In today’s episode, I interview Kurt Elster, host of the Unofficial Shopify podcast and we talked extensively about the key tactics and strategies that eCommerces entrepreneurs should be using to maximize the success of their business. In case you don’t know Kurt, he is one of the most highly regarded independent consultants in eCommerce. Kurt is the founder of ecommerce agency Ethercycle, author of Ecommerce Bootcamp. One of the most notable clients of Kurt’s is Jay Leno’s Garage. His strategic approach to ecommerce growth typically generates 118% increase in online store sales and a 68% increase in conversion for Shopify businesses.

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Trent:                  This is Trent Dyrsmid from Bright Ideas Podcast, thank you so much for joining me today. I am here to help you discover what is working in the world of e-Commerce so that you can become a more successful e-Commerce entrepreneur.

And joining me on the show today is a fellow by the name of Kurt Elster and Kurt is a very interesting fellow who’s got an extensive background in e-Commerce but rather than read you his bio, I’m just going to get him to say in his own words. Kurt, thank you very much for joining me on the show; let’s start off with who are you and what do you do?

Kurt:                   Thanks for having me, I’ve been working in the e-Commerce for a decade when I started wildly unsuccessfully to build my own e-Commerce platform, took about 4 years to figure it out and so for the last 6 years we have been working exclusively with Shopify merchants to help them grow their stores, uncover hidden revenue but probably best known for hosting the unofficial Shopify Podcast which fingers crossed we’re going to hit a million downloads in a couple months.

Trent:                  Nice! Well done! So, let’s start off with some maybe some notable clients because I think that’s a fastest way to aside from almost a million downloads which is more than me, some of the notable clients will I think quickly establish your credibility.

Kurt:                   So the most well-known is Jay Leno’s Garage, I sure picked that one for myself and did all the store set up and design and out of that relationship was able to lucky enough to lucky enough finagle a tour of Jay’s Garage which is like Bucket List life changing amazing thing. In the car stuff another good one is- [inaudible 2:26] you are like the bad boys of car stuff I suppose; there are a ton of fun. And probably prior to that we did like stuff with fries in the NFL and hotels but that was years ago now.

Trent:                  All right, so I’m actually going to get to go down to Jay’s Garage this fall because a buddy of mine here on voices …. sold their car to Jay’s he got to go down met Jay And then when the episode that they filmed goes live, he gets to go back down and bring anybody with him that he wants and I said that I would kill him if you didn’t take me with him, I’m going to get to go down as well.

Kurt:                   I’ll give you one piece of tribute about that, there is a like a screening room area in the garage, look around it like dressing around it, is pieces of the old [inaudible 3:09]

Trent:         Very cool, how did you come to have Jay as a client?

Kurt:                   So actually, this is a good, good entrepreneurial endeavor here, I was in the Shopify Plus Facebook group and someone, a consultant was working on their brand posted it to introduce himself as like a here’s the store, I messaged him and said, “Man, I love your stuff and I’m a car guy and I’m into detailing” as part of that and they said, “Yeah, we’ll send you a free kit” and then I said, “Hey, did you want to talk about the store? I’ve got some ideas” and the relationship just grew from there.

Trent:                  Very nice, well I would have been a very cool client to have. So that aside, let’s talk about strategy. First off, where are you seeing the biggest opportunity in e-Commerce today if an entrepreneur aspires to build a million dollars plus store and by creating their own brand of some kind?

Kurt:                   Well I think one way you answered the question they have to build their own brand; so like there’s this fundamental mindset difference that happens you’ve got people who they want to build some get rich quick scheme right, as I got to have overnight success and none of those– they’re always like drop shipping and you’re just selling weird commodity goods the way to identify those as bad opportunities is if you look at the store and this is a vending machine. Like there’s nothing beyond just this one time transactional relationship and if that’s the case, you’re going to struggle to differentiate yourself you’re going to struggle to be successful and even if you’re going to even if you are successful, you’ll eventually get to live by Amazon because you’re not bringing anything more to the table for the customer.

