blue collar worker using the straps so they can wear this watch every single day.” That wildly changed how we saw the product. We took the language from those reviews, and then suddenly like you get an SEO benefit and these better selling propositions when you use the language your customers are using in those reviews.
Steve: Interesting, I would imagine there were some people who wanted it just for the fashion as well, right? How did you decide to do that versus people who didn’t want to damage their watch? Did you have two separate pages addressing both audiences, or did you focus on the protective aspects?
Kurt: That’s a good question, and no because the reviews were so overwhelmingly saying things like. “Yeah, now I can go swimming, now I can ride my bike with my Rolex.” It was always about doing some, usually some kind of active sport.
Kurt: We ended up like reshooting customer action photos to include, and reusing that language and saying, “You are protecting your investment.” And using this entirely different language we hadn’t even thought of that was revealed once we had those reviews coming in and we were able to read that.
Steve: I see, let’s say you didn’t have access to these reviews, were there any other ways that you would find to get an idea who your target customer was?
Kurt: Yeah, so a couple of ways. One is, so with Amazon, let’s say you are starting with Amazon, you don’t have your customers email addresses which is a pain, but you do have their phone numbers, so you could drop, if you have had enough of them, you could drop all those phone numbers into a custom audience in Facebook. Facebook will look them up and then using a tool called Audience, to sort of match those phone numbers to actual accounts.
Then using a tool called Audience Insights, it will give you demographic information about the person. It gives you the basic stuff like age and gender, location, but then it gives you all these really fun behavioral data segments, well kind of give you an idea of what the person is like. That can be very helpful.
Steve: Just curious, did you run this process on the watch band company?
Kurt: Yeah, that one was … It wasn’t detailed enough where we got info that didn’t surprise us at all, it was like it’s men and excuse older, like that made sense.
Kurt: But then within the demographic, you have some cute names for some of these demographics, and I think the one that we overwhelmingly have for [inaudible 00:15:35] was, I think it’s called skyboxes and suburbans, that’s their cute name for Yappy.
Steve: Okay, so there is nothing surprising there, and so it sounds like you took all that information and used that in your unique value propositions on the site.
Kurt: Yeah, you want to use … You want to tweak all your language around that. Essentially when you are talking to someone, like your website needs to be talking about the customer and not you. All the language needs to be you not I focused, and then really we want to hold up the mirror, we want to show someone a better version of themselves through our product.
And we could do that when we leverage that language from the reviews where people are saying that these are the phrases people use to describe what they like about it, what they got out of it. When you add that to headlines, taglines, titles, descriptions, all of that, it adds up into a very compelling experience where people will often want to buy.
Steve: A common question I get asked is like for people in Amazon often times they are only selling one product or a bunch of despair products. In this case was it just watch bands, or did they have a huge variety of watch bands?
Kurt: They had both, and what we ended up doing was, you want to separate not by product but by audience. So they were selling like low end replacement straps for whatever watch, and then they had this high end line for Rolexes, so we separated those into two separate brands.
Kurt: It comes down to what the audience says, so if I’m selling, you know for all my products are sporting goods, okay I could probably put that into one Shopify store, but if it’s like, one is yoga mats, and the other thing is a gun cleaner, I’d probably want those, it’s different audiences. You probably want to run those as two separate stores. At the end of the day relevancy is absolutely critical, so that’s what you want to focus on is keeping it as relevant as possible.
If you are in a situation, you are in a tunnel, like you’re kind of shoot, I got 10 products and they are all totally different, well exploit the 80/20 rule, take the two best performing products and make a store for those. If that works out then go to the next one.
Steve: Using this watch band example again, let’s say we have a store selling the high end ones, but let’s say we have only like 4 or 5, do you kind of structure the website differently depending on the number of products that you offer?
Kurt: Yeah, I actually prefer … Stores with fewer products are easier, and not just from a stand point of oh I have to copy and paste these product descriptions, but from the customer stand point. The fewer products you have, you are really presenting the person with fewer decisions, you’ve got a tighter sales funnel, you are really making life easier on the customer and thereby making it easier on yourself to sell.
