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In this episode of eCommerce in the Trenches, JD chats with the founder of We Make Websites, Alex O’Byrne. Alex and his team lead the most trusted Shopify agency, focusing on web design, build and marketing. They discuss how marketing and strategies differ between large and small retailers and the ever-changing landscape of payments.

JD: Hello, and welcome back to eCommerce in the Trenches. This is JD Crouse and today I’m excited to have conversation on the show with Alex O’Byrne, founder of We Make Websites dot com. Welcome Alex.

Alex: Hello, JD, and thanks for having me on.

JD: Absolutely. So let’s jump right into it. Who is We Make Websites?

Alex: We are the most trusted Shopify agency, so we do web design, build and marketing on Shopify. We started off in the UK, but we now have an office in New York City as well. We work with what we describe as design-led merchants, and we help them sell more online. So we do a lot of fashion, luxury lifestyle, that type of thing, but we also really, we help anyone trying to sell to consumer. We’ve been in the Shopify game, specific to Shopify for about four years I think, and the agency as a whole has been going nearly eight years.

JD: Nice. So what makes you different? You say that you’re a design-led agency, and you work well with sellers, brands that are design-focused. I want to dig into that.

Alex: Yeah, so I guess we’re one of the first agencies to do Shopify only, so initially that was kind of our USP, that we really doubled down on Shopify and back then, I mean it’s absolutely ginormous now. Back then, it was growing but it wasn’t like it is now. So we were one of the first agencies to do that. So that’s been a major differentiator, but really, most people work with us because of our design. So it’s a certain design pedigree that we have that we’ve built up, and I think what we do, there are a lot of eCommerce agencies that don’t, is that we bring together the idea of having a beautiful website that really conveys the brand, with also being a commercially aware transactional website, and we try and find the middle ground between the two. So that means bringing analytics, and bringing in best practices around creating urgency and increasing usability, but also making a site that actually really brings across what the brand’s about.

And I think that’s really important, especially in things like fashion and lingerie, where they’re really trying to do something quite sensitive online, and they also need to get sales. So that’s why we end up doing quite a lot of that type of thing, these kind of fashion, luxury, lingerie, like I say. These are all kind of quite strong areas for us, but over the years, we’ve built up such experience that I think that now has become a differentiator, that we’ve probably done … Well, we’ve done over 500 Shopify projects. And we maintain … Well, we don’t maintain but we’ve worked on around 400 different Shopify stores, so the sheer breadth of experience now is kind of the thing that really differentiates us. So yeah, it’s a combination of those things. Plus we do everything in-house in London or New York, so we’re able to get those top designers, bring them in and also clients can actually come in and talk to us, which makes a big difference on an eCommerce project, because there’s a lot of moving parts, and it’s not an easy thing to do. So I guess communication and project management is another key thing that we’re good at.

JD: So, when you say “in-house,” are all of your designers W-2 employees, or do you contract out and just have really tight relationships with designers?

Alex: Yeah, they’re full-time, permanent employees. We do have a few contractors, and partners for if we get over capacity. So we do do that sometimes, but in general, like everything, everyone is sat together in an office. They all know each other, they all go out for a drink on a Friday, you know, it’s like a very solid team, which … In the early days, we very much followed the 37Signals kind of basic approach of everything should be virtual, but when you’re doing these big projects, it just makes sense to all be together and of course, Basecamp eventually did get a huge office where they all sat there together, so you know, I think there is something to be said for virtual working, and we do do it every now and then, but in general, we like … I just think the communication efficiency of all being sat together, and actually building relationships with coworkers is kind of more important to us. So yeah.

