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Friday, February 26, 2021

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Magento online stores compromised in the biggest campaign to date

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Over the weekend, more than 2000 Magento stores were hacked. Security researchers describe this onslaught as the largest hacking campaign in the last five years.

These stores fell victim to a Magecart attack, with hacker groups exploiting Magento’s shopping cart system, allowing them to gain access to these stores and sowing malicious scripts inside these stores’ source codes. These scripts skim customers’ payment information that they entered while checking out.

“On Friday, 10 stores got infected, then 1,058 on Saturday, 603 on Sunday and 233 today,” said Willem de Groot, founder of Sanguine Security (SanSec), a Dutch cyber-security firm specialized in tracking Magecart attacks.

Willem de Groot, founder of Sanguine Security (SanSec) tracked these attacks starting on Friday. To the horror of shop owners, the original 10 attacks from Friday increased tenfold by Saturday, before slowly dying down through Sunday and Monday.

De Groot added that these recent attacks trumped all previous campaigns, with the previous record of 962 compromised stores, not holding a candle to these new numbers.

Most hacked stores were running an EOL version

The SanSec founder stated that a recurring flaw in all the compromised stores was that they were running an immensely outdated version of Magento’s software.

This version of Magneto had stopped receiving updates over four months ago, meaning it reached end-of-life (EOL).

Industry giants including Adobe, Mastercard and Visa, voiced warnings about incoming attacks on outdated stores over the spring.

In the months leading up to the attacks, several web security experts noted that new Magento 1.x (EOL versions) vulnerabilities were non-existent. This is very atypical, as the 1.x versions of Magento were crippled and plagued by security flaws.

Experts predicted that hackers were patiently waiting for 1.x’s EOL to rear its head, to ensure Adobe’ could not patch out their brutal attacks.

Recently, ads selling Magento 1.x vulnerabilities were unearthed from underground hacking forums, confirming experts’ suspicions that attackers purposefully staggered their assault.

magento-zeroday.png
Advertisement for the hack, posted by user “z3r0day”.
Image: SanSec

On a lighted note, Adobe’s initial warnings did severely lessen the blow of this campaign, with the number of outdated stores being cut in half as of June 2020.

Nevertheless, a number of high-traffic sites are still running the EOL version of Magento, solely relying on firewalls to ward off attackers.

While this may be PCI compliant, this is extremely risky and store owners are urged to update their stores immediately.

The Current and Future State of E-commerce

the current and future state of ecommerce

Where are we now and where are we heading

The e-Commerce timeline has moved up significantly in just a few months by the Covid-19 epidemic. Online store development is the new gold rush with every company now having to look at ways to get online and fast. From your normal mom and pop store selling 1 or 5 products, to your favorite restaurant now having to pivot to online sales and food delivery. To retail giants scrambling to shift from physical locations to moving their merchandise online in record time. Many are struggling to understand this new world we live in but one thing is clear. No business has a choice anymore. You will either make the shift or struggle to keep up long after the effects of the epidemic have worn off. 

“One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”

Jeff Bezos

Those that have already made the shift online are far ahead of the competition but it is not too late for those only starting out. The tools available today make it possible to move online in record time. Platforms such as Shopify & BigCommerce make it feasible to start selling within a very short time. Gone are the days of building online stores from scratch with code that only the developer understood. Anyone can launch a basic store. For more advanced setups a developer is still required or if you need a more custom-designed look at feel. Traversing the more technical issues such as payment gateways and shipping can still be difficult for some.

Necessity Drives Innovation

Drone Deliveries in ecommerce
Drone Deliveries

Everyone knew it was coming, they just thought we had more time. Yet like all shifts of significance, this one came out of necessity. 

Necessity has always driven innovation throughout history. The pandemic of 1918 brought on a new understanding of the benefits of hygiene. World War 1 and 2 changed production forever with the ramping up of streamlined factories, especially in wartime America and post-war Japan. 

This new shift will be equal in its severity yet no less life-changing. 

Current sales figures are reaching black Friday levels, yet over a much longer period, as the rush to buy online continues to gain momentum. The latest data suggests that a large number of new users are buying online, and most importantly, returning for repeat purchases. This shows that these new users are becoming more comfortable with the process and forming new spending habits. Online grocery sales have seen the biggest shift in numbers with no letting up. This is the time to capture the hearts and minds of these new online customers. 

How customers continue to shop and how the e-commerce industry responds, will bring about a sea change in the world of online, and the offline retail landscape. 

What does the future of commerce and e-commerce hold?

Automation and AI

Warehouse Automation ecommerce
Warehouse Automation

Automation and AI will be at the forefront of this new world. This current epidemic has shown the fault lines in our global supply chain. It has placed a strain on the economies of the world by first threatening the manufacturing heartland of mainland China. Next, it threatened our freight and backed up our ports. This might point to commerce moving more localized in the near term. Long term the giants of the industry will have to look at ways to secure the things that keep our economies ticking. 