Steve: In the case of these watch bands, was the website pretty much like a single sales page like format?
Kurt: No, so what we did, the issue we had was rather to increase, the same strap actually fits every Rolex, or like a majority of them, except for some oddballs, but we didn’t tell people that. We instead walked them through this process where we made them pick their watch first, so we said, “Okay, choose which watch you have.” Then it would show you that strap, because buying all these Rolexes would be prohibitively expensive. There was just a mark up in photo-shop.
But we chose the strap on your specific model of watch, so in doing this again that concept of holding up the mirror, like we wildly increased the relevancy of this to the customer and they are able to visualize it on their own watch, and then they are willing to spend 2, $300 on a watch strap.
Steve: Let me ask you this question, let’s say this particular company sold a bunch of different Rolex accessories, how would that change how you would structure the site?
Kurt: I want to make sure, if I’m adding new products to my product mix, I just don’t want to do it because it fits the audience, I want to do it because it fits the audience and compliments what they are already buying. Ideally I would look for stuff that’s up-sales, like this incredibly successful up-sale they had was one day … Everyone who buys the strap obviously has to put it on the watch. You can take it to a jeweler, but you probably you are going to do it yourself.
What they ended up doing was selling private labeling, a very nice little tool kit and it’s offered as an up-sell, and it’s probably like 90% of orders, the person will buy the strap, and the tool to change the strap.
Kurt: You sort of want to work backwards and look for up-sales to your existing product mix.
Steve: I’m just trying to think right now like if this person, let’s say he specializes in watch accessories of which Rolex brands are only one, and let’s say they sell replacement parts, I’m just trying to get an idea, sometimes it’s a pain in the butt to just open another store, right?
I’m just trying to get an idea of how you would integrate display of products onto a site. Would you choose one of your main sellers, and then target the whole site towards selling that one product, or if you had like let’s say two or three best sellers that were somewhat despaired, but all fall under the umbrella of selling watch accessories, just trying to get an idea of how you would structure the site in that case.
Kurt: That’s a good question. Probably I would look by use case, where at the start I want to present them like here is the pain I’m solving, so let’s say we did, it wasn’t just watch straps, it was like watch straps, watch tools and cases, so then we could sell them like watch winders, watch boxes and watch rolls, like a tool. We’d say, I’d probably present that as like 3 featured images on the home page that say store your watches, maintain your watches, and customize your watches.
Kurt: I’m always doing it by what pain they have.
Steve: Sure, okay and then you would probably just have 3 choices where they could just jump to the category page, and on the category page, you would probably focus on the value proposition message.
Kurt: Yeah, once I’m in there and I would strip away everything else, like they have already self selected, they’ve told me what they are there for, so I don’t want anything else getting in the way. I want to really increase that signal to noise ratio, and then after they’ve made the decision to buy, then maybe I might offer an up-sell, or I might offer a bundle, something like that.
Steve: You’re talking about the category page; you would remove the navigation to the other categories at that point.
Kurt: Well what I see is like, okay so let’s say the collection page or the category page, so from the homepage, we try to ask them what their problem is, so if they say, “Oh, I need to store my watches.” When they click on that, we send them to a collection page deliberately, a paragraph or two about the proposition, about the description, and then our selection of watch boxes or whatever.
Then in Shopify actually I would sort them by bestselling, as one of the nice options. So essentially you have self optimizing category collection pages, because you can always list. It will automatically take the thing that sells the most and push it first in the list.
Steve: Right, okay. In terms of just SEO and content, do you try to include content on all these collection pages? Is that important?
Kurt: Ideally yeah. I mean, is it going to make or break to you? No. Does it going to absolutely increase the chance that someone finds it in a Google organic search or someone links directly to this? Essentially if you add description to a collection or category page, its going from, here is a grid of products to landing page, and that’s how like let’s take everything like a landing page, and really that’s just a content issue.
Steve: I’m just trying to … I’m just wondering how you rationalize having content versus pushing the products further below the fold.
