7 Things the Best Shopify Stores Do Different (and what you can learn from them)

Banner image for post 7 Things the Best Shopify Stores Do Different (and what you can learn from them)

Learn these 7 tips from some of the Best Shopify Stores on the web.

There’s never been a better time to be an ecommerce store. Online businesses raked in $2.8 TRILLION in 2018. By 2021, that figure is predicted to be somewhere around $4.9 trillion. Crazy numbers!

On the flip-side, it’s never been a more challenging time to be an ecommerce store. Competition is fierce. Shopify alone has over 500,000 merchants, all vying for customer attention.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. You just have to go about it in the right way and take steps to help you stand out. Shopify is perfect for this, as the tools for success are right there at your fingertips. And there are real-life success stories of companies like yours that have been there are done it — took on the competition and won — that you can learn from and, well, copy.

In this post, we’re going to look at some of these success stories, showing you what the best Shopify stores do differently from the rest and how you can use the same tactics to run a profitable ecommerce business.

We’ll look at:

  • Solving customer problems
  • Using strong images to grab attention
  • Using “calls-to-action”
  • Generating sales with Facebook Ads
  • Nailing SEO
  • Creating positive customer experiences
  • Using incentives to encourage visitors to buy

Grab a coffee, settle into a comfy chair, and let’s dig into the tips learned from the best Shopify stores.

1. Solving customer problems

To make sales you need a product that people need. And for people to need something, it has to solve a problem.  

The best stores sell products that provide solutions.

Leesa does this by providing a redesigned mattress that focuses on the one thing people care about most: sleep. After trying out countless mattresses and finding them to be nothing more than sales talk, founder David Wolfe asked a mattress industry veteran what he’d do if he was to reinvent the sleep experience. The answer: take away all the gimmicks the industry had added over the years and go back to basics.

So that’s what he did. Wolfe created a simple mattress that helped people sleep better.

In its first month of business, Leesa made over $800,000 in sales. In 2017, it grew its sales to $76 million, and by 2022, it aims to reach $1 billion in sales.

All because they solved a problem.

Another problem solver is TomboyX, a provider of underwear for everyone.

TomboyX began from founder Fran deciding to sell clothing after being unable to find a cool button up shirt. Initially, underwear wasn’t on the radar for the company, until they received a call from a customer asking them to make boxer briefs for women. Fran ordered 600 pairs and sold 450 before the inventory had arrived at the office. Six months later, revenue had tripled and now underwear is the core focus of the business.

Both of these companies have succeeded because they knew, and listened to, their target audience. Not knowing exactly who your customer is means not fully understanding their problems. And if you don’t know their problems, you can’t offer the product or build the narrative that helps you solve them.

It seems simple, but far too many stores launch without a plan as to who they’re selling to.

Finding your target market

You don’t have to be selling anything life-changing, but buying your product should put the customer in a better position than they’re in now.

Work out who your customer is and how your product can help them by answering the following questions:

Who is the customer that needs this product (who is your target market)?

The answer to this lies in your buyer personas — semi-fictional representations of the people you’re selling to.

Establish:

  • Where your customers live
  • How old they are
  • Where they live
  • Gender they identify as
  • Interests they have
  • Industries they work in
  • Job titles they use
  • Their income range
  • Their relationship status
  • Which types of websites they frequently visit

The answers to most of these questions will come easily to you. For those that are more of a struggle, there are tools that can help:

  • The Audience section in Google Analytics contains data on all audience demographics
  • Entering your store URL into SimilarWeb lets you see which other websites visitors to your store use
  • Competitor websites and social media give you a clear idea of who people offering the same thing you are targeting

Once you’ve gathered all the information, use a tool like Persona Generator to humanize your customers. This will give you a concrete image of who you’re trying to help.

What problems does my product solve for the customer?

As an example, for TomboyX customers, the problem its underwear solved was the comfort it offered for women who were frustrated by conventional underwear.

Your answer(s) to this question should be used as your main message to sell your product in the copy, product descriptions, and across marketing campaigns. If you can’t find the answer, you should rethink what you’re selling.

What does my product (and business) do better or different than the competition?

For Leesa, their mattress is better because it uses three precision engineered foam layers so that its suitable for all types. The also company offers free delivery and a risk-free 100 night trial on every mattress and donates one mattress to charity for every 10 sold.

These things help the company stand out from the competition.

What sets you apart might be price, shipping, quality, manufacturing, or your expertise in the industry.

Whatever it is, use it as your unique selling point to say to customers, “this is why we’re better.”

And say it in a way that resonates with your audience.

