The Ultimate Shopify BFCM Resource List

OK, saying “ultimate” sounds super click-baity. But what the heck. Let’s be helpful … starting with:

Four Holiday Promos for Shopify that Sell and Won’t Damage Your Brand

We wrote this article four years ago. But you know what? It’s as valid today as it was then. The idea is that discounting alone is a bit lazy. Strategic value-building is better, protects your profits, and doesn’t lower customer perceived product values when it comes time to buy from you again.

The eCommerce Retailer’s Guide to Driving Online Sales — by Klaviyo

Klaviyo is one of the most popular apps for marketing optimization in the Shopify universe. You see their apps listed again and again in this newsletter. So, it’s worth taking a look at what they think about the topic.

The Shopify Merchant’s Guide to Holiday Engagement – by Pixel Union

Pixel Union is one of the most popular makers of Shopify themes. We have reviewed more than a hundred stores using one of their themes. And they are respected in the Shopify community. They created this e-book on generating holiday engagement, so they probs know what they are talking about.

An Email Marketing Crash Course for Black Friday / Cyber Monday eCommerce

This is another blast from the past. But your email list is you goose that lays the gold. Each year we get Shopify merchants telling us they reuse this article to get their head in the holiday email game.

eCommerce Holiday Planning — by Shopify

Shopify keeps a collection of holiday planning articles on one page. This is that page. Dive in and feel the Shopify holiday love.

Let’s do one more.

Get Your Shopify Theme and Store Ready for the Holidays — by Out Of The Sandbox

Out of the Sandbox is another major theme developer for Shopify. So, if you are looking to tweak your site for the holidays — whether it is on one of their themes or not — they give some good advice here.

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Shopify Audit - MotherDenim.com

Tim Kaeding and Lela Becker were two long-term fashion denim veterans in 2010 when they started working on their company in Tim’s basement. The clothing industry is cut-throat competitive and having a ton of specific industry experience was a key to their success — they knew what they were doing.

They spent a full year working on the brand before they made their first product. Most small businesses start the other way around. Anyway … they caught a wave and rode the success to Shopify super-stardom. Their “opposite of Mom jeans” are worn by celebrities and they even got a write up in Forbes.

Marketing Preview

I took a peek into their Shopify site traffic and they had more than 130k visitors in March of this year. Nearly 87% of that traffic in from the US, and more than 50% of it arrives via search. But most of that search … in fact almost all of it … is navigational. That means that folks are searching for “mother denim” or “mother jeans” in combination with other descriptors. Interestingly, about 37% of their traffic comes from direct navigation. So that means that even though they do a lot of search advertising and some social, more than 87% of their traffic is looking for them before they see an ad. They are running on brand power.

They sell their own brands and select designers on their website and also distribute their brands to physical retails like Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Anthropologie.

The Shopify Theme That They Use

If you have been reading this email for a while you know I do not think that a custom theme is necessary for success the VAST majority of the time. Usually, a good premium theme and some solid tweaking and customization by TaskHusky is all you need. But there are exceptions, and this is one of them.

When you sell $300 torn and shredded jeans and $100 faded tank tops, you need to sell style. They need some custom features to do that. So, I think that the execution of those custom features is worth the extra cash in this case.

What They Do Well

These guys spend a HUGE amount of time on branding, feel, and style. The different between an $80 pair of jeans and Mother Denim is branding, feel, and style so you had better bring it! But they do. The photography is top-notch.

Take a look at all those photos on the home page. They look good, right? Most of the time when we are looking at a high-fashion brand the photos kill the page speed. And when I say “kill the page speed” I mean suck the life out of a site like Dracula. But this page weighs in a just 3MB. That still 50% higher than optimal, but not bad with all those photos. Someone spent the time to optimize the heck out of those images, squeezing them with an eyedropper. Nice Job.

This is super-impressive. Whether you are viewing on a laptop or a phone, most of the product images on the primary collection pages are short videos. Check out this page. On a laptop/desktop, mouse over a few of the images and they come to life with video. If you are on mobile, press and hold the image and it pops-up to do the same thing. This is what they are paying those fancy-schmancy developers all that money for … so you can see pouty-lipped, dead-eyed models who look like they haven’t eaten lunch in forever slump their shoulders and shift their hips.

Someone needs to give these girls a sandwich or chicken nuggets or something.

