• Metal Ethos

    Metal Ethos

Looking to expand the functionality of our Shopify sites to include custom fields so that shoppers can directly enter their custom requests before checkout, I stumbled across a Shopify App, Infinite Options by Shop Pad. While the Shopify Apps can easily overwhelm the small budget of most boutiques, Infinite Options is available free of charge from the Shopify App Store and for the non-tech savvy shop owners, they offer White Glove service for a one time $20.00 installation fee.

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To install Infinite Options, I followed the usual process of clicking on “Get” and then went to my Apps list to confirm successful installation as well as finding the instructions to integrate the new container into our <form> code.

installation

The first hiccup was finding the product form code in our custom Responsive Template. On Nici’s Picks, the form coding was located in the product.liquid file, while on NiciArt the code appeared under Snippets in the file product-form.liquid. In our case, we opted to place the container directly above the inventory display on line 42.

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After saving the product-form.liquid, my c instinct was to recompile the source and look for any errors as clearly such an installation should require far more code wrangling complete with throwing things at the wall out of utter frustration. Shopify does display errors on the top bar, so as long as file saves, there shouldn’t be any major issues with functionality.

The next step was perhaps the easiest and simply requires the user to return to the app to configure the custom options, however out of shear haste and in a holiday order fog, I found myself frantically looking for my new fields on the product pages before logic and reason prevailed enough to bring me back to the Infinite Options App. Once in the App, creating fields is just a matter of naming and selecting inputs.

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In this case, my goal is just a simple input field for custom order requests.

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Once the customer heads on over to the checkout, their custom requests are confirmed directly under the ordered item.

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Since both Nici’s Picks and NiciArt had the additional field functionality already in the templates, we did not have to fiddle with any extra code, however should a template not support custom options, Infinite Options has detailed instructions for adding this code.

In general, I’m feeling neutral about continuing with Shopify in the long-term, but in the meantime our new template and all the simple add-ons have produced a highly functional website with both pleasing aesthetics and intuitive form and function.

 

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Some of our best selling products have evolved through suggestions from our customers and social media which is why I always recommend that every boutique crafter listen very closely to suggestions from shop visitors and become and active participant in their sharing sites. Social media is not just a tool for improving Domain Authority, Trust, or plastering products on a wall with the hopes shoppers flood your store. Instead social media should become a learning experience with two way communication and human to human interaction. Cyberspace is an extension of your three-dimensional world rather than an abstract addition.

Having been active in Etsy for 7 years, we have seen a dichotomy arise between die hard artists, who refuse all suggestions and purposely buck trends for the sake of arguing “uniqueness” while others open up shop and proudly flaunt their abilities to copy and regurgitate the front page of Etsy with almost mechanical precision.

One of our best sellers this year is our Sterling Silver Mountains and Amber Harvest Moon Bracelet that is the product of customer input and yet still crafted as a unique one of a kind bracelet.

The original bracelet

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was crafted during the Metal Challenge 360 back in the summer of 2013, when we tried to craft one new item every day and then share that item on Imgur with our followers. With this first edition bracelet, our followers liked the mountains, but wanted to see the brass sun really pop to the foreground. Pulling the suggestions together, we were still able to craft a bracelet that was our own unique work, yet incorporated community based suggestions to create a truly fantastic bracelet:

niciart_sterling_silver_mountains_and_amber_bracelet_2

As the holiday rush is well underway, crafting with social media as propelled this bracelet to the front of our best seller list on Amazon Handmade.

While Etsy is flooded with name bracelets and every possible stamped derivative thereof, our customers this holiday season have been requesting dainty sterling silver name bracelets. Listening to our customers requests, we crafted a Sterling Silver Initials Bracelet directly in the midst of the Cyber Monday madness:

niciart_silver_initials_bracelet_0

On this bracelet, we took a common request for an item that is readily found in any Etsy Search and spruced up the design by stamping the initials on a much thicker 12 gauge sterling silver blank to incorporate a trendy theme with a high quality jewelry. In this example, both the handmade crafter and customer can come together with their respective ideas and cooperate closely to create a product that suits both parties.

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Switching from our beloved SupaDupa E-Commerce Platform in August 2016, was not an easy step as we really liked the classic templates with the menu down the side and a huge collection of featured items, however we felt Shopify would help NiciArt grow in new directions with exposure to Wanelo Shopping, Buyable Pins, and a Google Shopping Feed.

How SEO will be affected by switching platforms is a roll of the dice, but most shops sacrifice a short term loss for future gains. Unfortunately, we attributed our slower sales to the recent election and never investigated SEO issues as the real root cause. Shopify’s clean templates are focused on aesthetics as well as form and function to facilitate browsing mobile platforms, but the immediate downside is the elimination of essential keywords from the main page of the root domain. Examining the situation much more closely, we realized the time had come to integrate a blog into the front page under the news heading in order to bring more keywords directly to our most important landing page. Also frequent blog postings, might drive Google to crawl our little site a bit more frequently than just having an array of photographed items with one word labels.

