Shopify Overview With Kurt Elster - Podcast by The Active Marketer

TAM 068: Shopify With Kurt Elster

ActiveCampaign and Shopify

Episode 68 touches on one of the more traditional cart platforms. Shopify is not only for kickstarter e-commerce sites but can tackle big enterprise brands as well. Listen to Kurt Elster talk about Shopify, who it is right for, and how it can help you and your online business.

This episode is a continuation of our series on payment solutions started with Episode 63. This episode deals with a total hosted e-commerce solution.

We Chat About:

  • Shopify and its growing community
  • Brief description of Shopify
  • What you can do with this e-commerce solution
  • Features of this platform
  • Commonly used apps that work with this platform
  • Content management and marketing features
  • Profile of a Shopify User
  • List building using Shopify
  • Advantages of this platform
  • Starting with Shopify

If you want to give ActiveCampaign a try, you can set up a free trial account here.

If you want to take your sales funnel and marketing automation skills to the next level, join us at The Active Marketer Academy my private mastermind and coaching community where we share all the good stuff!

Inside you will find, courses, live training calls, quick wins, shared automations and a helpful community of smart business owners and service providers just like you. Check it out here.

Active Marketer Academy

Links Mentioned In The Show

Other Payment Series Episodes

Listening options:


Barry: What if I write you something that's not very thoughtful?

Kurt: Then I will drag it into [inaudible 00:00:02] black hole, and it will never been seen from again.

Announcer: Welcome, to The Active Marketer Podcast, where we talk about how to design, automate, and scale your business to the next level, using sales and marketing automation. You can find out all the tips, tactics, and techniques you need to get more customers and sell more stuff over at Now, here's your host, Barry Moore.

Barry: Welcome to The Active Marketer Podcast, the podcast that's all about sales, funnels, and marketing automation. This week, we're continuing our Payment Series. For the past few weeks, we've been talking about how to come up with requirements for a payment platform. We've interviewed a few founders of some different payment platforms, but those platforms have been mostly focused around information products, or digital products, or one-off sales. You know, you want Product A, you buy Product A.

So, now we're going to move into a little bit of different territory, where we're going to talk about the more traditional shopping cart platforms, where you might want to grab Product A, Product B, and Product C, put it all in your cart and then checkout the whole cart at the end of the process. So, this week I've got Kurt, the host of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast, and he also runs an agency, an Ecommerce agency over there at, and he's going to talk to us all about the Shopify platform, what he likes about it, and who it would be right for. So, let's get into this week's episode with Kurt Elster.

And I'd like to welcome to the show, Kurt Elster, from The Unofficial Shopify Podcast. Welcome Kurt.

Kurt: Thank you for having me, it's my honour and pleasure.

Barry: I've really been looking forward to this episode. I played with Shopify maybe couple years ago, but I haven't really touched it much since then, and I've really been looking forward to, one, talking to somebody who really knows it back to front, and two, getting in touch with the platform again, 'cause I know it's a fantastic platform. I know you work exclusively with Shopify as a platform. Why exclusively Shopify?

Kurt: So, originally years ago, we were a generalist web design agency, and we were doing primarily word press work, actually. Our most satisfying work was in Ecommerce, because you can quantify the results, and it's fun. When you work on a project where it's like "Oh, that's a product I'd buy", it makes it a lot more fun. So, I said you know "We should only do Ecommerce", and then within Ecommerce we worked on several platforms. We played with Magento, BigCommerce, LemonStand, and Shopify, and consistently the best experience by far was Shopify. A big part of it is not any feature that has to do with Shopify, but their community, and as I've gotten deeper into it's because Shopify is like part of their company culture, is fostering this whole network and ecosystem and community around the platform. That's really just been phenomenal.

Barry: Yeah, cool. For those listeners out there who aren't familiar with Shopify, how would you describe Shopify to them?

Kurt: Shopify is a hosted Ecommerce solution. It's a one and done service, for their standard pricing, for their big boy package 79 bucks a month and you don't have to worry about hosting security upgrades, checkout processes, any of that stuff, it's all handled through Shopify. So, it's very holistic and Ecommerce solution to sell your Ecommerce products.

Barry: Yeah, so, so far we've been ... in the Payment Series, we've been talking about how you can bolt payments onto your existing site. For example, with-

Kurt: You can actually-

Barry: ... [inaudible 00:03:38] whatever-

Kurt: ... you can do that with Shopify.