Automation will play a large part in this with robots moving more and more into the factories, ships, fulfillment centers, and stores. Amazon’s Cashierless stores promise more convenience with less human interaction. 

Evolving Fulfillment

Online stores are using the term contactless shipping to attract customers wary of COVID-19. Contactless curbside pickup and home delivery are becoming the new normal and a popular option with safety-conscious consumers.

Drone deliveries are already a reality in some countries, and this will only increase in the next year. Some see a future where drone ships cross the oceans powered by solar and wind, and steered by satellites and AI. Automated Harbors that run by digital harbormasters that keep goods flowing at an unmatched efficiency, constantly learning and adapting. Solar, driverless trucks shipping the goods to fulfillment centers where no humans are needed or present. And onto the cashier-less stores or home delivery bots that bring the goods to the consumers. Where we will all find jobs during this next evolution is another matter. Universal income might become a right, together with access to the internet. 

This new revolution will bring forth new jobs yet unimagined, the same way all big shifts have done throughout history. The agricultural revolution made it possible for craftsmen and artists to appear as people had more time away from subsistence farming. 

Fulfillment is the next battleground for giants such as Amazon, Walmart, and Shopify. Shopify is working aggressively expanding its footprint in the US against the well-established market leaders. Customers want products fast and efficiently and they are willing to pay. Retailers are looking for one-stop solutions that include warehousing and shipping that seamlessly integrates with their online stores.

Courier companies across the globe will have to keep offering better services and pricing to help merchants take on the big boys. 

“My belief is that eCommerce is the future, and [that] eCommerce is going to replace a lot of traditional ways of doing business,”

JACK MA

AI

e-Commerce search engines will begin to think more like humans. This will ensure that search results become more relevant to customers, instead of based on outdated algorithms.

Some of these AI tools are already available to us today in image recognition features in Pinterest, Automatic searching of videos, and other media. 

AI will change many areas of e-commerce including:

  • optimizing the sales process, 
  • prospecting new products, 
  • improved personalization, 
  • chatbots and virtual shopping assistants.

The Gamification of e-Commerce

social media shopping

This is one area garnering the most interest. Bringing together social media, interactive games, and e-commerce is the dream for many online retailers. Shopping is becoming more about the experience for the customers than a straight buy and pay model. It has become another form of entertainment where people shop for fun. eBay was one of the original drivers of making shopping fun with its bid and pay system, where you have to beat out other customers for the privilege of buying the item you desire. 

Loyalty programs and other points systems further extend Gamification into the online shopping experience.

Social Shopping

Facebook recently made a significant investment in India’s Reliance Jio. JioMart went live in Whatsapp days after the accusation in Mumbai, thereby dipping their toes in a potential userbase of 400 million Indians currently under lockdown. This will be a powerful tool for small businesses to get their products in front of potential customers. 

Did you know: The first-ever online transaction occurred in 1994 when a 21-year-old entrepreneur, Dan Kohn, sold a Sting Album, Ten Summoner’s Tales, to a friend in Philadelphia. The transaction of $12.48 was the first-ever protected by encryption technology.

New kid on the Social Media block, TikTok, recently launched a new initiative called Small Gestures where users can send virtual gifts from well-known brands to each other. This gives brands exposure to the millions of users flooding the platform as well as giving users the ability to “reward” content creators. This is just the start of TitTok’s evolution into online sales and advertising.

Screen time on Social Media has seen big increases in recent months as people try to stay connected during COVID 19. 87% of people claim that they use social platforms to help them decide to buy a product. This has given rise to Social Shopping where users can purchase directly through the social media platform. 

Pinterest’s recent update to its Shopify App, which includes shoppable pins, is a great example of how platforms are looking to profit from this. 

Yet it goes beyond a single channel. Consumers want to be able to interact through multiple channels be it email, social media, WhatsApp, or the online store. Research shows that they spent on average 80% more than single-channel shoppers. Retailers need to make sure that their brand is consistent and reachable across all platforms. 

Final Thoughts

e-Commerce cannot be ignored any longer by any business serious about its future. Things will not return to normal once the infection rates begin to fall. Users are becoming more comfortable with shopping from the comfort of their own homes. Getting your weekly groceries delivered to your door is now the norm and plays towards our inherent laziness. It is also more efficient than looking for parking & standing in guess at checkout. This will not change. It is time to look for the gaps in this new reality and see where one can innovate and expand to fill those gaps. 

The focus should be on the customer journey, the efficiency of production & fulfillment, and fine-tuning your marketing for the multi-channel reality.

