Episode 36: Steve Chou on Bumblebee Linens and Conversion Rates

Today we welcome our guest Steve Chou to the podcast. Steve is the owner of Bumblebee Linens and the creator of My Wife Quit Her Job. Recently Steve has redesigned his linen site and has increased his conversion rate by 42%!! Today we discuss what he believes made such an impressive conversion rate happen.

Steve’s blog My Wife Quit Her Job is where he he discusses how he and his wife began their custom handkerchief and other linen web store. He even discusses how he increased his conversion in a blog post.

On today’s episode we compare notes and offer advice on how to make the changes that will help your business grow.

The topics we discussed today are:

  • Sellers Summit
  • The usefulness of a Mastermind group
  • The rule of shipping, returns, and trust
  • The design changes Steve made to Bumblebee Linens’ site
  • How color scheme changes play a part in conversion rate
  • Why user testing is important to design changes
  • Why IE is still important to include in a site design
  • Other tips Steve has to improve your site and brand perception
  • The benefits of self-coding and custom platforms
  • Steve’s online training course

To contact Steve you can fill out the contact form on mywifequitherjob.com or you can follow @mywifequit on Twitter.

Ecom also has a special promotion going on with Sellers Summit. If you follow the link on our page you will be able to purchase a virtual pass to the the recorded speaker sessions for 2016’s event. You will be able to purchase the passes at a 33% discount. If you purchase the passes by July 15th you will get exclusive access to a Google Hangout where you can ask the speakers the questions you want answers too! So check out the link in the resources to take advantage of this deal.

Resources Mentioned on Today’s Episode

My Wife Quit Her Job

The Exact Steps I Took To Increase Conversion Rates 42% For My Online Shop, by: Steve Chou

Bumblebee Linens

Profitable Online Store

Sellers Summit


If you have any questions or anything you’d like us to discuss on the podcast please go to ecomcrew.com and fill out the contact form. Also we would really appreciate if you would leave us a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Full Audio Transcript

Mike:   This is Mike.

Grant:  And this is Grant.

Mike:   And welcome to this week’s edition of the EcomCrew podcast.  This week, we have a special guest on, but before we get to that, how are you doing, Grant?

Grant:  I’m doing good.  How about you, Mike?

Mike:   I can’t complain.  I think last time we recorded, there was a bunch of noise in the background from the pallet racks going in so it’s finally nice to have some peace and quiet.

Grant:  Wow.  Now all you need is a forklift and you’re going to be set, right?

Mike:   We have one but we bought a used one and it like immediately sprung a hydraulic fluid leak.  So a day in the life of running a business.

Grant:  Wow.  I was just looking at one on an auction site, but now that you’ve done that, you’ve convinced me not to.  Thank you.

Mike:   Yeah.  Probably pretty smart.  So…  But as I mentioned, we have a special guest on this week.  We have Steve Chou from MyWifeQuitHerJob.com and I think he’s going to probably start IFinallyQuitMyJob.com pretty soon here since he finally left his own job.  But we’ll talk about that here on the podcast, but the main thing we’re going to be talking about is his site Bumblebee Linens, which he just redesigned and got a pretty huge conversion rate increase, which we love talking about here on this podcast.  So without further ado, let me bring on Steve.  And how’s it going, Steve?

Steve:   Pretty good.  Thanks for having me.

Mike:   Yeah, no problem, man.  I obviously love what you do over there with My Wife Quit Her Job and it’s a pleasure to have you on the podcast, so thanks for coming on.

Steve:   Yeah.  So, you know, first of all, I thought I was supposed to be the replacement Asian for Grant.  I didn’t realize that Grant was going to be on today.

Mike:   Well, we phase him out.  Like slowly but surely.

Steve:   Okay.

Mike:   So yeah, we start with this and then, a couple weeks from now, you’ll just become the permanent cohost.

Steve:   Okay.  Okay.

Grant:  Yeah.  Well, see, a podcast is not visual so you can’t tell that we look alike so by only hearing us, see, it’s very difficult.  I can retain my position as the token Asian on the show, see?  That’s how it works.

Mike:   So you’re saying all Asians looks the same?

Steve:   We’ll change your name from Grant Chen to Grant Chou first and then we’ll slowly phase it into Steve.

Mike:   And then it’ll be [inaudible 02:35] or whatever.  What was it that you called yourself at –?

Steve:   Oh, [Choufucius? 02:39].

Mike:   To Choufucius.

Steve:   Yes.

Grant:  Oh, I like that.

Mike:   I was too busy laughing to remember it so…  But yeah, so Steve and I originally met through eCommerceFuel and so thanks for another plug for Andrew Youderian over there.  He’s always bringing lots of people together in this community.  And since then, we’ve become pretty good friends.  We had a mastermind together, a couple masterminds, and Steve was nice enough to ask me to come be a part of his Seller Summit event out in Miami, which we just recorded an episode – this’ll be coming out a couple weeks after, but just a reminder, if you want to go to EcomCrew.com/Summit, I’m going to be actually speaking at a recorded event.  You get all the videos, but then also, there’ll be like a live Q&A and I’ll be there.  So if you guys want to come on there or pay for that, that’ll be pretty cool.