2. Using strong imagery to grab attention

When Shopify asked 25 successful store owners for their best tips for new ecommerce store owners, the most common answer was photography.  

“Focus hard on the imagery. All you have is your brand and imagery is the most straightforward way to convey the emotion and message behind your brand,” said Eat Boutique founder, Maggie Battista.

“Customers want to see what they’re buying. If you have visually compelling products, it is critical that you showcase them with great photography,” added Leather Head Sports’, Paul Cunningham.

Strong images are at the core of every successful Shopify store. Take a look at the homepage of two of the most successful e-commerce websites in the world, Tesla and Gymshark, both of which use Shopify.

 

Both offer full-banner “hero” images that immediately grab attention. Research from MDG Advertising shows that using compelling images results in an average of 94% more views, which makes sense when you consider that 65% of the internet-using population are visual learners.

Images are the closest thing a customer has to holding or trying on your product. Use them to your advantage.

Homepage and landing pages images

For store homepages and landing pages, use hero images that complement your product and core offering.

Hero images are meant to get people to click through to the product to find out more. Stock photos won’t work here, they’re too cliche and unoriginal. You need unique, professional shots taken on a DSLR camera.

Be wary of how long these large images take to load, though. According to Google, even a small increase in store loading speed from 0.4 to 0.9 seconds can reduce your overall traffic by 20%.

  • Before uploading images to your store, compress them using a tool like TinyPNG.
  • Test the speed of your site with images uploaded using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
  • Pro Tip: Use PNG for white background images like clean product shots, use JPG for photograph type images like people outdoors at a picnic.

Product images

Where hero images are about grabbing attention and encouraging interaction, photos of your product should give customers a clear idea of what they’re buying.

For this to happen, every product should feature 4-6 images: 1-2 lifestyle photos and 4-5 photos from different angles, shot on a white background so that the focus is solely on the product.

Your photos should be high-quality and professionally shot so that customers can explore the item in detail using the zoom feature. Shopify recommends the following image specifications for this:

  • Size: 2048 x 2048 pixels for square product photos

Keep all of your product photos consistent throughout your store.

Stick with square images of the same size to create a professional look. Square images are also easier to reposition for smaller screens, which will appeal to customers browsing on mobile.

Here’s an example, first from the desktop version and then the mobile version of a Leather Head Sports product page:

 

 

Investing in professional photography won’t just benefit your website, it’s huge for marketing too. Take Flat Tummy Tea, for example. Tea is far from what you’d call a glamorous product, yet the company has over 1.7 million followers on Instagram. Check out the number of likes on its image of shake powder.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

What tastes freakin delish poolside, @eb_tv_ ? You know it’s Chocolate Shakes! #flattummyshakes #flattummyco

A post shared by FLAT TUMMY CO (@flattummyco) on

Share your product imagery across your social media accounts with a link back to your product page (you’ll need to put the link in the bio on Instagram). The more attractive your images, the more clicks you’ll get and the more sales you’ll generate.

Do everything you can to sell your product visually.

3. Using calls-to-action to get customers to act

A call-to-action (CTA) is designed to turn visitors into customers. They’re the thing that gets customers to do what you want them to do.

There are three essential elements to CTAs:

  • Where they are
  • What they look like
  • What they say

The best Shopify stores nail their CTAs.

Visit any reputable Shopify website and you’ll see CTAs front and center. We could have chosen any single one from hundreds to use as an example here, but we’ll go with Great George Watches.

See the big red button in the middle of the page? That’s a call-to-action done right.

Where it is: Above the fold (the part of the store a visitor sees before scrolling) and central. It’s unmissable and there’s nothing else on the page to distract from it.

What it looks like: It’s recognizable. It looks like a button that should be clicked and it’s bold in color.

What it says: “Shop Great George.” tells the visitor that clicking on the button will take them to a page where they can shop for watches. The copy that leads into the CTA is also important here. In this case, “Pre-Order for sold out styles starts now.” tells us two things:

  • That it’s your chance to get your hands on a Great George watch
  • That if these watches sold out last time they must be popular. They may sell out again. They’re creating scarcity and urgency to get you to act.  
  • They will not be “learning more” or reading “about us” they will jump into shopping mode.

Calls-to-action should be used on every page of your store to encourage action. If the page has a scroll, use multiple buttons. The more CTAs you use on a page, the greater the chance that a user will click on one and convert.

Take a look at beauty product store, frank body, which uses CTAs in every section of its homepage, along with compelling copy that prompts visitors to click.

