One of the biggest appeals of building your online business with Shopify is the platform’s innate flexibility and scalability. By utilizing the resources in the Shopify ecosystem, merchants can design a complete unique experience for their customers, and build the functionality they need internally to make for efficient and intuitive operations. When a store is ready to grow and take its next steps, those integrations are often able to scale with the business and if not, there are enterprise level apps available that can easily be migrated to so that merchants can continue doing what they do best.
While this is great for merchants, it can also be difficult to navigate. After all, with more than 7000 apps available through the Shopify App Store, how do you know which are worthwhile for your business?
Today we’re going to look at three simple steps you can take in order to find the best apps that’ll suit your store so you can create that tailored experience for your customers and team.
Step 1: Understand your business needs
Before looking at any apps and integrations, it helps to first understand your business needs and assess which areas could use additional functionality to improve them. Automating certain business functions now will make it easier to scale as time goes on. Consider for example if your team is currently manually processing orders, during high sales periods and as your business grows this becomes difficult to continue doing and will cause slowdowns and backlogs which will take time to clear. The more time it takes to manually process an order, the more time it takes for that order to leave your warehouse and increases fulfillment times which will negatively impact the customer experience and in turn harm sales as customers become aware that it will take longer for their order to arrive.
There are three areas which we would recommend starting with, each with their own steps in order to assess their needs.
Experience is one of the most important aspects of your store. You can have great products, but if your experience doesn’t meet your customers’ expectations then they’ll look elsewhere. 96% of customers say that experience is important to their brand loyalty, and 1 in 3 will stop shopping with a brand they love after just one bad experience.
There are many ways to think about customer experience in order to identify which areas need additional attention from an integration, however here are three to get started:
- Map out the customer journey and highlight any areas that could lead to frustration e.g. lengthy checkout process, difficult to find customer support, etc.
- Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and consider which elements of your store work well and which could be better.
- Look to your competitors to see what they’re doing differently and assess whether features they have add to the customer experience.
From here, think of ways you’d ideally improve your customer experience. Consider these features in two categories - needs, and added value. Needs are essential to their basic experience, whereas added value as the term implies enhances their experience. Here are a few examples:
- Needs - Checkout, order tracking, customer support, reviews, sizing/spec guides.
- Added value - Loyalty program, personalization, subscriptions.
You may already have some or most of these areas covered, however it may help to reevaluate how successful your current strategy is and whether or not a new app could be of benefit.
One surefire way to improve your customer experience is actually to ensure things are running smoothly and efficiently behind the scenes. Your internal operations are vital to the success of your Shopify store, as any snags or delays can have an impact on both your customers and team. If one part of the fulfillment process is slowed, for example, it has a knock-on effect on the rest of the process. Giving your team the tools they need to do their job to the highest standard will benefit your business internally and this will positively impact customers.
Here are some suggestions to identify where your operations could benefit from extra tools and resources:
- Go through step-by-step the different processes essential to processing and managing orders. Assess where in the process you may be losing time due to manual tasks, or a lack of resources.
- Look at how inventory is managed and planned - if this is done manually, there’s a strong chance that you’re losing time, as well as money due to human error.
- Speak to your team and understand how their time is spent and what resources they currently have available to assist them in their day-to-day work. Ask what would make their job easier, or where they think they could be saving time.
A few of the areas you should focus on are order management/processing, inventory management and forecasting, product and catalog management, finances and accounting, and team management.
Marketing and promotion
As well as apps to help with operations and experience, there are also a variety of integrations designed to make marketing your store and products easier. After all, you need to actually attract customers to your store to make those improvements you’ve made to your store worthwhile. Start by looking at your existing marketing and promotion strategy - what tools are you currently using? How scalable are they, and what automations do they facilitate?
There’s a strong chance you’re already using certain tools like an email marketing platform, and are engaged in some way with SEO. It’s worth assessing how much you’re able to do with these tools, and what features they have that will aid in your long-term promotional strategy. You want to look across at least the following aspects:
- Email Marketing and SMS
- Social Media/User generated content and advertising
- On-site pop-ups
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Having the right tools that align with your long-term marketing strategy goals will allow your team to do more and attract more high quality customers, as well as successfully retarget your existing customer base.
