Pay upfront to create valuable content and reap organic, recurring traffic as your reward for a long time to come.
That's the aim of SEO-driven content marketing.
But where do you start, what should you be paying, and how do you make it work for your ecommerce business?
In this episode of Shopify Masters, we do a deep dive into the methods used by an entrepreneur who hires a team of freelancers to create content that brings customers to his store through search engines.
Sebastian Bryers is the founder of Ora Organic: plant-based, sustainably sourced, cruelty-free supplements formulated by a Nutrition Council and flavored by an in-house chef.
You only need two or three people to purchase and then the lifetime value of that customer far exceeds what you paid for the article.
Tune in to learn
- How to create a team of writers and how much it’ll cost
- How to hire customer service representatives that will increase your revenue
- Why you should post a picture of you and your team on your home page
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
- Store: Ora Organic
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Recommendations: Google Trends, Google Analytics, Jungle Scout, Zendesk (Shopify App), Mailchimp, Recharge (Shopify app), Grow.com
Felix: Hey, my name is Felix, I’m the host of Shopify Masters. Each week we learn the keys of success from E-commerce experts and entrepreneurs like you. In this episode you’ll learn how to create a team of writers and how much it’ll cost, how to hire customer service representatives that will increase your revenue and how having a picture of you and your team on your website can increase your sales.
Today I’m joined by Sebastian Bryers from Ora Organic. Ora Organic makes plant based sustainably sourced, cruelty free supplements formulated by a nutrition consult and flavor by an in-house chef. Started in 2014 and based out of San Diego, California. Welcome, Sebastian.
Felix: So, tell us a little bit more about some of the most popular products that you guys sell.
Sebastian: Yeah, so one of the top products we have out at the moment is our probiotic capsules. We also do that in a powder form as well. That’s been really, really big for us especially on subscription on our website. It’s a 16 billion CFU probiotic, it has no fillers, it’s all vegan and organic, made with organic materials. So, yeah, that’s probably our top one out there.
We also have a really great protein powder. All of our products non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, vegan and organic and made from food. That one is I think it’s 20-plus super foods, greens and from the land and from the sea. It’s a really good one too. Definitely one of our top sellers.
Felix: Very cool. Yeah, you have lots of different products on the site. I was looking through the site, I noticed that there’s a team right behind this company, can you tell us a little bit more about your day to day responsibilities over at Ora Organic?
Sebastian: Yeah, for sure. Ora started out with four co-founders. I’m the chief technology officer and head of growth. We have Will, who’s our CEO, Erica, my sister actually, who’s our chief marketing officer. And Ron, another friend of ours, who’s our chief operating officer and head of sales. So, my job has sort of been from the start, to be a bit of a growth hacker. I’ve got a background in tech, in building banking software, so I started out my own web design firm about three years ago and then transitioned into Ora and yeah, just been growth hacking it since the start.
Felix: Yeah, where does the idea behind the business and the products come from?
Sebastian: So, it originally came from, Will, our CEO was a strict vegan for three years and he found himself becoming deficient in vitamin B–12 and he just couldn’t find an organic, plant-based, food based version of B–12. Everything was made from synthetics or from meat sources and he decided, “Well, I’m going to go out and do this myself. I’m going to create one.” So, he went out and tried to make that happen.
That proved to be really, really difficult, mainly because there aren’t really any great bio-available sources of vitamin B–12 that are vegan, I should say. And yeah so he decided, "I’m going to go out and going to make some really good organic, vegan product because it’s happening in every other industry. It’s happening in laundry detergent, it’s happening in food, it’s happening in clothes. Everything is going organic and it just hadn’t really happened yet in supplements.
Felix: And how did you guys come together as a team? Where did the business behind this form?
Sebastian: Yeah, so it’s kind of a funny story actually. Will moved to Australia for about eight months in early 2014, late 2013, 2014. Which is where he met Erica, my sister, and they got acquainted and actually in two weeks, they’re getting married, which is quite cool. They got together there and Erica has a background in fashion and design, so Will had this idea for this company and he was like, “Hey, Erica, do you want to help me out with the design and branding for it?” And she said, “Yes, sure.”
And then they needed a website so they contacted me and said, “Hey, do you want to come on board and build our website?” And, I said, “Yeah, sure.” I should also mention, prior to that, Will had recruited Ron straight out of … He’d been working at Sales Force and then he’d gone off to culinary school to become a chef and then not long after he’d finished that and had been working as a chef for a while, Will recruited him to come and do all the flavorings for the products.
The team sort of matched together from the all over the world. And yeah, eventually Erica moved over to San Diego, I moved up here, and yeah.
Felix: And then here you moved. Is it Vancouver where you’re based out of at the moment?
