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Partner feature: The Shopify Experts behind Blend Commerce

Blend Commerce logo with a microphone

Since day one, the team at Out of the Sandbox has been committed to creating the most robust Shopify themes on the market, with the goal of making it accessible for entrepreneurs of all skill levels to design an e-commerce store. What we couldn’t have anticipated, however, is the number of Experts and Partners around the world who now utilize these same themes as the framework for their own clients. Being a part of the Shopify ecosystem has given us the opportunity to meet and work with some truly talented and passionate people, and we couldn’t have grown to where we are today without them.  

Many of the most successful Partners in the Shopify program have spent countless years learning the platform inside and out, providing unparalleled service to their merchants and creating valuable partnerships within the community at large. They value collaboration and believe in creating a network of knowledgeable experts who can share the expertise that they’ve gained. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting the incredible team behind Blend Commerce, then you know that they fit this profile to a T.

Based in the UK, Blend Commerce was started by Adam Pearce and Peter Gardner in early 2017, when they took a leap and decided it was time to start something that would help Shopify merchants kick their businesses up a notch. Peter had been working with another OOTS favourite, Storetasker, as a freelance developer and Adam was working as a Marketing Director for an educational app for college students, and they knew their combination of skills would be the perfect footing for just such an agency. They’ve since grown to a team of 8, and have worked with brands like Jimmy Case, Kivari, and Brooklyn Bicycle Co to create best-in-class e-commerce experiences for their customers. We sat down with Adam to chat a bit about how they got started, and what’s next for Blend Commerce.

If you had one piece of advice for a new Shopify merchant, what would that be?

Love your product. It may sound silly, but trying to market a product or service that you don’t 100% believe in is hard. We’ve seen it ourselves in the start of our business - the services we loved providing were simple to sell, and the ones we didn’t love, didn’t sell. We learned from this and slimmed down our service offering.

What is a common mistake or misconception that you see e-commerce merchants making?

That conversion rate is all about the store design. While there’s no denying that the design of a store is critical to how well it converts, merchants sometimes overlook the quality and volume of traffic that is being referred to the store. By making sure that this is evaluated alongside the store design, speed, and messaging, merchants can sometimes identify non-site related issues before making amendments to their store.

You’ve recently started hosting in-person meetups in the UK. What has that experience been like? Do you find there’s a common topic/problem that seems to always come up from merchants?

Our Shopify Meetups have been an excellent way for us to connect to the local Shopify community. At our first meetup in Birmingham, we had a great range of guests - from merchants initially starting out on Shopify through to representatives from one of the world’s biggest Shopify brands. The key discussion point tended to be around optimizing themes, and of course, Turbo was a big point of discussion, hence why we’re delighted that Out of the Sandbox will be sponsoring our upcoming event on February 28th.

What are the key elements of a successful shop?

In terms of design principles, these are absolutely key:

  • Mobile first design - Most of our clients see between 60 and 80% of their traffic from mobile. By designing for mobile first, this ensures you’re not leaving money on the table.
  • Clear Navigation - Getting visitors smoothly and easily to where they want to be is critical. By simplifying the navigation of a store, this makes the journey from visitor to customers far easier.
  • High levels of trust - While trust indicators are commonly used on homepages, some merchants forget to use these on product pages, carts, and checkouts. Given that Turbo enables us to implement this easily for clients, we always have this as a key factor for any Shopify store.
  • High-quality product photography - Studies have shown that poor quality photography is a core factor in poor conversion. Investing in high-quality photography is a worthwhile investment for any Shopify store.

What are the types of products and shops that you find are the most successful on the Shopify platform?

By far, the most successful products are those that are unique. Whilst dropshipping stores can still perform, having a uniquely designed or sourced product always serves best on Shopify. Shoppers are savvy, and by being able to convey the true uniqueness of a product is absolutely key to success.

You use our premium Shopify theme, Turbo, as a framework for a number of your merchants. What sets this theme apart from the other options available for you?

While we’ve written a number of blogs on this, the absolute key benefits for us are:

  • Feature-rich - As we described in our Turbo Calculator blog, Turbo is absolutely packed with features that would require third-party apps or development work to implement on a standard Shopify theme. This means that merchants can achieve a faster, more feature rich tool without the need for ongoing monthly costs from apps.
  • Speed - Lazy loading within Turbo makes a big difference to the speed experience and hence conversions of stores. Turbo is unrivaled in this, and hence is one of the reasons that we implement Turbo for our clients 

Can you provide an example of one of the most successful shops you've worked on?

Whilst we’re delighted to have had so many successful clients, one that sticks out in our mind is NI Candle Supplies. The founder, Sarah Lowther, came to us initially with an idea to be the Northern Ireland’s premier candle supplies business. By working with Sarah to develop a stored design concept using Turbo, as well as developing a marketing strategy around community marketing, Sarah has gone from strength to the strength with her store in less than 12 months. Whilst we’re not able to disclose the sales of the business, it's safe to say that the business will shortly be eligible for migrating to Shopify Plus.

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?

We love to talk. It sounds basic, but our clients always remark on our openness to get on a call and chat things through. Running a business is complex, and frankly, we don’t think it's easy or effective to be able to communicate all of the challenges a client faces via an email.

One of the other key aspects for our team is honesty. We often have clients who request a specific app or new feature for their store. Given our team's experience, it's common that we’ve used an alternative way of achieving the objective, and we tell clients that from the outset. While this sometimes results in clients working on smaller projects with us in the short run, this honesty develops into a longer term relationship.

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