“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”

OPRAH WINFREY

e-Commerce Statistics

  • The Global eCommerce market is predicted to grow to $6.5 trillion in 2022
  • Currently the largest e-commerce market in the world is China
  • The US eCommerce market is set to grow from $365 Billion in 2020 to $600 Billion by 2024
  • The 3rd Biggest eCommerce market in the world is the UK with 586 Billion Pounds(31% through Amazon UK)
  • The biggest increase in e-commerce growth is expected in India
  • 95% of all purchases will be made through e-commerce by 2040
  • Men tend to outspend women online
  • E-commerce is estimated to grow to 17.5% by 2021
  • The average abandoned cart rate is 2.5% across categories
  • The category with the best conversion rate is gifts at 5% with the lowest being electronics at 1.4%
  • The highest conversion rate goes to food and drink at 7%
  • 70% of shoppers state free shipping is the reason they buy online
  • On average 30% of products are returned with clothing and shoes returned the most

Tips for anyone selling online or for those planning to

  • Decide on the platform best suited for your business.
  • Focus on quality Product Photos and include lifestyle images.
  • Create Videos and include it on product pages
  • Offer honest and open information to your clients to build trust
  • Respond to Customer Concerns and Recommendations
  • Focus on reducing abandoned cart rates
  • Design for mobile commerce and test, test and test
  • Improved Delivery Options in eCommerce
  • Have an SEO, Content & Social Media Strategy
  • Talk to your customers the way they want to. Provide live chat, WhatsApp, email, phone, Messenger, etc.
  • Understand your customer’s needs. Talk to your existing customers to find out what they need. 

Pinterest Launches New App With Shopify

Pinterest Launches New App With Shopify 2020

Turning your Shopify products into shoppable pins is going to be a lot easier going forward. Pinterest released info on the new app on 7 May 2020 where it listed exciting features that will be great news for merchants. Shopify store owners and marketers will now be able to upload their complete catalog into Pinterest, as shoppable Pins. No more messing about with code or extra development. This app is the only connection you need between your Shopify Store and your Pinterest profile. This will help expose the products to a gigantic potential new audience.

Shopify Product Pins
Shopify Product Pins

The old version of the app allowed shop owners to create ads but the new app simplifies the integration and also includes organic listings. This is great news for the over 1 million merchants on Shopify as it provides an easier way to reach over 360 million Pinterest users.

The App also adds a Shop tab in the merchant’s Pinterest profile, which increases the chances of customers discovering products when visiting their profile.

Pinterest Shopify App features

  • Seamless Tag Installation
  • Catalog Ingestion
  • Daily Product Data Updates
  • Ad Buying Dashboard
  • Shop Tab In Pinterest Profile
  • Advanced Reporting

“By uploading their catalog feed, merchants make it possible for people to discover and save their products and buy directly from their website. People come to Pinterest with an intent to plan and purchase. The number of Pinners who have engaged with shoppable Product Pins has increased by 44% year-over-year, and total traffic to retailers has increased by 2.3x year-over-year. And, due in part to early beta testing with Shopify, catalog feed uploads increased 144% in the first quarter of the year.” Full article: Pinterest launches Shopify partnership

Pinterest as an Online Mall

Pinterest Shopping Guides
Pinterest Shopping Guides

This new partnership continues to show the company’s drive to become an online shopping destination of choice. This should also have a positive effect on their ad revenue long term as shop owners increase ad spend. Pinterest has seen a significant increase in traffic since the start of the pandemic and this partnership will help boost engagement with shoppable pins even further.

Pinterest launched its verified merchants in late March 2020 and added more features such as Shop from a Board, Shop From Search, and Shop from pins and Style guides which appears when a user searches generic terms.

The app itself is free and you will be able to get organic exposure but you’ll have to pay per click for ads that drive users directly to your store. Setup is easy and once installed you’ll be able to access the new dashboard where you can begin pushing your listings through to Pinterest.

Up to Date product data will be pushed through to Pinterest so any pricing or product updates you make in-store, will be live on your social media profile.

Installation Steps

  • Install Pinterest App from the App store
  • Add Tag to your Shopify store
  • Upload Product Catalog incl Price, Availability & Product Description
  • Publish In stock products to Pinterest

Shopify is continuing to innovate and this together with many new initiatives (such as the Shopify App) is welcome news for merchants as it provides an extra channel to reach new customers. The Pinterest App will help to drive more traffic to store owners, which needs all the help they can get in these trying times.

The app is currently available in the US & Canada. Other regions such as France, UK, Australia to follow shortly.

Merchants are adapting to new realities and looking ahead to the future of retail, which is why we’re focused on making both our ads and organic features available and impactful to businesses of all sizes.

Jeremy King, SVP of Technology, Pinterest

More on Pinterest:

“Pinterest is an American image sharing and social media service designed to enable saving and discovery of information (specifically “ideas”) on the World Wide Web using images and, on a smaller scale, GIFs and videos, in the form of pinboards. The site was created by Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra, and Evan Sharp and had 300 million monthly active users as of August 2019. Pinterest, Inc. is based in San Francisco and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Development of Pinterest began in December 2009, and the site launched the prototype as a closed beta in March 2010. Nine months after the launch the website had 10,000 users. Silbermann said he personally wrote to the site’s first 5,000 users offering his personal phone number and even meeting with some of its users. The launch of an iPhone app in early March 2011, brought in more downloads than expected. This was followed by an iPad app and Pinterest Mobile, a version of the website for non-iPhone users. Silbermann and a few programmers operated the site out of a small apartment until the summer of 2011.” Source: Wikipedia


Shopify Review 2020: Everything You Need Know

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shopify review everything you need to know

The complete Shopify Review: e-Commerce has become increasingly popular over the last few years and even more so at the start of 2020. Almost all businesses now need an online presence to helps them reach customers, handle sales and promote their brand. Building a website for e-Commerce isn’t as complicated as it used to be. Even a novice is now able to create their own store in a day without much experience.