The checkout process is clean and efficient … there are express payment options and installment payments via ShopPay. And when the jeans cost as much as a car payment, sometimes you need to make installments. Also note that they have the subscription offer in the shopping cart. That works for me.

What Needs to Be Improved

OK … this is an expensive, highly stylistic custom Shopify implementation. Did you see that “Shop New Arrivals” stock ticker-like text scroll just below the hero image on the home page? Check it out again here. What the heck is that? It’s even scrolling left to right, which is odd. I haven’t seen that lame of a text scroller since 1998 GeoCities sites. Ah, those were the days!

I conducted a few mock-purchases. Part of that means putting something into the shopping cart and then leaving the shopping cart to go back to the main page. Normally, there is an indicator of having items in your art and a way to navigate back to it. Totally could not find that. Big miss here. In order to navigate back to the cart I had to add another item to it. But I finally found it … there is a little circle on the upper right-hand corner of the page. No cart symbol … no words … just a little circle you have to “know” to click. Really strange.

The Shopify Apps They Use

We used our top-secret Shopify scanning tools to determine that this site is using the following apps and plugins:

This seems like “not too many” apps, but I call attention to the multiple “marketing automation” apps. I’ll bet that at least one of those is old and they forgot to remove it.

Marketing Stuff They Do

Mother runs a lot of search ads. They also have active Social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. In other words, the usual suspects. Facebook and Instagram are very active with hundreds of thousands of followers, organic posts, and paid ads. They haven’t posted to twitter in 2 years, which begs the question, “Why have it?” Ditto for Pinterest.

Here are sample ads from their social and search campaigns for your inspiration and enlightenment.

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Shopify Audit - BlackRifleCoffee.com

If Chuck Norris drinks coffee, he probably drinks this one.

Do you know who the “Green Berets” are? Evan Hafer knows because he was one. The Green Berets are the Special Forces unit of the US Army. Evan founded Black Rifle Coffee in 2014. He and his company are unabashedly patriotic, are ranked in the top 44k of all websites in the world, and they sell some mighty strong coffee (the crazy coffee guy in the office got some to try it out).

And they sell a LOT of coffee.

Want proof? They went public back in February. You can find them listed on the New York Stock exchange under the symbol $BRCC. The current market cap is about $622 million and they now operate subsidiaries and brand extensions.

The Shopify Theme That They Use

Well … it looks like we have another customer theme here (yawn!). You all know how I feel about spending tens of thousands of dollars on a customer theme when nearly all the time a low-cost premium theme costing a few hundred dollars with some intelligent modifications is perfectly fine. At least in this case you can see the customizations and they are on brand (many times these custom jobs are not).

What They Do Well

BRAND, BRAND, AND MORE BRAND

OK … so why did we pick Black Rifle Coffee for the newsletter this week? The reason is simple … brand.

The in-your-face patriotic flair, aggressive tone, and military imagery might even be off-putting to some. The entire site is in BLACK for goodness sake … it breaks all the rules. But then again, it doesn’t break the rules at all.

You see, many eCommerce brands want to be all things to all people. The trouble is, when you have a thousand Shopify sites all trying to be all things to all people you get ZERO differentiation. Black Rifle Coffee is smart. They KNOW that some people will be put off by the style and tone. And they are perfectly fine with that. They are niche-ing down into a specific target audience. Don’t like Chuck Norris? You probably won’t like this coffee … and that’s OK.

Let me be clear … I am not saying that they are not being true to themselves. In fact, I think that they are. But it is their willingness to focus in on a personality and style — a brand — and stick to it with discipline is the real reason they are what they are success-wise.

There are literally hundreds of coffee related websites on Shopify. This one is the most successful. Is their coffee good? Sure. But the difference in success between Black Rifle Coffee and the other is all about years of brand discipline and targeted marketing.

OTHER GOOD STUFF

The product pages are brilliant. The dynamic pricing on subscription purchases is really slick and well-executed.

The checkout process is solid too. There are solid upsell paths, a charity donation selection, installment payments, Express payment options in the cart, upsell gift-wrapping …. It is all there and it all works.

I like the "Congratulations! You’ve unlocked free shipping!” message when you order enough.

The store locator loads a little slow, but it works well.

That “LIGHT” to “EXTRA DARK” product selection slider on the home page is cool.

What Needs to Be Improved

There is not a lot to criticize here, but there are a few things.

