In an ecosystem where new Experts seemingly pop up by the minute, it is important to us that when our Shopify merchants need help, we can refer them to the top in the industry and feel confident that they will have a best-in-class experience with our partners. This is why the team at ShopCreatify is always at the top of our list for merchants looking to enhance the performance of their store.
Backed by decades of industry experience and an incredible amount of passion for what they do, ShopCreatify works with e-commerce merchants to boost conversions, set up new shops, redesign existing stores, and even offer a number of toolkits for Experts. We chatted with Ross Allchorn, founder of ShopCreatify, to get the scoop on how they got started, the valuable services they offer, and their top tips for merchants looking to excel in the e-commerce space.
For our readers who may not be familiar with ShopCreatify, give us a bit of a rundown of your team and the services you offer.
I founded ShopCreatify in late 2014, following a career in web and e-commerce design and development spanning two decades. A former colleague of mine, Quintin Schnehage, joined the business at the beginning of 2017 as a junior partner and since then we’ve grown to a team of only 8 highly skilled professionals.
Our offering is quite different from “tech agnostic” web agencies who cast their net wide and provide services for many different e-commerce platforms. Instead, we currently only work on Shopify stores and specialize in Shopify Plus.
Given the mentioned “pedigree” that both Quintin and I have in e-commerce, we focus on producing high-performing e-commerce stores for select clients — clients that are happy to work with us collaboratively toward a common and defined goal. Usually, the goal is improving conversion rates or simply getting a new store live. It’s often a bit more nuanced than that though, where the brand personality may need to be reflected better, or other metrics looked at to declare the outcome successful (fewer needless inquiries, improved UX, etc.).
Your business is based physically in Cape Town, South Africa, however, you work with clients around the world. What is this process like for an agency when your relationships are virtual?
We work almost exclusively with international merchants. Currently, our client list includes USA, UK, Australia, and South Africa.
With my design and development team spread across the world from Austria to the USA to South Africa, we needed to adopt an international client base using a recognizable currency. We now conduct business in either USD or GBP and have managed to work with and around time zone differences without issue. We’ve even made it work for our Australian clients (7-8hrs ahead of us) who will surely attest to that fact.
One “secret” weapon of ours is our above average and routine communication. We have weekly or bi-weekly meetings with all our clients to align priorities and discuss strategy. With our goals set, we get our heads down and execute with laser focus.
We also have some pretty solid SOPs (standard operating procedures) so it’s seldom that anything slips through the cracks or doesn’t get checked as it should before client reveal or go-live.
You recently introduced a new offering called ConversionBoost that has seen a lot of success – what exactly does this service entail?
Yes, ConversionBoost is a recent addition to our official offerings, following years of us doing it in an unofficial or ad-hoc manner.
What we do with ConversionBoost is approach things very analytically by first having the merchant complete a survey that articulates their current situation, their desires, and needs. Concurrently, we’ll set up — or conduct the proper setup of — all the analytical tools required (Google Analytics & heatmapping tools). We’ll then flip the switch and let the data collect for a few weeks to a month.
Once the data is in, we’ll review it in conjunction with a manual frontend audit of the site, using insights from the data and heatmap snapshots to prevent making assumptions about how things “should be.” We then interpret the data, and from those insights, we produce a comprehensive list of recommended actions for the store.
This list is then prioritized in order of highest impact for the shortest execution time, to lowest impact for the highest execution time. This list is then either actioned by us on behalf of the merchant, or their in-house team may choose to take over at this stage. Often it is a collaborative effort, where less technical tasks are tackled on the merchant side, while design and development tasks are entrusted to us.
All in all, each project to date has been successful and had positive results.
What, in your expert opinion, are the key elements that make for a successful shop?
I’m going to throw a big blanket over things and pre-emptively state that not all of these will apply to all stores, but here goes anyway:
There are countless areas a store needs to excel in to truly succeed, from effective inbound marketing to an easy and pleasurable customer journey on-site, to good customer and after-sales service. The points I mentioned above are merely the basics — you need to have them in place to stand a chance at all.
What has helped you get to where you are and what advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction?
I’d like to think that it comes down mainly to making very intentional decisions with the hands we’ve been dealt.
A turning point for us — which felt like a bit of a risk at the time — was when we adopted a no-compromise attitude to the kind of work we want to do. For this, we made the decision to only work on projects where there was a high chance of success: working with clients who we liked, on projects where the scope, the timeline, and the budget were all in line with achieving that successful outcome.
