Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

Why You Should Avoid “Best Practices”


Kurt Elster

Kurt Elster is the Host of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast and Senior eCommerce Consultant and Shopify Plus Expert at Ethercycle, Chicago’s premiere Shopify partner agency. He helps Shopify merchants, like Jay Leno’s Garage, uncover hidden profits in their websites by developing apps and providing strategy and advisory services. Prior to his work with Ethercycle, Kurt worked as the eCommerce Manager for THMotorsports, an Adjunct Professor at Oakton Community College, and Chief Technology Officer for the Center for Entrepreneurship in Liberal Education in Beloit.

Kurt graduated from Beloit College with a degree in business economics and earned his MBA in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial studies from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He attended The University of Chicago Booth School of Business for a certificate in integrated marketing, where he gained an integrated marketing perspective to help maximize the impact of marketing efforts.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [04:20] Kurt Elster talks about the evolution of shopping tools and accelerated e-commerce adoption
  • [08:59] Why are best practices in e-commerce not realistic?
  • [12:08] How Google Optimize delivers statistically significant results
  • [16:53] Kurt shares the method of split testing for better performance
  • [21:01] How can you increase conversion rates through surveys?
  • [25:10] Why readability is the number one way to increase customer satisfaction
  • [32:04] Kurt explains why people abandon their online cart over shipping rates
  • [37:18] Kurt examines how to optimize landing pages
  • [43:47] Why upgrading a slow website is easier than you think

In this episode…

“Best practice” can have numerous meanings and set up false expectations for entrepreneurs. How can you get the same results with less effort? When your website is the face of your brand, how can you optimize and increase conversion?

Kurt Elster follows his rule of thumb: simplify. Don’t complicate, confuse, or slow down your website when you can optimize and increase conversion rates. By having a traditional landing page with simple, easy-to-read links to your products, consumers can easily navigate on any device and platform — the proof is in the split testing.

Join Joe Valley in this episode of the Quiet Light Podcast as he sits down with Kurt Elster, Host of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast and Senior eCommerce Consultant and Shopify Plus Expert at Ethercycle. Together, they break down why “best practice” is unique for everyone, achieving statistically significant results by increasing readability, and upgrading your website to increase conversion rates.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by MyAmazonGuy, an Amazon agency to help level up your PPC, SEO, Design, and manage your entire Amazon catalog.

This episode is also brought to you by Quiet Light, a brokerage firm that wants to help you successfully sell your online business.

There is no wrong reason for selling your business. However, there is a right time and a right way. The team of leading entrepreneurs at Quiet Light wants to help you discover the right time and strategy for selling your business. By providing trustworthy advice, effective strategies, and honest valuations, your Quiet Light advisor isn’t your every-day broker—they’re your partner and friend through every phase of the exit planning process.

If you’re new to the prospect of buying and selling, Quiet Light is here to support you. Their plethora of top-notch resources will provide everything you need to know about when and how to buy or sell an online business. Quiet Light offers high-quality videos, articles, podcasts, and guides to help you make the best decision for your online business.

Not sure what your business is really worth? No worries. Quiet Light offers a free valuation and marketplace-ready assessment on their website. That’s right—this quick, easy, and free valuation has no strings attached. Knowing the true value of your business has never been easier!

What are you waiting for? Quiet Light is offering the best experience, strategies, and advice to make your exit successful. To learn more, go to, email
[email protected]
, or call 800.746.5034 today.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:07

Hi folks. It’s the Quiet Light Podcast where we share relentlessly honest insights, actionable tips, and entrepreneurial stories that will help founders identify and reach their goals

Joe Valley  0:32

Hey folks, Joe Valley here. Thanks for joining me for another episode of the Quiet Light Podcast. Today’s podcast is sponsored by My Amazon Guy. I know the founder Steven Pope personally, and you’ve seen him all over YouTube sharing free educational content. If you run an Amazon business, you’ve got to check it out. If you need someone to level up your PPC SEO, design and manage your Amazon catalog, check them out at Today’s guest is an expert in all things Shopify. I’m telling you folks, the knowledge bombs that were dropped throughout this podcast were fantastic. Our guest runs a company called ether cycle. His name is Kurt Elster, and it’s absolutely fantastic. None of it though, is rocket science. That’s the key thing here. Everything he talked about is fairly simple. You can implement it on your own store and improve your conversion rate and improve your profit and improve the value of your business. Let’s just jump right into it and go, here we go. Hey, Kurt, welcome to the Quiet Light Podcast. How are you today?