So yeah, and then one of the things that Steve and I were talking about in one of the masterminds was actually the redesign of Bumblebee Linens, so yeah, man, it was a pretty funny conversation, Steve.  I think your question was, “What do you guys think of my site?”  And I think you got pretty funny there.

Steve:   Actually, yeah.  Okay, so just to give the backstory before you start making fun of me…  So we were at this mastermind –

Mike:   I was all ready to make fun of you, man.

Grant:  Always.  Always.

Steve:   I knew you were.  That’s why I had to interrupt.  So my site has been converting pretty well, you know, like above 3%.  And so I had a lot of other things on my plate and so I went to the mastermind and was like, “Does this site need to get redesigned now or is this something that I can like put off until later?”  I said it something like that and then, man, like all of the sudden, the flood gates open and then you guys started just tearing me to shreds.  And –

Mike:   It was pretty funny because like I didn’t really know you all that well and I was like, “I don’t know what I should say here, but –”

Steve:   [Inaudible 04:26]

Mike:   Yeah.  But I don’t know, I guess like my thing – I’ve gotten a lot out of masterminds and the thing that I’ve gotten the most out of masterminds is the people that just tell me like it is.  You know, when someone sugarcoats things or dances around it or whatever, you just don’t get as much out of it and my feeling was we’re all there, we’re all grown men (and there was one grown woman there as well), and I don’t think anyone’s gotten to this point in life if they have think skin, right?

Steve:   Yup.

Mike:   So it’s just, “Here’s my honest opinion of what it is.”  And there’s lots of things in our business that I’m pretty embarrassed about as well that could use a lot of work, and what ends up happening is you have a lot going on.  I mean the site’s converting pretty well, you’re running a successful blog at MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, you’ve got a wife and a couple kids and at the time you still had a full-time job and there’s only so much time in a day.  And you’re in it every day as well, looking at it and it’s not so bad, but then when you get that outside opinion, it’s like, “Oh my God, maybe there’s something to this.”

Steve:   So, to be fair, I think you were trying to be careful with your words, whereas some of the other guys at the mastermind, they were like buddies of mine who I’ve known for a while, and they didn’t hold back either, so that was good.

Mike:   Yeah.

Steve:   It was good.  I mean –

Mike:   Some of the comments were pretty funny.  It was like, “You actually tell people you own this site?”  [Inaudible 05:46]

Steve:   Exactly.  Yeah.

Mike:   It wasn’t that bad.

Steve:   And so I was like huddled in the corner the entire time.

Mike:   Yeah.

Grant:  Oh man.

Mike:   But the key result here is that it worked, right?  I mean I’m actually looking at your blog.  If you go to MyWifeQuitHerJob.com/Increase-Conversion-Rates (and we’ll link that up in the show notes, but) it’s a great article and actually, I read the article and that’s what prompted me to ask you to hop on the show because we’re always talking about things like Inspectlet on the podcast or just conversion rate optimization in general and looking at what people are doing.  And I don’t want to ruin the surprise here – why don’t you tell everybody, Steve, kind of what the end result was as far as an increase in conversion rates?

Steve:   Yeah, so the numbers have changed since that blog post since I have more data now.

Mike:   Okay.

Steve:   And it’s kind of settled to something more like how I was expecting.  So the desktop conversion rate increase is about the same.  It’s actually at 45%.

Mike:   Okay.

Steve:   The tablet increase is around 25% and the mobile increase is at 3% as opposed to I think it was 12% in that post.

Mike:   Okay.

Steve:   Because I had done something special for mobile a couple years back and I thought my mobile site was decent.  And so yeah, I think that probably explains why everything has settled the way it did.

Mike:   Interesting.  Okay.

Steve:   But yeah.  Yeah.

Mike:   So I mean, obviously, 45% increase is pretty huge, and what I always tell people – you know, because like we do consulting as well from time to time and we see conversion rates sub-1% and stuff like that.  And what I explain to people is that if you can get a 50% increase in conversion rate or 100% increase in conversion rate – and obviously it’s easier said than done, but if you can achieve that, I mean you’re looking at paying half as much for your paid traffic or 50% less for your paid traffic.  And what ends up happening is you can get PPC campaigns or Facebook ads that were not profitable to become profitable and it can also be your edge because everything’s just been so commoditized and some of these searches, I mean there’s no money left in them because everybody’s bidding them up so high.  So I mean that can be your edge, if you can get your conversion rate a little bit higher than the next guy.

So, man,  I’d love to talk about some specific things that you did.  Are there maybe like a top three to five things that you can think of that really made the difference as far as getting the conversion rate up by 45% on desktop?

Steve:   I mean I actually made a list for you guys.

Mike:   Awesome.

Steve:   Like I had a whole list, but if you want me to just narrow things down to like the most important parts, I would say that, one, the unique value proposition is now pretty clear on all landing pages on the site.  So like, in my industry, which is the wedding industry, we sell handkerchiefs.  It’s actually not a huge niche and so we really emphasize that we have like the largest selection, really fast turnaround time on embroidery.  Social proof has been really huge for us because we’ve been in a lot of magazines, we’ve been on The Today Show, we’ve got tons of testimonials, and before, all that stuff was kind of hidden on the side.  And what’s ironic about all this stuff is that these are things that I teach in my class, but the last time I did a redesign was I think back in 2012 so I didn’t get a chance to utilize everything that I’ve learned over the years.

