Before you build out an eCommerce site you should understand the full costs of actually running it. No you don’t just put the store up and people magically come to it and then you’re a millionaire.

Running an eCommerce site (much like any decent site) takes work and some ongoing costs.


If no one knows about you then you’re not going to sell anything on your site. One of the best things you can do for your long term search engine visibility is to write at least one blog post a week.

Yeah that may sound like a lot of work if you’re not writer, but I didn’t say write to write 5000 word posts every week I said write one post.

One of my clients is a paddling shop. They write one post a week and often it’s mostly a photo post with a quick recap of where the staff went paddling that week. The biggest investment was in the nice waterproof camera for staff to take along.


Another thing they write about is new paddling gear that comes in. Take a few pictures of staff wearing it and write about why they felt it was a good product to bring in.

Also remember that you know a lot about your industry already so you have a lot of ‘foundational’ posts you can write that are going to come easy.

For me that’s something like this article. I advise clients on the ongoing work an online store takes every week so to put it down in words isn’t that hard. When I sat down and started to put down titles for foundational WordPress eCommerce posts I came up with 20 titles in about 5 minutes.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What is the total cost of your products/services?
  • What type of service should customers expect?
  • Why would someone purchase option A over option B?

If you’re using WordPress you should also be using WordPress SEO by Yoast to give your site the highest possibility of being found in search. If you’re not familiar with how to use it then get a membership to WP101 which not only teaches you how to use WordPress but has a great series on using the WordPress SEO by Yoast.

It will work with any WordPress eCommerce platform and allow you to specify what search engines are going to see on your content and products.


If you’re hosting eCommerce you can’t just use a $3/month host because of the security offered. If you’re taking credit cards online then you’re going to need to be PCI compliant which means a bunch of the normal stuff that’s allowed on a server isn’t allowed for your eCommerce site.

My current recommendation is to use Siteground on their GoGeek plan. It’s got everything your developer is going to need security wise and isn’t hundreds of dollars a month.


To keep things secure you’re going to need an SSL for your site. An SSL makes sure that the communication between your client’s browser and your site is encrypted which keeps their information safe.

If you’re going with the GoGeek plan then you get an SSL for free when you get started. Simply put in a support ticket and their support crew can help you get it set up.

There are 2 main types of SSL certificates. The first is a ‘quick’ SSL and all it does is confirm that the server you’re on is the expected server. They range in price from $75 – $150 and I suggest that you just get them from your host if they offer the option, like Siteground and most others do.

The second type is called an Extended Validation Certificate or EV Cert for short. They range in cost from $150 – $500+. The difference here is that they do a bunch of business validation. So they ask for your address and other information and basically make sure that you are who you say you are.

The EV Cert gives you a ‘fully secure’ green bar in your browser. If you’re a larger business (doing more than $10k/month in sales) then I suggest you get an EV Cert for your site. It shows a higher level of security and can help influence customers trust in your business.

If you’re in the market for an EV Cert then I recommend purchasing from GeoTrust. Once you get it you can work with your host to have it installed properly.

SSL are renewed on a yearly basis. Some are valid for a few years but this is a recurring expense for your eCommerce site.


You have your site backed up right? If your web developer makes a mistake and the whole site goes dead you can recover from that right?

Mistakes happen so expect them and plan for it.

All of my clients are required to have a backup plan that at least gets the whole site daily and the database 3 – 4 times a day.

If they don’t have anything then I recommend they use VaultPress which does a realtime backup. That means as things change on your site it keeps them backed up for you.

Plugin licenses

No matter what platform you choose (read my guide to choosing) you’re going to have some recurring plugin license costs.

That means if you purchased a payment gateway for Easy Digital Downloads you’re going to need to pay yearly to get the updates for that payment gateway.

Considering the actual cost to build an eCommerce platform (easily in to the hundreds of thousands if you build a custom one) a few hundred dollars a year in plugin renewals is very inexpensive.


If you’ve got an eCommerce site you should be looking at your conversions and how to optimize them. At the very least you should be looking at Optimizely and A/B testing your sites.