Kurt: I’m still out on how the fold really matters. If I have really compelling relevant content above the fold, I think that’s going to get people to scroll and really that’s kind of a design question. But ideally I’ve never shied away from long sales pages, from more content. It’s never been a problem.
Steve: Do you typically work with people who have just a handful of products versus someone who has like a library of hundreds of products?
Kurt: If someone came to me and said, “I have got hundreds of products and I want to move those to– I want to go from Amazon to Shopify I would say. All right, which 10 do you want to work with? What’s your best seller? Building a store, I mean you are setting yourself up for failure to begin with, like if you are building a store with hundreds of products. It’s really hard definitely moving from, especially moving from a market place to Shopify, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Steve: I mean if they are all related products, would you still try break them apart? Like you know watch example …
Kurt: It really comes down to how, again it’s like if they all fit the same audience, and they solve similar problems then you could make it work.
Steve: Okay, so let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about traffic. I understand you help some of the folks with traffic, so what are some of the first things that you tell these people who are just completely not used to driving their own traffic? What do you recommend?
Kurt: Well so number one is first recognize that. I mean the thing the you’ve been paying for Amazon, the whole time whether you knew it or not is they’re delivering these wallet out ready to buy people to you? Fundamentally if I am on Amazon, I’m probably not even in research mode. I already trust Amazon, I’m there looking for a product, I’m going to add it to a wish list or buy it.
Not only do you already have the traffic, but it’s really qualified traffic, and making that mindset shift to your own store. Well it’s like okay you’ve got to get the traffic and then you have to make them trust you, and then you have to get them to buy you. You’re really moving into this concept of a sales funnel, and that’s something people aren’t used to. The first realization is someone will probably have to visit your store maybe 5 times before they buy, and they don’t know you. They have to trust you.
If I walk to a physical retail store right now, I know fundamentally like there is payroll, and business licenses and leases were signed, there is implicit trust versus your random Shopify store in the interne. If I have never heard of you it’s like the equivalent of a guy in a parking lot, popping his truck and saying you want to buy some t-shirts?
Kurt: It’s totally different, so adding those trust indicators.
Steve: Let’s talk about some of the trust indicators, let’s be specific. What are some of the things that you recommend?
Kurt: I think number one is, two things. I think there are really two parts to these trust indicators. Number one is availability, if you have got a toll free number, if you make yourself as available as possible, so a live chat with an actual person manning it, a toll free number, a public address. Those things whether or not people actually choose to reach out to you, we don’t care if they reach out to you or not, just the fact that you’ve made yourself available and professional makes you look trustworthy.
Steve: Do you think a toll free number matters anymore these days?
Kurt: It’s kind of funny; I mean you are right to ask because who pays by the minute anymore? It doesn’t matter, but I think we are still ingrained with this idea that, “Oh toll free numbers means it’s a real business.” And they are so inexpensive with services like Grasshopper, and I’m sure there is half a dozen others. I still recommend it. I think you look better with a toll free number than a local number.
Kurt: I mean the image you are fighting against is you have to assume that when the person comes to your website and hasn’t heard of you, they assume that you are some guy in your mum’s basement, and you have to prove otherwise. I think a toll free number is one of the ways to do that. That availability, that trust is really it’s about risk reversal, spelling out a clear guarantees return policies, that sort of thing helps a lot.
Kurt: I think the big advantage you have that a lot of people pass on, and it’s frustrating for me is be a person not a brand. People relate to people not brands, and when you leave Amazon, that’s one of the great things you get to do now, is you get to be yourself, you get to be an authentic person with an authentic voice. I always recommend people at the very least have an about page that tells your story, has your pictures, says who you are and people can relate to that.
Steve: Okay, what about getting actual traffic. These are all great I guess conversion things that you’ve been mentioning.
Kurt: Yeah, I put all that stuff, everything we’ve talked about probably it falls under conversion for sure.
Steve: Yeah, what about getting the actual people to the website, what are some of your recommendations there?