But the way I think of conversions, there’s like three things that you really need to do, especially if you’re running a site that’s like brand new, you don’t really have an established brand.  People care about how much they’re going to pay, and so shipping carries a large role in determining whether they want to buy from you.  And since you’re not trusted in the very beginning, the ability for them to be able to back out of a transaction or do a return in case they’re not satisfied with what they’re getting.  And the third most important thing is trust, and there’s a lot of things that fall into that which I kind of incorporated into the new design.

Mike:   Yeah.  I mean I don’t know if I’ve read it from you or I figured this stuff out on my own or we all just are drinking the same Kool-Aid, but I say that same things over and over again.  It’s shipping, returns, and trust.  I couldn’t agree more.  I think that it’s really important, and the thing that’s really key to your redesign here is it’s just all over the site, including up in the header, “Free shipping over $100, there’s an easy return policy, and if you’ve got questions, give us a call.  We’re here for you.”  It hits on all those cylinders right off the gate, first thing people see.

Steve:   Well, I actually got that from this dude who sells coloring books.  Yeah.  He’s pretty cool, yeah.  And then a wise man once told me, too, that a business is like a car with many cylinders.

Mike:   Yeah.

Steve:   Have you told that story yet?

Mike:   I think I have on here, but comparing ecommerce to like an eight-cylinder car engine and –

Steve:   Yes.

Mike:   You pull out a spark plug and the car has [inaudible 10:35] performance.  You pull out two spark plugs and you’ve got to pull over to the shoulder.  And the basic point of the story is that if other people are running on a full eight cylinders and you’re running on six, you just can’t compete, especially if you’re doing paid traffic and also even in SEO because obviously being fifth on the third page or something, ranking 35th or something, is useless.  You’ve got to be somewhere on the first page.  So yeah, I mean I think there’s definitely a lot to that.  So –

Grant:  And I’m going to actually add in something here, too, because I remember seeing your site, Steve, before you had that redesign and the new site, I think one of the thing that at least stands out to me on top of everything that you guys had mentioned is the photos seem to just really pop out a lot more now.  And I remember before, it was a little bit small and I wouldn’t say it was hard to see, but it was not as emphasized, and now and I go though, I mean it’s all visual.  And I think, if anything, the UI and a lot of where the conversion rate optimization has been going is higher quality images and more definition.  And when I’m going through your category pages right now, like I can easily go and browse through all of your different designs and they’re very easy to tell what is what, whereas before, it was a little bit more difficult.  And on the desktop, at least to me, I think that’s why I can imagine a lot of the conversion rate has increased a lot.

And the other thing I noticed of course is, like you said, with the footer, all of those magazine ads in there and then The Today Show clip.  I think that’s like so huge.  It makes me jealous.  I wish I had myself in a bunch of magazines too so I could put myself there.  So I’m –

Steve:   You know what’s funny, Grant, is all the images are identical.  Like I didn’t have time to change that.  So the whole redesign took seven weeks to do.  I had a designer and I also spent about 40 hours of my own time working on it.  And so we have like 480 SKUs I want to say.  Didn’t have time to retake all those photos, so I would say that the major impact for making the photos pop like was that, one, removing that sidebar and using the top-level navigation, which allowed me to like blow up the images 300%.  And then the second factor was I’d been talking to a bunch of UI designers and a long time ago, they introduced me to this concept of a color palette.  You need to choose one neutral color for you site, you need to choose one color that stands out in case you have any offers that you want to give on your site, and then one really, really loud and bright color for all of your action buttons.  And so I chose hot pink for all the action buttons, fluorescent yellow for all the offers, and then just a teal for all the neutral color stuff on the site.

Grant:  I like that idea.  I actually have something going on with Mike for that one coloring book site and we’re actually doing a little bit of color testing in that vein, but I’ve never actually heard it put down in thought so that’s actually really neat to know that there’s actually a good reasoning behind that.  And I can totally see that working because your Add to Cart button is a whole lot more visible now.  I mean that bright pink, that’s not miss-able.

Steve:   Yeah, and so I just went to Color.Adobe.com, which is where my buddy told me to go and it’ll choose for you like complementary colors that you can use that kind of go together.  Like I’m not an expert in this, and I’m certainly not an artist, but there is like a science behind the colors that you choose.

Mike:   Yeah.  Grant, didn’t you have like one of those color picker things too?

Grant:  Yeah, I –

Mike:   There was like a site that had three colors that went together for your like site theme?

Grant:  Yup.  I use Color Hut.

Mike:   Color Hut, okay.

Steve:   Color Hut.

Grant:  ColorHut.co and I use that to do Chopping Blocks and I use that to do a lot of other logos for product design that I’ve done and it’s pretty amazing.  It’s just a site that has a bunch of pre-picked color templates that people have submitted and they get voted on.  So you can kind of see a huge list of color templates and palettes that automatically work well and that way you don’t have to come up and figure one yourself.  So it’s –

Steve:   Wow, that’s cool.

Grant:  Yeah, it makes life a lot easier.

Steve:   Yeah.