Shopify is by far one of the most straightforward and capable e-Commerce platforms currently available. It is easy to get started and manage without prior knowledge of web design & development or coding. That is not to say that your store will be an immediate success right off the bat. As in everything you will need to do the research, teach yourself the basics and keep learning along the way. But setting up the store itself is now effortless.

TO ME, A GREAT COMPANY STARTS WITH A GREAT PRODUCT AND ENDS WITH A GREAT PRODUCT.

Tobias Lutke

Before Shopify, there were many unintuitive options for building an online store. Shopify arrived on the scene with easy-to-use tools and a capable suite of features that allowed anybody to start selling products and services online within a few hours.

Shopify 101: An introduction

Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform that lets you use a preset template to set up a shopfront where you can sell physical or digital goods. What makes Shopify so attractive is that you can create your store on your own, without having to hire a website design company or developer. You have control over enough features to make your shop fully functional. From the dashboard, you are able to upload and update products, manage inventory, set up payment gateways and set shipping rates. A professional developer or agency might be needed for more advanced builds.

Those with more advanced coding skills are also able to further tweak the HTML, CSS codes & Shopify’s own open-source template code, Liquid.

This makes Shopify a one-stop e-commerce solution.

It is referred to as a “Software as a Service” tool because you don’t need to own the software to use it. All you need is a browser and an internet connection to access your store from anywhere in the world. This is an attractive solution for on the go entrepreneurs, stay at home moms or dads and almost any size business. Shopify scales from 1 product to unlimited.

Software as a service is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. It is sometimes referred to as “on-demand software”, and was formerly referred to as “software plus services” by Microsoft.

Wikipedia

Shopify Plans and Pricing

You might imagine that an all-inclusive e-commerce solution would come at a hefty price. That is surprisingly not the case. Shopify provides a range of subscription plans that allow you to pick a plan best suited for your business and pocket.

Shopify offers a free trial to all new merchants of 14 days (Increased to 90 days during the COVID crisis). The free trial allows users to upload products, complete the store design, enter shipping and payment details and do test orders. Up until April 2020, a merchant was still able to process up to 50 orders in Development stores but that has been discontinued since.

Each of the pricing tiers offers increasing levels of features and tools that help you optimize your storefront.

shopify plans pricing chart
Shopify’s three subscription options, excl Lite plan

Here is an overview of the Shopify plans that you can choose from:

Lite – $9 per month

The Lite Package is not technically a plan as it does not support a fully functional store. What it does is turbocharge your existing Facebook or Instagram page to allow you to sell through those channels. You can use Shopify to manage the inventory of a physical location and offer goods and services for sale.

You get access to the Buy button from Shopify that integrates into an existing website, newsletter or social media channel. The Buy button includes order tracking, fulfillment or CMS integrations such as Squarespace, WordPress or Joomla.

This plan is somewhat underrated, yet it provides excellent value for money and is an efficient introduction to e-commerce.

Basic Shopify – $29 per month

The Basic plan offers a complete online store solution with most of the Shopify features. Including unlimited product uploads, fraud analysis, 24/7 customer support, social media channels, and order fulfillment.

Under the basic plan you also get the following:

  • e-Commerce website
  • Blog section
  • Ability to create pages such as About, Contact
  • Customer Logins
  • Unlimited products
  • 2 Staff Accounts
  • 24/7 support via Live Chat, Email or Phone
  • Sales Channels such as Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest
  • Manual Orders
  • Discount Codes
  • Free SSL Certificate
  • Abandoned cart recovery

Gift Cards are included in this package for a limited time during 2020 to support merchants effected by COVID-19.

The plan does not include a domain name for your store. You have the option to buy one via Shopify for $14 a year or redirect your existing one to the storefront. Shopify did not include an Email service until April 2020 when it launched a full Email service included in all packages.

Top Tip: Be careful when you choose your store name as that also becomes your admin URL and cannot be changed later. Your customers won’t’ see this URL but your admin staff will and it is sometimes included in some apps that reference it.

Top Tip: Be careful when you choose your store name as that also becomes your admin URL and cannot be changed later. Your customers won’t’ see this URL but your admin staff will and it is sometimes included in some apps that reference it.

The basic plan is perfect if you are getting started and need to sell your products online but don’t have the budget for more advanced plans.