I think the brands that have survived that do really well look to build long term durability in that brand by number one, respecting your customer, building trust with their customer and providing something that makes your brand more than just that proverbial vending machine.

Trent:         So can you give me an example?

Kurt:                   Sure! I think personal branding or celebrity endorsement those are probably two sides of the same coin, that’s a big one, some of the most successful brands I’ve seen all have like a cut of personality behind them.

I mean even think about Apple like with Steve Jobs was at the helm, everybody just assumed that that guy was like the paragon of industrial design magnificence and it was because of his personality. Apple had that personal branding so it’s like kind of a really big huge example but something smaller Jay Leno’s garage of course we’ve got that celebrity endorsement; Kylie Jenner is always one they hold up and any Shopify event is like this huge massive brand that’s been successful but really it’s like there’s realistically they’re just selling makeup but it’s because she is a part of it and she’s the one promoting it that makes it successful. But okay maybe you’re like, “Yeah but I can’t get Kylie Jenner to my brand”. But okay, if you want to go that celebrity endorsement route, certainly partnerships with celebrities are easier than you’d think so long as you could be in the right place at the right time to get a hold of them.

But that aside, if you are passionate about the brand or the product whatever it is and you put your face to it and you can communicate that enthusiasm what people want to engage with other people not brands no one like has strong feelings about the Bull’s-Eye logo at Target right? But they do engage with other people so a great example is ‘Bomb Tech Golf’ just this tremendous Shopify store not like an amazing design but just to a guy named Tyler Sully Sullivan who is into golf, wanted to realize the markup on golf clubs was wild, started manufacturing his own golf clubs and talking about it in like talking in public, blogging about it, talking about it on forums and posting YouTube videos and then started selling it on a Shopify store.

That now, I talked to him recently he’s doing the proverbial 4hour work week where he’s got like– he works from home, the entire thing is outsourced like virtual assistant type labor, fulfilled by someone else and it’s a 7-figure store now on Shopify. That’s incredible! Like he wasn’t a gut, wasn’t anyone before that but other people in that niche recognized the enthusiasm and liked him and what he was doing and that’s why they buy.

Trent:                  So, let’s— do you know the story well enough that with that we can go in the weeds a little bit on his site or his story?

Kurt:          I could try.

Trent:                  Okay so you mentioned he’s designed and manufactured his own clubs like how, what point did he start building the audience?

Kurt:                   Good question! So it started– I think it was born out of forums, so we started built like just participating and being active in the community and I think that’s step one is just be out there; because there’s a big difference between a guy who shows up or going to a community with something to sell, like they’re going to get torn apart versus someone who’s respected in the community and then starts talking about, “Hey, maybe we should manufacture our own thing like as a community effort and then making it available”

That kind of person now has their attention, they’re backed and is already way ahead of the competition because they’re talking to their customer like that’s such a valuable thing to be able to talk directly to the customer and have that feedback loop going.

So that’s where he started and then what he said really stepped it up was switching to video or it’s like they’re just videos of him, he filmed himself with a phone in his backyard of him like testing and tuning the product like just do with the golf swing. And that’s what really made it– was like a big flexion point was switching to video as part of that communication.

Trent:                  So people who want to know more about that I would encourage you to go check out his YouTube channel and trying to identify him and maybe I could even have him on the show so if you want to make an introduction that’ll be wonderful.

So I was listening to an interview yesterday with Ezra Firestone and one of the comments that stuck with me was 75% of the customers that come to your store they’re never coming back, do you agree?

Kurt:          Yes!

Trent:         Okay, so you agree?

Kurt:                   Yes, with a return customer rate, if you had a 25% return customer rate, we’d say you know what that’s pretty good that’s not bad at all. If it’s under 20% were like, “That’s great” if you got to 40% return customer rate, we’d say, “That’s amazing, you’re doing something extraordinarily right”

Trent:                  So, what are some of the things that one can do extraordinarily right to try and drive up that customer turn rate?

Kurt:                   So, the obviously the big advantage with that return customer rate is your extended customer lifetime value that’s the goal right, for you is the merchant. But it’s got to be a two-way street; you need to provide value and support to that customer to get that lifetime value.