Barry: Yeah?

Kurt: They've added ... They keep adding new features, some nice new features. One is if you're a bricks and mortar store, they've got a Point of Sale system. With the system they also added Buy buttons. So, if you have an existing store, there's a much cheaper Shopify plan, I think it's less than 20 bucks a month, but you can put products in it, generate Buy buttons with it, and then just embed those Buy buttons into your website and then still benefit from Shopify's inventory and checkout processes.

Barry: Very cool. So, those not familiar with a platform ... If you didn't ... If you were just starting and you had no website, you had no anything, Shopify is the whole matza. You don't have to go and set up WordPress, you don't have to do anything. Shopify's the entire solution for the business ... and as you said, if you want to combine that with a retail store, or you have a retail store already, you can use that Point of Sales. That's correct, isn't it?

Kurt: Yeah, they've got a nice Point of Sale system, that works out of the box. At this point it went from ... It's a complete Ecommerce platform.

Barry: What would be some of your favourite features, or favourite things about Shopify that really set it up from the some of the other ones you mentioned?

Kurt: Number one, by far is the community, the reliability. Having used a whole bunch of these platforms ... You want something much like why people buy Apple products and they pay that premium. They want something that just works and in my experience, of the Ecommerce platforms, Shopify is the one that just works. So, if you ever have an issue you can just call them, they have a toll free number, [inaudible 00:05:08], and we've got live chat and all these experts in this great community. I've had to call them I think exactly once. In working in over a hundred stores, I've literally only had an actual technical bug that involved me calling the support line one time.

Barry: Similar to Apple, there's a whole kind of ecosystem behind Shopify as well, with additional add-ons and extensions and plug-ins and all that kind of stuff, yeah?

Kurt: Yeah, there's an app store, so there's lots of features you can add a la carte. Some of the apps are free, and some are one time, and some are subscription. So, that is, I would say that one cautionary item is the monthly payment can balloon if you start just adding app after app after app, but if you're just doing things based on [inaudible 00:05:51], based on what features you need in your store, than it's really beneficial 'cause you don't have all this bloat, you have only exactly what you need. They're really brutal about picking very well made themes. I think they only one or two new themes a month, out of the hundreds of submissions they get. So, you never have to worry if you're going to get a buggy theme that hasn't been tested, cross device or cross browser.

They just produce enormous amounts of helpful content through their partner network. They've reached out to me, and they've solicited blog posts from me. They've got a free book they put out, that I've got a chapter in the first volume, and they paid me for that. They're more than happy to invest in the community to be able to help their merchants.

Barry: What would be some of the more common widely used apps that people tend to plug into Shopify?

Kurt: I think my favourite is Bold apps product up-sale, and Bold apps is one the largest app developers for Shopify, and product up-sale if someone purchase Product X, so let's say someone purchases [inaudible 00:06:54] camera, then as they get to checkout a [inaudible 00:06:56] window pops open, says "Hey, would you want to buy a tripod?" It's a great easy, inexpensive way to improve their customer's experience and to increase their, you're average order value or the customer's lifetime value. So, Bold apps product up-sale's a good one.

Another common one people want to ad predictable recurring revenue to their business. Who doesn't? At Ecommerce, the best way to do that is probably with subscriptions. So, there's a great app Bold app subscriptions, or another one called Recharge, that makes it very easy to add subscriptions seamlessly to your store.

Barry: That was kind of going to be my next question. Shopify, most people, at least I do anyway, think of Shopify as more of a traditional kind of physical products type solution, is it good for information products as well? Or memberships and that kind of stuff?

Kurt: You could sell ... I don't know about memberships. For memberships, I would probably use WordPress for that, truthfully. I guess it depends what the membership is. For info products, they do digital downloads. I know for awhile, I don't know if still, I haven't look in awhile, but a book of part Happy Cogs Library Publishing Company was on Shopify delivering that mix of Ebooks and physical goods. Shamefully I sell a couple info products, and I sell them on Gumroad instead of Shopify. I've had issues with Gumroad with deliverability on my subscription service. So, had I do it over again I'd probably use Shopify.

Barry: Another question I had about Shopify, if Shopify's your whole solution, your whole website, if you will, what about content marketing. How is that done with a Shopify store?

