Changes are coming to the Shopifreaks newsletter. Starting next week, I'm going to be focusing more heavily on e-commerce industry news and less on information specifically for Shopify merchants. (ie: No more Tip of the Week or New Shopify Apps and expanded E-Commerce / Stock News sections.)
The e-commerce news will still be centered around the Shopify ecosystem, but we will widen our net slightly to include more share-worthy news about the other big players in e-commerce as well as rising stars.
Each newsletter will still feature a Shop of the Week, although the store won't have to be powered by Shopify. Instead I'll continue to profile owner operated small online businesses with a positive mission (regardless of what platform they use to power their store).
Three reasons for this change:
1) E-commerce industry news is an area that I feel Shopifreaks can standout and shine. While there are many excellent newsletters, online communities, and industry professionals focused on helping Shopify merchants grow their stores, I don't know of any that focus specifically on curating and summarizing e-commerce industry news in an easy to read weekly digest.
2) Industry news is timely, whereas e-commerce best practices are not so much. News changes week to week and reading a headline and a summary helps keep you in the know, whereas store growth and optimization require going in-depth with a particular subject, and that's hard to offer in a short summary. Through my work helping e-commerce clients at Ideas Focused, I've also found that specific action oriented advice beats general tips any day.
3) A few weeks ago I asked you all to hit reply to my e-mail and tell me what were your favorite parts of the Shopifreaks newsletter, and the needle tipped towards e-commerce industry news. Your responses were inline with where my head's been at the past couple months, so I'm obliged to make the change.
While this directional pivot might cause me to lose some readers who were here for the merchant advice, I figure it's better to do so in the early stages of growing this newsletter than later on. Moving forward I'd rather be the best at serving one audience than mediocre at serving two.
Thanks for reading! And now, onto the 18th edition of Shopifreaks newsletter….
? SHOP Stock News
Mon, May 17th – Open: $1,076.52 – Close: $1,096.39
Fri, May 21st – Open: $1,223.99 – Close: $1,224.12
Today (May 24th) – Open: $1,224.80
SHOP stock popped off last week after the Google partnership announcement. More on that below! Still a ways to go from April's high of $1288.80 or their all time close high of $1474.00 in February, but it's a stock that's showing resiliency during the recent sell offs.
? E-commerce News
1) Shopify & Google partnered to make merchants more visible online
Google is going hard after the online shopping market (again). In recent years they've watched as Amazon became the place where shoppers began their product searches, bypassing the search engine (and their ads). And now they want that market share back!
Last week Shopify and Google expanded their partnership to help Shopify merchants reach more customers through Google Search, Maps, Images, Lens, and YouTube. The integration will allow merchants to boost their ads through free listings and create “Smart Shopping campaigns.”
Since Shopify has been vocal about NOT wanting a marketplace search and instead positioning their merchants websites front and center, this new integration will help Shopify merchants get their products discovered.
Although warning, warning! This isn't an altruistic move by Google. The recent moves to better integrate with Shopify gives Google access to the largest database of independently owned online store owners in the world, as well as their products — which ultimately they hope leads to building back their product search market share and creating a new audience of advertisers.
2) Google unveiled its Shopping Graph at Google I/O
In addition to announcing their Shopify integration, Bill Ready, Google's president of commerce and payments, revealed details about its new Shopping Graph – a real-time dataset that connects shoppers with product listings directly from merchants.
Similar to their Knowledge Graph, a dataset launched in 2012 that provides direct answers within Google Search results, the Shopping Graph will bring together information about prices, reviews, videos and other product data in one place.
While it's exciting news, it feels about 5 years late for the search leader to take these kinds of strides into the world of e-commerce search. However their new integration with Shopify will certainly help expedite their growth in the space, and I imagine that similar partnerships with other e-commerce platform leaders will quickly follow.
3) Shopify President Harley Finkelstein spoke about how he's struggled with mental health during the pandemic
In an op-ed on CNN Business, Finkelstein opened up about how working from home during the pandemic affected his mental health. He shared what he did to cope and lead his team and how he promoted the discussion of mental health within his community.
Finkelstein asked, “Why is it that we talk about the weather every day and never about mental health? We need to make mental health more like the weather, stripping away the weight of the topic so that it becomes a common subject.”