The number one way to do it, if you’re not messing with it yet is email marketing automation there is nothing better than email marketing automation to bring people back to the site. It lets you be provided so number one, like when they make that first purchase, there’s some excitement that happens. You want to keep that conversation and that excitement going after they’ve made the first purchase.

So, unlike a traditional store or like Amazon you make a purchase we get our order receipt shipping notification and then 2weeks later he read a review and we’re done. Oh yeah, well why not send more e-mail right? So, number one like when you have your own brand and you’re selling direct to consumer, We could segment; people so brand new customers made the first time purchase we could send them a little personalized thank you note. “Hey, saw you made your first purchase in our store, really appreciate it you’re what makes us great. If you have any questions at all, just hit reply to his email”

And then you have a go to like a support ticketing software to make sure it doesn’t slip through the cracks. And then they’ve got in their order receipt 90% of people are going to open the order receipt, it’s like a weird thing we all do it’s just to make sure to ease our worry that hey I did I order the right thing right and when you open an order receipt, there’s a great opportunity.

You can include upsells in that email and ideally you want to do it based on the product they bought but like uh they bought a digital camera? Hey did you want to buy this tripod and the memory card? Include that kind of stuff in the order confirmation email and you can even go a step further if your margin supported say, “You want to make your second purchase right now here’s a coupon code for 10%-15% off your next purchase” because in that moment that’s when they’re most likely to make a second purchase is right after the first one.

Trent:                  What are some things that you can do to increase customer LTV?

Kurt:                   So well that email marketing automation idea, you keep it going and you have to do more than just being always selling to them so it’s got it like you need to be providing value to them and they’re going to ask big and then ask them for their money again.

Trent:         A lot of video content?

Kurt:                   Yes, well actually a great example this guy J-Stack recycled firefighter, he makes wallets out of recycled firehose and when you purchase an item in these claim their e-mail software it’s segments you based on what product you purchased so whether you bought like a backpack or duffel bag or a wallet and then before you’ve ever received the item after like 2days after you’ve placed the order, you get an e-mail from him with the story of the product and it’s like a landing page just built around the product you already bought and which is the video of him; it’s a big tech story and which explains like, “Hey, here’s the idea here’s how we manufacture, why it’s the best. The best way to use the product and suggestions” and then that way when the person gets the product, you have preempted any weird like Technical Support Service issue they may have had.

And they’ve got that story rattling around in their heads and they’ve got a better appreciation of it and the next time they pull out their wallet and someone’s like, “That’s a nice wallet” they go, “Oh yeah, It’s by this guy Jake, it’s a recycled firefighter wallet” and then they know the whole story about how this product came to be.

So, you can really juice that word of mouth and help build that relationship just by setting this email that is not directly selling but trying to build that relationship. And then you can also take it was like let’s say you sell apparel, like exchange returns, exchange sizing is a big problem for fashion and apparel.

I made a purchase from I think it was and they sent preemptively sent an email with their return process before I ever got the product because when you get it like, “Hey, it’s on its way and when you get it if you’ve got any issues with the sizing, here’s how to exchange it”. So, they were proactive in those customer support issues so like no one can have a bad experience when you’re preempting it like that. So, I think that’s as soon as they have a bad experience, you’ve lost them you’re not going to be able to get a repeat purchase.

So, customer experience and customer support is as important as doing those direct upsells and then I picked down the road, if you know what the purchase is you want to offer cross sells or up sells so we could use like a drone as an example, I love drones I bought a drone recently. No one has e-mailed me and gone, “Hey, you could like hey your drone here are some accessories other people with the same one bought and enjoyed” so that way you’re like you’re proving the experience you’re extending it more than that so they could do that say like 4weeks after I made the purchase and then they could wait a year and I’m like you know may depends on the product but will say in this case they could email me on my purchase anniversary and say, “Hey, have you been enjoying your drone? Would you want to upgrade to this one?” and then offer me a way like something much more expensive but I’m now much more like quickly to buy as a result of having the experience with the product and trusting the brand.