Shopify – $79 per month

The Shopify plan offers cheaper credit card rates, professional report generation and Gift Cards for an extra $50 per month. The Report section is especially useful in analyzing almost every aspect of your store, from order processing to inventory management.
The ability to create gift cards is a powerful marketing tool that can help boost revenue during the holidays or other sales events.
This plan is best suited for larger merchants that receive the full benefit of a lower per-transaction fee of 1%. Or those who are looking for more advanced analytics and reporting. Otherwise, there is not much difference between the first two packages.

Advanced Shopify – $299 per month

This plan is the most advanced and expensive plan you can get on Shopify. It combines all the benefits that on offer in other bands and adds a much lower transaction fee of 0.5% per transaction. 3rd Party Calculated Shipping is also included in this package. You are able to add this to the other to packages for an extra $20 per month. Also included are even more advanced reporting capabilities.
Top Tip: You are able to add 3rd Party Calculated Shipping to the other packages at $20 per month.

If you are looking to play in the big leagues of e-commerce and are earning monthly revenues above $10,000, then this is the plan for you.

Shopify Plus – from $2,000 per month +

Shopify Plus is the enterprise solution for large or growing e-commerce companies.
It is ideal for those looking for more powerful e-commerce management tools, 24/7 website uptime, traffic surge protection and seamless order, inventory, and shipping management.

This plan is best suited for companies that make over $1 million in annual revenue and start at $2,000 monthly. You need to apply directly to Shopify for a custom quotation according to your business needs.

Some of the features include:

  • Advanced Apps
  • Checkout Customization and access to checkout.liquid
  • Additional API Callsscv
  • Merchant Sucess Program
  • Launch Engineer
  • Unlimited Staff accounts
  • Up to nine stores for international expansion including separate locations
  • Access to the Shopify Plus Partner Program
  • Shopify Plus Facebook Community
  • Ability to add up to 100 themes on one account
  • Added Permission settings for staff accounts
  • Wholesale Channel that allows the creation of separate Wholesale store
  • Bulk Account Inviter
  • Avalara AvaTax Services

API Resources for Shopify Plus Customers

  • GiftCard
  • Multipass
  • User
Top Tip: Save big on yearly plans

When it comes to Shopify pricing, it pays to plan. Building your own e-commerce store requires commitment and dedication. Shopify rewards this by offering significant discounts when you subscribe for a one-year(10%) or two-year plan(20%). You can reduce your Shopify subscription fees by as much as $1,400 per year using one of these options.

The 90 Day free trial gives you ample time to test out Shopify for yourself before making a long term commitment.

What Makes Shopify So Special? Top Features of Shopify

Shopify has arguably the most comprehensive suite of features that any merchant can dream of having to run an online store. Not all of these features are available in the standard Shopify plan. You can however easily upgrade or downgrade at any time if you would like to test some of the advanced features.

Shopify Themes

Shopify theme store
Themes are available in the Theme Store, including 11 Free Themes

The Shopify theme store offers more than 100 free and paid themes to choose from. Your shop theme is like a dress or suit that you put on to make your store look attractive to prospective customers. You do not need experience in graphic or web design to set up your look and feel and you can get started immediately with one of the free themes.

There is also excellent support online for any of the free ones and the forums are full of advice for anyone that needs help.

Top Tip: Resize your images using a tool like Tinypng before uploading as large images will slow down your site and hurt your SEO. Also, give your images SEO friendly file names so it can rank in Image Search

For the paid themes you would need to contact the theme creator for any advanced queries. One of the best of these, with excellent support, is Out of Sandbox.

Read through the comments section to see what the reviews are for each of the themes before you commit. This will give you a good idea what their support and responsiveness are like. Sometimes the theme or app is only as good as the support that follows afterward. Another great feature is the ability to install and preview any of the paid themes in the store.

You are not limited to only the themes in the Theme Store. There other excellent themes available at sites like Themeforest. You can buy and download the themes from one of these external markets and then easily install it using the theme upload feature in the backend.

Abandoned Cart Recovery

Between 65% & 70% of online customers do not complete their checkout online.

Many merchants are faced with the reality of customers placing products in the shopping cart only to abandon it without checking out. Shopify includes a handy section in the backend where it shows you all the abandoned transactions. It also sends out an automatic reminder to customers by email that reminds them that they have an incomplete transaction.

shopify abandoned checkout settings
Available settings for abandoned checkout emails

You can control when these reminders are sent; 1 hour, 6 hours, 10 hours(default and recommended) and 24 hours. You are also able to customize the Cart Recovery email which is a nice feature.

Abandoned checkout recovery emails are not sent for Shopify POS or other 3rd party sales channels.

The data available in your dashboard for 3 months so it is important to check regularly for patterns or reasons that might be causing the failed transactions. Take special notice of the payment event that is included with each abandoned transaction. You can use this info to see if something is wrong with your payment gateway or on the customer’s side.

You must spend time figuring out why customers are leaving your store without completing their purchase. This can have a positive effect on your revenue over time.
Another cool feature is the ability to manually email customers a link to the abandoned cart. The link can even be copied into an email if you would like to send it through your mail program like Outlook or Mac Mail.