Sebastian: Vancouver, yeah.
Felix: Got it. So obviously you joined the team as, at least, you grew into this role of, sounds like very marketing focused, becoming a growth hacker. I think a lot of folks out there listening would love to add more growth and grow their business and grow their traffic and sales. What do you do on a day to day business, just in general to contribute to the growth of the business?
Sebastian: Yeah, it’s pretty wide ranging. That’s kind of what I love about growth is that you really need to incorporate all aspects of the business. It’s not just about really amazing Facebook ads or like going and getting a bunch of followers through email marketing campaigns or something like that. It is a combination of like designing the products really well. Part of what I do is I help research what products we’re going to do next and we use a lot of data that we get from our customers, big shopping websites like Amazon and from Google shopping and we figure out what product will perform well next.
Another part of my job is to help with the product launch. That does include Facebook ads, that includes picking what content we generate around each product as we launch it and then what channels we market it through and then what sales channels we pick.
Felix: Do you make a lot of your decisions around data? What are you looking at to determine which channels to be in or what kind of content to create?
Sebastian: Yeah, we’re really looking a lot at Google search trends because when you’re just starting out, the biggest, fastest way to get traffic to your site without spending too much money, is just generate really good content for long tail keywords. That’s what we did right from the start is we just thought, “Okay, we have these three products, the probiotics, the protein powder and an omega–3. ”We thought, “What questions are people asking about these products that we can answer really well because we have this nutrition counselor at our disposal. We have these PhDs who have great information but no ones really heard from them. How can we make that information approachable and easy and also SEO friendly?”
And we did that, and the response was kind of … We got a bit lucky, I will say, with the probiotics one. If you Google how to take probiotics or when to take probiotics now, I think we’re either the first hit or that little meta box that shows up on Google. So, yeah I think being able to research what questions your customers are asking and then going and answering that in a really clear, meaningful and helpful way is just a great, great tactic to get up those search rankings and yeah, if those questions are already out there then it can also drive product decisions.
So, it might be like, “I’m looking for a pre-workout for women, why aren’t there anyone’s that aren’t all about getting jacked?” Or anything like that. “Why aren’t there ones that are just about providing me with a clean energy boost?” So, that kind of question was what motivated us releasing that pre-workout that, while not necessarily targeted at women, it’s more gender-neutral. It’s for everybody.
Felix: Got it. It goes beyond, I think, one good thing about marketing, they think the product exists already, let me see how I can get this in front of the right people, the customers. But growth hacking or the kind of stuff that you’re doing, is more of a cycle. You are promoting a product that already exists, but then you are going back with feedback and essentially, redesign the product or redesign the packaging or messaging from the beginning so it has a much better chance of success.
It just goes beyond running paid ads, like you’re describing there’s a lot of data involved. Are there specific tools that you’re using to help you understand, to help you do this kind of research?
Sebastian: Yeah, there are. One of the great tools that we’ve used for a while now is Keyword Finder, from Mangools, I think that’s how you pronounce it. It just has a really good tool for the accesses to Google search API and helps you understand what questions are out there on your product. And then you go and compare that with just Google’s trend analysis tool. Then you can also mine big databases like Amazon using tools like Jungle Scout. To sort of figure out where there are niches as well. Those are just a few ones that I really like using.
Felix: So, you now identify what kind of questions people were asking, what people were confused about and you recognize that this is the opportunity for us to come in and educate the market. And by educating the market, they’re going to discover that the site, the brand, the products. Once you identify what kind of keywords you want to target, what is the process for creating the content?
Sebastian: We have a team of writers who we send these questions out to, and we have different writers for different topics. What we generally do, we send it out, we get a draft back from them, Erica, chief marketing officer will review it and once they’re happy with the general content and the readability of it and the authority of it, then it comes back to me and I’ll optimize it for those keywords and those questions and review it with Erica again and we’ll just go and put it out into the site [inaudible 00:11:21].
Then, depending on the content, we’ll boost it, see how it performs on a platform like Facebook and then if it performs really well then we’ll advertise it as well. Because if we’re driving traffic from Facebook, Google will rank it higher as well.
Felix: Got it. I like that you are utilizing outsourced writers, ’cause I think a lot of times people don’t create content because they don’t like writing or it’s just not what they want to focus their energy on, right? ’Cause they want to focus on their core values. You guys have a team of writers that you work with, where are they coming from? How do you find writers to contribute content?
Sebastian: Honestly, all over the place. We’ve got writers in Europe, in Germany, in England, in the States, in Canada. A lot of them have found us through Instagram or through Facebook. But early on, we just sort of reached out to ones that we thought were cool or also through some of Will and Ron’s friend networks, initially.