One is that it looks like the site is starting to lose focus. This is a direct result of their success. They have some important obligations now that they are a publicly traded company, right? Sure they do. But all that corporate stuff should not be on the primary eCommerce site. Now, normally I strongly recommend that sites do not split content or use things like sub-domains. But this is an exception. All the listed to “Investor Relations” and such are a distraction from customers buying coffee and coffee gear. They should get a corp. site and put everything there.

See how they have “About” as a main menu item? Normally I am very firm that you should not put the About stuff up there on the main navigation. These guys get a little bit of a reprieve on that because their brand power is why they can sell coffee in the first place. These guys NEED to tell the story.

The “Follow Us Now” button makes you leave the page. It should open up to a new tab or window. Keep the customers on the site folks! The other social links do it correctly.

The Shopify Apps They Use

We used our scanning tools to determine that this site is using the following apps and plugins:

There is a lot of additional code tucked all over the place. That means there are additional apps and integrations hidden from view. This site is running a LOT of apps and analytics tools.

Marketing Stuff They Do

In addition to their Shopify store, they have a large network of physical reseller locations across the US. In addition, they have a very active influencer campaign and are on a bunch of social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter. They also have a Facebook Shop. They have an impressive 1.7 million followers on Facebook and 1.8 million on Instagram.

I did not find any current search ad campaigns running, but I’ve put a few of their social ads below for your review and inspiration.

But remember … this is a branding story. The power of their brand and focus is driving their success.

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Shopify Audit - OffTheGridSurplus.com

I’m trying out a new analysis tool. It’s a little scary what you can learn on the internet with the right analytics these days. For example, my new scanning tool analyzes traffic patterns and has estimated that the Off The Grid Surplus site sells an average of $99,985 per month. Scary, right? But that’s a lot of cash on the grid or off.

The company was founded by Josh Patterson. Josh was working for a string of famous activewear companies as a clothing designer – brands like Quicksilver, Fox Racing, and PrAna. He started Off The Grid Surplus as a side hustle in 2012. By 2017 he was off on his own. Pretty sweet story IMHO.

The Shopify Theme That They Use

So here we have another Shopify winner selling well north of $1 million per year – basically in flannel plaid shirts – and they are NOT using a fancy-schmancy custom theme. No sir-ee Bob! This high-tech success story sells seven figures using a nicely modified premium theme from a developer called “Eight” … that theme is the Flow design in the Queenstown style. You can see it for yourself here.

What They Do Well

The site looks really sharp. The theme and layout work well with the brand. The photos are spot on and fit the demographic. And the carry the branding throughout with just enough orange to tie it all together. Orange is a powerful color. It gets instant attention but too much can be hard to look at.

Good deployment of Express payment options AND installment payment option (via ShopPay).

What Needs to Be Improved

What the HECK is the deal with the shirt sizing chart. You can see an example on this page if you scroll down a bit. On desktop that image expands to fill the entire screen and loses resolution. Hurts my eyes to look at it. It’s not on every product page. Just seems that a few of them are broken.

I always walk through a purchase test on every site I review. These guys did something that I’ve never seen before and it’s something that every instinct in my body tells me is hurting them by increase cart abandonment. Here’s the deal … it is an eCommerce best practice that once a shopper has decided to buy you put as few clicks between that customer and him submitting his credit card. Makes sense, right?

So, I go and click “Add to Cart” and they flash me a pop-up to subscribe to their emails. Now bear in mind that they had already asked for a subscription with a pop-up a few seconds after page entry. Now, you have all heard me preach about emphasizing your email list. But I just do not think that a SECOND subscription prompt when I am about to ACTUALLY BUY something on your site is the right way to go.

After that the checkout process was straightforward and clean.

Some of the product pages have a little interstitial page jumping. This is sometimes caused by inconsistent image formatting/sizing. Other times it’s cause by either using multiple CDNs or the load order needs adjustment. It’s one of those 3 things I bet.

In their main menu they have “The Outlet.” This links to a subdomain. This is an eCommerce error for 2 reasons. The first is that breaking out to a subdomain hurts SEO. It just does. Second, it creates a hard path to navigate back to the main site. It’s totally not intuitive. Customers can get lost.

Keep it all on the main site guys.