Kurt Elster  1:41

Oh, thank you for having me. You know, it’s a delightful fall day.

Joe Valley  1:46

I can tell because you’ve got a jean jacket on you and you dressed warmly. I’m in North Carolina. So I still have a T shirt on. We’re about to you.

Kurt Elster  1:53

We’re in Chicago, but you know, this time of year potentially I’m either dressed for the weather or fashion sweaty one of the two. You

Joe Valley  1:59

could be wearing. Like a snow suit too, right? I mean, I know it’s only September. This is going to air in October but you ever had snow this early? Probably not. Right? I’m from New

Kurt Elster  2:09

Years ago, we had snow on Halloween.

Joe Valley  2:11

Oh No kidding. Yeah, it

Kurt Elster  2:13

was not great for my toddler who just wanted to go trick or treating.

Joe Valley  2:16

My kids are now in college and yes, we’re going to talk about you and what you do and how you’re gonna help the audience in a second but my kids are in college now. We used to go trick or treating and Main. Just very much like Chicago weather wise and you know, you’d bundle up and it would be nice and kind of kind of okay weather when you go out trick or treating, but by the time you’re done, it’s absolutely freezing. And in 2006 We moved to North Carolina in August and the first time we went out trick or treating it blew my mind kids are out it’s I’m walking around and jeans and a T shirt holding a beer. I’m not cold at all. It was the best Halloween I’ve ever had. So folks if you want to get get your Halloween on move south and stay warm, especially for the kids. It was great. Anyway, Kurt Elster, tell the audience who you are what you do, I know we connected. First a shout out to Ezra Firestone and Blue Ribbon mastermind we connected through that group. They’re nasty, but those that doesn’t make that yes. Do it again. Go ahead. Tech nasty. Oh, man. You can’t tell if he’s has his shirt on or off on that one. Yes, Ezra, I’m calling you out for taking shirt off too much these days. But Kurt, tell us about yourself and what you do.

Kurt Elster  3:34

Sure. I’ve worked in e-commerce. Almost my entire adult life. I’ve been a Shopify partner for the last decade. And we’ve worked exclusively on Shopify stores for probably eight years now. And so we they live, eat breathe e-commerce as a result. And so we host a podcast about e-commerce. And we run a Shopify agency just like a lot of theme development store setup, store migrations, conversion rate optimization, general strategy support. And then additionally, we’ve got a few Shopify apps with of those old one is successful, but it’s like a preorder campaign manager. So with that, I’ve quite a few, quite a bit of experience with what works in growing scaling, operating an e-commerce Store. And truthfully as tools have gotten better over time and I’ve watched it happen, they become more accessible, it creates more competition and things change. And then like when 2020 rolled around, man, that accelerated e-commerce adoption, and then things really changed because now customers are also in they have enough experience where like they are sophisticated in the ways of e-commerce as well. Like often customers are aware of drop shipping. No, I’ve already started I got going on here. Stop there.

Joe Valley  4:54

Keep going. Customers are aware of drop shipping and they don’t like it because it’s gonna take too long. Gotta get the product. Where were you going with that,

Kurt Elster  5:01

though? It’s a. So well, when buying online, I think once you’ve gotten past, like the research phase of, yes, this, I know what I want, this is the thing I want. I want to buy this thing. Now the next step is, Well, who am I going to order it from? Because general have a lot of options. It could be a series of websites, it could be online stores, it could be marketplaces, which a majority of the time that’s going to be Amazon, but not necessarily always. And I think, ultimately, regardless of what you sell, people are going to go with the option where they’re like, this is the one that reduces risk the most. So like the one that feels safest to them. So customers have gotten more sophisticated, and they live through the pandemic and locked down and ship again, they just want to know, when I give you my credit card number am I going to get my stuff? And with with dropshipping, with Amazon with all these things, a lot of people and not necessarily everybody, but a lot feel most comfortable buying direct from the real brand from the manufacturer. There’s this perception that like that, well, they made it, they own it, they have it, I’m gonna get the real thing. Like sometimes you get counterfeit stuff off Amazon, that scary, not always not often, but people know it, it happens it’s in the back of their mind.