JD: Absolutely. Well, I mean, the value proposition of being able to put a team on something and knowing everybody’s strengths, and maybe areas that they’re not so strong in, and being able to put people on specific products that they have built sites for similar products is … I mean, there’s a huge efficiency there, but as a business owner myself, having somebody on the payroll, especially as a agency, where you’re doing service work essentially as it comes in the door, that’s quite a commitment. I commend you, I guess. I really do, because most agencies, they try to wrangle … I’m an old cowboy, so, they try to … or herd cats. You’re trying to project manage all of these virtual people that may be very, very talented, but my goodness. How do you just get them all corralled? How do you get them-

Alex: Yeah, so I agree with, and to be honest, the agency business model is what we kind of fell into because we enjoyed the technology, and making websites, and design, and a agency model is a terrible business model because you basically get a lot of expensive people into an expensive room in the middle of an expensive city. And then you try and get clients to pay for that. Some clients do pay for that, but there’s only a certain type of client that gets the value of having a designer based in London and New York, but it’s the [inaudible 00:06:27] for a higher hourly rate, so yeah. We haven’t quite figured it out yet, bu the way we try and keep a constant funnel of work is through our content. We have quite a popular blog that probably gets about 60,000 visits a month from merchants. So that’s at We Make Websites dot com slash blog, and that’s just advice. So we try and do the marketing in a way that’s a little bit more robust than a lot of agencies, which agencies tend to grow off word of mouth, which is great, and that’s the best type of growth, but you also want to kind of go beyond that.

And the one other thing I’d say about employees is you lower … So, yeah, you’re right. It can feel a bit scary, when you see the payroll, but you also have a group of people that have got shared knowledge, and built knowledge of working on projects, and also it lowers the kind of transactional cost of if you get a freelancer on, that can work out profitable, but you’ve got to kind of go through all these steps and onboard them every time, which is just something that we want to avoid. So, yeah. It’s not easy.

JD: Nothing is, right? I mean, nothing in business is easy. It’s … There’s pros and cons. I know multiple times I’ve said I’m never going to have a full-time employee again. I’m going to build my whole company virtually, and then of course, you just get covered up and you’re … You are, you’re just chasing your tail trying to figure out how to get stuff done, and it’s no perfect model. Well, I empathize with you. I haven’t worked with a lot of creatives, but just keeping creatives happy, especially if they’re talented and they know it, heck, just keeping them happy, and productive is a challenge. And you know, with the Googles out there that provide sleep pods and bring your dog to work, and they’ll … throwing all these perks at you, it’s tough, really tough for a small business to carve out a value proposition, but it sounds like you’re doing a great job. So, congrats.

Alex: Yeah. I can tell you a couple things we did though, actually, and this might apply to any small business, not necessarily an agency, but we were completely aware of that. And especially for hiring developers in these major cities, there are all these big Googles and Facebooks around, so we try to think about what they couldn’t do and we have quite a relaxed policy at work, like in terms of the environment, and the actual office is a nice place to be. And then we’ve done things like we have a fun theme, and the fun theme has got a budget to kind of organize monthly events, which might be going paintballing, or go-karting, or crazy golf or something.

So trying to build a community and a team, and ultimately, one of the most rewarding things about seeing a business grow is you get people that become friends, that work in your company that become friends independently of the company. I think there’s definitely an art to that, and [HR 00:09:24] is something that traditionally we’ve not been very good at, and now we’re realizing, “Oh, that’s kind of a key part of being a agency, really, is getting people in the right place at the right time, and making sure they’re happy,” so yeah, there’s lots that we have to learn there. And I think any small business one day has to come to terms with that, that people really make the difference. People are doing the work and they need to be treated in a way that gets the best out of them and makes sure that they’re happy.

JD: Absolutely. Very cool. One thing that I don’t want to pass over, I remember when I first, I had a small marketing agency before we launched our eCommerce store, and you had two ends of the spectrum, really. You had ugly websites that worked pretty fast, and I’m saying relatively, pretty fast. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum, you had these beautiful, I think that the technology then was Flash, where the resolution of the images was very rich, but these sites were like the worst performing sites you could ever … You know, you just want to drive bamboo underneath your fingernails, it would be less painful. And after we lost our site, it’s … And I think that you alluded to that a little bit ago, when you’re kind of talking about how you’re design-led and trying to find that perfect … the sweet spot between conversion optimization and then delivering a beautiful site for your client. It’s difficult, right? I mean, there’s tools for compression technology, and different things to do, but can you talk to me and unpack just a little bit where we are today, and maybe even a little glimpse into the future, in making a beautiful site, but actually making that thing perform, and perform on mobile, which is … I mean, 75 plus percent of our traffic is coming from mobile now. I don’t know about your clients, but [crosstalk 00:11:31]-

Alex: Yeah, it’s similar for us. So mobile is so key, and we build mobile first now, so that means the website is designed first on mobile, and then expanded out for the other break points, like tablet and desktop. You’re absolutely right that design is important. The way I see it is that we have Amazon for all the things that we sort of … the non-fun purchases, all that routine purchases, but many of the things we buy in these industries like fashion and lifestyle and health, and things like that, are it’s almost entertainment. People are spending an afternoon shopping online, or even shopping in a physical store, and they intend to enjoy the brand, and then buy the items that they feel suit them. So you’re absolutely right.