Kurt: Let’s say, the only guaranteed thing is PPC, is pay per click, and there is no one winner, but I would say absolutely for sure do remarketing. Earlier on I said that someone might have to visit a store 5 times before they buy. Well remarketing is going to help you make that happen. When someone visits the site, they get cookied, and then they’ll see ads for let’s say 30 days about the product they viewed.
Steve: Do you actually run these campaigns for your clients or no?
Kurt: Yes I do.
Steve: Oh you do? Okay, so what has been more like, so do you use Facebook and Google for this?
Kurt: I no longer … I recommend both, but I personally have focused on being a Facebook ads expert. Google is too fast a landscape, I think for anyone to really master Google you have to be doing it full time. I recommend someone else to tackle it. Google product listing ads I think is a phenomenal place to start.
Steve: Can you explain those by the way, just in case some of the listeners don’t know what that is?
Kurt: Okay, so let’s say you search for something on Google, we search for men’s wallet, and then you’ve got the first thing at the top of your search results are those text ads. That’s just a regular traditional Google ad, this text ad, they are really expensive now, they are hard to get to convert. And then, below that are the organic results, which that’s what we think as traditional SEO, and then in the upper right, you’ve got like a picture of the product with the title and the price. Those are Google product listing adds, and that’s just a data feed that your Shopify store provides to Google, and then it will just automatically run ads against it.
They are actually significantly cheaper than running the text ads, and once you’ve got the product listing ad going, really what you’ve done is Google understands your product catalogue which means you can now do what are called dynamic remarketing ads. So let’s say someone goes to your site, looks at a pair of shoes and leaves, well Google knows that’s the last product they looked at, and now an ad with that specific product title price will follow them around the web like a lost dog.
Steve: Just curious, why have you moved away from using Google remarketing?
Kurt: I still recommend it, I just don’t manage it myself anymore.
Steve: You don’t manage it. Okay.
Kurt: Just because it’s tough, I mean it’s genuinely– there are so– when you log in at the Google Ad Words dashboard, there are so many knobs, dials and switches, and it’s updating all the time that it’s tough to get it going, and say like…
Steve: That’s correct; it is quite intimidating for a new user.
Kurt: Yeah, I think it’s intimidating and then for me it was frustrating there like I had set something up and then a month later something breaks. I’m like I got to go fix this, and if you are not absolutely on top of it and I think really like sleeping breathing AdWords every day, that’s just bound to happen.
Steve: You know it’s curious that you said that like, so I run all my own campaigns, and Google like what you haven’t set up it’s a lot more hands off than Facebook in my opinion. I was just curious what your opinions were on that, because Facebook you constantly have to be rotating your creatives and testing new things, whereas AdWords which is like search based, you can pretty much set it and then check up on it every couple of months.
Kurt: That’s a solid point. Yes, I think especially when dealing with Google product listing ads, that’s absolutely true. You set it and then you are good, until it breaks, and ideally usually it shouldn’t for months if it’s set up once correctly. Verses Facebook ads, you get into this problem of ad fatigue, but I think it comes down to having highly relevant customer audiences, and then really reducing the length of time they can run.
So if I set, I could set a window where I say all right I’m only going to show people, assuming I have enough traffic to pull this off, you could build the sales funnel where like a person sees an ad only within 24 hours of visiting your site, and then from 24 to 48 they see a different ad. You could run that out to a week, where you have– they see a different ad everyday for a week, and then if they haven’t bought after that, we can assume they probably weren’t going to begin with, and stop showing them ads.
Steve: Let’s talk about your Facebook ads strategy actually since you seem to run those for clients. Let’s take this watch band example again; can we just talk about how you would structure the campaign?
Kurt: Yeah, absolutely. I think the more segmented you can make it obviously you are going to increase relevancy, but with, and that really comes down it’s like a function of how much traffic you have. But the basic, the most basic sales funnel in Facebook that I would recommend people setting up, has four steps in it. The first is we want to bring people who’ve never heard, we’ll call them anonymous people, people who have never heard of the brand before, and we could do that using a look alike audience.