We all know how overloaded analytics can become over time. It is difficult to remember to look at the data regularly but this can have a significant impact on your business. You can set up automatic reports on Abandoned Checkouts to be sent to your inbox regularly. These reports can include information such as sales, average order value, number of products sold, first-time buyer stats and conversion rates.

Intuitive User Dashboard

Shopify makes use of an intuitive user interface that is simple to master and navigate.
From the dashboard you are able to view and manage orders, upload products, view your customer details or access your store analytics data. You are also able to manage your social media integrated sales channels (e.g., Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Instagram).

Payment and Transaction Processing

Shopify payment options review
Shopify Makes Payment Gateway Integration Easy

Shopify has more than 100 payment providers which mean you are almost certain to find one that works best in your region. It caters to all the big names in the payment industry so you should be able to find what matches your needs.

Shopify Payments

Shopify also gives you the option to use its in-house system, Shopify Payments, and thereby cut out the middleman. It is available in over 14 countries, including the USA, UK, and Japan. Using Shopify Payments gives you discounts on your transaction fees.

Benefits of using Shopify Payments:

  • Integration is effortless
  • No extra transaction fees to 3rd parties
  • Ability to still use other payment providers like Paypal.
  • Predictable pricing
  • Potentially increased sales with multiple payment options
  • Track money from your dashboard
  • Improved Chargeback Recovery

Make sure to check beforehand that you are not on the prohibited businesses list.

You can also use manual payment options for Shopify, including cash on delivery, direct deposits, and even money orders. This as the added advantage of zero commissions payable to Shopify and is an excellent option to add to your checkout process.

Shipping Tools

If there’s anything that ruins most e-commerce businesses, it will be shipping and logistics. Shopify’s system is excellent in this regard and is easy to set up. You can apply different shipping rules and customize it by weight or price. You also get accurate shipping rates live from carriers such as DHL, USPS, and UPS. While just a few countries have these live shipping rates, Shopify expects to expand this to even more in the future. Shopify provides an all-encompassing solution for drop shipping through Shipwire, Rakuten, and Amazon Fulfillment. You can also add drop-shipping through the Shopify App Store like Oberlo.

You are also able to install Shipping apps if your courier company has one in the app store. This will allow for more advanced shipping rules and integration directly with the shipping company. Allowing you to automate much of the shipping which is often a headache for merchants.

Shopify is also working on its own fulfillment service which is a very exciting development. It is currently only available in the US to select merchants, but we hope they add more regions in the future.

Shopify App Store

shopify app store
There are over 2,400 apps in the App Store

Get access to thousands of extensions and quality apps, both free and premium, that offer a plethora of features and options. You can simply install an app to provide any feature that you need to improve your e-commerce experience. The paid apps are usually more powerful than the free ones, but it is essential to read the reviews to find the best ones. You can get apps for multi-currency conversion, accounting, reports/analytics, data capture, SEO, email marketing, order tracking and many more.

Apps can add significant functionality to your online store. From Advanced Search apps, Upsell apps to Wholesale apps that allow you to sell B2C/B2B in the same store. There really is no limit to what can be done with the right apps.

Top tip: Make a backup of your shop theme before installing apps. I’ve learned the hard way that some apps may damage your theme code and having a backup means you can easily roll back the theme. Also be sure to double-check your site speed afterward, especially the product pages as some apps add significant load time which can hurt your SEO.

Pros and Cons of Shopify

As with any online platform, there are pros and cons to Shopify. Here is an overview of some of the benefits and limitations of the service.

Pros

  • Easy of Use – Shopify has virtually everything you need to build a professional store, all available within a few clicks. There’s also an extensive help and support section with adequate documentation to help you find what you need.
  • Design and Personalization – You can rest assured of both the quality and quantity of design options with Shopify. Whether you are trying to create a brand-new shopping experience or go with a preloaded theme, you can find or create the dream storefront you want.
  • Access to advanced code – Most features of Shopify are accessible to developers so you can create custom solutions for your storefront if you have the skills. It supports both HTML, CSS, and other languages as well as its own Liquid code. The checkout code is only accessible to Shopify Plus customers.
  • Economies of Scale- From mom and pop stores, growing entrepreneurs to global conglomerates, Shopify has all the tools needed to scale. With unlimited product uploads, you will never reach a limit in catalog size.
  • Support – Shopify’s Support team is available 24 hours of the day, seven days a week by phone, email or live chat. This is a stark difference from other similar platforms where support is more limited. The support staff is helpful and almost always willing to go the extra mile. There is a limit to what they are able to provide though. For 3rd party theme related issues it is often best to contact theme support directly. The same applies to Apps.

    But they will often put you in contact with the tech support from those companies if they are not able to help.

You can access Support from your store backend or through the links below:
There is also extensive documentation available in the Shopify Help Center.

Shopify Help Center
Video Tutorials
Webinars

Cons

  • Shopify is payable in US Dollars and that can make it a bit expensive in countries with a weak exchange rate to the US Dollar. You can get around this a bit by choosing an annual or bi-annual plan for the extra savings or when the exchange rate is more favorable.

