Every day there is an annoying thing that I MUST do. It annoys me that I need to, but as part of running a professional business it must be done. I discovered the issue about a month ago and have been doing this job manually every day since… all the while thinking about a solution to automating this task out of my life for good.
Threddies, being both an E-Commerce and Brick and Mortar business, has two distinct buyer’s journeys that start out in very different ways. In one case, a prospective lead finds us online and is ultimately driven to our website (this journey becomes much more complicated when you consider that a user’s journey could start from Google, Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc.). In the other, someone stops by our shop in person… talks to us about the local happenings… and if we’re lucky, makes a purchase. Our end goal is to turn visitors into customers, and even better REPEAT customers. Most of the time, people do not become a customer on the first visit, so our goal is to make them a potential customer, by getting them to sign up for our email list, or at the very least, joining us on their preferred social media platform. A lot has been written about this Omnichannel retail problem and it was something that we felt we had a fairly good handle on.
We recently have been consolidating our technology stack and introducing processes to make things consistent across all of the sales/leads ‘channels’ that we support. One area of integration that occured (and ultimately became the root of my current problem) was our choice to move the brick and mortar store to use Shopify POS instead of Square’s offering. This had many benefits: reduction in payment processing fees, combined CRM and inventory systems, a common user interface for our employees to use across all channels, etc.
The Vexing Problem
The problem that I didn’t see coming involves the collection of emails in our email marketing platform. We use AWeber and AWeber has both a Square and Shopify integration. We were actively using the Shopify integration to collect emails from our website and the Square integration to collect emails from B&M purchases (We also use the Etsy integration, but the issues with that is a subject for another blog post). In both cases, we use separate web based sign up forms or the AWeber Atom mobile app (appropriately tagged) to collect email addresses from those that don’t ultimately make a purchase. If you are a Shopify and AWeber user, you should be aware that AWeber’s integration does not support collecting emails that are entered using Shopify’s Newsletter functionality, this was something that I discovered early last year and have built an acceptable workaround for that (I can document this for anyone interested).
After removing Square from the store, I quickly noticed that no emails were being collected from B&M purchases. Initially, I thought it was a sync issue and that they would eventually show up, but they never did. I did some digging and testing and it seems that the AWeber/Shopify integration was only collecting emails from customers who made a purchase from the website, no emails would ever be added from Shopify POS. My daily chore of adding emails had begun… even worse, since I was constantly watching what was going on with email adds, I started to notice other issues.
We don’t require users to provide an email address in order to make a purchase, providing a valid phone number will allow you to make a purchase as well. We do require an email address, however, in order to create a Threddies account which gives the customer access to some additional features that they wouldn’t get otherwise. I noticed over time that there were many customers that made a purchase without an email and then ended up creating an account with an email at a later date. NONE OF THESE EMAILS WERE BEING CAPTURED! This was a fairly large problem that required some explaining to our customers when I finally added them all manually to our email list. I did some additional testing and discovered that this same use case occurs when a customer updates their email address from their account. AWeber never gets the updated email address. This was a particular issue since many of our customers originate from channels that obfuscate their real email addresses (Amazon, eBay, etc.), but then they ultimately warm to us and provide their real email address after making repeat purchases.
I immediately started looking for solutions since manually doing this every day was a nightmare. The AWeber provided integration is free with an AWeber account, but there are several paid solutions in the Shopify app store. All of the third party integrations suffered from various issues… either they used polling on a regular interval to collect email addresses rather than being reactive to events occurring in the Shopify ecosystem, or they came with heavy handed tag syncing. None of them specifically guaranteed the Shopify POS or Newsletter functionality that I desired. Since this problem was/is on my mind every day, I started thinking about the ideal state that I would like to have… tailored email marketing automation that is triggered by the channel that the user originated from. This is important because the Amazon/eBay/Etsy’s of the world tend to be very restrictive regarding the content of the email that you can send to their users. Due to this, many of the emails sent to customers originating from these channels tends to be manually sent (often through systems that don’t have guaranteed high deliverability like AWeber), rather than automated which takes a crazy amount of time. I also want intelligence behind tag syncing between Shopify and AWeber. It was clear that none of the existing integrations could meet these needs. This is the problem without an automated solution… for now… Stay tuned!
If you made it this far, and are interested in the thrilling conclusion… I wrote about my solution here.