Felix: Are these writers that you’re looking for, either early on or these days, are they already writing in the nutrition niche and nutrition category or do you look for writers outside the category? What’s your filter?
Sebastian: It really depends on the content. If it’s something that needs to be very authoritative, like it needs to be very clear and have lots of references and be just very, very well researched, then we’ll look for someone who has a nutrition background. A lot of our writers have formal qualifications like whether they are in natural path or PhD or a doctor of some kind. Then we also verify all of those references and any claims that may be made in those articles, too.
There are some more fun pieces where we just use writers who are a bit more, I don’t know just a bit more friendly, a bit more approachable and although we try and do that with all of our content, it really depends how sensitive the nature of that content is.
Felix: Yeah, and when you are looking for a more authoritative well-researched piece, would that typically cost more? Is there a bigger budget behind those pieces?
Sebastian: Yeah, generally it is a bit more expensive, for sure. But I mean, it’s still not, I don’t think it’s unreasonable considering how much traffic you can drive. And then you think about once you have “drived” that traffic to your site, you think about the number of touchpoints you create with that person once they read that content and the opportunities once they’re in the funnel to go and resell and up-sell and re-market and do all that, it just ends up being worth it. You only need two or three people to purchase and then the lifetime value of that customer far exceeds what you paid for the article.
Felix: So, you’re talking about like a budget of maybe, 100 dollars or less typically for one of these pieces of content?
Sebastian: Yeah. It can vary all the way up to 250 dollars. We’ve definitely paid for some more expensive ones, too, when it’s been particularly important to have an extremely qualified person. I think if you can hit between 50 and 100, you’re in a good place.
Felix: Got it. What kind of guidelines do you provide these writers, I’m assuming there’s a kind of topic that you want them to write about, but what else do you give them to get started?
Sebastian: They’ll also get the list of questions and related questions and keywords that come from us, that we find in our research. And we’ll prioritize those for them, so it’ll be like, “This is a top tier keyword that you need to get into your article.” One of the things that we’ve been experimenting with as well is TL;DR’s, so just too long, didn’t read’s, and having them either at the start or the end of the article and getting the writer to write really good summaries, as well.
Because if you basically put the TL;DR in question form, then that also ranks really nicely on Google as well because it creates concise answers to the questions that other people have.
Felix: Got it. I think one of the concerns with hiring even one writer or especially a team of writers, is keeping that tone, that voice the same, or similar at least. How do you accomplish that when you have a team of writers that are all contributing content?
Sebastian: Yeah, so, Erica’s actually prepared pretty comprehensive guidelines on the kind of writing that we like on the website. Up until recently, a lot of the content was passing always through her, but now we’ve hired a content manager to go through that, I guess ’cause we’re at that stage that we can do that now, who goes through that and makes sure that every piece that comes through meets the requirements of the guidelines that she creates.
Felix: Any idea what’s in that guideline? How would someone create a guideline that’s comprehensive enough so that they can have the writers create the content that sounds like the voice of the company?
Sebastian: I guess it comes down to three core principles that we use internally. So, everything that we create in terms of content or in terms of our products, it needs to be authoritative, it needs to be helpful and it needs to be interesting. So, the way that Erica’s done it is to pull out some of our best pieces, pull out paragraphs out of our best pieces and then analyze and explain to writers how they meet each of these criteria.
Felix: To give them examples, basically of what you’re looking for exactly?
Felix: Got it. Now once the content is written, you mentioned that sometimes you will boost … Is it like a Facebook post or something that you’re boosting?
Sebastian: Yeah, a Facebook post.
Felix: And how do you determine which ones you decide to boost versus ones that you don’t?
Sebastian: Generally, it’s just a sort of benchmark of engagement. We look for anything that’s between … It varies sometimes. We’ll pick posts that we just really like and we’ll boost them because we just think this is actually a great question and this just needs to get out to more people. But generally anything that’s getting engagement through our normal Facebook page of above two percent, we will boost that.
Felix: Got it. So you look for things that typically are already working and then since they’re already working you realize that if you kind of applied more leverage to it, then it would work even better. Now, you get the final draft then you are going to optimize it for SEO purposes. Any tips here for anyone out there that maybe doesn’t know much about SEO or just has very little experience with SEO? Like how can they take an article that they’ve written or someone’s provided with them and try to optimize it for search traffic?
Sebastian: Yeah, I think the number one tip is it’s not keyword stuffing. Don’t just go and try and put all of the keywords and all of the key phrases and questions into the article. Find different ways to word them. Because Google’s natural language processing techniques or algorithm, whatever they’re doing, they look for well-written pieces and that means paraphrasing a question like, “How to take probiotics?,” might turn into, “When is the best time to take probiotics in the morning or at night?” So that would be a good example as something that Google will recognize as applying to the question, “When to take probiotics?”