Mike:   But I like what you’re talking about there, Steve.  Most of the site is kind of like a muted, common color but then, obviously, that helps the action item stuff like you were saying, like the popping button like just jumps right off the page.  And as Grant was saying, we’re using Optimizely right now as a test on ColorIt and we have five different Add to Cart buttons.  I haven’t actually looked at that in a couple weeks.  Grant, do you have any updates on what’s been winning?  Or I guess maybe we can do a future podcast on that.  It’s been interesting.  But like I know that the control group is losing.  You know, the original button, which was basically the same as the rest of the site is underperforming, which makes a lot of sense for what Steve’s saying here.

Grant:  Yeah, so it’s actually really interesting, and I don’t want to get too sidetracked so I’ll give it like about 30 seconds.  But when we first started, the control group was doing the worst and the high-contrast, high-variation, bigger font Add to Cart buttons – or we even did a change for Add to Basket kind of like the Nordstrom’s or Macy’s way – those were doing better.  And I realized that when you added a little bit too much, like a high-contract color in big font and changing the text, I think it was a little bit too much for people and they got turned off.  Now that we’ve been running it for about two and a half months, it’s actually quite interesting because we’re actually showing everything’s almost leveling out so everything’s almost the same.  And it would actually appear that the control is doing a little bit better than everything else, which, to me, is a little bit eye-scratching, because on your website, the Add to Cart button is almost the same color as everything else so –

Mike:   Yeah.

Grant:  It goes against all of the high-contrast type of logic and UI that Steve’s talking about and that I know works for me on CuttingBoard.com.  So I’m trying to investigate a little bit.  I know that you’ve ran that free shipping promo, but that should affect everything about the same.  So I’m still going to dig in and let that run a little longer.

Mike:   Interesting.  So back to Bumblebee Linens and the conversion rate optimization stuff there.  So, Steve, you were talking about your unique value proposition and the shipping, returns, and trust.  What were the other big key factors, do you think, for the increase there?

Steve:   Yeah, and so this is one thing I also took from ColorIt, which I really liked was you had all that reinforcement next to all the action buttons.  And so next to the Add to Cart, you’ll notice that there’s free shipping and returns as well like right near the action button.  On my checkout, I have a little bit more flexibility since I’m not on a standard platform like Shopify.  Like I put all the trust factors right next to the Checkout button and during the entire checkout process as people are going through it.

Mike:   Yeah.  I think that’s incredibly important.  I mean it definitely is the one downside to having your own cart.  I mean we ran into some issues with BigCommerce as well in their checkout and we have a post about that up on EcomCrew, where we were able to increase our conversion rate by almost like 100% – I forget now.  It’s been a while since we did that post – but just by changing several factors on that one page.  So definitely jealous that you have the ability.  I’m looking at your checkout page right now.  Like on the right-hand side here, you have Secure Orders and Satisfaction Guaranteed.  I think that that’s really important.

The one thing that’s a shame sometimes when you do like a host sale redesign like this, you don’t know which one thing contributed the most, right?

Steve:   Yeah.  Yeah, I mean you could, I suppose, split test the old site with the new site but do people do that, I wonder?  Like for such a drastic change?

Mike:   I don’t think so.  I mean usually, the things that we split test would be like a button color or changing the icons at the top of the page, instead of it saying “Free shipping over $100,” and having like a little truck, you have just a different icon there or something.

Steve:   Mm-hmm.

Mike:   And, you know, it would be subtle things that you’re testing.  It’s hard with like a host sale [inaudible 18:46] the old site versus new site.  I don’t think there’s really any question that the new site, added up, is giving you, like you said, 45% conversion increase.  Just the thing that would be really interesting to know is which portion of it contributed the most, right?

Steve:   Yeah.  Yeah.

Mike:   Is it the header?  Is it the larger photos?  Is it the trust signals next to the shopping cart buttons?  I mean these are all things that we’ve learned over years of doing ecommerce that definitely help but yeah, I don’t really have any way of saying which one contributes the most either.  But I definitely think that it’s a much improved version of the site.

Grant:  So, Steve, I’m curious if you’ve got other data points.  Like Mike talked about your conversion going up 45%.  Do you have things like your bounce rate and duration on page?  Like do you have those stats available off the top of your head?

Steve:   I do actually, yeah.  You know, the bounce rate actually increased for some reason.

Grant:  Huh.

Steve:   So Mike and I both met Kurt Freitag on my conference and he’s actually an expert on Google Analytics and he actually has this tool that points out anomalies and how to figure out what happened and the reasons for those anomalies.  So he’s actually crunching that data for me right now.  I did find one of the problems with that just through user testing.  On the tablet, I was actually going through.  So I use BrowserStack to do all of my browser testing, which was actually a major pain in the butt for this redesign.  But when you looked at my site on a tablet on BrowserStack, it actually looked fine.  And for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why the tablet conversions were worse than they were before.

And then I actually went out to like the Apple store.  Like I don’t own an iPad, so I went to the Apple store and just played around with my site in the iPad and I immediately figured out what that was a problem.  It was because on an iPad, like the images, when it became responsive, they became blown up past their useable resolution.  And so all the images on the largest size iPad became blocky.  And so, once I fixed that, that’s when the tablet conversions went way up.  So that was just like one example.

Grant:  Wow.  Yeah, that’s so huge.  And we’ve been guilty of that too.  And it’s such an easy way of screwing up that it’s so hard to test and do unit testing properly because no one’s really equipped to do that.  You generally have teams dedicated at any normal technology company to doing that.  It actually happened to Mike on ColorIt.  You remember that, Mike, with the whole IE fiasco?

