COVID-19 has Shopify brands scrambling to rethink their strategies, even as ecommerce sales are up in the U.S. since this time last year. What worked in years past may not work as well now or in the future, as shifting consumer attitudes could be here to stay.
We spoke with two Shopify veterans—Wilson Hung of bone broth brand Kettle & Fire and Shopify website developer Ilana Davis—about which Shopify brands are thriving right now and why.Keep reading to find out what top Shopify stores are doing to excel in 2020.
Both Hung and Davis agree that thriving brands are diversifying how their customers can buy from them.
This makes sense. In an age of uncertainty, brands should be wary of relying on one channel for the bulk of their sales.Let's look at how different brands can diversify their sales channels.
Diversifying is even more important for brands that previously relied on local foot traffic for sales, like brick-and-mortar shops.
Ilana Davis, Shopify website developer, points to local arts-and-crafts markets moving online as a perfect example of a business model that has adapted quickly and found more customers through new channels.
"Crafts have always been part of the Shopify ecosystem, but when you look at markets like craft markets or bazaars, a lot of that stuff is moving online now because you can't just walk down to your neighborhood school and pick up your gift for your grandma for the holidays," she says. "And so it's interesting to see a lot of the creative markets that are now coming onto Shopify and doing well."
Crafty Wonderland, a crafts market based in Portland, Oregon, moved their local goods and artisans market online in 2020. The brand invested in its website to provide a similar level of communication and personal touch that customers expect from the in-person event.
Hung says that a major reason Kettle & Fire is thriving right now is because they've aimed to get in front of as many customers as possible by taking an omni-channel sales approach.
"Our omni-channel presence [is] between DTC, Amazon, and grocery store retail. This gives us access to more marketing options to get in front of our customers, as opposed to if we were just on retail, or just on ecommerce," Hung says.
Any size brand can apply this strategy. Microbrands that sell through Etsy or Amazon can easily set up an independent website on Shopify to reach customers directly, or vice versa.
In addition, B2B sellers that in the past have relied on traditional sales channels (such as in-person sales calls and factory tours) have begun to lean more heavily on ecommerce and other digital sales channels. McKinsey & Company reports that digital sales channels have seen a 2X increase for B2B companies in the past months.
Clear and consistent communication is one of the primary ways that brands can help customers trust them. Brands that over-communicate are thriving right now.Let's take a look at how communication is ramping up for top Shopify stores.
SMS allows brands to quickly reach customers with important information about their order or even new product drops, discounts, and more. In turn, customers can reach brands from the comfort of their messages app, rather than digging through a crowded email inbox.
Since Kettle & Fire rolled out SMS, Hung reports they've seen a 3X increase in the number of customers who try new flavors and in subscriber retention.Kettle & Fire also limits SMS interaction to their group of active members, making instant SMS access to the brand an exclusive membership perk.
Many ecommerce brands have seen delays in shipping times that are out of the brand's control or have experienced delayed packing and shipping times due to extra precautions and social distancing measures.
Brands that are thriving right now communicate changes and delays at every step of the customer experience—instead of waiting until the checkout page to reveal a delay.
The same goes for changed staff hours or altered delivery options."We're seeing a lot more of that style of communication across the entire workflow of going from landing on a page, to purchase, to checkout," Davis says.
For example, Los Angeles brand Lot Xi maintains a shipping update banner across their website to ensure that there's no "shipping delay shock" at the checkout page. Over-communicating in this way increases transparency and fosters trust.
Successful Shopify brands are offering greater flexibility for customers. This flexibility applies to everything from the products offered, to how customers can purchase, to fulfillment options.
Because Amazon offers two-day shipping at a low cost, many consumers find longer wait times a disappointment when buying directly from smaller brands.
But top Shopify stores have discovered a way to overcome this challenge and highlight their local community ties: offering local pickup for orders placed online or hand-delivery by store staff (rather than or in addition to shipping).
"It's the next level of ecommerce," Davis says. "Ecommerce has always been: place your order, ship it. … Now, the way that people are expecting Amazon to deliver something to their house in two days, we're seeing more local support. Flexibility is going to be a huge thing that's going to stick around."
The Bull and the Bee, which has a brick-and-mortar store in Portland, Oregon, revamped its Shopify store to accommodate flexible pickup and delivery. The website offers customers the options to book a time to shop in-store, order online for curbside pickup, or choose their product to be shipped.
Other top Shopify stores give the power back to the consumer by offering myriad ways for customers to bundle their purchases.
Kettle & Fire recently rolled out a discount tier on product pages. Customers can choose to bundle products in different size "packs," opt for a single one-time purchase, or subscribe for recurring deliveries.
Kettle & Fire's flexible buying options work well for the customer and also for the brand itself. "This not only improves AOV, but by having the rewards on quantity tiers, ie increments of 6, it's much easier for us to pick-and-pack at our fulfillment centers, thus also improving our margins/bottom-line as well," Hung says.
With more people than ever shopping online, it's crucial that Shopify brands stand out and resonate with customers.
Brands that are thriving right now are building brand equity and keeping customers comfortable throughout the whole shopping experience.
For an excellent example of brand building, Davis points to Shopify store Animals Matter. The luxury dog bed brand has seen their sales skyrocket to holiday levels during the past few months. The reason? Their renewed focus on brand and community-building efforts."They've created their branding around the dogs and around what it is to have this companion with you and spoiling them," Davis says. "That's what sets them above so many other sites that you might go to to look for pet beds. Because it's just personable and it's human. You want to love these dogs and they're likable, too, just like the people."
Top Shopify stores are taking advantage of platforms like CartHook to improve key metrics like AOV and LTV with post-purchase upsells. But the smartest brands are careful to make sure these integrations feel completely a part of their brand--not like an add-on from a third party.
This ensures that the entire customer experience feels cohesive, which means customers are more likely to accept the post-purchase upsell.Hung mentioned deodorant brand Native as a company that makes integrations seamless with their brand."I really like how Native incorporates CartHook into their purchase journey to increase their AOVs. It's very well designed and the branding is on-point. I presume this is one of the main reasons they can spend as much as they do on Facebook ads by improving their first purchase ROAs."
CartHook makes it simple for brands to implement their own branding on CartHook's checkout and post-purchase upsell pages for a seamless customer experience, which helps build brand equity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many Shopify brands to throw out the old playbook and start again.But certain things are clear. Shopify brands that are thriving right now are doing some version of the following:
As the ecommerce landscape continues to evolve in 2020 and beyond, we'll all be keeping an eye on which strategies are here to stay.