There’s things to be learned from the huge retailers of the world, but ultimately, as a smaller merchant or a brand, you have to play a slightly different game, which is conveying what you’re about and telling your story, and showing why you’re different, and also doing it in a beautiful engaging way, that people want to spend time on your site, on your social media and really take in what you do. So, [inaudible 00:12:43] some specific points here. So mobile, yeah, is absolutely a big one, making sure the website works from mobile, is really key. And normally, we end up stacking the elements upon mobile and making sure the text is clickable, it’s big enough to read, and that you’re not left with this frustrating kind of experience where you have to pinch in and try and press things that are too small. And that comes down to designing and then having usability testing around that.

The other things that we do that tend to make a difference, in terms of conversion, are building trust in any way possible. Ultimately, with eCommerce you’re paying someone that you can’t see or don’t even know where they are, for something, and you want that item to arrive two or three days later, or whatever it is. And a key part of that is building up the trustworthiness of the website, so that everything reassures the customer. So that might be things like having a little Visa, Mastercard logos, and safety logos like McAfee and that type of thing. Or it might be showing recent press that you’ve had, or social media. If you’ve got a large social media following, showing that. Just showing a bit of buzz around the brand so that people feel like … People are ultimately herd animals or tribal animals, and they want to see what everybody else is doing. And if your site can show that look, other people trust us, then that’s a really key thing. So we tend to spend a lot of time thinking about social proof, and the various ways that we can show customer reviews or testimonials, or recent press, anything like that that kind of shows a bit of excitement around the brand.

And then the other thing is just building trust through good design, so that means really good quality photography, consistent photography. It means making sure that the website really feels good to use, and maybe it’s the little details and recently I think, in the past couple years, you’ve seen a lot more websites where there’s more of a focus on having a strong art-working, so the web designer, and the photographer, and the copywriter and the brand manager, and everybody’s all working together, talking together, so you get these beautiful sites, like for example, something like Skinnydip or [Finish There 00:14:55] that we’ve built recently, where the whole thing comes together nicely. The photographer has known where the images are going to go within the website, and that means that it all sits together nicely. And that type of design focus is all part of building trust. So those are some of the high level ways that we do it.

One final thing is that making sure you’re making the most of automated email marketing is really important, so making sure that you’re using … if you’re using MailChimp, that you’re using their kind of new customer welcome campaigns, their win-back campaigns, so if a customer not been on your website for six months, MailChimp can automatically email them, doing followups based on what people bought. All that stuff used to be very expensive and hard to do, and now through platforms like MailChimp, it’s become a lot easier and cheaper. So if I was to summarize it kind of three or four minutes, those are the main things that make a big difference.

JD: And our focus here, on eCommerce in the Trenches, is attracting, converting and retaining great customers, and I mean, everything that you’re talking about, I would say would play a part in all three of those critical steps. When somebody lands on your site, making sure that they trust, I mean, man. People are going to do business, we’ve heard it a zillion times, they’re going to do business with people they know, like and trust. And probably the most important thing, especially before they know you, and obviously they can’t like you if they don’t know you, they don’t know your story, is that they just feel that they can trust the site. And so attracting new people, do they trust me? And then hopefully, through the design elements, kind of what you’re telling me, is that the photography is done nicely and cleanly, and it matches the brand message, and that you invite people into the story, and maybe you can get them on a video, et cetera, and then obviously, you can convert them. And then getting them back, right? Win-back campaigns on email and … [crosstalk 00:16:59]-

Alex: Email to me, is so important for any business, because despite the excitement and kind of novelty of social media, email is still something that we all still read, we all still look at the emails that are interesting to us, and ultimately, it’s a lot easier to get an email address than it is to get sale. So, if you’re using some kind of pop-up, or some sort of call to action to get an email, that’s really powerful, because if that email capture converts at say 5%, then that’s for every 100 people, five people joining your mailing list. And if your conversion rate is one, two or three percent, that means there a load more people that are becoming sticky, if you like, to your business, than the people that are buying.