Optimizely has a free plan that can work for many site owners to get started testing. Some other great tools for optimizing your site for conversions are:

  • Feng-GUI which does automated UI tracking testing. Not as good as actually having users on the site testing but better that not testing
  • Inspectlet records user sessions on your site so you can see what real people are doing
  • User Testing lets you hire people at little cost to try out your site and accomplish tasks as they talk through the tasks. Super informative to see where your site is totally confusing.

If you’re not sure how to do conversion optimization I recommend reading Master The Essentials of Conversion Optimization for a great primer or get in touch and we can help.

Payment Gateways

All payment gateways take some percentage of your sales as payment for their service. Fairly typical is around 3% so make sure to factor that in to all your earnings projections.


Now you may not be able to handle all of the above on your own. You may need to hire someone to take care of your testing/conversion optimization or your marketing program. Prices on this vary so do some research and find a company that fits with you.

That’s all the bigger ticket expenses you’re going to have when you run an eCommerce site. Now you can be better prepared to run a profitable store.

photo credit: stevedave cc


There are a few options out there for WordPress when it comes to building an eCommerce site and making the choice can be hard especially if you don’t build eCommerce sites on a regular basis.

Where do you even start? What are the real differences between the major players like Woocommerce, WP eCommerce, Exchange, and Easy Digital Downloads?

What are you goals?

The place you need to start is to identify your goals with the site.

Which payment gateway do you want to use?

Are you shipping physical goods or is this purely a digital store?

Do you need to integrate with advanced analytics like KissMetrics?

Do you have a well built conversion ready theme that supports an eCommerce platform or are you starting from scratch?

How much support do you need from the plugin seller?

The single eCommerce platform with the most options in extensions that can do the most is WooCommerce. It can be a digital store or a store that ships things. It can run a learning based membership site and integrate with advanced metrics.

If a WordPress theme supports an eCommerce plugin then it’s likely that plugin is WooCommerce since it’s already the engine behind most WordPress eCommerce sites.

But that still doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you.

Digital Downloads

If you’re building a digital downloads store (like selling books or software) then Easy Digital Downloads is your best option.

Sure WooCommerce or WP eCommerce or Exchange can also power that type of site but EDD is the easiest to set up simply because it doesn’t have all those options that are needed for physical goods.

If you’re selling software, particularly WordPress themes or Plugins, then EDD gets even easier. WooCommerce does have the ability to do software licenses, unfortunately the documentation is hard to get around while EDD offers easy examples of how to implement software licensing.

To give you an example I sat around with 2 other WooCommerce developers when I was getting ready to setup the software licensing portion of my commercial plugin and after 60 minutes of back and forth we still didn’t quite get how WooCommerce wanted so set things up.

Then I bought the EDD software licensing plugin and had it set up in 20 minutes which included tearing it apart so the software licensing pages looked different for my plugin.

It does seem a bit ironic to sell a WooCommerce plugin with Easy Digital Downloads but there is no simpler option to handle software licensing so I went with the best tool for the job.

How much support do you need?

How much support do you need? How familiar are you with code? I build sites all the time so I actually need very little support. When I hit and issue I know that I can look at the code and 98% of the time figure it out in short order. If I can’t then I have a friend who can figure it out with me.

If you’re going to need support/help with your plugins then there is a few things you should know about how each plugin does support.

Currently WooCommerce has the slowest support. They’re getting better but expect at least 24 hours to hear back from them about an issue you’re having. Their support ticketing system is a fairly long form that asks for a bunch of data you may or may not know where to get inside the plugin and inside your WooThemes account.

So WooCommerce does provide support for their paying customers but it’s a bit of a laborious process to submit a ticket and response times are slower than competitors.

Probably the best support comes out of Easy Digital Downloads. Pippin (the founder) and his team provide fast top notch support to all paying customers. Their support is fast, but if you want to be at the top of the list of incoming tickets you can pay for Priority Support. That means that the already fast and stellar support will be faster.