Kurt: It's got a full content management system built into it, so you can add multiple blogs. You can silo content within blogs. You can have multiple authors. They've got nice SCO features built into it now. I think the SCO is probably, if you're comparing it, the quickest thing you can compare it to is Squarespace. I'd say like it edges out Squarespace SCO wise, and it also includes nice resources for creating pages in a [inaudible 00:09:06].

Barry: All right, cool. So, you don't need to bolt on a another WordPress blog or something to do your content marketing with. That's cool.

Kurt: Yeah, certainly not.

Barry: Okay. Now you've seen, through your agency, Ethercycle, you've seen lots of people come through the Shopify lifecycle, I guess you'd call it. So, who's it best suited for? Who's the ideal person to be using Shopify?

Kurt: I'm biassed in who my favourite kind of client to work with is.

Barry: Fair enough.

Kurt: So, I see a lot of people, you get the traditional thing is like "I'm going to make TShirts, or I make handmade jewellery", so you got these little hobby stores that pop up, but a lot of ... if you notice these really big kick starter success stories and several of them are my clients, end up on Shopify because Shopify scales with you. They've got all these different plans and features and those add ons. Which is great 'cause you could start at this cheap like 20 something dollar a month plan and then move up as your business grows. All the way up to they have a full enterprise version of Shopify, called Shopify Plus. There's some Fortune 100 brands on Shopify Plus. So I think, sometimes people's fear is "Oh well, eventually I'll outgrow it and I'll have to re-platform". No one wants to re-platform, and in Shopify that's not the case. They've really worked quite hard in the last I'd say two years to avoid that.

I'd say some typical people I see like kick starter successes, because it's very easy to spin up and have it grow with you. People have private label businesses on Amazon. They started Amazon, it's very successful. They validated it their and then they moved to Shopify, add that as a sales channel. Those are probably the three typical types.

Barry: And for those Amazon type people, are they still using Fulfilled by Amazon in the backend, does Shopify work with that well?

Kurt: Yeah, it has native integration with Amazon. It's really, It's very simple. I think it's like one or two clicks to get it to work. Yeah, Fulfilled by Amazon works great with Shopify. That way you can have it run totally automated.

Barry: Nice. Which is what we love here at the automation central. So, yeah, speaking of that ... that's a great segway by the way, thank Kurt. What about in the backend of Shopify, as far as managing your customers and increasing lifetime value in repeat business, what kind of tools, apps, tricks, tricks of the trade, are there for customer management and nurturing and that kind of stuff in the back of Shopify?

Kurt: So, there's wonderful reporting features. There's a basic CRM system built into it, customer relationship management, where you can search for customers, record notes about them, and see what purchases they made, and like what page they landed on before they made a purchase. To get real power out of it, I think you still need to attach it to a proper email platform, that lets you do some marketing automation, some lifecycle email er, marketing automation.

And I'm biassed. My favourite is Cleevio. Working with Cleevio and Shopify works very well. A lot of people use MailChimp, but to get the real power of the marketing, you need to add on a mail service.

Barry: Yeah, of course. So, you've seen a lot of people get started as well. What are the kind of common mistakes that people make out of the box?

Kurt: By the far, the number one mistake is people think "If I build it, they will come", and of course that isn't the case. I always warn them, I say "Listen, we can obsess over details about this design and how the flow works and all that", but really I think the best example of this is when you're first launching a store defaults to having a password so no one could see it. And I'll say "Oh, I got to take that password off", people panic. They're like "Oh, you took the password off, are you going to put it back up?" I said "Listen, only you and I have ever seen this store, if I launch it right now only you and I will see the store". It takes a lot of effort to build that initial audience. This is not [inaudible 00:12:59] to Shopify, this is true of launching any website. I really encourage people to ... while you're building that site, to also be building your audience and your list. If you have an online business of any kind, your automatically in the list building business.

Barry: Couldn't agree more, my friend. That's the big asset, not your store. It's that list right? Once you got a list-

Kurt: Absolutely.

Barry: ... or customers you can sell to than that doesn't matter how you sell to them really. And so, can you know ... Is ... That's a good question actually. Is Shopify good for list building? We talked about it being the entire website. Do they have that kind of legion opt in for lead magnet type stuff here inside Shopify?