And especially if you’re selling something expensive, or something that you don’t need very often, then people might not be ready to buy straight away, so then you can warm them up through all sorts of email campaigns, drip campaigns, and so we also put a big priority around thinking about the conversion of email forms, not just at actual checkouts. So I think that’s a really important way to boost the … value of an eCommerce business, because if you have a strong email list that’s interested in what you do, and has signed up because they like what you well, then if you need sales, and you email that list, you’re almost certainly going to get sales off of it.

JD: Absolutely.

Alex: Building a email list I think’s a really key part of all that as well.

JD: So, there’s a lot of technology. Back in the day, Bounce Exchange, which is essentially a pop-up, or an overlay exit-intent technology, and I think it’s an enterprise level priced thing. I don’t know what their pricing is now, I haven’t looked at them in a couple years, but I think it was like 7,500 bucks. I was looking at trying on $7,500 a month. And then of course, a lot more players came into the space, and from my experience, we used a company called Exit Intel, they’re based up in North Carolina, fantastic group of people. And there really is science to … especially on the desktop, because they can’t really do it on mobile yet, to my knowledge. Maybe you could clue me in if there’s new technology around this. But getting the overlay, the offer to show up … When somebody’s intending to leave the site, making that happen fast and seamless, querying the database, if somebody opts in and you need to know have they bought before, or are they a customer, and then being able to serve up a different message to them and a thank you, post-sign up, kind of a fashion, and the speed at which all of that happens, it’s critical.

So, I see the spin to win. There’s a company out there called Wheelio right now, and then of course, when they came out, Justuno, which is somebody that I interviewed and they’re a great company. We’ve actually used them in the past as well. They implemented that spin to win functionality. Where are we headed with the pop-up and … I mean, to the consumer, the pop-up is kind of a nasty word. I mean, a lot of people hate it. But we know as merchants, that it works. I mean, it absolutely gets emails. And if you have the right offer, the right value proposition, and you stay … you operate with integrity in how you use that email, it’s a great tool. So, what are your thoughts around that kind of tactical, that tool?

Alex: Yeah, so, you’re absolute … That exit-intent is … So, the original pop-up was the thing that you land on a website and suddenly there’s this thing that kind of gets in the way that says, “Oh, sign up for 10% off and give us your email address.” And that used to be the primary way of doing it. So yeah, you’re absolutely right. The exit-intent technology came along and what that does it watch for when someone is leaving the browser window, and going to the top, which means you go and search elsewhere, and then the box would appear. So the idea was you weren’t immediately getting in their way, you were letting them browse around, then when they were ready to leave, you were showing the box, which works well because yeah, you’re not annoying that customer, and you’re probably going to have a lower bounce rate because people aren’t immediately being put off by this box appearing. So we’ve been doing that for the past couple years, and it does work well on desktop.

On mobile, what we tend to do is rather than use an exit-intent, we’re using more like a delay, so it might be the [inaudible 00:21:57] has to have spent 45 seconds on the site, or have gone to three different pages before the pop-up appears. And also, you got to be super careful on mobile to make sure the pop-up actually works properly, and that you can close it, because many websites don’t seem to have tested that on mobile, and you end up with all sorts of overlay problems and you can’t find the box on the screen and all this kind of thing.

So yeah, I think if you don’t have exit-intent, you should do that now, because you’re probably going to see a higher engagement on your site. And also, Google is introducing measures next year, to decrease the ranking of sites that do the really kind of aggressive pop-ups that are hard to close, or misleading or … I don’t mean misleading, but I mean like just harms usability. So definitely doing exit-intent, rather than a normal pop-up will make a big difference. And I think just trying to maybe test out a few different options, like do you do a time-delay, or do you do it based on how many pages have been viewed. Or do you just do the basic exit-intent, makes a big difference. So it’s hard, because like you say, emails, email pop-ups do convert, and emails are very valuable, but you want to do it in a way that doesn’t put off the customer, especially if you’re like a luxury brand, or fashion brand. So, yeah. Does that answer your question?