WP eCommerce has a ‘token’ model for support which means when you purchase an extension like Gold Cart you get a single support token. Once you use that to get 1on1 support from WP eCommerce you’re going to need to purchase another support token at a cost of $99 USD for each support request you submit.

iThemes offers 1 month of ticketed support with the purchase of a Pro pack then you move to ‘regular’ support. So during that crucial time where you are likely to have more questions as you get used to the platform iThemes has you on the fastest support.

Later on when you’re likely to have less questions you still have paid support, but the speed is a bit slower.

Outside of the paid support on each platform you can get community support for any of the above options by going to the plugin forum support pages for each plugin for which there are links below.

Updates and Stability

Regardless of which platform you use you should be running a testing server and upgrading your eCommerce site there first and only once you’ve run tests on it you upgrade your live site. Not doing this is simply asking for trouble of the emergency variety.

If something breaks and it’s on your testing site, there really isn’t a big issue. It’s simply a testing site and no one is being blocked from purchasing your products.

If you upgrade the live site first and something breaks, it’s a big deal and you’re in panic mode since your customers can’t make purchases.

The only plugin I more or less expect to have issues during and upgrade is WooCommerce. Maybe it’s a theme issue when they rewrite all their CSS (which really did need to get done it was terrible) or maybe they change how the whole coupon system works and some of the plugins you’ve purchased aren’t upgraded yet.

Whatever it is, the one I consistently have to go back and ‘fix’ after upgrades is WooCommerce.

All of the others have had issues upgrading at times but 95% of the time there is no issue with upgrading Exchange, EDD, or WPEC.

Most delightful to use

Hands down the most delightful UI and plugin function award goes to iThemes Exchange. They are the ‘newest’ option on the market and put a lot of work in to how the plugin functions for users. None of the other ones are terrible to use, but iThemes really kicks the usability up a notch.

Wrap up

Where does that leave you really, because I said that each option was best at some things but not best at others?

Like I said you need to decide a few things about what you want to do. If you’re looking a shipping a bunch of physical goods then EDD is out as an option.

Once you’ve made the easy cuts then it’s time to look at the extensions around the plugins and choose the one that has the most extensions already built to do what you need.

None of the options are terrible choices.

photo credit: 22875869@N02 cc

Even if you only have a single ‘standard’ product to see you need to start looking at what you can use as an upsell to generate more revenue with your business.

You are upsold pretty much any time you head in to a fast food restaurant. They all ask if you’d like to ‘super size’ that meal and most people say yes. Typically that means you get some extra fries and a bit more soda (or pop). That’s something that is of high value to you and really doesn’t cost them much to provide.

Does Upselling work?

8351789877_71023d6d69_oIn short yes it does. The automotive industry alone makes huge profits on selling you the carpet protection after you’ve purchased a car because adding $2/month to a payment of $400/month is barely noticeable. In fact the whole goal of the person writing up your lease/finance agreement is to try and sell you on extra stuff.

That and service are the highest profit centres in a car dealership.

But I only sell one product

Over on my personal site, I also only sell one product as I write this. I sell a single book for $29.99 but I also have an ‘upsell’ of videos to go with the book. I sell 2 books for every one set of books and videos but most of the income comes from the videos because of their pricing difference.

If I didn’t have the option to purchase the videos I would have left thousands of dollars on the table.

Can you upsell too much?

A great rule of thumb is that the upsell attempt should be useful to the customer and make sense. You wouldn’t upsell someone shopping for a point and shoot camera to a $5k dSLR plus a lens package, you’d show them a slightly nicer point and shoot camera.

One place that many stores get it wrong (Staples I’m looking your way) is to send repeated emails after a purchase to try and get you to upgrade the order before it ships.

When you embark on upselling your products do so in a way that you wouldn’t mind being upsold. Point out options that increase the value to the customer without being some crazy expensive add on that has little bearing on their current purchase.

photo credit: lego_bro cc

If you’ve run a site for more than 1 week you’ve encountered users. For some reason they seem to be able to take the most finely crafted work you and your developer came up with and reduce it to a pile of smouldering bugs within seconds of launch.

I have one project in particular that has been launched for months and suddenly we had 1 user reporting missing content. They could see it when they weren’t logged in but as soon as they logged in content was missing.
Posts ‘magically’ disappeared.