It’s really not repeating yourself too much and finding different ways to say similar things. Or answer the same question.
Felix: Right. Were you guys creating the same amount of content early on as you are today? How much content are you producing these days?
Sebastian: Oh, we probably produce three to four pieces a week at the moment. I think that’s a lot more than we started out with when we were sort of doing one piece per week. It has been a bit of a slow start to the year but we generally stick around that three to four pieces mark. I don’t think we’ll increase that too much going forward, either. Because we do want to make sure that these are really top quality pieces that are getting out there and that we’re not just trying to spray it everywhere.
Felix: Right. I think one of the concerns that entrepreneurs have with the approach of SEO, or one of the big benefits though is that it’s typically much cheaper than paid search traffic but one of their concerns is this loss of instant gratification. You can’t just turn on a Facebook campaign, put money towards it and all of a sudden get a lot of traffic.
In general, these days, how long does it take you guys to put a piece of content out there and then to rank it? What are some ballpark waiting times, or waiting periods for producing content then actually seeing its results in search traffic?
Sebastian: It varies pretty widely. We have a piece on vegan vitamin D or what is vitamin D, for example that came out two weeks ago and it’s already on the second page of Google right now for, “What is vitamin D?” So that’s moving up the rankings quite quickly, but then we have other pieces that have taken all of six months to start ranking. We have a piece on, I think it’s “Ashwagandha Benefits for Women,” that just all of a sudden picked up late last year. Even though it’s been a piece on our website for six months.
I guess my advice here is it helps to be doing both strategies. The long-term strategy of organic SEO and then the short-term strategy of paid advertising and then balancing them. But you need the long term strategy for everything to work because you drive these people to your website, they come organically, you can then re-market, re-target those people and that’s where the money really comes in, I think.
Felix: Makes sense. And once they visit your site, are you also trying to get them into an email funnel? What’s the typically next goal once they land on the site, read the article? Where do you want to see them go next, the customer?
Sebastian: Yeah, some of the articles which talk specifically about products, we call them Product Guide Articles, they do recommend a product at the bottom. We didn’t always used to do that. That was actually a recommendation from our customers who were reading the article and said, “Oh, but where’s the product you guys are recommending?” We thought, “Oh, that’s a bit odd. I guess we better recommend a product at the bottom.”
Felix: Yeah, great feedback.
Sebastian: Yeah. That was really interesting. But generally we try and get them into the email funnel. We have the pop-up on our website and there are a couple of different funnels on our site, one of them being subscriptions, that funnel as well, which is its own self-contained one. We try and drive some people to that too, because it’s a really good deal, you get 20 percent off and it’s not obligation, you can cancel at any time. You could basically just order and cancel within a month and it would be fine as well.
We try and drive people to that as much as we can because I think that’s a great deal for everybody. Otherwise, that’s all there is because once they land on that page, if they’re logged into Facebook, we will get them into our Facebook funnel. So, they we’ll go, “Okay, this person landed on this page, they’ve viewed this blog post, we can now re-market to them with other interesting information, or we can re-market to them with a product.” Or just something more generally about the brand.
Felix: I see, so you’re not just re-targeting with them with a product that’s sometimes you’re setting more, bit more content. How do you decide which kind of ad you want to display to them?
Sebastian: It really depends on how they’ve interacted with the website. We have a lot of different segments and audiences set up on Facebook, which allow us to target someone who viewed an article about probiotics or and often there’s quite [inaudible 00:24:14], and so I put a word of caution out there with that because you don’t want to totally overwhelm those audiences, and it’s often better … I might be jumping around a bit here, but it’s often better to take an audience like that and create a look-alike of it on Facebook and then re-market to them as well.
Felix: Now, the subscription funnel that you mentioned, this is to get them into a subscription program where they pay monthly and they get a product or get products?
Sebastian: Yeah, that’s correct. Yeah.
Felix: And you mentioned the different funnel than your other email funnel. How does the subscription funnel work? What does it look like?
It’s like, you go to the subscription page, you sign up for an account, you tell us how you came to find out about the subscriptions and then at that point you choose which products you want to add to your subscription. Basically what we’re trying to do is capture people, bring them into the funnel and get their email before their purchase with the incentive that if they give us their email and they accept marketing, then we will show them this order form for purchasing subscriptions in an easy way.
That’s been really, really successful for us. I think we’ve seen between 30 or 40 percent of all people who have landed on that page, end up purchasing at some stage.
Felix: Wow, so I think where I’m looking at right now on your site is that I’m going through a product page and then when I click add to cart or buy now it gives me a pop-up that asks if I want to buy this one off or save 20 percent with a subscription. Once I add it to cart here then I’m automatically enrolled in a subscription. That’s a different kind of flow than the one you’re talking about where there’s a form that they fill out where they get a discount code or something.
