Must Have Marketing Apps for Shopify


What are the must have marketing apps that can help my Shopify store?

As a Shopify Expert and a Shopify App developer we get asked this question a lot.

The answer I give might surprise you… No, I don’t just pimp our own apps.

(Although if you’re looking for the easiest most effective referral marketing app out there, take a look at Forewards ☺ Or if you need some help connecting your store to a third party warehouse for fulfillment you can use CSV to FTP ☺)

No the advice that I give is this:

Before you start adding marketing apps to your Shopify store, make sure you’re getting the most out of the features that Shopify gives you to begin with!

I come across far too many Shopify stores (as well as store built with other awesome platforms like BigCommerce) that are loaded to the gills with value added marketing and sales apps, but lack some of the foundational basics that every store needs to have. The funny thing is, addressing these issues can easily be done with the features included with the basic shopping cart capabilities.

Let’s take a look at some of the commonly overlooked elements in many Shopify stores.

Before you dive into adding extra bells and whistles to your store, there are two crucial elements that you want to spend some time on.

1. Design and Usability

The first is design and usability. Our front-end designer and developer Sarah has gone over a number of helpful tips and tricks on design and usability. I suggest you give them a read through and see if anything might be applicable to your store.

If your store isn’t easy to navigate, or confuses your customers in any way you’ve got a problem that no value added app will be able to fix. So spend the right amount of time on that, and if you need to get some outside help Shopify has an awesome network of experts that can guide you through these early stage decisions

2. SEO

Second you’ll want to take a look at your SEO strategy. Don’t have one? Now is the time to create one.

We put together this handy dandy SEO guide to get you started on the right foot when it comes with putting in the work today to get tomorrow’s search engine traffic.

Let’s take a look at some of the tools built into the Shopify platform that you may have overlooked.

If you’ve read through our SEO guide you know that the key to great SEO is strategically using your keywords. Shopify helps make this a bit easier by having some really clearly labeled areas for you to use them.

First your product descriptions. Product descriptions are a great place to not only embed some keywords, but also a great place to add some convincing value propositions to all your items for sale as well

SEO your product descriptions

The same holds true for your store itself. I’ve seen way too many online stores jump right into a product catalog on the home page without any descriptive text or anything frankly describing what the point of the store is. If you’re selling board games, it’s not enough to put a whole whack of board games on your home page. Tell these potential customers what makes your store special and why they should care. Again Shopify makes placing this on your page a fairly simple task.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 9.26.10 AM

Next place for keywords. A blog. The folks at Shopify understand how important blogging and content can be to any online marketing effort. So they include with the Shopify platform a pretty easy to use blogging platform as well.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 9.26.37 AM

Don’t leave this stuff blank. Use your blog to talk about your story, about your store, about your passion, and of course about your products. This type of inbound marketing and content effort, helps both to build your brand and your expertise. But equally important, this is the content that will lead Google to find you as well

Now the technical (ish) part. Your meta data. That’s information that website visitors will never see (or look for) but is the first thing that search engine crawlers will use to find you. Make sure you’ve got all this meta data in place. Again, Shopify makes it easy. Rather than forcing you into the HTML, just use the fields they provide you for each page.

Don't leave home without your meta data

Shopify home page meta data

Think you’ve got your bases covered? Great! Now before you move on, give your work a double check. Again, Shopify has an awesome FREE tool that you might not know about to help you check that you’re on the right track.

If you go to the Shopify user forums (which you should be on anyways for other helpful advice), they have a store grader tool that helps check the basics of your store. Specifically looking at usability and SEO. The best part is when you read through the score details, Shopify provides you with some pretty actionable tips to improve your store.

Shopify ecommerce store grader


Actionable ecommerce advice

So before you go diving head first into the app store adding too many marketing apps for your shopify store. Make sure you’ve got all these basics in place.

Oh and when you do go diving into the app store, take a look at Forewards or CSV to FTP.

Next Big E-commerce Trend: Advocacy or Referral Marketing


Hank Barnes, A Research Director with Gartner recently shared some powerful insights in his blog “Will 2014 be the year of Advocate Marketing”. Hank’s belief is that advocate marketing will be the next big area of investment in marketing technologies.
“I strongly believe that Advocacy Marketing should be at the top of the priority list in terms of marketing investment” Hank Barnes, Research Director, Gartner.