And all this like none of this stuff is difficult; it’s just a matter of taking it up and implementing that segmentation or automation in your email software.

Trent:                  So I don’t think there’s an e-Commerce entrepreneur on the planet who doesn’t worry about getting Amazon and so they’re always trying to figure out ways some of which we’ve already been talking about to keep the beast at bay so to speak, what are some of the in your clients come to you and say hey you know I want to make sure that I’m not losing to Amazon, I’m not going to get crushed by Amazon that I’ve got a sustainable business in the long term and they’re asking for help what are some of the pieces of advice that you give them?

Kurt:                   So I think everything we’ve discussed is already important having like personal branding number one helps and second having that great customer experience but you could take that a step further in start trying to fill in the things that Amazon doesn’t have right; so they don’t have– there’s no like loyalty rewards program that Amazon has that’s such an easy value add to do on your own website so like that’s an easy service win right there.

Trent:                  Let me interrupt there are there Shopify plugins or extensions whatever the right word, apps that make implementing a loyalty program really easy to do.

Kurt:                   Yes my favorite right now just absolutely tremendous is it makes it incredibly easy to implement and it is extremely configurable so you could set up, you could set like aren’t you going to get X-number of points per purchase per dollar spent you can redeem X-number of points for this dollar value in this way and then they also add a Benz to it so they can or actions so you can be like a on your birthday you’re going to get X-points or for liking us on Facebook we’ll give you X-points, so the it’s really a both powerful and easy to use rewards program ‘Smile’

Trent:                  And for anyone who’s driving and listening to this all of these urls, every tool that we mentioned, all the key stuff is going to be in the show notes and you’ll be able to get to those show notes by going to and hopefully I don’t end up changing this and having a different episode number but I’m pretty confidence it’s going to be to 260 and you’ll be able to get links to everything they’re.

All right so far two tools Klavier for email, smile for customer loyalty so I kind of interrupted you; you got to talking about customer loyalty and then what are some other ways to help combat the Amazon?

Kurt:                   Well, so I think two things. One, Amazon is not amazing at customization so they there is some limited effort in there if you have a product where you can add personalization to it, that is going to help you in general but also let you provide a different and better experience than Amazon so an easy app to do it is bold product options that really let you like people can upload arts to print on something or you can do all manner of configuration of options so but not everyone’s going to able to customize products but I would consider that one.

Trent:                  Let me jump in, remember where you at because I want to jump in and share a quick story and so I was an e-Commerce live in New Orleans a couple weeks ago and there was a woman there who had started a brand of wooden watches and she scaled it to twenty million bucks in four scant years and all of it customization was a huge, huge, huge part of her value prop.

So, if you’re listening in and you’re wondering if customization works, I would say based upon her experience that absolutely it is one of the things that you should consider doing.

Kurt:                   Yes and implementing on the site is not the hard part it’s like in your fulfillment process can you handle it? You know if you have that unfair advantage or you know you could fulfill customized products then absolutely figured out on the website that’s going to be the easy part of it.

I’d say that the other struggle that Amazon has is their catalog is passive; which means filtering through it can be tough and they’re entirely dependent on that keyword search. So you know, all Amazon experiences are driven by keywords including using Alexa for voice search. So, what you could do is just try and build number one a better easier navigation system; so if you’ve got like fancy mega menus already in a limited catalog, your life is going to get easier.

But think about like it depends on your vertical, to think about like auto parts so trying to buy auto parts on Amazon has and still is a terrible experience, they’re really not very good at it whereas if you could build your own site build a vehicle still liked or like your make model and then it goes this is the product you’re looking for, oh my gosh now I’m always going to go with that over Amazon like I’m really not sure this is right, I’d much like is none of these makes sense.

Look for those holes and in the Amazon experience just like can I make it easier to find? The reason being is what we found once someone lands on your home page, the faster you can get them to a product the first time not even necessarily the right product just something close; that’s the differ it’s like walking past a store versus walking into a store. If you can just make it easy enough to start navigating through the product catalog, you’re significantly more likely to make a sale.