JD: Yes, absolutely does. So one of the things when I was researching a little bit about Alex, I found out that you have written some articles about fin-tech, and for those of you listening who don’t really know what fin-tech is, it’s financial technology, correct, Alex?

Alex: Yep.

JD: And so even though it’s can seem a little bit unrelated to the subject of eCommerce, payments, and the way that we receive money as merchants, is … it’s changing. It’s ever-evolving. It wasn’t that long ago that Square did not exist. We really only use Square for events, when we go out to live events, to take payments, but it’s seamless. Like it just makes life easier.

Alex: And you see it everywhere now, don’t you? Every coffee shop, every place seems to have it.

JD: Absolutely. And then a company came out called Stripe. Stripe I believe actually powers Shopify payments.

Alex: Yep.

JD: And Shopify payments, and Stripe just made it super easy to get money. It used to be you had to go get a merchant account, and then there was a gateway, and there’s this all … and just … you know, typical banks, they just made it really, really hard. And smart people got together and said, “How do we make this easy?” And then they went and did it. So this is an ever-evolving, really fast-moving thing. As a side note, I have a good friend in Colorado, who’s a president of a bank, a $10 billion bank. He’s not the president of the big bank, but he’s the president of a local bank. Smart guy. And he went to a banking conference in Seattle for two weeks, banking school, continuing education. He came back and he told me, “JD,” he said, “I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do because in 10 years, my job will not exist.” He said, “The ability to borrow and the need for people to have a bank account, I do not believe is going to … It’s definitely not going to … The need is just not going to be there in 10 years.”

There’s just, the way that we’re able to transfer money via text, and messaging and of course, these big giant players in technology, are in the space, trying to carve out their little slice of the pie, of a very, very big pie. So talk to me just a little about your take on fin-tech and then if you could, segue into the future of how we get money as eCommerce merchants, and maybe tie those together if you can. It’s a tall order, but I think you can do it.

Alex: Thanks. No pressure. Yeah, so fin-tech is this shift in financial technology that seems to have happened over the past few years. It’s been enabled by a few different things. And most people will know at least some of the brands, so Stripe’s a good example. Even PayPal, I guess, originally was an example of a fin-tech. In the UK, we have a lot of them. We have Monzo, which is a new bank, completely new bank that started from by the founder of GoCardless, which was another fin-tech company. We have Transfer Wise [inaudible 00:26:50] for moving money across borders, and all these companies have really come out of the … dissatisfaction of the existing financial services. And that’s that they are slow, unreliable and expensive.

So there’s several different areas of fin-tech, so for example, transferring money across borders, banking, but payments is really the one that fits in with eCommerce. The one thing that unites all these fin-techs is that they’re all technology companies. So they’re all companies that do a very good job of user experience and seamless technology. If you think of it like … think of how slick it is when you use Uber, like compared to getting a normal cab. You don’t even … it’s a completely streamlined payment. I guess that’s a good analogy for what these guys are trying to do, so, signing up for a bank account becomes easy. Having a bank that alerts you on your spending habits becomes something that you expect. Transferring money across borders becomes cheap.

That’s what all these companies are doing with technology, and the way that affects as an eCommerce, is that payments is a big part of that. So Stripe and Square are some of the examples of companies that have come to the fore very quickly. I saw that Stripe’s been valued at nearly $10 billion the other day, so these companies that have come out of nowhere, and really taken a big slice of the pie, but only a small slice so far.

What this means is I think it’s good for merchants. So it means things are getting cheaper, so more competition in payment in the payment gateway space means cheaper. And things are getting easier, so Stripe, you can sign up like you said, very quickly without all the forms and waits for when you have to get a merchant account. And I think most merchants won’t have to be too concerned yet that they have to do anything because mainly this innovation is happening on top of the existing payment rails, so of Mastercard, and Visa, and Am Ex and all these other channels that exist. What things like Stripe do is kind of sit on top of that and make it simpler and easy to use.

