In previous blog posts we have told you about how we built up Capsule Studio as a business, and one of the most common follow up questions was how we built the website itself. Most of us remember the early days of the internet, with websites built on Geocities or written in rudimentary HTML. Fortunately we have come a long way since then. In this blog post we want to open up the different parts that make up our site, both front and back end, maybe this will inspire you to build something of your own!
The foundation of our online business is a platform called Shopify. When starting an online shop there are a few alternatives like WooCommerce, Wix, BigCommerce, and many more. The reason we chose Shopify was down to the ease of use of the platform, and the availability of 1st and 3rd party apps on their internal app store, more on these apps later. Shopify offers a vertically integrated platform, with payments, logistics, and even marketing capabilities offered. Users are free to choose which modules they want, and can integrate 3rd party solutions where they don't want to use Shopify's offering. The costs of Shopify are relatively low. The monthly fee is around 25€. In addition to the monthly fee, we also paid for a customised Theme. Shopify offers a lot of free themes, but some nicer ones come with a fee. The theme also includes dedicated customer service, which actually has proven to be faster than Shopify's own customer service.
Within Shopify we use a number of different apps from the internal app store. The apps are used to enhance functionality that is missing from the core offering, or to improve on the user experience, here is a selection of the apps we currently use. As you will notice, some apps cover just a small slice of functionality, so a number of different apps has to be used.
Back in stock product alerts - to give customers a custom field to fill in their email address if a product they are looking for is out of stock
Geolocation - to offer local pricing to customers. Currently we offer EUR/USD based on the users location
GoAffPro - for affiliate marketing, more on this in a follow up blog post
Sendcloud - for integration with logistics providers
Instafeed - to add our Instagram channel to the website
A note of caution for anyone building their own store, it is easy to fall in the trap of adding dozens of different apps to your store without realising they can have an impact on the performance of the website. Always keep an eye out for the store speed rating that Shopify calculates.
For our newsletters, out of stock, and campaign emails we use Mailchimp, which integrates with Shopify through a 3rd party app. For transactional emails we use the email tool that is built-in within Shopify. We started out using Sendinblue, which had great customer service, but the user interface and the template editor were below expectations, and we migrated to Mailchimp a few months later.
On social media we are naturally integrated with Facebook and Instagram, offering an integrated shop on both channels. This means we can tag our own products on Instagram, and on Facebook we have a storefront that is connected to Shopify, meaning stock and prices are constantly synced. This means we can meet our customers wherever they are, on whichever channel they chose.
The final part of the puzzle is Google, which offers us a few different services. Our domain is bought through Google, and we also use Google for email and collaboration tools within the business. We could have saved a few bucks by using GoDaddy or similar budget services, but the native integration between Google and Shopify meant we could buy the domain, and have it connected to Shopify in just a few clicks. We also use pixels and analytics services from Google helping us better understand who our customers are, where they are from, and what is interesting to them. Google also offers ads, but so far we have focused on social ads including Facebook, Instagram, and even a test campaign on Pinterest. We do pay about 5€ per month for using Google email, and the domain costs us about 12€ per year.
All in all
Building an online store has never been easier, and the amount of native integrations existing today between different key providers is astounding, with the final parts being offered by 3rd party apps. The low cost of services such as Google and Shopify enable basically anyone to set up a commerce site, but it is important to remember that setting up the site and tinkering with it is just the first step, and it is much more important to figure out what to sell, to who, and how, than spending hours upon hours moving pictures around on the site.