The Metal Ethos Blog is now our active exercise inĀ  writing opinions, sharing ideas, discussing business topics, and even introducing new products, while Nici’s Blog, the Metal Spot, will be used for tutorials, learning, or demonstrating various metal working techniques. Both blogs are integrated into Shopify via the WordPress Importer and form the backbone of our site blog under the New’s heading. Once a site is demoted, there really are no easy fixes. SEO is never a quick fix or instant solution.

news

A blog is one of the best ways to improve SEO, yet perhaps the most work and let’s face it, in this age of instant gratification the words hard work, patience, and long term investment send many people back to the drawing board in search of a magic carpet or genie dust.

One App I am finding useful is called SEO Doctor.

seodoctor

Don’t be fooled by the cutesy logo or think that this free application is not legitimate with its $0.00 price tag. At the same time, I wouldn’t loose sleep over the MOZ ratings or spending days fixing every little issue with attributes or H tags, but as a general guide, SEO Doctor is a fantastic resource for the Shopify platform.

In no time, we took NiciArt from an embarrassing 40% to an 80%

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Before the changes, we had a “Bad SEO score.”

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After just a short sitting, our score improved to 81.5%. While the first dose prescribed by the SEO Doctor is a horse pill that is perhaps not easy to swallow, the real medicine is learning how to adjust your thinking to consider how customers search and how Google finds. Too many sellers look at SEO as an abstract topic and set of rules. Like students sitting in a calculus class finding the area under the curve by memorizing sayings such as up a power over a power rather than learning limit theory and the mechanics behind the integral, SEO becomes just a repetitive habit. Forging ahead with NiciArt, my hope is form a mindset of asking myself how do I organize my information not just for Google but ultimately for my customers.

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In August 2016, NiciArt officially switched from our beloved Supadupa E-Commerce Platform to Shopify in order integrate shipping with our shipping app and increase sales with a presence in Google Shopping using Shopify’s Feed, however the reality of the switch was a huge penalty in SEO and drastic drop in sales. The logical conclusion for the traffic dip and sluggish sales was the election or general economic concerns causing shoppers to tighten their belts and go into savings mode. As our Etsy Shop took off over the past week, the nagging sensation that something was greatly awry led us back to re-examine the new site.

The first steps in diagnosing the sluggish sales included a routine visit to Webmaster Tools, Adwords Campaigns, SEO checkers, internal re-directs, SSL configuration, and looking for errors in the Supply Theme Liquid files. While nothing curious or glaring emerged from a long day of examining the usual suspects, we took the common steps of submitting our sitemap and clicking on the crawl function with the hope that Google might suddenly find some love for our new site. Increasing the Adwords budgets brought in another 200 clicks with many shoppers reaching check out, yet the actual sales were not increasing. Taking a new look at our sales since making the switch to Shopify, revealed 80% were through Paypal up from just 20% on Supadupa. It was obviously time for us to place a nice juicy order with NiciArt to better understand the checkout experience.

Starting with one of our best sellers, a bronze I plucking Love You Guitar Pick Keychain, we added the item to the cart and decided to order 2 just to make sure the totals were being correctly computed at check out. addtocard

Clicking on Add to Cart pulled up a rather standard check out page:

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While we gladly accept Paypal as a trusted and well recognized player in world of payment processors and gateways, it’s hard to be overjoyed by a bright yellow Checkout with PayPal button. Of course, some customers might prefer to go directly to Paypal rather than enter their private information directly in our credit card gateway. Either way, the information is still transmitted to the sellers, but as a matter of perception, many old-school internet shopper may simply be more comfortable with the Paypal checkout. Looking back just 10 years ago, internet shoppers were schooled in never revealing their credit card information and Paypal really was the gold standard for checking out on-line. Today, credit card gateways such as Stripe or Google Wallet and Apple Pay have rendered PayPal somewhat obsolete in North America and Canada. Abroad, Paypal is still widely favored in countries where E-Commerce is just taking-off or plastic payments are not as popular.

 

Clicking on Checkout as the next step, left us utterly speechless:

checkout

 

 

Clearly, the attack of the big yellow button was an absolute glaring issue that could lead customers to believe we only accept Paypal. The customers have already made the choice not to use Paypal on the shopping cart page, so why was Paypal now being displayed again? Also the yellow screams in your face, while the “or” is grayed out to the point of off being barely visible. A little background reading in the Shopify forums proved the Paypal button could very well be the source of the abandon checkouts. After reading the first 10 pages of complaints, there was no reason to continue on to page 20, page 50, or even page 100. Unfortunately, the fix suggested by Shopify is upgrading to a Plus Account in order to create a custom checkout page where the seller could access the CSS sheets and tweak the style, otherwise those unwilling to pay for the upgrade would be subjected to the attack of the yellow button indefinitely.

 

One of the reasons, NiciArt has been so successful is we never take no for answer. With a few lines of code, we took control of our check out process.

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Now the customer is able to go directly to checkout or Continue Shopping.

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Next, there’s a typical vanilla style form for the shipping address. After a bit of mental wrangling, we decided to eliminate the Paypal Icon in the first two steps in order to have our customer manually enter their current shipping address. Far too often, we receive PayPal orders with outdated shipping addresses.

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Finally, the customer can select their payment method and complete the check out process. Just 24 hours following this simple change, the orders are rolling in on this exciting Cyber Monday. Small businesses face enough obstacles already, so having an e-commerce platform present additional challenges is extremely disappointing. Now that we have the checkout process sorted out and are working on giving NiciArt a full renovation, we will most likely stick with Shopify through the holiday season and hopefully reap the benefits of the platform switch.

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