Step 2: Review potential apps
Once you’ve identified which areas of your store need additional resources, it’s time to actually find apps and integrations. As we mentioned, there are more than 7000 apps in the Shopify App Store and that figure is constantly growing as more developers add their integrations to the platform. So, how do you determine which to look at and which are worth investigating further?
Let’s go through some simple steps.
Step #1 - Browse the app store
It sounds simple, but the best place to start really is just by browsing. Going in blind is a recipe for confusion, however you’ve already identified what kind of apps you’re looking for, and that will help you to hone in on the specific kinds of apps you want to look into. You can either search for the function you need, or browse through the different categories depending on which area of the business you’re focussing on. Let’s say, for example, you want to find an app that will help you with inventory forecasting.
Already we can take those 7000+ apps and whittle that down to just over 200. From there we can use the filters to narrow that search down even further, looking only at the apps most relevant to what we’re looking for.
This strategy isn’t going to be foolproof, and you won’t find every app that will be relevant just by using the search function as some may combine functionality. If we take the example of inventory forecasting, there may be apps that roll this into a single integration alongside inventory management, warehouse management, and more. We want to be able to find those too, so we need to do a bit more digging beyond just the app store.
Step #2 - Search for 3rd party recommendations
We’ve all seen listicles and reviews for all manner of things online - from product recommendations to game reviews and more. The same is true for ecommerce integrations and apps. Look for these articles and comparison sites; they’ll give you a list of potential apps that you may not have found on the App Store. The App Store listings are also written by the team that developed the app, so it’s essentially a sales pitch. These other sites may then also tell you which features an app lacks in comparison to others on the market.
Step #3 - Seek out recommendations from trusted sources
App Store listings and articles will only get you so far in looking for apps. Sometimes, you’ll find all the information you need, but other times you may need extra advice. Especially if an app is going to require significant cost or resources to implement, you want to be certain that it’ll be the right call for your individual business. It can make that decision difficult if you’re solely relying on generalized reviews from a 3rd party or App Store reviews from merchants with vastly different stores to your own. In this case, it helps to ask for a recommendation from a trusted source. This may be the agency you worked with to develop your store; they work with a variety of partners and apps on a daily basis, and will likely be able to recommend one based on their experience with your store. You may also be able to reach out to your Account Manager at Shopify, who will have a much broader and deeper understanding of the ecosystem and what integrations could benefit your store.
Step #4 - Create a shortlist of apps and compare
Once you have a few apps in the running, it’s time to settle down and compare. There are a few key items you want to consider:
- Features and functionality - Which features does each app come with, which features are lacking in comparison to others.
- Pricing - More features may come at a higher cost, it helps to understand which features you most want and which you could compromise on if you’re working within a budget. Look also at how that price may scale over time.
- Reviews - While reviews shouldn’t guide your decision entirely, they can be a good indicator of things like customer support available to merchants who use the app, how easy it is to implement, and how easy it is to use.
- Integrations - What other apps does it integrate with? This is important if you want it to integrate into your existing tech stack so you aren’t left looking for a third party workaround just to get the app to work with the rest of your store.
From here, you can look at which apps best suit your needs and resources, and move on to trialing some new tools.
Step 3: Trial apps and collect feedback
Finding apps is just the beginning; in order to really know if an app is right for your store, you need to test it out. Especially if you’re stuck between two different apps, installing one will give you a better understanding of how it actually works. Giving the app context is essential, as it’ll let you know pretty quickly whether or not it’s the right tool for the job you need it to do. This will take some time, and the real impact of certain apps won’t be felt within whatever trial period may be available.
Start by installing the app and going through the onboarding process. Is the onboarding process straightforward and easy to follow? Do you know most of what you need to know to get started? Are there additional resources or training sessions available to your team in order to improve product knowledge? The implementation and onboarding process will set the tone for your experience with an app, after all if this is going to be something you use long-term and expect to scale with your business you want to have a great experience from day one.
