An Online eCommerce Solution
Crosby & Smalls is local Durban based business that sells retro and vintage goods. Okay, truth be told, this is a side business that a good friend of mine (Vicky) and I started to fund our travels! We launched last November with a simple strategy for growing our audience on Instagram and Facebook, and selling directly from those platforms. We had it in our minds that at some point we might need to transition to a proper eCommerce solution, but we wanted to give it some time to develop before we committed to the monthly payments. We've loved the personal interaction we have with our customers, and the relationships we're developing as we go along, but have found recently that all the communication, invoicing, and messaging is taking up a lot of time (for a side business!) and have looked again at some eCommerce options that would suit our needs.
Some Options We Considered
We considered Squarespace, Shopify Lite, Shopify Basic, and Shopstar as some of our options. We wanted to keep our monthly payments low, have enough flexibility for two people to administrate the shop, be able to load up to 100 products at a time, and be able to use local South African payment gateways like PayGate and PayFast, as well as international payment gateways like PayPal.
Squarespace is the platform I build almost all of my client sites on, so it would have been a natural choice for us, except that there are some limitations with Squarespace when it comes to using it to receive payments in South Africa. The primary payment integration with Squarespace is Stripe, which is not yet available in South Africa. I'm told that I can still sign up for a Stripe beta option and receive payments this way, but this is news to me (as of yesterday), and we'd already decided to go with Shopify (more on that just now).
As an aside, the whole Stripe Beta thing is something I really need to look into a little more closely because it would solve a myriad current problems when it comes to offering solutions to clients who want to add an online shop to an existing website.
The second option was Shopify Lite. This is a pared down version of Shopify where you can add products, product descriptions, tags, and all the data necessary for an online catalogue of products, without having an actual shop. The way it works, then, is through a Facebook shop, or by adding a Shopify 'button' to an existing website. The button takes you to a Shopify checkout where you make your purchase. This option was appealing because at only $9 per month it was by far the most budget friendly option out there. On closer inspection I realised that although with this Lite package you could sell directly from Facebook, you still had to upgrade to the next package to sell on Instagram. And we really wanted that feature. Many of our customers buy from us on Instagram, so we didn't want to leave them out of the loop.
That brought us to Shopify Basic - with all of the features mentioned above and more. With this we could have our own online shop which acts as a website with optional extra pages for things like 'About Us', 'Terms and Conditions', 'Contact' as well as the main home page and product pages. And this is what we went with in the end. We chose one of the free themes (it will do for now) and minimally customised it through choice of layout, colours, fonts and the addition of an Instagram feed. There isn't much scope for customising, so I would probably go for a paid theme in future.
The last online shop solution we looked at was Shopstar. I have used Shopstar in the past (when I set up a shop a couple of years ago selling reuseable fabric gift-wrap) and wrote extensively about my ecommerce overwhelm at the time. This time around I decided against it because although it is an affordable solution and I love to support local products, I find it rather limiting in terms of the shop layout and design. There really isn't much design flexibility. It also wouldn't allow Crosby & Smalls to sell via Instagram.
So Shopify it was!
- Site research
- Product photography
- Social media strategy
- Site design and build
- Product loading and organising
We had already worked on our logo, ideas, look and feel over the last four to six months, so thankfully we had a lot to work off already.
Again, this wasn't anything new, we'd already been taking product photos for over 5 months, so we had a bank of specific product images, as well as more generic images to choose from for our site. Here are a selection of images of some of our recent products.
And here are some of the site-wide images we used as scrolling banners.
Template & Customisation
I chose the Debut template and customised the colours, typography, and checkout cart. I added a custom favicon, connected up the social media and then set up the home page. Shopify's home page has quite a modular approach, using sections you can switch around, activate or deactivate to lay out the page as you would like it to be. We wanted a large opening banner, an introductory catalogue of some of our favourite products, a brief welcome, a space to share our brand values, and some customer testimonials.
Other pages we added later were the About Us, Products, and Terms and Conditions. There is room for us to grow by adding a blog and perhaps specific catalogued pages at a later stage.
I also activated Google Analytics and added a Facebook Pixel to the site.
Having built a number of Squarespace websites, and only a handful of dedicated online shops I am reminded just how much work it is to set up shop. The level of detail that goes into each product description, product images, SKU codes, tags, categories is what takes up a lot of time, not to mention the application for your payment gateways and steps taken to verify your Facebook business page and Instagram accounts. People wonder why online shops are more expensive. Well this is why. There's a lot of planning, detail, information and organisation that goes into it.
I'm looking forward to seeing how this Shopify shop works for us, and am already loving Shopify's mobile apps which make it so easy to track your purchases, read informative marketing material, and have a closer look at the activity on your site.
Wish us luck as we head into this new era with Crosby & Smalls!
If you're looking for an eCommerce solution, I would highly recommend going the Shopify route. I'd love to chat more about your online store needs, and getting you set up to succeed. Drop me a line and let's talk it through.