Trent:                  That makes sense, can’t buy what you can’t find. All right let’s talk a little bit about apps because that is one of the sayings I think that makes the Shopify platforms so incredibly popular is that kind of a tremendous ecosystem of apps, what are some of your favorites?

Kurt:                   Okay, so we mentioned smile is really good but one I demoed recently and I’m like totally blown away by is retention racket So certainly you have gotten abandoned cart e-mails before right retention racket takes it to the next level it’s abandoned cart text messages. So in Shopify, the first page of the checkout it’s like putting your phone number click next and then there’s a check box at the bottom of the check here and we have it by default, check here to get emails marketing communications. They add a second one that says and let us contact you by phone and it then like a hour after you’ve abandoned your cart you get a text message with an MMS link straight back to the checkout with a coupon code already applied that says, “Hey, if you have any questions reply to this text message, type stop to opt out and here’s the link to go back to your purchase now 10% less” this thing prints money, it’s so cool.

It doesn’t like there’s other features in there like once you have that just like your email list once you have your text messaging list, you can send broadcast communications to people but I think the magic is just in that there’s so much revenue you can recover by having these different more novel abandoned cart strategies because this point we’re all starting to get used to those abandoned cart mails.

Trent:                  All right so what are some of the other apps that you really like?

Kurt:                   The two others I really like number one Privy, Privy is a pop up builder and like pop ups are so important they’re critical to your email marketing strategy and having them be beautiful and flexible is nice. So, like a good pop up strategy I like to go if it is when they land on the site not immediately but when they scroll, we know they’re engaged so when they hit the 50% scroll mark; All right let’s pop up a welcome offer really go, “Hey sign up for a newsletter” and we’ll give you a code immediately and when you know it could be 10%-15%-20% off.

You can also do it so like that’s number one I want that welcome offer on scroll then number two I want an exit intent offer and you know you could maybe do that on the whole site or you want to get fancier if you could do it just on the cart page so you have like a more enticing offer that’s like the welcome one is 10% and then if they go to abandoned cart page, then we go, “Wait if you’re on our email, we give you a code for 15% as soon as they’re trying to exit” so those pop ups can help interrupt someone leaving and keep them on the site.

It also lets you get their e-mail support to build your list but here’s where Privy is different than the other pop up builders, this is magic. The issue with abandoned carts e-mails normally is there not abandoned cart e-mails really, they’re abandoned checkout e-mails. Like we shop by you’re not getting that e-mail and sending the abandon check out the mail until they hit the second step in the checkout.

What Privy has done is very clever, let’s say they thought that your mail in that welcome e-mail at any point or the pop up at any point when they’re on the site and then they view a product abandoned or they had to cart abandoned, Privy knows their e-mail address already for the session and that can send the abandoned cart for you. So now like they have the product to cart now that is a true genuine abandoned cart email; they don’t have to get to the checkout process so I think that one. Because there’s a lot of pop up builders so that’s how that one differentiates itself and became my favorite and my winner.

And then the third are a little different than an app, we’re going to go with a service Hot Jar, Hot Jar provides hit map. And that’s what’s so cool like having your own website you can you can see how people are using it and that’s one of the interesting things about design that merchants sometimes miss is, “Hey here’s how you use your site” There’s the way you think your users use your site but until you’ve watched someone use it or watched a screen recording or looked at hit map data, you really don’t know how they’re actually using the site. And the magic of hot jar it’s inexpensive, it works really well so you can use it to fine tune the page by figuring out okay here are the elements people aren’t clicking so maybe we should get rid of those we could declutter the site here are the elements people are clicking that don’t do anything all right maybe we need to reconsider that, make it clickable and get rid of it and here’s the stuff people are clicking on the most; okay we should make that like the primary prominent elements.

But then so hit maps are powerful on their own but my favorite super cool feature that Hot Jar does is exit intent polls.

[Internet burp]

My favorite feature in Hot Jar isn’t the hit maps, it’s exit intent poles. So, let’s say someone’s on a product page and we could say, “Only show this poll if the url contains ‘/products’. So, on that product page, they go to exit but we pop up a window that says, “Hey, if you didn’t make a purchase today, what was it that stopped you?”