I spent 2 hours trying to track that down. My client and I were about to just give up and say it was a user problem and she was just wrong. I couldn’t reproduce the error on my local install or on our staging site or when logged in to the user account on the live site.

Then one little tidbit of information came through. There was a ‘login’ link that I wasn’t aware of. During 2 short weeks when I was busy another developer had added it and hardcoded a path to the development server.

Development was at least a week behind live content so of course when the user logged in they didn’t see all the content.

What was a 10 minute fix took over 2 days of back and forth to find.
For most sites this process of back and forth is going to repeat itself over and over because “that’s just how it works.”

The reality is that it only works that way because you let it work that way.

Have a reporting system

Our big step to deal with future problems has been to build a reporting form for clients. We collect:

  1. Browser (including version)
  2. OS
  3. Detailed steps to reproduce (seriously the more detail the better and screenshots FTW)

We also recorded a training video on how to get your browser version and your operating system and showed how much detail is great for bug reporting.

Finally if the bug seems to be extra obscure we get clients to use Screenr to record the bug in action. We even took the time to record a video demonstration of how to record that screencast and submit it to us.

But users rarely report bugs

Even with a solid process that’s easy for your users know that most of them are not going to report a bug. In fact we typically see only about 5% of users will actually report a bug even if it affects most of them.

So it’s likely you’re going to simply be loosing sales due to a bug you don’t know about.

That sucks but your developer can do something about it.

Log some bugs

Instead of just sitting back and waiting for your users to report bugs (which we know doesn’t happen enough) you should be expecting your developer to build in error reporting for your site.

We always use tool called WP_Logging (it’s a bit technical to be sure) with our custom development to catch any situation where an error could happen.

Less technical and usually billed as a marketing plugin is Leadin. With Leadin installed you can see where your users are going so you can check where that member that just cancelled has been during their membership. I did they recycle on an odd page for a few days?

Does that page work properly? Time to figure it out.

Set up Goals

Google Analytics has an awesome feature called ‘goals’ that allows you to define the ‘flow’ of a user through your site. A typical eCommerce flow should look something like a triangle pointed down.

100 people start the funnel 80 people get to checkout and 50 people purchase a product.

Now if you have 100 people start the funnel and 80 people get to checkout and 10 people purchase then you’ve likely got a problem with the checkout page. It may not be a site bug (as in it may not be actually broken) but there is certainly something wrong with the content of the checkout page.

Issues happen on sites and it’s likely that your users aren’t even reporting them they’re just leaving. Setting up some goals in Google Analytics and some additional development logging will go a long way to making sure that you catch as many bugs as possible.

Yup we’re still talking about email. Here’s what we’ve covered so far.

Today we’re going to talk about how we increase the conversions in our email campaigns.


What’s a good conversion?

First off what is a good conversion rate for email? According to MailChimp it can depend a bit on your industry. A good ‘rule of thumb’ for a while is somewhere between 1 – 5% of the people that get your email will actually click on something in it.

Currently my opens are around 39% and my click through rate is 10% which is high but has actually come down as I’ve built my email list more. As I’ve cast my net wider I’ve been pulling in a few more people that aren’t super fans of my content.

That’s not technically a bad thing since it’s still more people and overall more people are interacting with my sites, but it can feel a bit like a fail as your clicks and opens go down.

Another thing to remember is that all conversions aren’t the same. Is it better to have 2.5% conversions on a $.99 product or 1% on a $900 product?

You’re going to make much more with that 1% conversion. So don’t just look at the raw number figure out which type of conversion is best for you.

What’s your goal

Before you start your email, what is your goal? Is it a regular content message so you stay valuable to your readers or is it time to make a bit of a pitch to them?

If it’s a content email then maybe the tips below aren’t what you should be using for this particular email.

Watch that subject line

First off you need to hook the email reader so that they open your email and that means writing a compelling subject. Did you know that email subjects of fewer than 10 characters convert better than longer titles?