Sebastian: Yeah, that’s correct. They won’t get a discount code, actually if you’re on the site you can navigate to the subscriptions page which is available in the navigation bar and that sort of runs you through the process. The reason we came up with this is, because we wanted to test out what it would be like for people to build a subscription this way rather than have to go to the individual product pages and add them one by one.
It’s more for people who already know about the products. They’ve done their research, they’re ready to purchase but they’re looking for that extra incentive.
Felix: Got it. Now a subscription program brings on a whole new slew of sometimes, challenges because you now have a customer that is obviously paying every month, which is great but then you also have to make sure you’re fulfilling every month. Do you guys have any tools or application that you’re using to help manage this?
Sebastian: The tool we use for all the subscriptions on our site is ReCharge. It’s a thing’s very well known, well-loved app on the Shopify app store. It’s been really great. The support team there is really second to none. And yeah, that’s been really good for us because it helps us to really see all of our customers, get to manage all the interactions with them. We’ve customized the styling on it quite significantly in terms of the backend as well to make it really, really easy for people to come in, pause their subscription, cancel their subscription.
Felix: Any tips on how to get the most out of the ReCharge app or are there any specific changes you’ve made to get more value through the application?
Sebastian: Certainly. I think really working, spending some time customizing the backend, the customer portal side of things where customers can manage it because as a lot of subscription companies will know, when you have a subscriber and they get their charge and they weren’t expecting it that can create a lot of customer service issues. So you need a really, really on point customer service team first of all. But it also means really making the user experience really good.
You need to make sure they can go in onto the website easily and pause or cancel their subscription. Don’t try and hide that. I think that’s one of the things we learned early on. We didn’t do it intentionally but a lot of subscriptions companies will make it so you have to email them to cancel the subscription. Just let the user do what they want to do.
Felix: Right. Give them that kind of self-service empowerment so that they can do it themselves and that will let them both feel like they were not kind of getting scammed ’cause they can’t cancel themselves but then also reduces the strain on customer services. That’s all they really need is just to hit a button and they can do that themselves.
One of the biggest or the most focused on factor with the subscription service is that churn rate, “How do I keep that customer around month after month?” Any tips there? What have you guys been able to do to try to reduce the churn rate and keep customers around and paying every month?
Sebastian: Yeah, I mean disclaimer with our products as well is that they are supplements so people do, once they start taking them, generally need them. And they’ll want to repurchase. Part of what you can do is build the retention strategy into the product and that’s been what’s great about what’s working in the nutritional supplement’s industry because something like probiotics, people find they’ll work, they’ll want to keep taking them.
The next thing I would say is provide content to them that’s interesting and related to their purchase. Always keep those touchpoints up with the customer. Remind them that you’re there, that you’re real people and that you really want to just have the conversation with them and if they want to pause or cancel, that’s fine, that’s no problem. You want to take the stress off all them, I think.
And yeah, I guess it’s really just about going above and beyond for customer service. Just do everything you can to make sure the customer is getting what they want and yeah, I think that’s really it. The customer focus.
Felix: Yeah. I think you did mention that too in our pre-interview where you mentioned that one of keys to success is to make sure you answer all of the questions your customers have carefully, considerately across all platforms whether that be Facebook, LiveChat, email and phone. How do you control for this kind of quality across the team through each experience because again you do have a team and there are so many different platforms that customers are reaching out to you on. How do you make sure that the quality is high there, that they’re getting the customer service that you want?
Sebastian: Yeah, I guess it goes back, and this is something we’ve been learning on the fly but something I also take from my experience working for a Swiss banking software company which is process. You need really, really good process documents in place and you need to make sure that everyone who’s involved in the execution of those processes has buy-in to building them.
We do have some really good documentation in place that was set up with our customer service team. Which is being contributed to by I think all members of the Ora team to make sure that we have the right messaging. Our customer service team, they also compile all the questions people ask, they compile the answers. Then we put those questions up on our website and we see those question’s sort of drop away.
Yeah, I would really say it’s about making sure you codify what is working and what isn’t and that goes for whether you’re doing Facebook marketing or anything like that as much as it does for how you deal with your customers.
Felix: I like that approach of taking the customer service interactions, the questions they’re asking and putting them as frequently asked questions somewhere on the site because why not keep this live document going where people can reference it for themselves. Again going back to the idea of letting the customer do the … Essentially do the work and help them figure it out themselves.
You’re talking about these other documents that you’re creating other than the list of questions and answers. What kind of documentation do you create for your team?