Mike:   Mm-hmm.

Steve:   Oh yeah.

Mike:   That was special.  Like all of our images weren’t showing.

Grant:  Yeah, I was actually drilling down into Mike’s conversion and I was looking at it by browser and everything and I go, “Well, there’s something weird.  Like your IE conversions are just atrocious.”  And then I looked at the site in IE and it was in, I think, compatibility mode that I looked at it and the images were just not showing up period.  And then I told Mike to go look at it and he says, “There’s nothing wrong.”  And I think you looked at it in IE on Mac.  What that it, Mike, and it still looked fine?

Mike:   No, we have a Windows computer here in the office, just like one outlier person that has to use a Windows machine.  So I went over to our machine and – first of all, I looked at it on my Mac with IE and it looked fine because I have like parallels or whatever on my computer and I had to blow the dust off it and fire up Windows and it looked fine.  Then I went over to her computer and it looked fine.  And then you kept on insisting that it wasn’t fine and then I looked at it and the stats were obvious.  I installed some other version, like an older version of IE (I forget how I did that now) and it was obvious that there was a big problem.

Grant:  Yeah so, Steve, this is one thing you’re going to find out really quick about Mike.  Like Mike will not believe something if he sees it with his own eyes and he just can’t comprehend that the rest of the world might have a different view because I was like, “Mike, your site’s totally broken on IE.”  He’s like, “No, I’m looking at it and it looks just fine.”  I’m like, “Mike.  Am I crazy?  It is broken.”  He’s like, “No.  It looks totally fine.”  I’m like, “Put it on a different computer.  Just look at the darn thing.  Like I’m looking at your data right here and it’s showing that it’s like atrocious.”  And then he finally is like, “Oh my gosh,” and I’m sure his like jaw hit the floor after that but…

Mike:   I have to filter through all your conspiracy theories.  I mean this is the same guy that swears that Joe Biden’s going to become the next president so…

Grant:  Hey, I am not swearing, but you did give me 1000 to 1 and so I bet $10 so I’m just going to – if I get $10,000 out of Mike, I’m going to be so happy but if I lose $10, I’m okay with that.  I’m just saying.

Steve:   I’m just going to go through his wife whenever I need something done.  I think it’s probably the best route.

Mike:   When she says, “Jump,” I ask, “How high?”

Steve:   So on that note, like I really debated whether to just deprecate IE8 but I was looking at my analytics and it still contributed like a couple thousand dollars a month.  And so it ended up taking like a whole week just to get IE8 working but I figured that effort was worth it for a couple thousand dollars a month.  I don’t know.  What’s the lowest version that you guys will go?

Grant:  You know, that’s a great question.  When we did Treadmill.com, I remember us thinking about that and I looked at the stats, and that was two years ago, and IE8 and below was not a small portion of the traffic.  I think it added up to 15% of the traffic, and I’m sure now it’s going to be a little bit lower.  And this is what I always tell everybody: I mean if you’re ready to like throw away 10% of your top line, then go ahead and like screw all your IE customers, but if you’re not, like take that time to do it.  So I think what you did was pretty smart.  I think most of the tech guys – and Mike knows how much I gripe and moan about IE and I’ll just like throw my keyboard out the window and have to buy another one because I have to make it work, but at the end of the day it makes money.

Mike:   Yeah.

Grant:  So my view is that you should always do it unless you just hate money.  So… yeah.  So for that reason, I think Mike’s on board too.  I mean, you know, Mike.

Mike:   Yeah.  And I think that like the older your audience is, the more necessary it is.  So I just think that the younger folks are on Amazon or on their cell phone and whatever and you’ve got these people that have their old computer.  It’s like dog years, right?  Their computer’s about the same age as them in human years or whatever.  That’s just the way that it is.  I know that our coloring book audience is old.  And I would imagine the handkerchief audience is an older audience, and if you’re selling Candy Crush or something, you don’t need to worry about IE6 but if you’re selling coloring books for retirees, I guess it’s a different story.

Grant:  Mm-hmm.  Yeah, and I’m going to add in something real quick here for a lot of our listeners that might not like understand why a lot of people are still on IE because, Steve, you’re obviously like a very technical guy.  Mike’s technical, I’m technical.  And I think living on the West Coast or any coastal city, especially around technology, anybody that’s using XP at this time or, God knows, like Windows 98 or 95, you would just look at them like they walked out of a cave like, “Why are you doing that?”  But a lot of systems are like embedded systems and even for businesses – like if you ever go to the bank, I think Bank of America switched off like a [inaudible 25:54] system maybe I think seven years ago.  I mean their true backend might still be on that.  And [inaudible 26:00] is like very, very ancient mainframe, but even their current systems, a lot of them are stuck on XP because they can’t upgrade because all of their systems were designed to work with XP and everything like that and a lot of banks are stuck in that kind of formula.

Military defense contractors, a lot of them are stuck on old systems.  There’s a huge amount of businesses out there that are not able to upgrade because they had a huge IT infrastructure investment into these existing platforms, so it’s not that they don’t want to upgrade, but they don’t have the capabilities to do so because it’s such a huge investment.  A lot of medical-type industries are still there.  So there’s a lot of people that work that obviously still buy and shop and they’re just stuck on computers that are not up to date.  So they might go home and get on a computer that’s actually up to date or a tablet or their phone, but many people are stuck in an old system that they can’t change even if they wanted to.  So that’s kind of something to be aware of.