Joe Valley  6:20

So the agency and I’m gonna butcher it ether cycle. Okay, so that’s the agency and your Shopify partner, what the heck does that mean? Is? Is it easy to get that label? Does it make you you know, super important? Are you just like everybody else helped me out with that.

Kurt Elster  6:37

So there’s there are levels to being a Shopify partner. I think, last I checked it, anybody could just join could become a Shopify partner in which they go, Hey, here’s resources, here’s tools, like you could fire up a dev store is not going to cost you anything. They’re saying, Come play in our sandbox, right? So I believe anyone could just go try it become a Shopify partner, at which point, then you can create and submit an app, submit a theme, or if you’ve done a few stores, you can like fill out an application and become a Shopify expert. And I like that’s any of those would be very exciting. Truthfully, themes is the hardest one to get a theme in the Theme Store. That would, they’re just extremely selective. I think apps is probably the easiest, because in that process, they’re like, Hey, here’s what we want to see. Here’s what you need to change, like the expectations are made very clear. And then for being a Shopify expert, where they say, alright, we we know this person has experience and a good reputation. Now, I don’t know what you got to do to get that these days. It’s tough. Like there’s a shop for experts directory catching on top of that, keep

Joe Valley  7:43

hitting the Ezra Firestone button there because he’s always wearing Shopify, you know, clothing when he’s online, he must have some special deal with them. Is he is he one of their experts?

Kurt Elster  7:55

No, I he’s. I believe he’s an affiliate partner. Okay. Fair enough, because he uses them for what uses Shopify for all of his his e-commerce stuff like we built his overtone haircare, we built the theme that that runs on Shopify, it was already on Shopify was headless. And then in January we designed and developed

Joe Valley  8:16

this is this is not the end of the show, but overtone haircare. Is that one of his products. Yeah, yeah, he bought that.

Kurt Elster  8:23

I didn’t know. It’s like it’s conditioning hair dye

Joe Valley  8:28

conditioning for the man bond.

Kurt Elster  8:31

You know, I you know, I don’t think he’s dyeing his hair quite yet. Maybe. Maybe. But yeah. It’s like hair dye and conditioner all in one.

Joe Valley  8:39

Okay. All right. Maybe I need to buy that myself. For those for those watches for men. Yeah. For those watching. Instead of listening. You’re going Yeah, that’s right. You know, you should. Anyway, Kurt, what do you guys specialize in Eddie’s like, I know that you did a presentation about split testing. But you do a lot more than that, where you guys specialize

Kurt Elster  8:57

it? So certainly I I would like to think that the theme design and development is our core competency. I really feel like that’s the thing we’re best at. And in doing that. There’s a dangerous word that gets thrown around BP best practices, where there’s always someone on social media yelling like this is best practice. That’s bad practice, or somebody’s publishing studies like this. I don’t think best practices in e-commerce are particularly a realistic thing. In fact, I think they’re kind of dangerous,

Joe Valley  9:28

wouldn’t it last like three days and then something changes?

Kurt Elster  9:32

There’s so much that could change. And I think more importantly, the audience for an e-commerce site can be wildly different. The like, I can go online, I can buy a I can have a crate motor for $10,000 shipped from Ford to my house, that’s e-commerce. I can also go online and buy shapewear for 30 bucks, right? That’s e-commerce, totally different audiences, every 100% of all of that changes other than the fact that a transaction occurred on the internet. And so to say like, well, this is best practice. I think it’s just a wildly irresponsible way to go about things when like we’re saying, like best practice for who best practice for Best Buy, or best practice for the guy who’s selling print on demand T shirts. That’s my issue with it. Is it like just kind of sets up this false expectation of, we’ll just do what the experts say, who are winging it. And you’ll be okay. I think you’ve got to if you can, and everybody can, I think you have to test as much as is reasonable.