Now, you’re going to have a way to finally when people are abandoning your site, they’re fleeing, running from a site, you’ve no idea why you’re tearing your hair out, you’re making all these wild guesses, why don’t we just ask them and that’s what this exit intent polls do.

So, very quickly you know depending on how much traffic you have to your product pages, you can have a spreadsheet of genuine answers to why they didn’t buy. Well, now you look for trends and you could figure out okay, here are the objections, here are the issues so maybe just some unanswered question you didn’t know people had because they’ve been asked.

So, you could update your product descriptions or update your headlines and now suddenly up conversion rates are going to start going up or there’s like some technical issue that you had no idea and then to take that ad lifetime value to add to the experience to improve the customer experience you can have a second question and just go, “Oh, if you want an answer your question, just enter your e-mail” and then some people who have issues will enter their e-mail and you can reach out to them to resolve it.

Trent:                  So really, we talked about the importance of increasing customer lifetime value, equally if not more important is increasing average order value. Are there specific apps or tactics that you’ve seen to be extremely effective? I mean I think up sell, okay great but the implementation of the word up sell can go wildly wrong, they can get it right, so what thoughts do you have on that?

Kurt:                   I’m glad you asked, so with up sells and cross sells; the trick is to number one make them relevant and number two have them happen at the right time. And there’s more than one way to do it but I would say in Shopify, there’s under analytics there’s a report you can run called in-cart analysis and it will give you, it will just flat out tell you hey here’s stuff that people are statistically likely to add to cart together. So, you literally have Shopify giving you a report of– these are things you should cross sell or there’s a free app called ‘Bold Brain’ that will go a little deeper, run a similar analysis and then come back or go all right, here are cross sell opportunities here are bundle opportunities maybe a more in-depth report and it’s a cool because the app’s free to get that reporting data ‘Bold Brain’

And then before actually making these offers to people as more than one way to do it; so I read a in history report from Bay Mart Institute Research and they said, “If you want to improve user’s experience list, make sure you add on the page what’s included what accessories are included with whatever thing you’re selling” so it’s clear what they’re getting.

You could use your product description to do the cross sells by saying, “Here’s what’s not included but some but customers have purchased” and then put the links to the items right there is like the most basic easy way to do it, I don’t need apps, I don’t need to program or anything links in a product description but certainly we may want to go fancier than that. So, the matching up old product up sell will let you make those same offers when they want to someone else to cart or when they click go to checkout. And then if you want to get really fancy and this has the highest success rate, is doing– making those offers post purchase and you mentioned Ezra Firestone earlier his company’s is Shopify that does those called one click up sell so they could do like the quick funnel style experience where after they purchase then you could do– in that moment you could say, “Hey, did you want to add this to the order?”And now they don’t really have to make a second purchase they could just say add and it gets added to the purchase they’ve already made.

So, like there’s no risk of screwing anything up you know losing the deal because you made too many offers that also it’s fancy you could it supports like up sells down sells of pay at the first when you go and you also want to get this one or if they say no to that one maybe here’s like a lesser expensive option which is always fancy and nice if you want to go down that road.

The way to do it would be bundles. So, not necessarily like cross selling after the fact but doing it upfront you offer hey here’s the like here’s the here’s our digital camera or here’s like the digital camera shoot more bundle where you get a backpack in an extra set of batteries. So just kind of preempt it and then you can link to that on the product page of the core product as well.

Trent:                  Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about unique ways or clever ways to drive traffic to stores so everyone and their dog is buying Facebook ads of course heard people finding success on I think Ezra was actually talking about LinkedIn being just like the cheapest clicks around these days maybe might have more of a B2B not entirely sure, there’s YouTube, there’s Instagram, there’s all sorts of ways to go ahead to acquire traffic.

But let’s talk about if anything comes to mind if you can think of examples you know clever ways or unique ways that people are succeeding with.

Kurt:                   Well, let’s start with you brought up Facebook ads and certainly I think that’s probably like the number one way everybody is driving traffic these days but they’re getting more and more expensive unless you’re doing remarketing right? Use remarket you show ads to people who visited your site. What’s supercool in Facebook now as you could share audiences.