    In addition to the charges from the payment processor (like PayPal or Stripe), you still pay Shopify a transaction fee, which cuts into business revenue. The per transactions fees are also sometimes an issue for merchants but you are able to get around this by either using Shopify Payments or using manual transactions at checkout
  • Multi-language support – Support for other languages is not available to all Shopify users. Many apps and templates make it easy to get language support, but there is no standard option that is capable enough for use.
  • SEO issues – Shopify uses a URL structure that in some way inhibits SEO with Duplicate product pages. Shopify does ensure that there is a canonical tag to the associated pages but this can still pop up as an issue with color variants. You are able to fix this by editing the product.grid-item.liquid file.

Some other useful Shopify SEO Tips

  • Remove duplicate URLs from internal linking architecture
  • Remove duplicate paginated URLs
  • Create blog content for keywords with informational intent
  • Add “Product,” “Article,” & “BreadcrumbList” structured data
  • Determine how to handle product variant pages
  • Compress images using crush.pics
  • Remove unnecessary Shopify apps”

Click here for the complete guide on SEO for Shopify by MOZ:

Top Tip: Shopify does include a handy URL redirect feature in the Navigation section which allows you to update any URL changes in your store. This is a great tool to use if you migrate from another platform such as Woocommerce or if you ever change the URL of a page/collection/menu. 404 errors have a negative effect on your SEO.
shopify url redirect tool
URL Redirect is an important tool to combat 404 Errors
  • Limited Report Functionality – You only get access to professional reporting when you subscribe to the more expensive packages.
  • Limited Abandoned Cart function – You only get one email to send to customers that abandon their cart. Having more capable features require installing premium apps. You are however able to send manual emails to customers.
  • GDPR issues – You need a third-party cookie banner app for your Shopify store if you want to be compliant with the recent GDPR. You could get into trouble if you assume that it is available by default.

Conclusion

Shopify is one of the most recommended solutions for merchants who need an online store. Whether it is an online business, or an omnichannel business with a physical location, or dropshipping, it is arguably the best option.

There are now over 1 million merchants using Shopify’s e-commerce platform. The strong growth in the userbase instills a lot of confidence in the stability and longevity of this service. I for one highly recommend it to businesses of any size.

What are your thoughts on Shopify? Do you have any questions that the above guide did not answer? Let us know in the comments below.

Shopify Email Launched Globally

shopify email service launched

Shopify has announced the launch of its new email service, Shopify Email. It is free of charge for all their merchants until the 1st of October 2020.

This is good news for all shop owners, as up to this point one had to use other 3rd party email service providers. No respectable store owner can run a professional website using a Gmail or yahoo address. It lacks professionalism and does not build trust in the brand. Shopify is plugging a big gap in its product offering for merchants with this new feature. It is much easier launching your email within your store, than using another hosting company and having to struggle with DNS settings, etc.

There have often been issues with bad integrations with 3rd party apps that have frustrated many users. This also removes the fear of contacts being copied by unscrupulous App developers.

At this time it is still not known if it will be including important features such as DKIM and DMARC alignment into this new service.

No Setup Required, Fewer Hassles

It does not require any setup and works in your dashboard under the Marketing tab. This is a big plus for users who might not be tech-savvy or those frustrated by constantly struggling with email issues. Who among us has not had issues with constant requests for our passwords or having to call tech support every time your mailing program updates?

Shopify takes on Newsletters Giants

The new services also come with a host of extra benefits in direct competition with newsletter services providers.

One of the most exciting features is templates, which make it easy for users to setup up stunning email campaigns in seconds. The designs look clean and simple as well as easy to update. I’m not sure how much customization is allowed but that might be a good thing when it comes to responsiveness and compatibility.

Built-in Templates

Another compelling feature is that the templates will automatically pull in your company logo, colors, and fonts. This will ensure that your brand identity in your marketing emails is aligned with your store

Shopify already offers powerful analytics data and this is now brought through to the Email section. You will be able to track insightful info about your email campaigns. This is is a must if you want to understand what is working and what needs improvement.

Shopify is taking on the big guns in email marketing by including attributes that used to be the sole domain of the likes of Mailchimp and Active Campaign. Tools such as the ability to segment your users by spending habits in your store will be a fan favorite with merchants. Shopify Emails might be one of the reasons for the split in 2019 between Shopify and Mailchimp as the latter must have seen this as direct competition for their core business.

Extra features, such as the ability to schedule emails and more advanced templates, will be rolled out in the future.

What is the cost of Shopify Emails?

Pricing at first glance looks affordable. Your first 2500 emails are free (although it is not clear if this is per month or lifetime). After that, it will cost you $1 per 1000 emails. This is very generous considering that for now there seems to be no limit to the number of subscribers.

This is certainly an exciting addition to Shopify’s product offering. It also comes in a time when merchants need all the tools they can get to help retain customers and reach new ones. Shopify Emails will also make it a much more attractive offer for new customers who prefer a one-stop solution.