A look alike audience being we give Facebook, let’s say we have 1000 customer email addresses, and they’ve opted in to our email list. So we give that to Facebook and we could show Facebook will find those people and we could show ads to them if we’d like, or Facebook based on that amazing and kind of creepy behavioral data will target up to let’s say like a million to 2 million people in the same country that look like your customers.
And they buy mailing list form big box retailers and credit card companies, they know everything about you, like if you bought a pregnancy test, they assume okay here’s like parents who are trying to get pregnant, like everything they know it, it’s creepy. But it means we can have very relevant ads, and we can do it on autopilot. So the first one would be ads just introducing people to the what we are doing, to the brand, to the product, to the problem, and getting them to the website.
Steve: What would the creative look like in that case?
Kurt: That’s a good question. We want, generally I’ll try and pick something that’s like an action shot that shows someone using the product, so really hold up the mirror and have that customer avatar out there. And especially because we’ve got it in their news feed, it’s less disruptive and fits into their news feed, and that’s actually they are more likely to check it out and read that headline, read whatever our tagline is.
We just– all we want for them to click through and visit the site, because then we’re going to cookie them, and once they are cookied, we’ll exclude them from that prospect list where they are seeing their first ad, and instead show them ideally probably like a carousel ad, so our 5 they got these sliding carousel ads, they are wonderful. So we show them say our 5…
Steve: Can we back up a little bit, sorry so that first initial ad, like what would be an example of a headline for watches let’s say just off the cuff, to get them to click?
Kurt: Good question, since I’m assuming you are editing this later, let me look it up.
Steve: Okay, yeah.
Kurt: I would literally do like for that and say something like, we may say something as simple as Customize Your Rolex, and then show a photo of a watch on someone’s wrist. What’s nice about Facebook it’s especially organized with Shopify, it does conversation tracking, and it tracks value of sales, you could figure your cost per acquisition.
Let’s say you give it 5 images for 1 ad, it will know which ones are converting, and then start showing that the most. So after a week of running the ad, I will just go back through, turn off the 4 that didn’t convert well or the 4 post converting, keep the top one and then like try like 4 variations on that, and you just keep going like that in a cycle.
Steve: The reason why I asked that question is do you entice them with some useful piece of content for that first ad, like what is the landing page of the carousel?
Kurt: Good question, so it depends on the product. You often will use, will take the product page and make like a really long form version of it. Much like Amazon we’re trying to bust every objection, so I’ll have kind of like a more narrative product description, ideally a video, customer reviews, just like a very, a longer sales pages is going to work better here, or even advertorial content. Maybe like a blog post, an article, something talking about the problem and walking through like this story of the narrative, like here’s how the inventor came up with this problem, and then had a successful kick starter, and you get them involved in the story.
Steve: Okay. You absolutely don’t want to send them like just straight to a product page, right?
Kurt: I think the worst thing you could do is just drop them on the home page or drop them on a traditional product page. You could make it like a very long form sales page will work well, or sometimes collection pages that have a really long description. Like we’ve made 10 collection pages and 2 decent landing pages, but no you are right, I mean just dropping someone on a whatever page and crossing your figures isn’t going to be the best.
Steve: Just curious, do you use incentives to get them to buy right then and there, or is the whole purpose of that first ad just to get them aware of your products?
Kurt: I assume, well I mean if they buy that’s fantastic, but I will generally, I just want to build that awareness. At first it’s worth it just to have I think a longer sales funnel and then I’ll be pushing, I try not to push especially discounts at first. I want to save those to later and not leave money on the table.
Ideally though if you have a lead magnet, like in an ideal world we could do, we introduce them to product via an article, so we’ve got like a 1500 word article with an interesting original story, and then that also probably includes the inventory, really makes it very personal. And then in there at the end we’re still not necessarily going to try and sell them anything, but if we can get them to opt in to a newsletter, now we can show them our Facebook ads, plus get them on an email list, and really rump up those numbers at touch points.