So, let’s say you have someone you know that in the industry and they have overlapping audiences with you but not necessarily competing products so it’s a useful jerseys and someone else will sucks and you’ve got the same people. You could share your audiences with each other and then RE market to each other’s audiences so that’s an easy way to get a media fast access to qualify traffic, you’re adding value to some other person in your community, you’re getting value out of it and you’re expanding that audience with a way to do inexpensive Facebook ads so if you already know Facebook ads works, that’s one way to double down on it a bit.

The other one that I don’t see enough people doing it could be absolutely incredible is ‘Giveaways’ they’re so easy to do. With like viral sweep gleam I’m sure there are others but it’s clever about like these giveaway platforms now is you can award; it’s not just enter your e-mail and you’re going to be in a raffle. You can now give people extra entries for referring it to referring friends. So, it adds a network effect to it and you can really vary if you’ve got like a core audience in a really good offer that is compelling like whatever you’re giving away and you know I can’t speak like, “Oh you’re going to get 20bucks to Chili’s” that might work depending on your audience, something like you know if they want something exclusive like, “Hey, we’re a gave away a signed wheel that rally driver can block sign this is we’ll they gave that away it was true huge tons of entries into the thing.

Yeah so if you’ve got– so if you do a giveaway with something either like super exclusive or a value like hey we’re giving away you know an iPad, that will get people’s certainly get people’s attention. But if you’re going to do it, do it with a service like viral super gleam where you can add those social actions to it to give it that some extra virility.

Trent:                  Let me add some color to that because there was so as a part of my research on a project which I ultimately decided I didn’t have in an advantage for. A company that was going to be in the motor sports space and I went and I talked to I went to see him and I talked to all sorts of brands about giveaways and one of the things and I forget which brand told me about it but we went on ways down the road.

So, I was able to line up a number of sponsors for a given giveaway and rather than to get them to contribute product, Ideally what you were looking for is to get them to contribute experiences that would not be otherwise easy to obtain but really didn’t cost that brand any money.

For example, brand– there was a company that was Miller Welding Equipment and so the marketing agency that handled their account said to me will by the way we actually have relationships with Chip Ganassi Racing. So, one of the things that we could do is we could offer the experience where the winner of the raffle would get to go to the race, they’re going to sit in the Chip Ganassi you know corporate box, they’re going to get meet some of the drivers, they’re going to get the behind the scenes like one of that really cost them to do, not much really to be honest with you but what was the perceived value from motor sports fans while it was off to China each as they get to go and they get to take pictures and put it on Facebook and brag about it forever and so have you seen? Can you think of examples in your wheel house of where experience type giveaways, have they really done well?

Kurt:                   Well, we’ll see the thing we’re working on setting up probably be live on the site in March doing a giving away a tour of Jay Leno’s Garage and that’s like the it speaks to exactly what you’ve just described.

Trent:                  Okay, I’m just keeping my notes up to date; all right so two more things I want to touch on, one of them will mostly probably make it into the show notes and that is do you have resources available that folks can access or download for best practices for running, “Hey, I’ve got my store” because it’s kind of a formula right like you should be doing this and you should be doing this and it’s kind of a checklist or a standard operating procedures I’ll like to say.

What type of resource? Do you have some resources available and if you do make sure you get me the urls so that I can put them into the show notes if you want to mention anything now food please feel free.

Kurt:                   Yeah if you want a PDF checklist of conversion rate optimization ideas to try and your store, I’ve got that available at either or I’ve got probably it a ton of free resources just baked into the official Shopify Podcast a checkout if and that’s just hey here’s a list of a free stuff we put together for Shopify merchants.