Joe Valley  10:30

Okay, well, what’s reasonable? Big question, right? And how do you test how do you decide what to test? There’s, there’s so much to do. And I’ve said this on the podcast before I thought I knew my customer best back when I was running my e-commerce store. And my developer, I didn’t have an agency, I guess he was an agency at the same time. He finally, you know, convinced me to do split testing. And turns out, I was actually wrong every time and I was hurting. When I thought I knew my customer best. So

Kurt Elster  10:56

that’s the best situation, guys, you you just uncovered some hidden profits and like loose change lost in the couch every time you have a test where like you were wrong. And the alternate is better.

Joe Valley  11:06

Every single time. His name is David Addison, and he was right that I should do split testing. He never lets me live that down anyway. So like, there are no best practices for it. But how do you decide? You know where to start? I mean, there’s so much on every page, where do you go? How do you begin a low,

Kurt Elster  11:24

the low tech counterintuitive thing, because the issue with split testing is you have to have a ton of traffic traffic. And in addition to that, you have to have a ton of transactions, and you need to be able to figure out how to work Google optimized, which is free and not that hard. I swear to God, this is not that tough. Okay, technically.

Joe Valley  11:42

So we’re not talking about the platform like Amazon, we’re talking about your own storefront, let’s call it Shopify, in this case, and what’s a ton of traffic.

Kurt Elster  11:54

And I think like a really, realistically, we need to be minimum 15,000 20,000 visitors a month, is where you’re going to start to be able to do this, and you but even with that, like you can only run so many tests, before you’re gonna get statistically significant results. And like tools like Google optimized now will try and save you from yourself from making mistakes around like, hey, this isn’t you need to let this test run longer, because none of this is accurate yet,

Joe Valley  12:22

right? I was gonna say if you’ve got a lower volume of visitors on a monthly basis, Does that just mean you have to? If you’ve got, you know, 70 570, instead of 15 15,000? Does that mean you have to run the test twice as long? Or is it still not a useful test?

Kurt Elster  12:35

You have? Well, 100%, you’d have to run longer, but then like it starts to introduce other variables to it. Right? That’s how I think like minimum, you got to run it for two weeks, regardless of the level of traffic. Because think about this, people get paid usually get paid on Friday, every other week. And so whether or not a test fell on a situation where it had two Fridays, versus one like that can actually swing it that can make a big difference depending on what the test is

Joe Valley  13:03

to make sure you don’t life is not that complicated. This is something I was like, I’ve never thought of that. It’s never occurred to me, I’ve been self employed since 1997. And it never occurred to me that I need to let it run through people’s pay

Kurt Elster  13:18

periods. And again, this is where audience matters. So like, it’s so hard, we saw that effect, really, really impact sales on a store that sold jewelry, it sold moderate jewelry, it was not costume jewelry, it was not like designer it was right in the middle. And that those pay periods had an absolute effect on the store sales. Versus we also worked on a store that sold premium linens, including, like personal shoppers for celebrities sent the stuff to houses in the Hollywood Hills, like that was the difference in market here. That store, you can graph their daily conversion rate date, like all their their KPIs, you could graph that and it would track with how the stock exchange had performed that day. Totally different markets. Like if I’m spending hundreds of dollars on linens for a guest bedroom. That’s very different, right? Than what, how a lot of stores are selling. And so when you hear those best practices, like that’s totally different things, different audiences a different places differently, etc. And so that’s kind of what drives me nuts about it. Ultimately, like what’s the thing that’s changing here? Really, it’s the audience, the people, right? That’s the thing like I hate the phrase consumer, it makes it sound like locusts, their people, your person, your your customers are people. I think the place to start to learn what you should do to figure out what those bad best practices are. Get your customers on the phone. No one wants to do this. And I get it. It’s weird. And like I’m a millennial. I know. If the phone rings like we go hide in the closet that’s terrifying. And God helped me if someone leaves me a voicemail, I

Joe Valley  14:58

just snap protects your customer. Just kidding, I did it. I did it. And I learned an awful lot during the last downturn in the economy in 2008, nine and 10. And I had a subscription program, and people were just canceling. And so I pick up the phone call and see if it was the product. If it was the service, if it was something else, and you know what I learned, they were just doing it to tighten the belt, the one that stands out the most is No, I haven’t lost my job, but my neighbor did. And therefore interest canceling my subscription. Sometimes you’ll learn that you just can’t do too much about anything. So yeah, pick up the phone call that’s interesting, is the

