Alex O’Bryne is the director and co-founder of We Make Websites, a design-focused London ecommerce agency that works with creative retailers to make bold and effective ecommerce websites. We Make Websites are Shopify experts, designing, building and marketing shops through the platform. The agency has been featured in Computer Arts magazine, The Bookseller and more. Past clients include The Crafts Council, BritainThinks (research and strategy consultancy) and Benoy (award winning architects of the Westfield and Bluewater shopping centres, Birmingham Bullring).
Alex is also the host of the new monthly Shopify London meetup group, for Shopify retailers, users and designers based in London. The events allow members to trade advice, experiences and customising tips.
We Make Websites are experts in the field of website design powered by Shopify, so with this in mind, we thought who better to talk to on all things Checkout Cart, Shopify and eCommerce related.
How was the concept for We Make Websites first formed?
Piers and I started WeMakeWebsites after becoming sick of our corporate jobs, which we’d manage to last all of two years in. We started off at the Cube, a coworking space in Spitalfields. We had a first birthday party with a big Number One cake. We made lots of websites. Several years later we’re still going, having grown completely unfunded, through word of mouth and our popular ecommerce advice blog.
A lot of our early clients were designer makers but now we tend to do a lot of fashion websites. Five years since then and we have gathered a strong team that are focussed on helping design-focused ecommerce retailers improve their customer engagement and online sales.
A couple of years ago we decided to focus on building websites using Shopify, which lets us focus on consulting and design rather than the back-end technical stuff that is the same for nearly every ecommerce website. They host the websites and we customise and add features to them for our customers, as well as providing insight on marketing campaigns and increasing conversions.
What are the main advantages available for the ecommerce retailer, when using a Shopify powered site?
Shopify is a cost-effective way of getting a feature-packed ecommerce website up and running in a matter of hours. Most of our clients like it for its ease of use and it embodies a lot of best practice when it comes to mobile, checkout, site speed, SEO and website design.
You can sign up, buy a theme, begin customising it and connect your domain name in no time at all. Most clients come to us for a custom theme that is in harmony with their brand and includes any custom functionality they need.
The great thing about using a ‘hosted’ platform that runs in the cloud is that you don’t have to worry about loading times, security or PCI compliance. Shopify also offer excellent 24/7 support over phone or email.
They offer two week free trials.
What would you say are your customers most preferred build functionalities?
Ease of use is probably the main thing. Shopify includes the features you’d need to run an online shop but there’s also an ‘app store’ for adding functionality to your store. There’s apps for integrating with many accounting, email management and marketing products like Xero and Mailchimp. You can also set up special offers and social media loyalty campaigns. We offer a service for setting up personalised product recommendations so that each customer see products that appeal to them, along with remarketing emails for cart recovery and for customers that haven’t visited the website for 3 months, each of those include more product recommendations tailored to that customer’s interests. That service is quite popular as it directly increases sales.
Lastly do you have any advice for independent brands just getting started in the world of ecommerce?
Yes I do. Make sure that your brand has something unique about it and explain this on your homepage. It should be a short sentence. Try and go niche – trying to appeal to everyone rarely works. The stronger the niche the better it is, some people will be put off but those that are interested are much more likely to become loyal customers.
The most important thing in marketing is to be genuine, consistent and interesting. That might mean writing advice posts on your blog or producing funny videos about your product. Learn about content marketing and lean startup techniques.
Learn how to use Twitter effectively and come up with a campaign that helps you build a following. Try and build and email mailing list, this is gold in e-commerce.
Watch people using your online shop and try and spot confusing or difficult to use areas of the website that could be harming sales.
Our Twitter account posts out ecommerce advice on a daily basis and there’s now 4,600 followers. I can’t quite believe it, I would love to have a huge party where they all turn up and we start a revolution to overthrow the establishment. More likely is that we’ll continue giving out useful advice because we love to see independent businesses succeed.
If you would like to seek further advice or discuss possible projects with Alex, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ecommerce advice blog: http://wemakewebsites.com/blog
More here: http://wemakewebsites.com/work