Steve:   I mean we have some customers actually that are still on like Windows 95 and they can barely surf the web also.  So I mean it just depends on the age of your customers I think.

Mike:   Yeah.  Definitely.  So, you kind of told us, Steve, that you had a whole list.  I didn’t want to ruin your party there.  Let’s go through the other items on your list.

Steve:   Oh, no, no, no, no, no.  Okay.  So these are other things that didn’t necessarily improve the conversion rate directly, but these are just things that I wanted done.  So I don’t know if this is the case for you, Mike, but Pinterest is a good portion of our social media traffic for our site, and so what I went ahead and did is I created special Pinterest images that were just tall and skinny for all of the products.  And so most people, when you click on the Pin It button, you just get the standard rectangular image, which doesn’t work that well for Pinterest.  So that’s just one thing that I did.

Mike:   So it’s an image that doesn’t actually show on the site; when you click the Pin button, it’s a different proportion?

Steve:   That’s correct.

Mike:   Okay.

Steve:   Yeah.

Mike:   Interesting.

Steve:   And then I think we’ve gone over most of the stuff already.  I just had a couple things to mention about mobile that I did the first time around, but since I had to redo the whole thing again, I ended up having to revisit some of these things again.  So one thing is that, in case you guys are just designing your own mobile sites for some reason, you’ve got to remember to turn off auto-correct for that because we had this one person who called us a long time ago.  She was trying to enter in her address, but auto-correct kept changing it because her address wasn’t like a real word and it kept changing to dictionary words and she got frustrated.  Fortunately, she called us and told us what her problem was and we were able to reproduce it on my wife’s iPhone and finally I realized that you can turn off auto-correct in all form fields.  So –

Mike:   Oh, is that right?  Did you know that, Grant?

Steve:   Yeah.  I think it’s done by default for Shopify.

Mike:   Okay.

Steve:   Yeah.

Mike:   That makes sense.  I mean we have never had anybody mentioned that so that must be the case on Shopify.

Grant:  Well, that’s actually a very great point that Steve brings up because I remember a guy that actually left a comment on EcomCrew and he was talking about on BigCommerce, on top of the optimizations that we were doing, you should do things like disabling text fields on phone number fields and zip code so that it automatically goes to numbers, and there’s auto-fill.  Like you shouldn’t necessarily use auto-fill on some forms and whatnot.  And I said, “Huh.  That’s actually a great idea.”  And what Steve was mentioning, like it never occurred to me, but I know for a fact that BigCommerce is not having that option turned on.

Steve:   Really?

Grant:  Yeah, I’m familiar with their code and it’s pretty – not going to walk that fine line too far but it could use some help, especially on that form page and I know for a fact they’re not doing it so that’s a great suggestion.  Anybody listening, this is like great, great things that you’re hearing from Steve here.

Steve:   And then on the auto-fill front, which you mentioned, you want to make sure you don’t do that for credit card numbers because sometimes people are on public computers and if you have that turned on and someone types in a couple numbers, instantly someone else’s credit card number will pop up there.  Yeah.  It’s just something I’ve just kind of noticed over the years that you absolutely don’t want to do.

Grant:  Wow.

Steve:   Yeah.  [Crosstalk 30:03]

Mike:   I don’t think you can change it on Shopify or BigCommerce though.

Steve:   You probably can.  You can probably write a little piece of JavaScript code that just adds some of these attributes to the fields.

Mike:   Okay.

Steve:   Yeah.  Grant, you’re technical, right?  Are you a coder?

Grant:  Yes, I am.  And Shopify, technically, you’re not supposed to add any JavaScript and they don’t make it easy, but you can.  It’s essentially like hacking your engine through your cigarette lighter.  It’s a lot of fun if you know what you’re doing but your car can also blow up and catch on fire.  So I never told anyone how to do this and we’re not going to on EcomCrew unless you ask us in a dark alley.  Then we might help you out.

Steve:   And then the last thing that I didn’t really mention before was, in the past, in our old site, we just kind of shoved all of our products and all of our categories on this gigantic left-hand column.  And so what we did this time was we kind of organized our products on the top-level nav bar based on what people were searching for.  So we had categories based on what type of occasion you were buying your linens for, the product type, and we noticed that a huge part of our business is personalized, so we actually separated all the different personalized products all in one separate category.  And just based on the heat map analysis and the click, it appears that those product pull-downs are even more popular than our main gigantic product pull-down.

Mike:   Makes sense, yeah.  Looking at Shop Personalized right now and…

Steve:   Yeah.

Mike:   Like you said, it fits the – so you have them in order by popularity, so personalized isn’t actually bigger than…

Steve:   Yeah, most people come on by occasion actually.

Mike:   Okay.

Steve:   Yeah.

Mike:   Interesting.  Okay.

Steve:   But, you know, again, we’ve only had this site live, the redesign, for I think it’s only been two months at this point.  So there’s still a lot of stuff that needs to be collected.  We’re still in the beginning.