Top CTA tips

  • Use only one CTA per section. Don’t confuse the visitor with too many options visible at the same time.
  • Place CTAs in prominent positions. Eye-tracking studies show that people scan websites in an F shape, working from the top-left corner, before glancing across horizontally and making their way down the left side of the page. Use CTAs in headers, sidebars, and at the bottom of pages.
  • Make the CTA look like a button. Doing so can boost clicks by 45%.
  • Keep it simple with the text. Use common phrases like “Buy Now,” “Learn More,” “Shop Now,” “Read More,” “Add to cart,” “Get your free ebook,” etc.
  • Use negative space so that the CTA has breathing room (i.e. there’s nothing to distract from it).CTA, Open Mile increased its conversion rate by  232%.
  • Use colors that contrast those of your website.
  • Create powerful copy that encourages clicks. Here’s a perfect example from frank body’s home page.

“The loyalty program that goes to a whole new level. Sign up to get your hands on exclusive discounts, competitions and join the rest of my important babes.”

Make clear the benefit they get from clicking that button, so they have a reason to do so. Then make sure they can’t miss it.

4. Using Facebook Ads to drive sales

With around 1.3 million ecommerce stores in the U.S. alone, the chances of generating sales by sitting back and waiting to be found are somewhere between slim and none. There’s simply too much competition.

The best Shopify stores understand the need to get out and make sales happen by putting themselves in front of customers. Two recent Shopify success stories did this brilliantly with Facebook Ads.

Shophacks founder, Ronnie McKenzie used the platform to make over $500k in six months, while Watch Outfitters went from selling $0 a day to making over $13,500 a month in its first year.

Facebook Ads is great because a) it has over 2.2 billion users so your audience is bound to be there and, b) it offers tangible results.

You also don’t need to an advertising expert to generate sales from your ads (watch Outfitter founder, Jonah, had zero experience before running his first ad). Facebook wants you to spend money on ads, so it’s made the process of setting them up as straightforward as possible.

But simple doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. Through audience targeting you could narrow your audience to a single person if you wanted to.

So how can your Shopify store become the next Facebook Ads success story?

 Let’s look at how Ronnie and Jonah did it.

1. Set up the Facebook Pixel

The Facebook Pixel is a small piece of code that you add to the Preferences > Facebook Pixel section of your Shopify admin to track the performance of your ads; to see which ones are bringing in sales and which ones aren’t.

Here’s a great video from Shopify that explains the Facebook Pixel and how to use it.

[video: https://youtu.be/tDtFe5UaIMw]

The Facebook Pixel also gives you the opportunity to set up Dynamic Ads that target people who have visited your website but left without making a purchase.

Here’s a dynamic retargeting ad I seen when browsing Facebook on my phone after previously visiting the Leesa website.

The idea behind these dynamic retargeting ads is that people visit your website for all kinds of reasons: contemplating a purchase, reading blog posts, learning more about you from your about page, the list goes on. Whatever it is, they’re showing interest in your store.

You can use this to your advantage by showing up in their Facebook feed and making sure you stay “top of mind”. People see your ad, recognize your brand, and feel compelled to give you a second look. But maybe this time around they’ll buy.

Follow the steps in the video to set up your Facebook Pixel. If you prefer your instructions in text form, here’s the process from the Facebook Help Center.

2. Product photos and ad copy

This is where the high-quality product photos we talked about earlier come in useful. You can use them (particularly the lifestyle images) to get people to click on your ads (make that investment!).

 

If what your products come from a fulfillment agency, though, you’ll probably already have access to a bunch of great images to use in your ads. Something both Ronnie and Jonah did.

Photos, however, won’t sell ads on their own. As with store landing pages, it takes good copy to get those clicks.

The Leesa ad does this with social proof — a testimonial from the editor of Men’s Health. If Men’s Health is endorsing the mattress, it has to be good, right?

In his watch ads, Jonah used the line “Ready to step up your watch game?” to target customers with a desire to have a nice watch to wear on a night out.

Ronnie used the following lines for his sneaker range:

  • “On a scale of 1-10, how cute are these Vet Sneakers?” 🐶😍 🐾
  • “Get your SNEAKERS here [link]”
  • “Do you know someone who’d love these or should buy them for you? 🐶😍 🐾”

Both nailed the most important element of ads, which is to speak to the audience in their language.

Make ads easy to understand and clear on:

  • What the offer is
  • How it benefits the customer
  • What they should do next

In the case of Leesa, the offer is a review of the mattress I’m interested in. The benefit is that I get to read what a reputable source is saying about it. And what I should do next is read the review.  