Steve: How do you calculate conversions and the effectiveness of the ad, given that like that first ad really isn’t meant to convert a sale, so do you measure the effectiveness of that ad based on like email opt-ins, how do you do the measurements?
Kurt: Well, in this case you can do it based on page views, you could do it based on opt-ins, but what Facebook does, you could define the attribution window. So if they view that ad, let’s say they click the ad and bought within 7 days, we would count it as a conversion like an assisted conversion, but a conversion nonetheless because the first ad was involved. And ideally like I had put one funnel into a single campaign, so that way I can track the whole thing holistically.
Steve: Okay. We’ve got them to our site, let’s say they haven’t bought yet, but we have cookied them, and then you mentioned the second ad is more of like a carousel ad displaying different versions of the product?
Kurt: Yeah, so let’s say for the second ad I love to do carousel ads, I just they are a little more engaging, and a carousel essentially it’s like 5 tiles, and each one can have a different link and it’s a different photo. And Facebook will reorganize them based on conversation. In there what we do — so if you had like, we could put your top five selling products in that category, or we could do the same product but have each of the tiles be one of the benefits of owning the product. Or we could do it go even broader and do it by category.
We are like all right here is the three categories of products we are selling, something where we just want to sell — we want the person to segment themselves. But if we are only selling one product yeah you just do five benefits of the products and a carousel ad, and that’s where we might — at this point we would send them to the product page, or an extended version of the product page.
Steve: Okay, and then still any incentives to buy at this point or?
Kurt: Not yet, no at this point we probably want to talk about a lot of times like the content or using those ads, or the landing page both are reviews. I always go, at this point once they are aware of it I just need to convince them with social proof; I think it’s the best way to go about it. We’ll do a lot of like quotes from customers and testimonials and reviews. And if we’ve got like big blogs or magazines that have reviewed the product, we want to include those logos and quotes as trust indicators in the ads or in the landing page. At that point…
Steve: So once gain this is like a separate landing page again, right?
Kurt: Yes, yeah we can either do — usually what it is, is a product template that we’ve made, that’s in an ideal world. I think you could get away — we’ve absolutely done this with a regular product page so long as it’s got a lot of content on it. And at that point we just — our goal then, so in our first our intent was get them interested. And now with this our intent is just get them to add it to the cart, and if they buy that’s fantastic, but if they don’t and they’ve add it to the cart we can actually segment them again.
At this point I’m just going to show them an ad that links them back to slash cart, and say something like your cart’s waiting for you, we saved it. And then we want to get into a risk reversal where we will talk about return policies and satisfaction guarantees. And this is the first time that I might introduce, if it makes sense for the brand that I would introduce a discount code.
Steve: Okay, and just curious how often do you rotate these ads, like what do you let the frequency get up to?
Kurt: So on Facebook we’ll do — like for that first ad we would set it to daily — we wanted to go for daily impressions for reach. And the worst it’s going to do is show them each one person one ad per day, supposedly what Facebook should do for us. And if I have got five ads in there, then I could show them essentially five different — I could show them five different ads for one business week which is that should be more than enough.
Steve: So that first add really you’re not even doing anything for conversation, it’s really just straight impressions, then maybe clicks?
Kurt: No, the first ad is just straight up like I don’t want that hard sale, I just want these people to opt-in to my funnel is how I look at it.
Steve: Okay, and for your best converting campaigns like what is like a typical cost per acquisition, let’s take this watch example.
Kurt: So this is the one issue with doing the sales funnel the way I have suggested it is you have to have the margin on the product that can support this. So if you’ve got a very inexpensive product with a very slim margin PPC is already going to be a problem, but doing these long Facebook campaigns is going to be tough.
And especially you can still do like the remarketing, you could probably still do it, it’s just that step one of getting new people into the sales funnel, that’s where you are spending a lot of money. But presently in my campaigns I’m shooting to get my cost per acquisition under $10, off top of my head the last couple I have worked on I have been in like probably $5 to $9 range.
Steve: That’s actually pretty good.