What this means for all the Newsletter Apps in the Shopify ecosystems is another question altogether.

Competitors like Bigcommerce will be keeping a close eye on developments such as this. Up to know they have only offered email forwarding but this might change if the new feature becomes more popular.

This is, however, a positive move from Shopify as they continue to expand on the list of services that come with their e-Commerce solution. It is exciting to see that the Ottawa based e-Commerce giant continues to update and improve its product offering.

Click here for the full article on the Shopify Blog: Shopify Email Is Rolling Out Now and Completely Free Until October 1, 2020

Amazon in the Age of Crisis

amazon covid 19 crisis ecommerce-supply-chain

The world is holding its collective breath to see what the lasting effects will be from the current Covid-19 pandemic. Millions of jobs are at stake or already lost and trillions of dollars have disappeared from the world markets. Online retailers should be well-positioned to weather the storm yet supply chain issues, panic buying, and strict lockdown laws across most of the world have placed massive strain e-Commerce companies. Even the world’s largest online retailer is feeling the strain with long delays in essential items, issues with price-gouging and concerns around the safety of its drivers and warehouse staff.

The Oracle of Seattle

Prescient Bezos though sold $3.4bn of Amazon Shares in early February. Maybe it was luck or maybe the man at the head of the world’s largest retailer was beginning to see the first warning signs from China with regards to resupply as the infection spread out from Wuhan.

What is more worrying is that if a company the size of Amazon, renowned for its massive fulfillment network, vast warehouses and efficient fleet of delivery trucks can take strain then what does it mean for the rest of the online merchants?

Supply Chain Under Pressure

The cases of invected warehouse staff are increasing daily and will only get worse in the coming weeks. There is evidence that the virus stays active for 24 hours on cardboard and even longer on plastics and steal. Making sure that the warehouse & merchandise stays disinfected will be a mammoth task but one that cannot be ignored for the safety of staff and customers.

Covid-19 has been found to stay active on cardboard for up to 24 hours

And yet retail customers are flooding the site daily in an effort to order basic goods such as groceries and other essentials yet standard delivery is unavailable in many areas across the US.

  • toilet roll
  • eggs
  • beef
  • milk
  • hand sanitizer
  • bottled water
  • ibuprofen
  • face masks

In all this Amazon plays an important part in keeping consumer’s cupboards filled. With lockdowns being implemented in more countries across the globe each day, online sales will be critical in helping millions put food on the table. One can only imagine what will happen if more issues begin to pop up in our vital delivery networks over the next couple of weeks.

I got a glimpse of this whilst talking over Skype with a family member in the island-bound country of Mauritius, where they have been placed on complete lockdown. Only one family member is only allowed to go to the shops once every seven days. There are only a few online stores trading on the Island and almost all of them have suffered from downtime due to the increased load. We often forget in the good times how easy we have it with prime memberships and one-day deliveries.

Crackdown on Price-Gouging

Price-Gouging is when a seller increases the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable.

Amazon has been tough on sellers trying to take advantage of the current crisis by shutting down anyone overcharging for essential items(by 1,600% on some items). Over 4000 accounts have been suspended in the process. It released the following statement:

“Making clear to all of our sellers our longstanding policies that ensure fair pricing. Monitoring our stores 24/7 through both automated and manual means and aggressively removing bad actors and offers. Collaborating with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and policymakers to hold price gougers accountable. Staying focused on our customers and protecting their interests.”

The clean-up is sure to continue in the coming weeks.

Amazon Sellers in the Crossfire

Arbitragers have been the biggest losers during this period of turmoil as they have no control over replenishment and cost. The conditions are changing daily making it almost impossible for these types of sellers to respond in time.

Building a business with Amazon has been lucrative for many sellers over the years but the current heavy-handedness will give some pause for thought. If you are not in control of your own platform, sales and pricing then it is possible to ask if you even have a business.

There is however evidence that Amazon itself was increasing pricing in the early days of the epidemic:

“When we looked at the data, we saw price increases from both Amazon and third-party sellers,” said Greg Mercer, founder, and CEO of Jungle Scout. That company tracks Amazon sales data and sells it to third-party vendors.

Mercer says Amazon not only earned commissions from those sellers accused of price gouging but it also more than doubled its own prices on essential goods as the COVID-19 pandemic grew between early January and mid-March.

At one point earlier this month, Amazon listed a four-pack of its own brand of toilet paper for $72.

Source: abcactionnews.com

Bringing It Home

Our connected world has in a way created the very problem we are currently facing. Supply Chains stretch across the planet, across multiple regions. The closing of borders has placed a significant strain on merchants across the globe. It may be time to bring that supply chain back home and source more products locally whilst the crisis unfolds. The shipping lanes are still running but the congestion at the ports is causing backlogs.

This will only become worse as the sickness spreads to the crews of the container ships. Already we have seen the cruise ships devasted by the virus and now the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt crew has become another statistic with the navy’s first at-sea outbreak. If the world’s most powerful navy is not immune then who is.

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