3. Creating campaigns

Facebook gives you multiple options when it comes to targeting. You can use:

  • Custom audiences based on people that have visited your store, signed up to your email list, or taken specific actions on your Facebook or Instagram profiles.
  • Lookalike audiences which copy qualities from custom audiences
  • Interest/behavior targeting to focus ads on things that your audience likes or does. For example, if you sell sneakers, you might want to target people that like Nike or Adidas, or are interested in running.
  • Location targeting to reach people in specific countries, continents, states, cities, or towns.

Both Ronnie and Jonah set up different campaigns to target different people based on age, location, and interests.

This is a good idea if your product is for a broad range of people, as watches or shoes are. If your product is more niche, you can hone in specifically on your buyer personas.

The next step is to decide where your ad will be shown. It’s worth experimenting with this, but be aware that if you choose more than one placement, Facebook will try to optimize your campaign, with most of your budget going on mobile. That’s not a bad thing, but not ideal if you’re running right column desktop or audience network ads.

As for budget, start low and build. Ronnie started with $20 and if that evaporated with no sales to show, the ad was turned off. If the ad was profitable, the budget was increased. Jonah did a similar thing, evaluating ads after $25 before deciding whether to stick or twist.  

4. Measure and optimize

Measure and change ads consistently. Remove poor performing ads and duplicate your most profitable campaigns, tweaking them slightly to see if you can increase conversions.

The trick, Jonah, says is to “make sure you are not spending more on your ads than the revenue you are receiving from them.”

Further Reading: Check out Shopify’s guide to advertising on Facebook.

5. Optimizing for search engines

Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t reserved for top performing Shopify stores, EVERY successful website in the world has its SEO down.

Because search is where most of the traffic comes from. Google alone processes 3.5 billion searches a day.

People have been quick to complain about Shopify’s SEO performance in the past because of an inability to access the Robots.txt or edit sitemaps. In truth, when it comes to making sales — which is what all Shopify store owners really want — the platform does SEO really well.

Website Tool Tester found multiple sites that were ranking highly in Google for high-traffic keywords, including toy retailer Mindzai, Kim Kardashian’s beauty shop, and tattoo store Tatty. One site, watch seller MVMT, is ranking on the first page for the terms “watch,” “watches,” and “mens watches.” Imagine the competition on those!

And according to ReferralCandy, baby store Freshly Picked, ranks for over 10,000 keywords and gets around 14,000 visitors a month from search engines.

How to improve your SEO

Like Facebook Ads, you don’t need to be an SEO whizz to do what the best stores do. Knowing the basics can change your fortunes.

  • Find keywords to use in your website content by using a tool like SEMRush or Google Keyword Planner. Enter your key phrase (the name of your product, for example) and both tools will give you a list of words and phrases to target. PRO TIP: Look for high volume, low competition AND high intent (red shoes = bad, where to buy red shoes = good)
  • Use keywords throughout your store, in page titles and descriptions, product descriptions, navigation menus, blog posts, landing page copy, URLs, and image alt tags.
  • Consistently publish fresh content to offers value to visitors. Google loves fresh content and, if it’s popular with readers, it’ll be ranked higher.
  • Monitor the speed of your store regularly with Google’s Site Test Tool. Google lists speed as a ranking factor. The faster your pages load, the better they’ll perform in the rankings.
  • Find people to link to your content. Links are seen as endorsements. Enter your target keywords into Buzzsumo to find popular websites and blogs in your niche and reach out to see if they’d link to your products. Hundreds of posts are published every day, featuring lists of recommended products — getting your products featured will offer a boost in traffic and search ranking.

6. Creating positive customer experiences

The customer experience is the perception a person has of your brand — how you make them feel, from their first visit through to purchase and beyond.

It’s important because of how much value customers place on how they’re treated.

The best stores know how to treat customers to keep them coming back. They do this by meeting their needs in three key areas:

  • Customer service
  • Shopping convenience
  • Meaningful brand experiences

1. Customer service

A positive customer experience starts with good customer service — being on hand to answer customer queries. This can be as simple as having a chat function for customers to ask questions:

(TomboyX uses Zendesk to provide a help function on its site.)

Or a contact page with details on how to get in touch. Sugarfina has a phone number as well as an email address for customers to use — a rare but nice touch in Shopify ecommerce. Having a number to call shows customers that there’s a human behind the brand.

SkinnyMe Tea features a direct link to Facebook Messenger on his store so that customers can get in touch in a way that’s familiar and designed for fast response.

You should be reachable through your website and social channels and make it clear as to how customers can contact you. You should also respond to messages quickly. According to Toister Solutions, here’s what customers expect:

  • A response to emails within one working day
  • Response to Facebook messages, ideally within one hour but no more than one day
  • For messages on Twitter and other social channels, respond within one hour during business hours. The next day if contact is made out-of-hours. 