Kurt: Yeah, it works; it sounds a little crazy in that far — like a lot of people brace off that idea of like well the first ad we don’t actually expect to sell anybody anything. But when you make it part of this longer experience, it works well plus we are then — our third ad is that cart abandonment.
So people who just happen to visit the site for other means, they are still going to see those cart abandonment ads. And then afterward we can segment recent purchase service into an up sale campaign, where we try and sell them additional products. When you add all that together that’s when it really drives the cost per acquisition down.
Steve: So in your cost per acquisition calculations you are kind of including email also it sounds like?
Kurt: Yeah, in my ideal universe those are the two channels you want. You need some — I love Facebook for the segmentation. And then email works phenomenally well for turning people into brand evangelists. Like typically we’ll look at email as a thing that starts the moment they buy, because I want this very — I want to increase lifetime value of a customer. And again this is where we really give in to the advantage that you’ve lost with when you are on Amazon. Like the person buys from you and then they are gone, and you could follow up for customer service and that’s about it, versus…
Steve: I know for me I have problems like kind of tracking email conversions versus Facebook conversations. Even though I might have like just like a separate list or tag just for people who sign up through Facebook. It’s not, like I have to go out of my way to calculate that. Is that something that you do or?
Kurt: The only way around it, I don’t unless it’s like until you are spending — I mean it really depends on how much you are spending. But the solution to that is through UTM tagging, adding — just adding core strings so you could separate out who is buying from where.
Steve: So for all your emails like every link in your email is — okay so you tag it.
Kurt: Yeah, and the issue is because you are right, if someone like got an abandoned cart email and click through that email and bought let’s say you use I like Klaviyo for email, so Shopify because it integrates the best.
That might like that for sure will take credit and say, oh yeah this abandoned cart email earned $300. But then if they had clicked any of my ads in the last 7 days Facebook is going to say, oh they fall on the attribution window and they clicked our ad. And it’s going to take credit too, and it’s like oh you…
Steve: Yeah, it gets all like a little hairy at that point.
Kurt: But then the question is like well would the abandoned cart email have worked had they not seen the Facebook ad. So you get into — and it’s really, it’s hard to know like I mean you start getting to questions of human psychology and behavior.
Steve: Sure, sure, sure. I was just wondering of you had…
Kurt: Like at some point you are just like you could dive so deep that things start to get crazy.
Steve: Cool, Kurt hey we’ve been chatting for quite a while now. I also wanted to give you an opportunity to kind of talk about some of the other web properties that you have, and where people can find you.
Kurt: Sure, probably the easiest thing Google my name kurtelster.com. Sign up for my newsletter and I run my own podcast, the Unofficial Shopify Podcast, we talk about stuff like this once a week, and I send that out as an email to my list. Or if you are looking to DIY, DIY store of ecommerce bootcamp.com is a book on the topic that’s essential, a knowledge transfer to get all these thoughts out of my head into you. Or if you have an existing store and are just looking for ways to optimize my video series called ecommerce X weekly.
Steve: Cool man, hey good thanks a lot for coming on the show, it’s always interesting to see how other people run their ads and how they design their sites. And I think that the listeners will find your insights very useful.
Kurt: Yeah, I hope so. If anyone has questions that’s why sign up for my list and reply to it and I always — people who reply to my list I always make sure to answer.
Steve: Cool man, well Kurt thanks for coming on the show.
Kurt: Yeah, my pleasure.
Steve: All right, take care.
Kurt: You too.
Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. If you are only selling online primarily on third party market places like Amazon, you really need to own your own web property. And I hope Kurt’s traffic strategies are useful for you going forward.
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2 thoughts on “118: How To Transition From Amazon To Your Own Ecommerce Store With Kurt Elster”
Hey great podcast but i just learned there is another eCommerce platform that is better then big ecommerce and shopify.
i just learned about 3dcart: http://www.3dcart.com/
what do you think about this platform??
please let me know i heard this platform has features that with others you have to pay extra.
I just discovered the Amazon affiliate program so I think I need to practice with that first for a while haha
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