Kurt: And so it actually does. Most themes will have like a newsletter pop up built into it, as long with an opt in when people purchase, or they can opt in to your marketing, and usually they can opt in in the footer. The basic and necessary email opt ins, and if you aren't ready yet you don't have an email system, you don't want to pay like 300 bucks a month for Cleevio or whatever, it will record those emails and all of it straight into the backend of Shopify. That way as you add an email system, or migrate between email systems, all you have to do is sync the data between your email system and Shopify, and it will all be there.

Barry: But can you create the more traditional kind of landing page to you know, "Download my free guide to how to choose the best cycling shoes" or something like that, you know what I mean? "The top five cycling shoes." Those traditional kind of lead magnets just get people onto the list, not necessarily generic newsletter opt in?

Kurt: I know how to do that, but I wouldn't say that Shopify would be ... if that's what you're starting with, I wouldn't say Shopify would be a good fit for that. When I've seen other people build sales funnels in that fashion with Shopify, you know ... like I'm a front end designer, front end developer so I would just build that stuff as custom, but I've seen other people do with like Leadpages, or OptiMonk, some kind of third party that they're using on top of Shopify.

Barry: For sure, okay. We kind of mentioned at the beginning, when you started out you were working across multiple platforms, and Magento ... What is the advantage of Shopify over all the rest of them?

Kurt: By far it's reliability and their clarity of focus. I mean at this point it's the ... I believe they're the number one tech company in Canada, and that stock is out of control. They're doing great. Their big asset is their they don't just tack features on willy-nilly, the thing's never bugging, incredibly stable, but that community and that network that is growing around Shopify is where it's real power is. You can build you know, a socially system like BigCommerce is really just Shopify. To me, it feels like a clone of Shopify, and that it's like "Oh, we got all the features. We've got all the checklist", but I have got clients who come from BigCommerce or come from other platforms, but it's always with complaints about it being unreliable, and that's just never a fear with Shopify.

Barry: All right, cool. So, if someone's decided or they think Shopify might be for them, what are the first steps for them to get started?

Kurt: There's a 14-day free trial, no risk, no credit card required. So, you can spin up a Shopify store, you can play with it, get familiar with the backend. You can preview themes. You could basically set up the store minus the domain name and being able to checkout, and really get a feel for it. I'd also recommend of course looking at other Shopify stores, seeing what they look like that are in your space.

Barry: What are some other good Shopify resources for the newbie?

Kurt: If you go to, they have a tab called Resources. They've got some guides, videos, [inaudible 00:16:53], all that stuff there, and success stories. Or my own website I have a resources library put together for Shopify store owners and other entrepreneurs. That's

Barry: Yeah, there's lots of great stuff over there. I was just having a look at that today. All right. Well

Kurt, I really appreciate you coming on and giving us your story behind why you love Shopify so much, and who it's right for. If people want to reach out to you, best place is, is that right?

Kurt: Yeah, check out or my personal website, if you want to email me Sign up for my newsletter and then just reply to it and I will see it. If you write me something thoughtful, have questions, I'm happy to write back.

Barry: What if I write you something that's not very thoughtful?

Kurt: Then I will drag into [inaudible 00:17:36] black hole and it will never be seen from again.

Barry: All right, fair enough, and by all means check out The Unofficial Shopify Podcast for everything Shopify.

Kurt, thank you so much for coming on, and I'll forward to seeing you online.

Kurt: My pleasure, thank you.

Barry: Kurt, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your background with Shopify. If you're interested in Shopify, you're running an online store, Kurt also has an online Ecommerce bootcamp and he's generously offered to give listeners a 40% discount to that Ecommerce bootcamp. So if you head over to the show notes at, all the details on the coupon code and the link will be there. Also if you need help with sales funnels and marketing automation, you're just not getting the results you want, you can join us at The Active Marketer Insiders. It's a private community where we teach the tactics that the big guys use to get results with their sales funnels. So, if you head over there you'll find training checklists, shared automations, everything you need to get up and running quickly. That's over at, and if you use the coupon code PODCAST, you'll get 15% discount on your membership. So we'll see you again next week with a little bit more of our Payment Series as we wrap it in, but in the meantime, get out there and design, automate, and scale your business to the next level using sales, and marketing automation. See you next time everybody.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Active Marketer Podcast. You can find the show notes and all the latest marketing automation news over at

Barry Moore

Entrepreneur, aviator and former eCommerce and technology executive, Barry Moore is the founder of When he isn't geeking out about how sales and marketing automation can help your business, you can find him in the surf or in an airplane.

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