Kurt Elster  15:36

easiest way to do it is you go Alright, who bought in the last 30 days, or like maybe six weeks, and you go, alright, like, I could filter it pretty easily. Like I just want give me all the ones that were paid and delivered and didn’t get refunded. And then email those people, I go, Hey, I’ll give you a $50 gift card, if you’ll just talk to me for 30 minutes about your experience, because I just I want to make a better product better store, I just want to talk to you, it’s my brand, I’d love to hear from real customers, you’re getting something very genuine, where you’re gonna also give them the reward, you’ve given them a reason to spend their time with you. And then out of that, you’re really only getting like, if I reached out to 50, I’m lucky if I get three to five, who actually show up to the call. But that’s all you need, right to be able to develop insights, like you just did with that with your subscription program, as opposed to like guessing or going like, I’m my best customers. So whatever I say goes, when you’re starting out, that’s the best way to do it. But later, you’ve got the call, you have the resource. So talk to those people. And like once you’ve talked to five, well, maybe there’s something that all four of them said, Oh, well, the thing they’re suggesting to me is probably the best practice. Now let’s implement that. And then can we test it? Can we see if that makes a difference? Ideally, split test it. But if not, you could try and do the totally not scientific method of try it both ways for two weeks back to back and see which performs better.

Joe Valley  16:58

So sending out a survey would not work, you got to pick up the phone and call them and you’ve got you’ve got potentially a huge list of customers, can you ask those same questions can get similar results with less effort? By sending out a survey? Do you think you’re not going to get the survey responses?

Kurt Elster  17:15

I think you do it both ways. I like it both ways. And if I like your apps, I don’t want to give people the out of like, all right, you could just do the survey, not talk to him on the phone. Just because getting the people on the phone is so unbelievably valuable to be able to like talk in real time. And you know, the people you do talk to especially if like you’re doing it as the brand owner, often they will become brand advocates. And so there’s some some extra bonus effects there. But we’ve had tremendous insights by doing surveys with people and just asking them like, Hey, would you buy from us again? If we disappeared next week? Who else would you buy from and like, Oh, now, like, you’ll see a list of your competitors. So I do love doing the mass survey as well, where we just go, alright, let’s just email everybody from the last 180 days who made a purchase, send them to a survey form. And then at the end of the survey form it spits out like here’s a one time use coupon code for you.

Joe Valley  18:09

Yeah, I don’t. I asked knowing what the answer was. I don’t think it’s one or the other. I think it’s both and I personally love the pickup the phone and call Of course. I’m not a millennial. I don’t think what I looked at this yesterday, Kurt is kind of fun.

Kurt Elster  18:24

A geriatric millennial Are you like right over the cost?

Joe Valley  18:27

I think maybe I am because I was born in 65. Yes, people I was born in 65. I think I’m the very, very last year that I could be considered. Gen Z and Millennial. I don’t know. Okay, now I’m sorry to sound like an idiot. It was yesterday that I looked at this and today I cannot remember.

Kurt Elster  18:43

I think I will make you Gen X that that’s Yeah, I think you’re right. Yes. Sounds way cooler than millennial. I

Joe Valley  18:49

thank you. I think my son, you’re right. My kids are millennials that’s born 1985. And after I think maybe No, I guess

Kurt Elster  18:57

at I’m 83. So maybe I didn’t make the cut. Oh, no,

Joe Valley  19:02

I’ll just stop. I’ll just stop. Let’s move on. Let’s move on.

Kurt Elster  19:06

I want to do another 20 minutes on which generation is best.

Joe Valley  19:10

Somebody send me an email straight me out. Let me know. It’s funny. You know, we were we were on a group call the other day. And with all of our advisors, we’ve got 15 advisors on the team now. And a couple are, you know, younger than me, everybody’s younger than me on the team. But somebody said something about, you know, we did something in 2010 It’s actually when Jason sold my business back in 2010. And one of the advisors I’m not going to name names said, Damn, I was in high school in 2010. And that just made us all feel very old and made us think he was very young. But you know, he’s, he sold the business for seven figures by the time he was 28. So he’s he’s fine. He’s fine. Anyway, yeah, good problem to have pants and I bet you he knows all about split testing and doing it right All right, so we want to definitely test for more than two weeks, we want to pick up the phone and call the customer if we can. That’s the best way to get the test ideas, test ideas, first pick up the phone call, and then test for two weeks. But what are we testing? We’re testing new products, we testing new language. I mean, you gotta get new language from the customer, right? How do we know where to go?