So why such a bold statement? It’s the data and the success stories that are starting to show a major trend. There is a specific subset of advocacy marketing that is particularly interesting, it’s called Referral Marketing. Here are some statistics to start with.

-“65% of all new business for any business comes from referrals” – New York Times
-“People are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend” – Nielsen
-“Life Time Value of a referral customer (LVC) is more than 16% higher than non-referred customers” Wharton School of Business
-“83% of consumers are WILLING to refer – yet only 29% actually do” Texas Tech University

I think most people inherently know the powerful of word of mouth marketing. But the big shift is the attitudes of consumers towards big brand advertising in general. Consumers feel that advertisers are misleading and they look at brands today with more caution and trepidation than ever before. So what’s the answer? This is where referral marketing makes its grand entrance. The solution is to have consumers themselves refer products/service to their friends and family.

Word of mouth is not new so why hasn’t this been a focal point until now? The big challenge with word of mouth or referral marketing has been creating something that is repeatable and measurable. How does one track “The Situation” referring a new tanning salon to “JWOW” and “Snooky”? How does one control the messaging that a customer “Jim Smith” will use to refer his friend ‘Bill Thomas”? There are a number of software companies trying to solve this problem and one company that’s quickly gaining traction is Forewards (
Forewards is a fully automated customer referral engine that works with any e-store to drive traffic and new purchases. It essentially turns you customers into an army of sales reps by using powerful word-of-mouth.

Just Ask A Simple Question?

When was the last time you were asked to refer a friend/family the moment you made a purchase? Studies show that less than 1% are asked that question. But 83% of consumers are willing to refer to their family/friends. What happens when 8.5 folks out of 10 are willing to refer but they’re not asked to do so? Only 2.5 people out of 10 actually do.
Thus the premise behind Forewards is extremely simple and perhaps that is the reason behind its popularity. Forewards automatically asks the question to every single customer “If you like what you purchased, please help us grow our business by referring 5 friends/family or posting it on social media”. That simple act of asking can drive referral engagement by 200% and increase bottom line revenue by 15 to 20%.

A Successful Referral Campaign Starts With Simplicity

Keep is Simple and Stupid (KISS). Remember that as a consumer, being asked to refer their friend/family is not something they’re asked on a regular basis. It’s an inherent friction point and the key is to remove as many friction points as possible. Here are a few interesting facts that we’ve learned from running hundreds of referral campaigns.

1) Eliminate as many “decision points” as possible

Ask them to take action in a clear and concise manner. For example, don’t ask to refer as many friends as they can using email and social media. Ask them to refer 5 friends in this email that’s already crafted for you and send right now by clicking this red button. Decision points are friction points so make the call to action easy as pie.

2) Continuously Test Messages, Hero Images and Calls to Action

The chances are you won’t get the right the first time. Test continuously and measure incessantly. Over time, your referral rates and referral revenue will skyrocket

3) Ask more than once

Have you ever procrastinated on a decision to do something right at this moment in time? Sure you have, but don’t feel bad about it because almost everyone does. Studies have shown that you need to ask someone an average of 4 times before action is taken. The key is knowing when to ask and how often without being overly aggressive.

4) Use a $ figure instead of % off

This is a curious one, but time and time again we see that actual cash rebate works better than % discount. It’s the same thing really, any reasonable person should be able to calculate the % discount and derive a $ savings from it. But the human mind is a strange thing, it doesn’t want to do that calculation, it’s lazy. Giving someone the actual $ actually works better by a pretty sizable margin. Try it and measure it, it’ll give you some interesting insights

The idea of advocate or referral marketing online is not new (Dropbox is the most famous example). But it’s only recently that major technology research firms like Gartner have given it serious thought. At Forewards we’re seeing this trend real time. We anticipate word of mouth referral engine such as Forewards to be the next big growth trend in online marketing.

Forget the Tricks, Treat Your Store to More Customer Referrals

Super Halloween App Treats

I love this time of year; I can walk to my errands and not end up in either a sweaty mess, or have to do it dressed in a parka. But then again I’m an adult. My son, on the other hand, loves this time of year because in a few days he will take advantage of his biggest sugar high of the year.

Trick or treat! It’s time for Halloween!

In the spirit of the season we wanted to treat all our customers, and potential customers, to some candy. Unfortunately the logistics of that were a bit cost prohibitive. So instead we’ve done something that may arguably be better.

Released a new version of Forewards – referral marketing software!