Mike:   I have one quick suggestion.  I think if you maybe try having the Free Shipping and Easy Return Policy linkable up in the top nav, just when you click on that, it would go to your shipping page or your return page.  Just curious if that would make any difference or not with the –

Steve:   Oh, interesting.  It that how you have it on yours?

Mike:   Yeah.  So you didn’t copy it all exactly the right way.

Steve:   No, I didn’t.  I’m not a good copier.  And we Asians are good at copying whatever.

Grant:  Oh man, we’re going here.

Steve:   Interesting.  So do you get a lot of click-throughs on that?

Mike:   I’ve looked at a heat map and yeah, that got a decent amount of attention.  And also, the About Us page.  I haven’t looked at your About Up page but we put a lot effort into the About page.  Just after seeing like how much traffic comes to the About page, it’s actually quite interesting and these are the things that are harder to quantify how much it increases your conversion rate because you’re always changing so many things at once but –

Steve:   Yeah.

Mike:   You know, just when I noticed that the About Us page is one of the top visited pages on the site, we went through and like put a lot of effort into the About Us page and told a whole story and had a custom like image drawn and did like a family tree because my cousin and I do ColotIt together, and of course my wife and then my cousin’s husband.  So we put a whole story together about that and then talked about like why we got into it and all those cool things.  So –

Steve:   Yeah, our About Us page isn’t that great.  I mean yours is really good, Mike.  I remember looking at it.  Just haven’t gotten to that point yet.

Mike:   Yeah.

Grant:  And I’m curious, Steve.  I know you are not on BigCommerce or Shopify.  Are you rolling out your own custom platform or are you on something else?

Steve:   So we’ve been on osCommerce for the longest time and (Mike and I talked about this at the mastermind) it’s just very, very heavily modified.  Like whenever I need a new feature, I’ll just code it myself.  So you’ll notice that if you guys are on Shopify, like the Notify plugin, I really liked that and so I just whipped that up myself and just added it myself.  And so, over the years, it has become almost like a custom platform but not quite.  And so –

Mike:   It’s Steve Commerce.

Steve:   Yeah, Steve Commerce.  We were discussing the SEO risks of moving and like all the work involving doing all the through and redirects and all that sort of thing and it was all this uncertainty that I just didn’t want to have.  I just wanted to roll out this redesign as quick as possible.  And if this site lasts me like another three or four years, I’ll be happy.

Grant:  Wow.  Well, that’s pretty neat.  So you’re actually the one coding everything then.

Steve:   I am, yes.

Grant:  Wow.  So you have, obviously, a coding background, or did you just jump in here and it was like, “I can do this?” and just decided –

Steve:   No, I’m a hardware guy, actually, so I design – well, I have to say I used to now, I guess.  I was a microprocessor designer.  So I had to design the hardware and write code for it and I think, yeah, Grant, you could probably relate to this.  Like once you learn a language, they’re kind of all the same.  You just need to figure out what’s already written and what’s already not.

Grant:  Yeah, exactly.  Just off that logic.

Steve:   And just piece things together so…

Grant:  Well, that’s pretty –

Steve:   I don’t know.  I’m kind of a control freak.  That’s the thing.  And it’s probably not wise from like a business standpoint.  Like I really shouldn’t be doing this stuff but I enjoy it so…

Grant:  Well, I think that’s awesome.  I mean normally, I would say having your IT stuff in a position where you just – it becomes a little bit harder to scale, it’s kind of a risk, but if you’re the guy in control of everything, that’s where being a control freak’s not so bad because you can actually be the one changing it.  Now obviously if, I don’t know, you decide to take up boxing because you’ve got so much time now and then you’ve got like carpal tunnel and you can’t code anymore, then, well, you’ve got some issues going on but we’re talking about like extremes over here.  But I think that’s great.  I mean that’s the perfect position to be in.

Steve:   Well, I don’t have a lot of free time because I’m using and listening to podcasts with it.  So…

Mike:   All right, guys.  Well, we’re past our – Grant, we never finish one of these on time.  We just like to talk too much.  We’ve got to learn how to stop talking so much.

Grant:  Yeah, I’m just going to shut up next time.  We’re just 30 minutes of silence.

Steve:   Well, that’s fine because I’m replacing you.

Mike:   It’ll probably be more interesting than what we usually do.  All right, guys.  So, Steve, what’s the best way for people to find you?  You mentioned you have a class?  Do you want to tell people real quick about your class over at My Wife Quit Her Job?

Steve:   Yeah, so the blog is MyWifeQuitHerJob.com but I do offer a class.  It’s over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com and it’s just a training class where I offer like weekly live sessions in addition to a ton of videos that I’ve just created over the years based on everything that I’ve just done with my site, my experiences on Amazon.  And it’s essentially what you guys are doing, what you guys are starting with EcomCrew and just like a documentation of everything that you’ve done, except I’ve just taken that into like a teaching platform.

Mike:   Cool, and you’ve been doing it, what?  Like for seven years now, right?  Is that how long ago you started My Wife Quit Her Job?

Steve:   The course was launched in 2011 –

Mike:   Okay.

Steve:   And then I had My Wife Quit Her Job in 2009.

Mike:   Cool.  Yeah, so you’re like the old man in this industry.

Steve:   I’m like a dinosaur.