Trent:                  Okay and then the other thing you and I did not talk about it all in our pre-interview because I hadn’t formalized this partnership which I now have, so a business partner of mine we have decided to start a company called HPI ventures and we are on the hunt to buy existing e-Commerce brands and this is something that we want to spend 5-10 years doing, a good long time and to follow what’s called the classic roll up strategy where you’re buying a bunch of little companies but they have overlapping audiences, they have overlapping all sorts of things and you can merge them together all into one bigger company and make money and all sorts of different ways from doing that which brings me to my question, from a due diligence perspective, what are some of the things if a buyer or an investor or buyer is looking at an e-Commerce business that is for sale, what are in your opinion some of the things that they should be looking at from a due diligence perspective to make sure they don’t drive their car into the proverbial or can’t say to talk to the idea brick wall?

Kurt:                  Yes, so the thing that’s very scary about e-Commerce is cash flow; when you’re selling a physical good right you have to– you’re always robbing Peter to pay Paul and that you’ve got you know you’re making sales but then you have to spend that money on the next round of inventory.

So, you want to make sure that they have done a good and proper bookkeeping on their expenses because they always know exactly like hey here’s how much revenue we’re making but you can show me a store that’s making 7-figures in revenue and still losing money that happens just yeah– just affluent to make sure that they the cost of goods sold in particular is calculated correctly and truthfully number one.

And then I think number two is their customer acquisition strategy sustainable? So, if they’ve got whatever strategy they’re using to drive growth can you keep it going? Is it realistic to keep it going or you know like does it work but have risk to it reflect all right there 100% dependent on Facebook ads, any time you like totally dependent on the one channel that kind of spooks me but should be a little bit of its risk, those are the two big red flags I would look for.

Trent:                  Okay, all right so with that said let me finish off with the question that I always like to ask if you were interviewing yourself, is there anything you would ask yourself at this point in time like in other words have I missed anything?

Kurt:                   Well, the number one most important thing when it’s conversion rate optimizing a store and I would say, we talked about so many cool things shiny toys and the service is an apps. The most powerful thing we’ve consistently used is copywriting; doing customer development surveys and then using language from those surveys and transform those surveys to right positioning messaging Facebook ads, headlines, product copy, that has always had an outsized impact on revenue and conversions.

Trent:                  Wonderful! Okay well Kurt, I want to thank you very much for taking time to be on the show, it’s a pleasure to have you here and folks if you want to know more about Kurt I’m guessing is the best place to go and do that.

Kurt:                   Or google me,, sign up for newsletter and send me a thoughtful question cause that’s my real email and I’ll send you a thoughtful answer.

Trent:         All right, thanks so much.

Kurt:          Thank you

Trent:                  To get to the shows notes for today’s episode, go to bright ideas.SEO/260; if you enjoyed this episode I have two small but very important requests, number one help another entrepreneur discover all of the gold nuggets by sharing this episode on your social profiles or wherever else you would like to. And then number two, if you would take a moment and head on over to the iTunes store and leave us a 5-star rating along with your comments. Man oh man; I would be eternally grateful for that thank you so much.

If you’d like to connect with me to ask questions about selling on Amazon or about e-Commerce in general, I would strongly encourage you to come and become a member of our Facebook group, you can do so at and if you haven’t yet, check out one of my daily nugget series videos on YouTube, you can do that at so thanks very much for tuning in, take care will see another episode soon, bye-bye.

[End of Transcript]

Questions Asked During the Interview

  • Who are you and what do you do?
  • Who are some of your notable clients?
  • Where are you seeing the biggest opportunity in eCommerce today if someone aspired to build a $1M+ store
  • 75% of customers never come back…how do you combat this?
  • How do you increase customer LTV?
  • Lets talk about all the ways that an independent store can provide a customer experience that Amazon cannot replicate
  • What are some of your favorite shopify apps?
  • How to best increase AOV?
  • What are clever ways you have seen clients driving traffic to their stores
  • What is the #1 most important thing with CRO?

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Today’s Guest

One of the most highly regarded independent consultants in his industry, Kurt Elster is a Senior Ecommerce Consultant who helps Shopify store owners uncover hidden profits in their websites. Kurt is the founder of ecommerce agency Ethercycle, author of Ecommerce Bootcamp, and host of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast with nearly one million downloads. These resources have helped thousands of Shopify store owners create impact, freedom, & wealth.

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