2. Shopping convenience

If the customer wants to buy something, they shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to do it.

TomboyX makes things simple for the customer by using a “Quick Add” feature that lets them add a product to their cart with the click on a button. Once the size has been selected, the customer’s cart pops up on the screen with the option to go straight to checkout. The whole process can be completed in less than a minute.

Taylor Stitch streamlines the process with minimalist product pages that focus on the most basic elements — color, size, and “Add to cart” — to eliminate distractions.

Make purchasing easy. Stick to no more than three to four steps, from adding a product to cart to purchase confirmation.

3. Meaningful brand experiences

As a customer, what you rather see when a product you’ve purchased arrives: the product looking sad, lonely and alone in brown packaging, or something like this from Shea Brand?

Image: Shopify

It’s a no brainer.

Shea Brand products are shipped in attractive packaging that includes a thank you note and a coupon code for 20% off your next order.

It’s memorable, meaningful, and it drives loyalty by showing the customer they’re appreciated.

The unboxing experience is a big deal.

You only have to look at the number of views unboxing videos suck in on YouTube to see just how big.

Invest in good product packaging. Make the customer feel special for choosing you.

Also, think about how to create positive experiences by rewarding customers. Which brings us nicely onto the final thing the best stores do to stand out…    

7. Giving customers incentives to buy

When Leesa brought its revolutionary mattress to market, it knew that simply telling people how good its product wasn’t enough. There are hundreds of other mattresses on the market that also claim to be the best.

So, it put its money where its mouth is by offering a 100-day no obligation free trial. Customers get to sleep on a Leesa mattress for almost a third of the year and if they don’t like it, they can send it right back. Of course, very few decide not to keep it.

This is what successful stores do. They give customers an incentive to buy — a reason to choose them over the competition.

free trial is a great way to convince someone to take a punt on you, but there are other methods too.

Customer rewards

You’ll struggle to find a leading Shopify store that doesn’t offer some kind of reward for doing what they want you to do.

So Worth Loving uses the promise of a discount to encourage people to sign up to its email list.

Taylor Stitch gives customers $20 in credits for referring friends, and reward the friends with 20% off their order.

Luca + Danni give their customers a free gift for every order over $75 when they enter a code at checkout.

Other stores offer rewards programs that let customers amass points for purchases that can be redeemed as credit to save money on future orders.

It doesn’t matter what your offer is so long as it’s worthwhile for the customer. Taylor Stitch offering me $20 for referrals, for example, makes me much more likely to recommend them over a similar company that doesn’t care if I refer someone or not.

Display discounts prominently on your store — in headers, pop-ups, and banners — to grab attention.    

Loyalty offers

Using incentives to get people to sign up to a mailing list gives you the chance to target them with personalized offers — discounts and special deals that aren’t available to the public.

Studies show that personalized emails deliver 6X higher transaction rates. By segmenting your email list (all major email marketing platforms let you do this) to include people that have purchased and people that haven’t, you can send targeted offers that are specific to them.

For example, if someone has signed up to your list but has yet to use their discount, you can send reminders or suggestions of products to use their discount on. For customers on your list, offers can be based on previous purchases such as discounts on items that complement their purchase or loyalty offers to encourage them to pay your store another visit. You can also target customers with birthday rewards, pre-orders, sales, and special holiday incentives.

Segmented emails can increase revenues by 760%, according to Campaign Monitor. Follow the lead of the big stores and encourage people to sign up to yours.

Wrap up

All of the stores we’ve featured here are killing it on Shopify, and the best part is none are doing something you can’t.

Every element, tactic, and campaign we’ve talked about can be implemented by you, TODAY.

Here’s the summary:

  • Have a clear idea of who you’re selling to and how your product solves their problems
  • Invest in professional photography for landing pages and products
  • Use call-to-action buttons to push customers towards doing what you want them to do
  • Harness the power of Facebook Ads to drive sales
  • Find the right keywords and produce fresh content consistently to increase store traffic from search engines
  • Make customers feel appreciated by creating positive experiences
  • Reward customer loyalty and give visitors to your store incentives to purchase 

Do these things — follow in the footsteps of some of the best Shopify stores — and you’ll be the ecommerce success story we’re talking about in a year’s time, maybe even sooner.

Need help growing your Shopify store? Schedule a strategy call with our growth marketing agency to learn more aout how we have taken three Shopify sites from idea to seven figures.

Jim Huffman

Founder & CEO GrowthHit. Startup mentor at Techstars, General Assembly, and Sephora Accelerator. Author of The Growth Marketer’s Playbook #1
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