That, and taking the journey seriously. There are no free rides, and if you want to work with proper merchants, you need to bring your A game. Have your contracts created by an attorney, plan out your processes, manage your time like it’s the most important commodity in your life (because it literally is). Focus obsessively on the aspects of your work that bring in the greatest profit and fulfillment. If you do this, you should already be ahead of most.
What made you decide to focus on working with Shopify merchants specifically?
Having worked in web tech for a while, both with self-hosted solutions and SaaS solutions, it became clear that for us to bring our primary skills to the table, we couldn’t spend our time managing servers updating and debugging core software and the related hassles of self-hosting.
I also spent a fair amount of time researching SaaS e-commerce platforms and Shopify stood out amongst the crowd quite significantly. The ecosystem as a whole, both in terms of partners, experts, apps and their developers, themes and their creators all contribute to a great bunch of people and technology that makes the work pleasurable and rewarding.
Having adopted the platform as a specialty, we’re now able to offer services that are highly Shopify-centric with our deep knowledge allowing us to quickly scope out projects with the abilities and limitations already known.
You use our premium Shopify theme, Turbo, as a framework for a number of your merchants. What, for you, sets this theme apart from the other options available?
One of the simpler questions to answer, and I also have a whole article dedicated to our reasoning.
The TL;DR is that it’s simply better than the theme store themes and it’s developed by one of the top theme houses — you guys — so we know it’s not just another Themeforest vendor that couldn’t get into the official theme store. The fact that it costs more than the theme store themes sets it apart in this regard too.
Being that our primary merchant tier is Shopify Plus, it helps us to do a lot more out of the box (pun totally intended). But we do tend to customize it a lot too.
It’s probably not the time nor place to list the features of Turbo that makes it stand apart from the rest, but the main drawcard is undoubtedly the theme’s blazing performance. Some other big ones include the faceted collection filters, mini cart, built-in predictive search, and the mega menus.
Are there any books or podcasts that have helped you in your journey as a small business owner?
Most recently, I’ve been consuming a lot of Tim Ferris’ podcasts and think The Four Hour Work Week should be required reading for everyone.
Kurt Elster has a great podcast over at http://www.unofficialshopifypodcast.com/ which I’ve been on a couple of times. There have been far more prestigious guests than me though.
Another book I read a long time ago was How To Build The [Your Name Here] Sales System by Gill E. Wagner. An excerpt:
“Success hinges on your ability to describe your company’s services in “results we produce” terms, rather than “what we do” terms. Most decision-makers don’t care what you do or really how you do it. They want to know how you are going to “heal their pain,” and that you know what their true pain is. You can communicate that most effectively by describing—in your prospect’s words—the results you produce.”
One other place I learned a lot, which isn’t a book nor a podcast, was the Sitepoint forums, specifically the business section.
If you had one piece of advice for a new Shopify merchant, what would that be?
Read, read and read some more. A good place to start is the Shopify blog itself.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have encountered as a company? How have you overcome those challenges?
Looking back on our history of client work, I’d say we’ve had a reasonably trouble-free time so far. We’ve certainly dodged a few bullets and had a few less than ideal merchants cross our path, but ultimately any losses were easily chalked up as school fees and we’re the better for it. Because we learned from these experiences, our agreements are now fair but explicit, and our operating procedures the same. On the internal side, again experience played a part (mine) but it’s always tricky finding the right people
Some things have been reluctantly accepted like the inability to scale rapidly as a service business and we’re fine with that. There are some plans on the horizon that will change this a little, but for now, as far as service businesses go, we’re running quite a smooth operation at close to full capacity.
With so many agencies similar to yours in the Shopify ecosystem, how do you set yourselves apart from the others and build trust with merchants?
Trust is earned. Yes, I may say the right things in the initial meetings that may win us the client, but we’re in it for the long term. Not sticking to your word and not doing the things you said you’d do is where a lot of service providers drop the ball. We set realistic expectations both in terms of scope, time and money and almost always hit things on the mark or better.
Merchants that have stuck with us have benefited significantly from the working relationship… and so have we.
While we’re not in a rush to land the big fish, we’re always open about pricing so as to keep expectations realistic. Sometimes we’ll offer just an initial phase like scoping or design and more often than not it turns into a great long term engagement where we’ll see them through to go-live and beyond.
Almost all of our merchant clients have been with us for a year or more… some 3yrs+ so we’re not only in it for the quick wins.
The relationships we have with our clients are real — not salesy — and through diligence, routine and by working smarter, we’ve managed to achieve great things for them. The path we’re currently on is working well for us, and our clients, and we hope to continue this trend into the foreseeable future.