So that’s what’s going to happen in the next two or three years. But I think after that, there might be complete shifts in the way the people, consumers bank. And that’s going to mean a change for merchants, and I’m not exactly sure what that could be. Obviously, people are aware of Bitcoin and that kind of payer-to-payer, crypto-currencies. It might be that, it might just be that Google and Facebook begin offering bank accounts, for example, and that Facebook becomes your bank account. No one’s exactly sure what will happen. I think merchants are kind of distanced from it because there will be intermediary, someone like Stripe or PayPal that will step up and say, “Look, we’ll simplify this. You just give us your company details and we’ll give you the payment services that you need.” So, I think it’s good for the merchant.

One thing that we’re seeing in Europe is a company called Clowner, that started off in Scandinavia, and here’s an example of how fin-tech really could affect the customer journey in a good way. So, what Clowner lets you do is basically check out without paying, so it’s a bit like credit. They use big data to figure out if this customer is high risk or low risk, and that involves all sorts of profiling. And then hey basically allow that person to buy on credit, which is quite good when you imagine for fashion brands, let’s say, that a consumer’s buying several items to try sizes, but the items are expensive, it means you don’t have to worry about paying for all the items when they know they’re going to return half the order. So therefore, you get higher conversion rates from it. Plus, it’s just slicker and faster to use. You basically put in an email address and password, a bit like PayPal, and it signs you out. So things like Clowner are going to slowly take hold.

I think you’ll see the changes happening in Europe first because the banking system just seems to be a bit more modern and it should be easy to get stuff done. The countries are smaller, there’s more EU regulation around pushing banking forward. So for example, from this year, banks have to start supporting APIs for their services, opening up their services to other technology providers. But I think in the U.S., that will hit as well, eventually. So like you said, Square kind of came out of nowhere, and now every time you go and get a coffee or a juice, you seem to be paying on it. So, that is a huge topic that I’ve tried to summarize, I don’t know if I gave you the answer that you needed, JD.

JD: I think it was great. Do you think that we live in a world that in the future, Visa and Mastercard don’t exist?

Alex: Good question. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. They definitely seem to hold too much power, I think. And anybody who has been through the pain of PCI compliance will know that was a framework put together by them and Am Ex together to push liability back on to the merchant, which okay, you could argue that maybe … Okay, you want merchants using secure platforms and best practices, fair enough, but there seems to … There’s such utter power from having such a large network that basically connects to every single merchant. We have an underlying stealth tax on our economy, which is these companies, because every time you use a credit card, which is becoming most of the time, these companies take a chunk.

And I think as soon as someone can create a more convenient mechanism and get to a critical mass, they could disappear. But you can never be too aware of the power of these companies to influence legislation. Like PayPal always had trouble becoming a bank because the banks didn’t want PayPal to be a bank, and it still has this stigma. So I don’t know. But I think if you look at some other industries, Uber’s another good example actually, where someone kind of came out of nowhere. You couldn’t have predicted 15 years ago that one company … Well, there’s more than one type of Uber, but let’s just say one key player came and dominated so many different markets when it comes to transport. No one knows, basically, but it could happen.

And I think Visa and Mastercard so far have seemed to be, had a bit of hubris about this, and seem to think that they’re here forever, which I don’t know, maybe they will be and maybe they’ll adapt. But the history has taught us that technology can move quickly. I think the next example will be something like oil, where there’s just no way that oil will still be the preferred method of moving a car around in 10 years, because it will be expensive, unclean, hard to maintain, compared to electric. History teaches us that these better technologies eventually do replace the old, even where there’s established interests or a huge market share. So that would suggest yes, but I’m not exactly sure how, and I don’t think anyone is.

JD: Well, it’s awesome. Obviously, asking you to look inside a crystal ball, your crystal ball.

Alex: Yeah, we’ll have to do another one in the future and figure out if I was right or not.

JD: Absolutely. So, I got a quick things before we sign off. You’re based in London, but you have a good amount of clients in the United States. What percentage of clients do you have from the U.S.?

