The fire extinguisher...
It’s not the first tool that comes to mind when you’re trying to build a successful ecommerce business, unless you’re Farah Barghi.
“Our hosting facility literally caught on fire,” Barghi says. “I used to wake up in cold sweats at 3 A.M. wondering if our site was down.”
Barghi, the brand manager at All Pro Science, says the fire that knocked the all-natural sports supplements maker offline recently is just one of many disasters that prevented the company from growing as rapidly as it could have.
“The old site was awful, it was patched together and created a lot of anxiety,” Barghi says. “I’d call developers and wake them up early in the morning for help.”
It wouldn’t get better anytime soon.
Turns out the fire would be the least of Barghi’s concerns.
The Future President
“We’re the quiet kid in the corner who is going to grow up and be president one day,” Barghi says of her ambition to one day sit atop the supplements industry. “We’re a little brand not making much noise now, but we have big goals.”
But those goals, at least for a time, seemed all but impossible to accomplish. The supplements industry, which at times makes headlines for its bad actors, is highly competitive and regularly scrutinized by regulators.
All Pro Science, which largely relies on word of mouth marketing from delighted customers, wants to stand out by being transparent.
“We have nothing to hide and will tell customers exactly where our supplements are made,” Barghi says. "We're not selling supplements out of our garage. We all take the products we sell. We believe in the products, and each other as a team."
The problem was that the team didn’t believe in their ecommerce platform.
Please Don’t Link to Us
“Our site was so ugly we didn’t want anyone linking to it,” Barghi says. “It really hurt us in terms of educating customers about our all natural supplements and how they’re different.”
The platform, according to Chasen Seymore, the company’s lead visual designer, required a lot of heavy coding, development and integration.
But All Pro Science lacked a full-time developer who could tackle the work quickly. “I’m an artist not a coder. So it was really a headache trying to make the old platform work,” Seymore says. “We were just so limited in what we could do.”
The site, according to Barghi, was often down and caused traffic to fall. “We consider ourselves the Rolls Royce of the supplements industry and really rely on our customers telling others about us,” she says. “If our site doesn’t work, visitors aren’t going to come back.”
Combine this with a customer retention rate that declined by approximately 30 percent and a customer loyalty application that didn’t function as it should, and Barghi estimates the company was losing thousands of dollars in sales each month.
“There was an 18-month period where growth really stunted,” she says. “We definitely saw a dip.”
The Replatforming Fear
“I’ve seen relaunches really tank from an analytics standpoint,” Seymore says. “We had a lot of fears about relaunching.”
- Will traffic plummet?
- Will there be SEO penalties?
- Will sales fall off a cliff?
The concerns over replatforming, especially when the majority of your revenue comes from online sales, can cause even the most courageous of marketers to drag their feet. Despite the problems Barghi and Seymore had with their old site, it took them months to actually pull the trigger and make the switch.
“There was a lot of fear,” Barghi admits. “I really wish we had moved sooner in retrospect because it was nearly seamless.”
A Spike in Sales
“It has paid for itself in peace of mind,” Seymore says of the company’s decision to replatform with Shopify Plus, an enterprise ecommerce solution for high volume merchants. “It’s so easy to use, I can modify the code and it’s actually enjoyable. It’s just really easy to do what you want to do.”
Remember the fears the team had about replatforming? Turns out they were wildly overblown as customers flocked to the new site, praised its revamped look and rewarded it with their trust and money. “A beautiful site leads to legitimacy and inspires confidence in consumers,” Barghi says.
With mobile users now accounting for approximately 40% of sales, the site easily translated into an application that All Pro Science says converted at a rate between 4-7%.
Besides a spike in mobile sales, the company also says replatforming to Shopify Plus lured back customers who hadn’t purchased in years.
“We know many of our customers by name and we started seeing names that hadn’t purchased in several years come back and it felt really good,” Barghi says. “I’ve been with the company so long I think of it as my child. So, seeing customers return was really special.”
Site visitors, which Seymore says spent 2-3 minutes on the old site, were now spending 12-minutes on the new one. Not only was there no drop-off in traffic, but the improved site map that makes the site more searchable further improved the customer experience and caught the eye of an influential page ranker.
“It’s a little nerdy but yeah, I’ve been receiving a nice little ‘thank you’ from Google [in the form of increased organic search traffic],” Seymore says with a grin.
It all culminated with 30% year-over-year increases in January 2016 sales. “We had one of our strongest days ever,” Seymore says.
But it’s what was now missing from All Pro Science that’s really turning heads.
Dramatic Cost Cuts
“It’s one less thing to stress out about,” Seymore says of the new platform. “Shopify takes that off your plate, you’re not going to grow gray hair with Shopify.”
With sales growing, the company can now focus its resources on creating new products. “Your main source of revenue is safe with Shopify,” Barghi boasts. "We can focus on marketing and product development, instead of spending our entire day chasing developers."
Fortunately, the team now has a lot more resources to focus on product innovation, due to the cost savings associated with replatforming.
“We are saving so much money,” Barghi says with a smile. “I’m no longer calling developers at 3 A.M. in a panic.”
Here’s a rough breakdown of the company’s monthly costs before and after switching to Shopify Plus:
|Expense||Cost Before Shopify||Cost After Shopify||Decline|
Our operating costs have probably been halved. Shopify Plus is worth every penny.
A Bright Future
The flexibility Shopify Plus provides already has the team at All Pro Science thinking about custom coding a BOGO offer to complement the new customer loyalty application that appears to be stimulating sales.
“I really like the app and our customers love it,” Barghi says. “We just like how easy it is to do exactly what we want.”
Even more important, Barghi says she’s an example for others who lack programming experience but still have a strong desire to succeed online.
“We had an idea and just wanted to get it out there without spending hours coding,” Barghi says. “Shopify let’s us do that and focus on making great new products.”
But there is one thing Barghi has lost.
The need for a fire extinguisher.
“We have peace of mind now,” she laughs. “No more fires!”
About The Author
Nick Winkler is a contributor to the Shopify Plus blog. He helps individuals & organizations generate new leads, make more money, and ignite growth with story. Get more from Nick here.