Sebastian: So, kind of like we do for our writers, we do the same thing for our customer service agents. So we provide them with examples of how each of the answers to the questions that customers are having again, authoritative, helpful, interesting. And we really analyze those and pull them out for them so they can see the kind of writing they should be coming back with.
We also review that with them on a bi-weekly basis, guess they’d say fort night. So, yeah, it’s very much the same approach.
Felix: Got it. Is there a software that your team uses for customer service?
Sebastian: We use the Facebook live chat application. I think they actually only released it as a beta a couple of months ago actually and for email we use Zendesk.
Felix: Got it. Yeah I did notice that the pop-up on the bottom right hand side of the site the live chat. What kind of questions do customers typically ask through here?
Sebastian: All sorts. They’ll ask like, whether the protein powder has stevia in it, for example. Or what ingredients make up the vitamin D. And a lot of that information is on the site, of course. But sometimes it’s just easier, people just want to chat. It’s just easier to talk to someone. And that’s something we’re working through as well in terms of customer service is that we want to build all of the content that’s on our site, including all of the plug articles into a messenger bot. Because everything’s going that sort of conversational E-commerce route at the moment and will continue to.
It’s important to be able to make these flows or funnels for customers within the conversations that they’re having with you.
Felix: When they are reaching out to your reps through live chat are they typically converting through there too? What happens once their questions are answered typically?
Sebastian: The conversion rate through product related questions is really high. It’s something, again in our pre-interview chat, it’s something we want to proactively increase. We want to actually reach out to customers while they’re on the website so, see people who are spending more than two minutes on a page and have an agent reach out to them and say, “Hey are you enjoying the page? Is there anything I can help you with? Are there any questions I can answer?”
Because the conversion rate through that becomes much, much higher once you start talking to the customer.
Felix: Yeah, I like that. It’s similar to what you experience going to a retail store where you’re walking around and you might have a question but no ones approaching you yet. But why not make that same kind of experience available online especially since it’s …
Felix: You can reach out to so many more people this way. I think one of the concerns that entrepreneurs have when they’re first building out or bringing on their first customer service rep is how to handle questions that might not be … They might not have given their rep the answer to. So what happens in those cases? What do you tell your customer service reps if there’s a question that a customer asks and they don’t have the answer to right off the bat?
Sebastian: Yeah, so that happens a lot because our customers have a lot of different questions. So I’m very familiar with that issue. We ask our reps to just basically delay while we find out more information and we always give them 24 hours so they will then reach out to our product team or our management team depending on the question.
The way we manage that is they’ll either send an email out to us or they’ll put it in- We have a slack channel which is specifically for customer questions. They’ll go in there, they’ll tag the correct person who should be answering the question and once they’ve got that down, they’ll record it and put it in the frequently asked questions document.
Felix: Any tips, just in general, on hiring customer service representatives?
Sebastian: My main tip is to find people who have empathy. And that can be quite hard to quantify and it’s really just about finding people who are able to see from the perspective of both the customer and from the company perspective, so from management, high-level perspective. ’Cause you don’t want people who are just going to immediately panic when there’s a tough question and then just try to get out of the situation, rather than talking to the manager to try and figure out how they can answer this customers question or … We’ve had quite a few scenarios where we’ve had an angry customer because their shipment hasn’t been delivered by USPS and our customer service reps are great.
They always reach out to us, they say, “Okay, we had this angry customer. I understand why they’re so angry because I would be too if USPS had lost this for seven days.” And we usually come up with a solution all together because the customer comes first, everything comes after that.
Felix: Yeah, you mentioned empathy too in the pre-interview and you mentioned that it’s not just the customer service representative that needs some empathy for the customers and the management but then you also mentioned that it’s important to have empathy for your employees. And I think it’s interesting that you bring this up because I think one cynical way to think about it is why does an entrepreneur, why does a founder need empathy for their employees? They’re already paying them. What else do you need to do here? What’s your response in that case?
Sebastian: Yeah, I think that’s tough because if you’re going to have happy employees you’ve got to really focus on what motivates them. Because in the end a happy, motivated employee is going to do a much better job than one who isn’t. And the best way to do that is really understand the situation, understand their perspective and show them that you understand their perspective. Because they’ll respect you a lot more if you do that.
I think if you neglect that aspect of it and just expect the work to be done, then sure the work will probably get done, but it won’t get done as well as it could and the employee probably won’t enjoy doing it. And in the end you want everyone to enjoy working at your company, I think.
Felix: Right. That makes sense. Any thoughts on how you can either train yourself or help train your staff on getting better at empathizing or getting better at understanding the other’s perspective whether that be the customers or fellow employees?