Mike:   Yeah, a dinosaur for sure.  And is there a good email address or a Twitter handle or anything like that?  What’s the best way to get you that way?

Steve:   Yeah, there’s a contact form on MyWifeQuitHerJob.com and then my Twitter handle is @MyWifeQuit.

Mike:   Cool.  And then, as I mentioned earlier, if you go to EcomCrew.com/Summit, Steve had a conference in Miami, live conference, recorded all the videos of the speakers.  So instead of having to fly to Miami and watch the videos, you can just go over to EcomCrew.com/Summit and if you sign up by – is it July 15th, Steve?  Is that the date?

Steve:   I think it’s the 18th actually.

Mike:   The 18th.

Steve:   Yeah.

Mike:   So I think this’ll be going live just before that, so just a quick reminder, everybody, about that.  And if you sign up before the 18th, you get a free live Q&A session.  It will be like a Google Hangout and I’ll be on there and Steve will probably be like tarring and feathering me or some other horrible thing.  So you guys will get to witness that, and if you want to ask me questions or Steve or any of the other guys in the panel, you’ll be able to do that live if you sign up before then.  And there’s also like a 33% discount, I think, right now as well so it’s $200.  It’s a pretty good value obviously. So head over there to sign up for that and until next week, Grant – oh, go ahead, Grant.

Grant:  Well, hey.  Let’s not forget the obvious.  I mean if people are going to get married, they should be getting a handkerchief from Bumblebee Linens.

Mike:   True.

Steve:   Oh yes.  Yes.

Grant:  Because –

Steve:   You guys, I’ll hook you guys up.  No joke.

Mike:   I’ve been married for 10 years next month, so I don’t need linens anymore, but maybe for my kids or something.

Steve:   You know what happens at the 10-year mark, right, Jackness?

Mike:   I hopefully get to stay married.  I have no idea.

Steve:   It’s lifetime alimony and then half your assets –

Mike:   Oh.

Steve:   In case, yeah, anything –

Mike:   So I have like six more weeks left to make a change is what you’re saying.

Steve:   Which means your wife will have even more power.

Mike:   Yeah.  Exactly.

Grant:  Yeah.  So this is where I find out that none of the wives listen to the podcast so…

Mike:   I know I’m safe.  Whenever I turn it on in the car, like I get yelled at.  So I know she’s not listening to it in her free time.  That’s for sure.  All right, guys.  Well, definitely appreciate you coming on, Steve.  It’s been a pleasure.  I obviously love what you’re doing over there with My Wife Quit Her Job and you’re one of the good guys in the industry.  I definitely appreciate you coming on the show.

Steve:   Well, thanks for having me.

Mike:   Cool, guys.  Talk to you guys later.

Steve:   All right.

Grant:  All right, later.  Take care everyone.

Outro:  If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.  Head over to EcomCrew.com and sign up for the EcomCrew newsletter to get regular updates on what’s working in ecommerce today, and get the latest from our blog.  If you haven’t already, we’d really appreciate an honest review in iTunes.  These reviews help us make sure we’re delivering exactly the content you need to be successful.  And make sure you subscribe to the show for more tips to move you up in the business ladder and into success.  We’ll see you next week.

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Dave Starr
8 years ago

Interesting and valuable episode, thanks for sharing so much and thanks to Steve too, he’s always an inspiration.

One thing that struck me … I’ve heard similar comments from other online experts, so nothing personal here … is the problem of techno and age chauvinism. People trying to earn on line need to think about these issues more, IMO.

Age: Yeah, I am old … 70, actually. Don’t underestimate how old your readers/customers might be. A lot of older folks spend a lot of time online … and a lot of money as well (I certainly have a lot more disposable income now than when I was, say, 40 and paying a mortgage, raising kids, etc. And us “oldies” tend to buy a lot of gift item, and often help out our grown up kids (and grandkids) a lot. Don’t aim everything at the 20, 30, 40 year olds just becuase you happen to be in that age group, you may in fact leave a lot of money on the table.

Techno Stuff: Personally I use an nearly new MacBook Air and always run the latest version of Chrome, but as you have noticed, a heck of a lot of folks online just don’t upgrade very often. It’s great to design and tweak websites using a Mac and a 27 inch monitor, but those folks still running Windows 95 and IE5 are just as valuable as anyone else with a valid credit card and an itch to buy. Test all sites with a low-end, “antique” computer/software setup, because you really don’t care what they are using, you need to make it easy for them to spend.

Anyway, just some random old fart thoughts, keep up the good work.

Grant Chen
8 years ago
Reply to  Dave Starr

Dave, all good points and you’re calling us out on something we should acknowledge for sure. I think we get lopsided in our views as we get interactions with those that need the most hand holding, so it warps our view. The reality is there are probably a vast majority that are quite capable and steady customers as well.

On the Win95 and IE5 remark, it’s interesting you mention that, as we know we get a few customers that can only pay by phone, as their computers simply cannot checkout on BigCommerce. BigCommerce requires Javascript for example to checkout, if you don’t have at least IE8, you have no ability to pay. Shopify I believe may have a no javascript option, but I’m not sure. This is one reason that we keep advocating to have phone sales.. ala Phone.com or another similar service. I would still say a good 30-40% of my very large sales are via phone, so all the more reason to.

Thanks for your comments Dave!

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