A great way to lead in is to put a question in the subject line. Maybe even make it a bit shocking/funny to intrigue them. How about “Did you know that you wake up with a zombie?” for an email about a better morning routine.

‘How to’ subject lines also work well. For our morning routine email we could use “How to wash the morning zombie out of your brain”.

There are a number of other awesome ways to write subject lines and Campaign Monitor has a great post on them all.

The takeaway is, don’t just write something and let it go. Put some thought in to your email subject lines and you’re going to get a better opening rate.

Personalize the email

Do you like talking to someone that obviously hasn’t done any research on you or someone that actually engages with you? Pretty obviously you prefer to talk to someone that has actually taken time to do some research on you and knows your name.

All the email providers have the ability to use a ‘fill in’ which is a bit of placeholder text that becomes the user’s name when the email is sent.

Make sure you use their first and last name in their email if you have them.

I regularly go through my MailChimp lists and try to find out the first/last names of the subscribers and put them in to MailChimp and when I do, opens and subscribes get higher.

Invite personal reply

What’s your biggest business problem? I’d love to hear about it at

See that, that’s a question and when you put those in your email broadcasts your going to get replies. Yes that’s work but there is no magic bullet to building a solid email list with great fans of your brand.

Asking them a question and engaging them will increase your conversions on later emails as well because they now have a person connection with you.

Send it again

You may think that because someone didn’t open your email they aren’t interested in what you have to offer, but that’s totally not true.

Look at what Nathan Barry says about his second email for the launch of his Authority book.

…that email drove $5000 in revenue

He made around $26,000 in 24 hours on the product launch and $5000 of that came from the second email. That’s users that didn’t purchase with the first email and it’s almost 20% of the total revenue.

If you can, track the conversions on your email list right through to the site then segment out the users that already purchased your product and only send the second email to those that haven’t purchase.

If you can’t then send the email to everyone on the email list again. Remind them when the sales window is about to close and invite them to purchase again. Provide them with the coupon you gave your email list (if you gave them one).

Make it easy for them to buy from you.

Make it mobile friendly

Please oh please make your email mobile friendly. According to reports between 48% – 55% of email opens happen on a mobile device.

You know you do it to, roll over and check your email before you’ve even had breakfast. Maybe it’s just to delete the crap you don’t want in your inbox, but you at least look at them all.

Mobile users are increasingly purchasing on their mobile devices with 1/3 of all eCommerce purchases being made on a smartphone in 2013.

So right in your users hand is a device that they’ll check first thing in the morning and then use to make purchases.

One of the best resources for mobile friendly emails are the MailChimp email blueprints they put out for free.

For my email lists I use a basic MailChimp template since it’s already ready for a mobile device. They simply work and you don’t need fancy you need something that converts.

Ask them to share the email

Once the email has been opened and actions have been taken make sure you ask them to share the email with someone they think would find the content useful.

A personal recommendation from a friend goes a long way to building trust with a customer you may not have contact with.

The easiest way to approach this is to simply write it in to the initial email you send. Something like “If you know someone that will benefit from this email list please share it with them”.

In MailChimp you can also segment users to find the top openers/clickers on your list and send them a custom email thanking them for their participation in your content and encouraging them to share it with a friend that would also benefit from your content.

Which ever way you do it, make sure you ask your subscribers to tell their friends about your email list to help build it.

photo credit: wbaiv cc

Last week I talked about the fact that if you’re not building an email list you’re leaving sales on the table.

But how on earth do you use it? Do you just blast people with the sales you have? Do you email them daily or weekly or monthly? Do you send extra emails during the holiday’s or for big sales?

The 80/20 rule

The best rule of thumb to start with is the old 80/20 rule. Provide 80% useful free content to your email subscribers and only ask for sales 20% of the time.

By bombarding them with requests to purchase all the time all you’re going to do is tire them out and make your real call to action when you’re launching a new product something that your users are blind to.

If they even read your email anymore.

Now putting a ‘brought to you by’ section with a link to a product you sell at the end of every email is different. That’s a ‘soft sell’ that people will just see in the bottom.

When I’m talking about not selling to them, I’m saying that you shouldn’t just make the whole email about selling for 80% of the email you’re sending.