Sebastian: Yeah, I think one of the most important things we’ve done is we do a lot of information sharing between each of the different functional teams. So, product will come and talk about their issues and their problems with the rest of the team, so will customer service. Sometimes we’ll talk about problems we’ve had with Facebook ads and we’ll all just sort of relate to each other and ask each other for advice.
Regardless of what position you are in the organization, everyone’s allowed to have their input and it just really … I think what it does is it teaches everyone how, first of all to give constructive criticism because you don’t want to go and annoy someone who’s your manager and you don’t want to go and annoy the customer service person because then they might be unhappy the rest of the day and then make the customers unhappy.
You really start to think about all of the ways that the interactions happen within the organization.
Felix: I want to talk a little bit about the site itself, the website. One interesting thing that I found about the site is with the top level domain name. So, it’s not like a typical dot.com or anything like that it’s a dot organic so ora.organic. First of all, I didn’t know that domain, that total domain existed. So, I’m learning something new every day. What kind of implications does this have on this like SEO or discoverability of your website?
Sebastian: Honestly, it’s been great for the SEO because there’s no way we could’ve gotten ora.com. We could’ve gotten ora.co but the organic domain name is really appealing because to get it you have to have all organic products. You have to be a certified organic company. So that was really appealing to us.
We’re also called Ora Organic, so that was also very convenient. And then in terms of SEO, after we aired on ABC’s Shark Tank, we were actually ranking number one for just the search term Ora, O-R-A, the three letters. I don’t think it’s detrimental to the search term at all and I think if you can find a top level domain that isn’t necessarily a dot.com but really truly reflects the nature of your company, then it’s worth it.
Felix: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, speaking of Shark Tank, one thing that you mentioned was that because there was so many people that were watching a TV show like Shark Tank, you’re getting lots of traffic to your site but not all of it was qualified. There were people that were just maybe curious but would never buy a product like yours and just come and check it out. How do you deal with those situations where you have a lot of traffic and maybe you have your Facebook pixel on there or maybe you have a lead capture form on there and a ton of people that would never actually be your customer? How do you deal with that situation?
Sebastian: Yeah, it was really interesting. I think during the Shark Tank airing and after it, 85 percent of our traffic was mobile, so it was clearly a lot of people who were coming and just clicking through the website on their phones. So the way that we decided, the best way to capture that information was to have a competition. We set up a competition link on the website and we used that to capture emails and for marketing purposes as well and yeah I think our conversion rate from that competition link was 14 percent.
So, it was really, quite fantastic. We just realized that, “Oh, okay. People are watching Shark Tank and then maybe they’re not so sure about the product yet, then the best way to get them on board is to offer them something where they can win something.” And that was really, really effective for us.
Felix: What kind of questions were you asking them in the giveaway signup? Were there ways for you to qualify if they were potential customers or not through the giveaway signup?
Sebastian: There weren’t actually. We just tried to make is as low friction as possible. All you had to do was enter your email and accept marketing and then that was it. We did have, obviously the Facebook pixel running. We had Kissmetrics running as well. So, we’re tracking where people are going on the site, what they were clicking on and then we obviously get some demographic information from Facebook.
But it was more what we tried to do after we capture the emails was segment people based on their response to the newsletters that we sent out. So, we were already doing that but what we’ll do is say, “Okay, these people clicked on this particular newsletter that was very heavy in content on omega–3. These people were interested in omega–3.” And we kept that list separate, the ones that we gained from that Shark Tank period, from our standard newsletter list until such time as we could reintegrate it with more information.
Felix: Got it because some folks might care about omega–3’s but might not care about protein powder and you don’t want to have too much noise in their inbox. You want to focus them on the specific product they’re interested in.
Sebastian: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
Felix: Got it. You mentioned Kissmetrics. Is that your analytics tool of choice these days?
Sebastian: It’s not anymore. We’ve actually just gone back to using Google analytics. ’Cause that is an extremely powerful tool. We also use a platform called Grow.com, which allows us to connect everything from all our sales channels including Shopify together. And I’m a big proponent of that platform, it’s very, very customizable. We keep a lot of our sales data and inventory data in SQL databases and Grow.com can access that and manipulate the views of that data as well. I’m a big, big fan of that.
And then of course, we used the Shopify reports, which they’ve gotten so much better within the last six months. My first port of call usually now when I want to know something about the last week is to go to that dashboard and just view that. So, yeah.
Felix: Nice. And is Grow.com, would you recommend that for beginner’s stores too? Or is that something that makes more sense when you have a lot of traffic and sales?
Sebastian: I think it makes more sense when you’ve got a lot of traffic or sales. It’s on the expensive side, I think around 800 dollars a month. And so it’s definitely once you’ve got lots of desperate sales channels and information and analytics that you need to pull together. I would say unless you’re a programmer, or you know a fair bit about SQL, then yeah, you sort of need that experience as well.