The Shopify Apps They Use

We used our top-secret Shopify scanning tools to determine that this site is using the following apps and plugins:

  • Klaviyo — Customer lifecycle management stuff.
  • Advanced Product Options - Create unlimited product options & variants options
  • Meteor Mega Menu - Create gorgeous multi-tier dropdown menus for your store
  • Rebuy — Personalization of the buying experience.
  • Loop Returns — Manage returns, exchanges, return labels, store credit & more!
  • GDPR/CCPA + Cookie Management - GDPR - LGPD - CCPA - APPI - PIPEDA Compliance for your store
  • React — Customer support.
  • Back in Stock — Notify customers: products out of stock, in stock, preorders..
  • Product Filter & Search — #1 Collection Filter & Smart Search app for any stores
  • Octane AI — Increase AOV w/ a stunning quiz. Supercharge ads & Klaviyo.
  • Stamped — Customer ratings and reviews.
  • Bugsnag — The app that snag bugs … in software. Seeing this app EVERYWHERE these days.
  • VerifyPass — Special discounting tool for military and first responders.
  • Sendtric — Countdown timer in email.
  • ManyChat — Facebook chat-bot integration
  • ShopifyPay/PayPal/ApplePay/GooglePay – These are Express payment options.
  • Magnific Popup — Responsive lightboxes and such.
  • Route ‑ Protection & Tracking

Marketing Stuff They Do

Interestingly, Off The Grid does not link to their social media on their website. Well, if they do, I can’t find it. That doesn’t make sense at all. But I found their Facebook page anyway. They even have a Facebook Marketplace presence there. I was also not able to locate any paid search ads.

Anyway … they are running a lot of Facebook ads, so I have placed 3 recent ones below for your interest and inspiration.

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Shopify Audit - CalendarClub.ca

CalendarClub has their head office in Paris … Paris, Ontario, Canada. They opened their first real-world retail store nearly 30 years ago. They are the largest retailer of calendars and puzzles in Canada. Have you ever gone to the mall during the holiday season and seen those pop-up stores that open in late October and then sell the living daylights out of calendars until they close up in the first week of January?

These guys do that. In fact, each year they open upwards of 250 of those seasonal shops in addition to selling tons of calendars, puzzles, games, and toys all year long through their online shop. Looks like the online store was started in about 2013 or so along with their social media accounts.

And no, the website does not have any products that mention the New Year’s celebration of southern Tibet. But they do have a nice selection of Husky calendars, so good on them.

The Shopify Theme That They Use

As successful as these guys are – they sell a sh*t-load of calendars every year – they are also smart and savvy. They use a nice, standard premium theme — Showtime from Mile High Themes. Specifically, they use the FurnishTime variant. This theme is especially good when you have serval brands and product types. You can see it for yourself here.

What They Do Well

Since they have used a high-quality premium theme and resisted the temptation to junk it up, it is super responsive. The site looks great and is super-easy to navigate on mobile. Open it up on your phone and see for yourself. We do not have access to their internal analytics, but I’ll bet they close a lot of deals on cell phones. They sell a Golden Girls Jigsaw Puzzle and that made me laugh.

The shopping cart is super clean and simple too, but you can see the Express payment options clear as day with big, bold buttons. Buying is a snap.

SEO is decent, but there a little more target content and enhanced alt tags would get them a bunch more free traffic.

What Needs to Be Improved

The shopping cart is actually just a little bit too simple. They are not taking advantage of up-sell and add-ons. Seems like an easy miss.

You know … there are a few apps that allow Shopify stores to ship to multiple locations in a single order. This kind of thing is super valuable for stores that specialize in selling gifts. One example is Multiship by Gist. CalendarClub should take a look and see if that’s a good fit.

The Shopify Apps They Use

We used our top-secret Shopify scanning tools to determine that this site is using the following apps and plugins:

Are you paying attention? That’s 12 apps.

Marketing Stuff They Do

CalendarClub has 3 social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. They are very active on Facebook, somewhat less active on Instagram, and post only occasionally on LinkedIn. It’s interesting that they do LinkedIn at all … most merchants forget all about it, but they shouldn’t. I imagine that calendars as business gifts during the holidays is big business.

They do the biggest chunk of the business every year – by FAR – during the holidays. So, they just are not running a lot of ads right now. I was able to find only 1 social media ad and a handful of search ads which I have included below for your inspiration.

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Shopify Help - No Commitment