What’s in the 80%

So you’ve got the 20% taken care of right. You’ll write some stellar copy (hey have you seen the CopyHackers material on awesome copy?) and people will purchase your content in droves.

What goes in the 80% though?

For my email list on my personal site I email weekly and most of the time I send people the content from my blog post for the day.

I also send them some awesome content I’ve found around the web during the week that’s not mine.

Yup I may even send them to competitors and no I don’t worry about it at all.

See I’m the one that found it so I’m still the contact to the competitor. I’m the one that will be remembered as the connector, even if they purchase from the competitor.

The goal is to make sure that you’re providing relevant content to your subscribers so that they keep opening your emails and reading them. If they’re not opening them then they’re not going to see when you’re launching something new so they’re not going to purchase it.

The exception

The only exception to the 80/20 rule is when the sole purpose of your email list is to send people information on products. That’s what AppSumo does so all you get from them is emails on deals they have on products.

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If that’s the type of email list you’re building then my all means email about products all the time.

No go forth

Now it’s time to set up that email list (I recommend MailChimp and Leadin) and start using it for awesome content so you can get more sales.

Not sure how to set it up, get in touch and we can help.

Despite many of us not liking lots of emails in our inboxes did you know that email marketing is still the highest converting form of online marketing?

No other online medium even comes close.

If you’re not building and using an email list then you’re leaving sales on the table.

So here are my 5 best tips for building an email list.

1. Ask them lots

Yeah I know popups can be a pain, but you don’t have to use a popup to get an email subscriber. On my personal site I use a plugin called Leadin and it provides me with a tidy slide up box which appears after a user has scrolled down the page.

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That’s not the only place I have my email opt-in though. Right at the top of my homepage I’ve got an email opt-in. Adding that to my homepage meant a 10% increase in email subscribers right away.

How about your sidebar, does it have an email opt-in box?

I know it may seem overkill, but you typically have to ask 4 – 6 times for an email address before you get it. When I added more places to opt-in to my email list I had users that had been on my site for over a year finally opt-in.

2. Do a Hangout

Call it a Webinar or whatever you want, you’re an expert in your field and that means you have awesome advice to share.

Put together a presentation outline and then schedule a webinar with Google Hangouts On Air. Provide your notes to the users at the end along with a sheet giving them bullet point take away items and ask for an email in exchange for the extra information.

3. Have a contest

When I started giving away a business book a month on my personal site I immediately gained subscribers.

In fact every time I’m setting up the giveaway I post about it on Twitter with a link to my email subscribe page and add 10 – 15 users to my email list.

The giveaway costs my around $15/month but increases the reach of my list (and my potential customers) in a huge way.

4. Add a giveaway for the email

Currently I entice new subscribers to sign up for my email list by giving them the 5 best pricing resources I’ve found.

The big thing to remember is that the giveaway content should be almost totally free. In my 5 best pricing resources I only link to one paid resource, and it’s not even mine.

I’m working on a short book to giveaway to all any new email subscriber all about running a business properly. Sure I might sell it on Amazon as well, but it’s meant for my email subscribers as a free item.

For this site I’m working on a guidebook on the 5 biggest eCommerce design mistakes I see which will be a free resource for new email subscribers.

5. Actually use the email list

If you’re going to put in the time to build an email list you better actually use it. It doesn’t have to be weekly, but how about a monthly email with 4 of the best articles you’ve found in your field?

They don’t all have to be your articles, in fact they should be from competitors as well. The point is that when your email subscribers sign up they get awesome information from you every month.

Even if you’re sharing competitor’s content, you’re the one that’s actually giving new information to the client and being super helpful.

At the end of each email ask your subscribers if they know someone who would benefit from the content and ask them to send it to the friend. A personal recommendation goes a long way in enticing others to join the list.

No email isn’t the sexiest thing around and everyone talks about social media as the ‘big thing’ but email is still the highest converting sales tool you have online.

So get out there and use it.

What’s the main thing you need if you run a membership site?

Paying members that keep paying you.