His advice to other entrepreneurs, “As a leader, your job isn't always to act like you have it all together… Being open and honest with your team creates a space where others feel like they're not alone in what they're feeling.”
4) Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke's salary is median for the industry
According to a recent study by Simply Wall St, Lütke's salary of $15M (which increased 42% over last year), is in line with the median for the industry. In comparison with other companies in the industry with market caps above $8.0B, the reported median total CEO compensation was $12M. Lütke also holds $8.9B worth of Shopify stock.
5) NFT solutions provider Sweet joins the Shopify marketplace
Shopify store owners can now sell Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) directly through their existing storefronts, following in the footsteps of eBay a couple weeks ago which gave the OK to NFTs.
Tom Mizzone, CEO and founder of Sweet said, “To date, NFTs have been primarily sold through third-party crypto marketplaces, forcing brands to make the hard choice of directing consumers to an off-brand experience… Now anyone can get into the NFT game through the familiar Shopify checkout experience.”
As we reported in previous weeks, NFTs have been all the rage and several companies have been on a mission to become the “Shopify of NFTs”. However, bringing NFTs to Shopify itself seems like a more accommodating way for merchants to dip their toes in NFT waters within their existing storefront and alongside their existing product offering.
6) Shopify signed on as an ESL Pro Tour StarCraft II sponsor
The collaboration will bring doubled prize pools and the return of SC2’s “Signature Series.”As we reported in February, Shopify entered the world of videogames with a new e-sports organization called Rebellion. Tobias Lütke, CEO of Shopify, is a well-known avid fan of StarCraft and has sponsored several events in the past.
7) Silvergate Capital partnered with Diem to be the exclusive issuer
Remember Facebook's cryptocurrency project Libra? The coin initially had industry backers, including PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, and Stripe, but they all backed out in 2019 after the government started scrutinizing the project.
Well, it's back! Or did it ever leave? Libra was rebranded as Diem and it's currently backed by Shopify, Uber, Spotify, Coinbase, as well as a handful of venture capital funds.
Diem's objective is to improve cross-border payments between merchants and their customers, which is an admirable goal. It's considered a “stablecoin” which means it's backed by cash (or cash equivalents) and short-term government securities. Diem hopes to provide financial infrastructure for the more than 1.7 billion adults around the world who don't work with banks.
For Silvergate, this is a significant deal that further positions themselves in the crypto space. Diem has announced its plans to launch this year. But hey, I feel like I've heard that before! So I won't hold my breath.
8) SquareSpace (SQSP) went public through a direct listing instead of an IPO
A direct listing is when a private company goes public without issuing new stock. Instead, it makes shares available for trading. Last week, Squarespace went public through a direct listing on the NYSE.
SquareSpace founder and CEO, Anthony Casalena, told CNBC, “A direct listing fit for us because Squarespace has been a profitable company for a number of years and we don’t need to raise money in this event. Our thinking was pursue the direct listing, give people the option to buy if they want to buy, sell if they want to sell. What’s great about the direct listing is no one’s suffering unnecessary dilution today.”
SQSP was scheduled to open at $48, below its $50 reference price on the NYSE. On the first day of trading, shares of SQSP plunged by about 13% to $43.65, setting their market cap at $6.4B, which is lower than their valuation earlier this year of $10.2B. The price has since rebounded to above $53.00.
SquareSpace's revenue last year rose 28% to $621.1M while net income narrowed to $30.6M from $58.2M the year prior, as the company boosted spending on sales and marketing by 40%.
9) New from the Shopify Blog:
Last week Shopify writers published guides to starting a lip balm business, creating stunning jewelry photography, and starting a bath bomb business.
They also published resources about the struggles of entrepreneurship and a podcast case study on Bug Bite Thing, a suction tool that extracts insect saliva/venom from under the skin to help alleviate the itching, which you might remember from Shark Tank S11 E4.
? Tip of the Week
For our last ever Tip of the Week, I'd like to talk about outsourcing and working with agencies.
A big mistake that I've seen Shopify merchants make is throwing money at a new marketing channel without having a solid grasp of how the campaign is operating and where their money is being spent. Or alternatively building an online store without the slightest clue how it operates.