We’ve taken the feedback we’ve gotten from our users to date, and turned it into improvements to the product. Duh.

The latest version of our referral marketing software now includes the following:

– User Editable Graphics
Upload your own graphics to be used in the referral email campaigns to make your referral program reflect your branding even better than ever.

– Upgraded coupon options
Use this advanced setting to set your referral campaigns to use one-time use randomly generated coupons

– Mobile campaign optimization
Shopify’s own research shows that over 50% of shoppers are now coming through a mobile device, we’ve optimized all aspects of our campaigns to perform better on mobile devices.

Visit our Shopify app store page today to take these new capabilities for a test drive.

But we’re not ones to rest on our laurels. As awesome as those new enhancements are we still have more in the pipeline. Stay tuned to see what Christmas may have to offer ☺

How Word Of Mouth Referrals Built a $10 Billion Company

Working hard to grow a business

In 2007 a young man named Drew Houston decided that enough was enough. No more crappy file sharing sites and losing portable USB drives. His solution was to build a product that would become the staple of online file sharing and file storage that is now worth $10 Billion. If you haven’t guessed yet the company is Dropbox and chances are it’s on your desktop right now.

Now there are lots of reasons why Dropbox is great but great products do not always translate into great success. VHS vs Beta is a prime example (my first movie on VHS was Rambo Part 2!)

The Greatest Distribution Plan EVER!

Dropbox is the most successful example of what we call a “dual sided incentivized referral program”. In layman’s terms, that means that the person referring and the person getting the referral are both rewarded simultaneously. Of course, Dropbox didn’t invent referral programs but they were the first company to execute it to this scale. At least the first to turn it into a $10 Billion dollar business.

Picture of dropbox

According to founder Drew Houston, the referral program was the key to the company success. They doubled users every 3 months, basically turning 100,000 users to 4,000,000 in 15 months. At the height of the program, over 3 million direct referral invite emails were sent out in one month. Now that’s how you build a 10 Billion dollar company!

So where did Drew get this inspiration? Apparently the program was inspired by PayPal. While PayPal rewarded users with cash, Dropbox rewarded users with extra storage space to both the person referring and the person getting the referral. The point here is that an incentive does not need to be cash, in fact, referrals can sometimes work better if the incentive is intrinsic. A simple thank you or a small gift can have a powerful effect.

No Ad Spends

So this is where the question gets asked, “Did Dropbox spend advertising dollars to get this engine moving?” The word is that they didn’t spend a dime to get this engine moving on traditional advertising such as adwords or facebook. Now I find this a little hard to believe, I’m sure a buck or two was spent testing adwords, but the point is that they built the company without a paid advertising strategy. My suspicion is that the cost of acquisition would have been at least 3X the value of the product. In other words, this is the only way Dropbox could have reach this level of success.

Bah Humbug – This won’t work for me!

Foolishness!! Of course it’ll work for you. It’s the oldest and most battle tested marketing trick in the book. Word of mouth marketing has been used for Millennia! How do you make it work for you? Alright let’s start with some tips and tricks.

Some Tips & Tricks

1) Ask, ask and ask again: Studies show that most people respond after the 4th request. We’re all human and we’re all busy. I may just forget or I may be busy the first time you ask so ask persistently.

2) Learn to speak their language: Dropbox campaign wasn’t marketed as “invite your friends” it was marketed as “Get more free space”. Just a small twist in the call to action can make a big difference

3) When you ask is just as important as what you ask: There are certain times within the sales and consumption process that a consumer is most likely to respond, let’s say right after a great customer service call? When he/she just received your product in the mail? Figure out those opportune times and ask at those times.

4) Test the message: Chances are you won’t hit the nail on the head the first time around, so make sure to bake in a testing process. Change, measure, analyze and test again.

5) Be Patient: It’s going to take time: Referral marketing by nature is a program that gets more powerful as you move forward in time. Don’t give up too easily, give it time to work.

We’re Taking Part in Toronto Startup open House!

open house

If any on you have ever wondered what it’s like to take a peek inside the machine that is Forewards, we’d like to welcome you into our humble home this week. Sort of :)

For those of you in the Toronto area, we are very excited to be participating in the Toronto Startup Open House even this Thursday October 30, 2014.

Come on by, we may or may not have snacks, but we definitely will be happy to show you around and provide you with some insights into what goes into building the friendliest referral marketing software out there for busy ecommerce businesses.

For more information on the even you can visit their website here.