There are 2 aspects at work here:

  1. Getting new members
  2. Retaining existing members

We know that it’s safe to assume that it costs 5 times more to get a new member than retain an existing one (PDF download).

Today we’re going to look 2 ways you can learn about your user interaction with your site with an eye to increasing paid users of your site.

Start with a survey

Before you can set up your email campaign you’re going to need to know where the pain points are for your users. One of the best ways to figure that out, is to simply ask them.

You’re going to need to customize the questions based on your site but here are a few to get you started.

  • What was the hardest part of the course?
  • Was there a module you particularly struggled with?
  • How could we increase your success in the course?
  • Why did you (or did you not) sign up for the mastermind coaching package?
  • Was it easy to find the membership content?
  • Was there something in the membership content that you expected to see but didn’t?

Not only are you going to find some key pain times for your users, you’re also going to find some things that you’ve simply missed.

Maybe users expected a link to their account on a page of the Web site that you didn’t even figure needed one. Maybe your login process is hard for some users.

Maybe you have users that need assistive devices (think lack of good vision) and your site is hard for them to use.

That’s the type of stuff you’re trying to find out with this survey. Make sure to ask open ended questions and give users lots of space to write as much as they want.

Sometimes it’s obvious

Now you may not actually need to do a full survey because the problem may be obvious.

For a recent client of SFNdesign there was a waiting period of up to 2 months from product purchase to course start. That was a big pain point where someone was waiting for the material they purchased to actually become useful to them.

They had 30% of people that didn’t show up to the course. Worse, they had a number of paid customers that asked for a refund in a few days and their reasons came down to wanting the content now and feeling they could get similar content somewhere else.

For that client we did a few things to stop the refunds and increase engagement.

First we cut the wait period and took smaller classes starting on the first of each month. This change meant people that just didn’t show up dropped from 30% to around 18%. They were also more likely to stay around and pay for the monthly mastermind sessions after the intensive course was done.

Second, we added a follow up email campaign to users.

Within 2 days of purchase we sent the users a great PDF that summarized a bunch of the main points that the course would make. This provided them value right away and kept them interested in the course.

Our second email was a bunch of tips on how to maximize the course when it started. We gave them tips on the forum and how to figure out which mentor was best for them.

Our third email came the day before the course started, reminding them about the course and pointing them to the ‘course success’ page which covered much of the same content in our second email.

Customize it to your users

Maybe it’s not obvious though and maybe you don’t have highly engaged users that will fill out a survey. How on earth are you going to convert trial members to paid members of your site?

Using tools like Intercom you can track how users are using your site. This can help you identify the things that the paid users do.

In this great example from Ghost which saw a 1000% increase in paid users they used Intercom to identify that users needed to add themes and make a post before they really were ready to pay for the service.

Ghost conversion increase

With that information in hand they added a ‘Getting Started’ checklist that showed up in a user dashboard. This encouraged users to actually complete their account which in turn makes them more likely to convert to paid users of the Ghost blogging platform.

Wrapping it up

Just because you have a membership site, doesn’t mean you have any paying members. Make sure you build a solid follow up email campaign with tools like Follow Up Emails for WooCommerce.

Identify the things that your paying best members do and build in ways to encourage your new members to do the same things.

Don’t just put up your content and hope it’s going to speak for itself.

The whole goal of your store is to make a sale right? Ideally you’re going to make so many sales that you start to wonder if your bank account is full.

Hint: Bank accounts don’t get full. 😛

Today we’re going to look at the key points that make your online store awesome and awesome stores make sales.

Establish Trust

First off, your site needs to look trustworthy. Long gone are the days where flashing cat graphics are considered great for a proper online store. Today you need to invest in a good design that looks professional.

You don’t even have to get something desingned custom, purchasing a WordPress theme and having eCommerce added to it is a great way to have a professional looking site on a budget. There is one caveat though, it is possible that others will have a site that looks very similar to yours if they bought the same template.

The theme shops I currently recommend are:

  1. The Theme Foundry
  2. Cr3ativ
  3. Array
  4. StudioPress

Some of those have themes that already support WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads or WP eCommerce but even if the theme doesn’t already support an eCommerce platform they are all built well and will integrate well with an eCommerce platform with the help of a competent developer.