Outsourcing your digital marketing and web development to experts is great because it allows us as entrepreneurs to scale by focusing on the areas of our business where we add the most value to. We can't be proficient at EVERYTHING, and platforms like Shopify, Google Ads, and Facebook Ads require big learning curves. It's easy as an entrepreneur to want to make those platforms someone else's problem.
The trouble with that line of thinking is that no-one knows your business better than you.
While experts can be your HANDS and FINGERS to navigate you through these platforms, you've got to be the BRAIN.
Before you simply handover several thousand dollars to a Google Ads management company (for example) to launch a Google Shopping ads campaign, it's your responsibility to help them create a plan of attack.
Which products: Offer the highest margins? Are you most competitive on price? Lead to repeat customers? Attract your most ideal customer? Have the most positive reviews? Convert the best? Cost the least to ship? Need to be liquidated? Offer the most opportunity for upsells and cross sells? Have enough search volume to scale your ad spend? Create the most social buzz?
Later today I'm consulting with a commercial kitchen supply company to help them improve the results of their ad spent by answering those questions above. They are questions that should have been explored before launching their existing campaigns, but better late than never.
The takeaway here is that there's no way a 3rd party ads management company could know that information unless they ask or you volunteer the info. While they can help you avoid the learning curve involved with using Google Ads (or whichever platform), it's your job to communicate your business objectives so that they can steer you in the right direction.
While you don't need to know HOW to do it all yourself, you definitely need to know WHY it's being done the way it is. As Simon Sinek says, “It starts with why” — and that's no different when it comes to running advertising campaigns. You might hire a captain, but you're paying for the boat, so you better have a general idea of where your captain's headed, and why!
If you ever need help with your online business, you can contact me at IdeasFocused.com.
? Shopify Apps
Last week Shopify added 49 new apps to the Shopify App store. Here are ten that look promising.
1) Happy Hours: The Sales App – Schedule storewide or product flash sales & product discounts that automatically revert back to the retail price once the sale is finished. Free – $9.00/month.
2) TMpagespeed – Analyze and optimize your pages by displaying your Core Web Vitals within your Shopify dashboard. $9.99/month – $49.99/month.
3) Magic Virus Detector – Detect and locate malware, viruses, and social engineering attack by scanning your store for malicious elements based on Google’s Web Risk list. Free – $9.99/month.
4) Halo – Create actionable daily reports on Orders, Sales, Customers, Inventory, and Tax to help monitor your store's KPIs. $29/month.
5) Multiple Discounts – Set up multiple discounts with the option to apply all the discounts or only the higher priority one. $39.99/month.
6) Discount Gamification: Alkubot – Gamify your webshop shopping experience and let your visitors play for their discounts through an intelligent sales chatbot. Free to install + 1.5% of the price of items sold by Alkubot.
7) Keep & Share Your Cart Link – Allow your customers to share your products on social media by sharing their cart link. Free.
8) Wrench: Backup & Store Monitor – Automatic backups, easy restores, uptime monitoring with email alerts and the ability to block visitors based on location and IP. $3/month – $59/month.
9) Retter: Heatmaps & Replay – Discover what visitors engage with most using heatmaps, session recordings (replay), live view, and session insights. Free – $19.99/month.
10) To The Moon+ Secret – Just like a video game – press “up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right” and reveal a secret with your visitors. Free – $8.99/month.
? Shop of the Week
Every week in the Shopifreaks newsletter, I feature a store with a positive mission. If you'd like to nominate a store, e-mail [email protected] or hit reply to any of my newsletters and share their website and story. You can view our previously recognized stores here.
This week's Shop of the Week award goes to EcoPaperArts.com – an eco-friendly art supplies store that aims to be your one stop shop for environmentally friendly paper arts supplies.
Julie and Tara were passionate about scrapbooking, paper arts, and mixed media, but realized that their hobby used a lot of paper and other materials that could hurt the environment. So they set out to find the companies and products that were actually “green” (and didn't just say they were).
Check out their shop and show them some love on Facebook and YouTube.
? Thanks for being a Shopifreak!
If you have any Shopify or e-commerce related news that's worthy of sharing in our next newsletter, e-mail [email protected] or hit reply to this e-mail.
If you found this newsletter valuable, please share it with your friends and help us grow.
See you next Monday!
Paul E. Drecksler
PS: I used to be addicted to the hokey pokey, but then I turned myself around.