Alex: Of our international clients, about 60 or 70% are in the U.S. and that’s because I guess the UK has a lot of similarities of the U.S., and people find it easy to work with people in the UK. Shopify’s got a much bigger market share in the U.S., and therefore, if people are searching for Shopify-related help, then our website tends to come up, because we have a lot of coverage on Google. And definitely in certain areas I the U.S. it seems to be a lot of these brands that are kind of like the design-led brands that I mentioned, and when they see our designs, they want to work with us, which is great. So, yeah, New York’s kind of our first stop in making some expansion here. And we were getting the work anyway, but we felt like it would be a better experience if we could put a team on the ground, and meet in person and kind of give them the lay of the land a bit more. And so the plan is to expand here and maybe to the West Coast eventually, and be the go-to Shopify agency in the world. That’s the plan.

JD: Nice. Well, and I mean, let’s just face it. Everybody wants to work with guys that have cool accents. If you’re in the U.S., working with you guys is just super fun, talking to you is-

Alex: But that’s what we say the other way. We say if you have a real American accent, it’s like oh, that’s a real business person out there, yeah.

JD: Very cool. Do you have a success story that you could leave us with, kind of what’s working now, like what are guys seeing with your client base that is really sexy, really moves the needle from an attracting great customers, converting them and retaining them, or just something that’s cool that we’re able to do now because of technology, that maybe we haven’t been able to do, or from a design standpoint? I mean, just kind of anything. What’s cool, what’s happening, what’s working now?

Alex: Yeah. So, two examples from our client base are Bluebella, who are a lingerie brand of the UK, who are expanding massively, and we managed to help them increase their website direct to consumer sales by 130% year over year. And Skinnydip, who do accessories like phone covers, and purses and things like that, and they’ve got six stores in London and their online presence is huge. They have about 400,000 following them on Instagram. And we managed to increase their online revenue by 70% through a new website. And what made the difference there is having a big redesign, where you create a new site that kind of brings all those best practices together, so like I mentioned good outworking, strong calls to action, boosting trust. Another thing that those brands are very good at is all the [touch 00:37:16] points, so making sure that everything from the order follow-up emails, and automated marketing, all the way to packaging and how that looks and works, all fits together into a really quality experience for the consumer. So we help with that.

And what both of those clients did, which made a difference, was they invested in ongoing improvements, small improvements, and … A good analogy is Team Sky, who’s a big cycling team. They have this concept of doing … I can’t think of what they called it. I think they called it like small improvements, or small wins or something. And the idea is when you’re racing, instead of looking at the major things like making your legs stronger or whatever … Shows how much I know about cycling … It’s things like making sure you have a good pillow to sleep on the night before, or making sure that you’re comfortable as a rider, all these little things that add up. I think it’s the same with eCommerce, that you end up doing a load of tiny changes that often involve testing, and making … and really trying new things out.

But ultimately, all the small things add up, because once you add point two to your conversion rate, and then a point three, and then a point two, and then a point three, it starts up to another whole one percent. So it tends to be not really like a huge one thing, other than when we do redesign, it tends to be more like, oh this “add to cart” button should show recommendations afterwards, and we should move those up the page. It’s little things like that, that add up to making a big difference. And the only way to find those out is really to invest in ongoing improvements. We have a saying, which is, “No website’s ever finished.” And I know that’s very convenient for a web designer to say, but-

JD: It’s true though. I mean, being a merchant, it’s absolutely true, yeah.

Alex: Yeah so we just want to be there for them to hep with that, and definitely the … Okay, you get step change when we launch a new site, but really, the big difference comes when you [inaudible 00:39:16] the need to invest in it and you see these incremental improvements over time.

JD: Yeah. Very cool. Well, hey, I appreciate our time together. If somebody wants to get a hold of you, where’s the best place to go?

Alex: So, our website is at We Make Websites dot com. You can email me direct, Alex at We Make Websites dot com. And the company Twitter is @ We Make Websites, then with an underscore at the end. And yeah, try all those. I’m happy to answer any questions, to chat to anyone, talk shop. And yeah, I really enjoyed it.

JD: That’s great. We’ll get this put together and get it over to you, and you can share it with your folks if you feel led to.

Alex: Certainly.

JD: And yeah. Really enjoyed it. Go check out Alex at We Make Websites dot com, and until we meet again, Alex, great to have you on the show, and we’ll talk again soon.

Alex: Excellent. Thank you, JD.
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