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 7.16.12 AM

Make the Sale easy

You’ve established trust and your customers are looking to purchase something from you, now make it easy.

Use as few pages during the checkout process as possible. If your purchases are typically single purchases, send the user directly to checkout when they complete a purchase instead of making them click again to get to the checkout page.

Make your purchase buttons stand out on your page. They should be a different colour from the rest of your site and draw the users attention.

When the user is on the checkout page, only require the information you need. If you don’t need their address because you sell digital goods then don’t require the address fields to be filled out.

An email is way more important than an address anyway since getting someone on your email list increases the chances of them becoming returning customers.

Finally, don’t forget about mobile shoppers. Mobile shopping continues to rise and is likely to keep doing so. If you’re checkout process is hard on a mobile device then it’s quite possible that your potential customers are just going to find somewhere else to make the purchase like Amazon which has a pretty easy mobile checkout process.

Keep in Touch

Once someone has purchased a product it’s time to really kick in to overdrive on your communication with them about their purchase.

Email them a confirmation and any special instructions for the product. Does the product require some processing (maybe you need to build their custom order) email them when it starts and when it’s ready and getting packed for shipping.

Email them when it ships, and use a tracking number so the user can tell where their product is.

Follow up with them via email a few weeks after they’ve received their product. Does it meet their needs? Was the quality as expected? Encourage them to leave a review of the product on your site, maybe even offer a coupon for a future purchase if they leave a review.

For a membership site identify what your long term members have done. Have they filled out their profile, interacted with a group or left a comment? Email your new members at key intervals to encourage them to do the same things and you’re going to retain more of those new members.

You’re customer should feel like they get great hands-on service from you.

Even after they’ve got their product and are happy to it, you need to keep reaching out to them via email. Email converts so much better than any other medium that the others don’t even rank. We’ll talk in a future post about how to run an effective email list.

Now go forth and have an awesome holiday selling season. If you need help building an awesome online store then check out our process and get in touch.

Passwords are hard.

I’ve got over 1000 of them when I look at the information from clients.

They should all be different and they should all be long and random so they can’t be guessed.

Are you making it harder

I recently wanted to purchase a course from How to Fascinate based off an email they sent me.

I clicked through the email.

Then read the text and watched the video.

Then added it to my cart.

Then filled in a bit of personal information.

Then it asked if I had an account, and I did so I went to sign in.

But unfortunately it didn’t work so I checked my password on their main site again.

Well it worked on the main site.

So I tried it again on the purchase portal, and it didn’t work.

And I couldn’t sign up for the course.

The likely problem

Unfortunately you encounter bad usability like this on a regular basis.

Typically it means that the sign up form allows 50 character passwords while the sign in form only allows 20. Thus your 50 character password is now actually 20 characters.

But of course the site never told you.

Worse is when the sign up form allows special characters (!$^) but the login form strips them out. Or maybe the sign up form allows you to enter them, but just removes them from the password.


Being a good web developer I reported the bug and was basically told they know about the password issue but they’d like me to sort out how many characters a password can be because they know it’s a problem but they don’t have a real answer.

So their password problem should be solved by me their customer?

They weren’t even sure where the problem was exactly. Is it 20 characters or 25 or does it cut ‘funny’ characters like #?

But as the customer I’m supposed to figure that out for them so I can purchase their product.

How many conversions do you drop?

It’s likely that for every complaint you get about issues like that on your site you actually have it happen 10x more without being reported.

So you could be getting 10 extra sales for every one complaint or 100 sales for 10 complaints.

It just doesn’t make good business sense to leave the problem up to your customers to solve. Even if all 10 people that complain do stick through and purchase you’ve dropped the other 90 you never heard from.

Getting a lot of spam on your forms? Don’t add a CAPTCHA that just makes it harder for real users to submit the form and forces them to solve your problem.

If you’d like a review of your site for conversion issues get in touch with us. We can help you find and fix issues that are killing your conversions.