Next, set a period of time to allow your team to really get to grips with the app, and for customers to use it if it’s something they’ll interact with. This will allow you to collect enough data to determine the app’s value to your store. Say you want to test out a new customer support platform, and you want to see if it will reduce the amount of time your team spends on replying to tickets - make sure you have a way to measure the impact of the app, and keep tabs on that metric over a few weeks or months.
Importantly, you need to collect feedback from both your team and/or customers on any new integrations. When it comes to your team, ask them about their experience with using the app day-to-day; is it easy to use and maintain? Have they noticed a reduction in the manual work they need to do? Combine this with data you’ve gathered to determine if the app is worth keeping long-term. For example if you implemented an app to help with order fulfillment, look to see if fulfillment times have been reduced and if you’re seeing fewer customer support tickets about fulfillment times, incorrect orders, etc. For integrations which impact your customers, ask for feedback from recent orders - give special focus to loyal customers who may be more likely to give feedback, and will have a previous experience to compare against. 77% of customers say they view brands more favorably if they seek and apply feedback, so you’ll not only get the data you need about a new app but also improve your customer relationships.
7 recommended apps to improve your store
To get you started in looking at some high quality apps for your Shopify store, here are 7 that we would recommend that cover the three business areas we’ve looked at.
Order Lookup - Real-time order tracking
The post-purchase experience is crucial to both your overall store experience and your chances of retention. One of the simplest yet most effective ways to improve it, is by offering the best visibility possible on what’s happening with a customer’s order through real-time tracking. Order Lookup is a simple to use, highly customizable app that gives you full control over the tracking experience for your customers.
Govalo - Gift card experience
The market for gift cards has exploded in recent times, as more customers now see them as a great way to give their friends and family a gift they’re guaranteed to appreciate. Govalo is a robust gift card app that delivers a personalized gift buying experience, all while giving you the tools you need to properly strategize your gift cards. From seemingly simple features like adding gift notes, to more complex problem-solving ones like displaying gift card when an item is out of stock.
Recharge - Subscriptions and recurring payments
Over the last few years, customers around the world have been making use of the benefits of subscriptions. From everyday essentials to at-home experiences, subscriptions make it easy and convenient for people to get what they need when they need it. Recharge is one the most popular integrations to allow Shopify merchants to deliver a subscription experience tailored to their store and customers.
Clockedin - Team time management
One of your most important resources in running your business? Time. Effective time management across your team is essential, yet many businesses still use antiquated paper systems or spreadsheets that can become outdated quickly as your team grows. Clockedin is a simple solution that gives you and your team greater control over time management and a clearer understanding of where time is spent in your business allowing you to make smarter scheduling decisions.
Gorgias - Customer support platform
Customer support is a huge part of the customer experience. If a customer has an issue ahead of ordering, they don’t want to have to wait on a slow response time to get the answers they need. If they’re on your Instagram and have a question, they don’t want to have to go find your customer support page on your site. Gorgias is a robust, omnichannel solution that makes it easy for your team to manage and respond to customer support across whatever channel your customers prefer.
SEO Manager - Ecommerce led SEO tool for Shopify
In order to see those sales figures you aspire to, customers need to be able to find your store first. Search engine optimization is an effective way to attract customers, but it’s a broad topic that often requires specialist knowledge and a lot of time to get right. SEO Manager puts that expertise in your hands, making it straightforward to implement some of the most effective SEO strategies right from within Shopify.
Klaviyo - Email and SMS Marketing
Email marketing is a huge part of any ecommerce business - it’s how you send important order information, engage your customers, and connect with your most interested audience. To make the most of this vital channel, you need to have a strong platform to build your strategy on. Klaviyo empowers merchants with the tools they need to develop a truly strong and successful email and SMS program that builds relationships and keeps customers coming back.
Choosing apps for your store can be difficult, but when you pick the right one and it improves your store even in a small way, that reward is worth the time it took to thoroughly investigate it. With the right tools in place, you can continue to grow and scale your Shopify store, delighting customers and improving internal processes all at the same time.