Felix: Got it. Now with Google analytics, which is completely free and accessible to anyone that is just starting, are there any recommendations there and what kind of reports or what kind of metrics a newer store might want to pay attention to?
Sebastian: Yeah, if you’re just starting out, the one that I’ve always relied on is the Source/Medium report, under acquisition. It’s just a really quick way of seeing where traffic to your site is coming from. And if you spend a good amount of time setting up your UTM campaign parameters within Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest, and all that, if you do that correctly it can be a really good tool for figuring out where your traffic is coming from.
Otherwise, I would say, probably the top conversion paths tool is also really good under conversions. That’s a really good way to sort of see how people are bouncing around through different channels before they purchase. So they might come through Google ad words and then come back direct, and then come back through organic search and then come back through Facebook and purchase. The top conversion path report will show you that so that’s really helpful, too.
Felix: Yeah, that definitely is an interesting data point to know. We do see that kind of flow where they’re coming through organic search and then leaving, coming through Facebook later. How do you make that data actionable? What kind of steps can you take knowing the path that a customer takes?
Sebastian: Yeah, that’s a really good question. It’s really down to how you set up the campaigns. I think it’s a little more confusing if you just stick to what’s happening organically but if you’re running a bunch of paid campaigns, then it can be really helpful to see how people interact with your campaigns and then how long it takes them to come back. So, basically how long the information you provide to them sticks around in their mind and then how long it takes to bring them back.
It’s more of a qualitative measure of how people are perceiving the content you’re providing.
Felix: Right, that makes sense. You mentioned that during the Shark Tank airing, 85 percent of the traffic came from mobile, these days is there still mostly mobile traffic or what’s the split right now for the traffic comes to your site between mobile and desktop?
Sebastian: Yeah, it’s still about 70/30 in favor of mobile. And that includes tablets as well. So, we see around 15 percent of our traffic come from tablets now and around 60 from mobile phones, so, it’s been … It’s really quite high. And because of that we have spent a lot of time optimizing our website to be mobile first.
Felix: Any tips there on how you can do that to make your website more friendly for the mobile traffic?
Sebastian: I think my main tip would be that your mobile website doesn’t have to look exactly like your desktop website. And it’s that ideally things should move around as you get into a smaller screen but where things don’t make sense on mobile because they’re too big or too unwieldy on desktop and you should just remove them. Just hide them on mobile. Don’t be afraid to hide or move content around to make the experience better for the consumer.
Felix: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think that’s a great point because the attention span is shorter on mobile. There’s less tolerance for digging through information, digging through noise that you should approach it differently and not just think about, “How can I cram all this desktop content into a mobile screen?” But be more selective about what you actually want to include in there versus not.
Other than for mobile or for desktop, any changes you guys have made to the site that have had a large impact on conversions lately?
Sebastian: Yeah, probably the biggest impact change we did was actually quite small. We put a picture of ourselves, of our team, on the homepage, just over on the left hand side and we made that the primary picture you see when you land on the website, on mobile as well. Since we did that, we beta tested that first, we introduced the picture, then we removed it and the conversion rate increased by around about double, just by having that picture of us on the homepage.
I think for so long, everyone, all of the team, don’t generally like to be in the spotlight that much and so with that our page didn’t even have pictures of us. We were an unknown quantity. And as soon as we put that up people started to see, “Oh, yeah, these are real people behind this company,” and found it a lot more relatable.
Felix: Yeah, definitely noticed that, when I came to the site, that it’s very human-centric approach to design and not just throwing products in the customers face but showing them that there’s actual real humans behind this company. I think that’s definitely an important attribute to put out there.
So, again, thank you so much for your time, Sebastian. Ora.organic is the store, it’s the website, it’s O-R-A.organic, vertical domain. What are you and the team focused on for this year? What are some of the big goals that you guys have?
Sebastian: Our big, big goal this year is to really ramp up the customer service side of things, to really take that proactive rather than reactive and build out stuff like the messenger bot and things like that. We’re also moving a bit into the retail space and we have a pretty big deal lined up, I can’t say who yet but that should increase our touchpoints with the customers. And yeah, those are really the two big things, I think.
Felix: Awesome. Sounds like a great year to come ahead. Thank you so much again for your time, Sebastian.
Sebastian: Great, thank you.
Felix: Here’s a sneak peek for what’s in store the next Shopify Masters episode.
Speaker: We are coming up with a kit. It’s to keep it as, almost as general as possible, to target as wide of an audience as possible.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters, the E-commerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit shopify.com/masters to claim your extended 30 day free trial. Also, for this episodes show notes, head over to shopify.com/blog.