Kurt Elster  20:19

So that when you when you do the survey, the like the wide survey, the incredible thing that often comes out of that is like key phrases. And the best converting headlines, body copy bullet points that we’ve ever produced. And that’s a really easy thing to split test and Google Optimize. It’s like all point collectors no code, is to find these, like nuggets of headlines. And let’s say you’re brand new, you don’t have you can’t send out a survey, I’ll go through people’s reviews for like really similar products. And you’ll be able to find great poll quotes that way that you can turn into headlines. So I like that a lot. And truthfully, on conversion rate, that’s like, just that copy. Split testing is some of the absolute biggest wins we’ve ever had, especially when we pull them from surveys, because how customers talk about products, not necessarily how you talk about products. And so it’s nice to be able to pull that in.

Joe Valley  21:17

Are you are you doing multiple choice? Are you giving them the headlines? Or are you allowing them to add in other when you’re asking them about headlines?

Kurt Elster  21:27

Now in the survey, we would just go very, I like all general questions, for the most part, just open ended. And then I’ll run through that. And I’ll try and I’ll run it through a text tool where I can find like, give me every five words, find every five word phrase in this thing, and then sort them by frequency. And then suddenly, you’ll see if you get really lucky like a key, you’ll discover like, oh, there’s this like three word phrase, this five word phrase that 25 People use to describe our product. Oh, okay. That means I should definitely give that a shot, like work that into a headline,

Joe Valley  22:04

what is that text tool?

Kurt Elster  22:06

is the worst part, I think it’s text mechanic is to verify it

Joe Valley  22:11

text mechanic to be verified? Is this something you do for all of your clients that either cycle? Or do you do for your own products? Do you just recommend to them how to do it? Do you guide them? Coach them? How’s it work?

Kurt Elster  22:24

ever come men to everybody do it we perform. But we can conduct those things for people. Most people that aren’t necessarily interested, don’t want to do the work, don’t see the value in it. And it’s like, it’s just such low hanging fruit as

Joe Valley  22:43

math. Right? Yeah,

Kurt Elster  22:45

there’s not a like it really, really is not difficult to do to set up a survey and send it out. Like you have all the tools, you’ve done all these individual things before it’s just constructing in a different way.

Joe Valley  22:56

It’s a shame. It’s a shame that, you know, it’s it’s clear math and numbers that they could increase profit by doing some of these things, but they don’t want to do the work. How can I guess it’s not your job to convince them otherwise, right to do it. There’s so many things, I think entrepreneurs and myself included when I was an e-commerce entrepreneur, and today running quiet light, there are things that I can do and should do. And I do follow my advice most of the time. In terms of always, in my case, I’m always telling people to train for their exit, and I do that I know my numbers, and I know what my business is worth, and I guide the business towards an eventual exit someday, probably to our team. But why do you think people don’t make the effort when you can see clearly that if you can increase your conversion rate by 2%? That it’s going to add X amount to your bottom line? What’s What’s the issue? Are we all just too busy to focus on gross revenue or

Kurt Elster  23:56

what? I think we all we all have our blind spots. And we all fall victim to letting like more immediate pressing needs or more immediate gratification, like winds take precedence. I think it’s just a matter of like the squeaky wheel. There’s no one clamoring to be like, send me a survey, please send me a survey. I want to fill it out so bad like that. You don’t have that. But you do have like, you know, people call in and be like, where’s my order? Where’s my stuff? You know, we got to solve for that. Hey, we then it’s like shiny toy syndrome. Like there’s nothing sexy about sending out a survey or calling people on the phone. Nothing at all. It’s a chore. No one wants to do it. But then you hear like, social media is always like, here’s a screenshot of like how I made $100 million in one day because I just installed this one app right course and that stuff always ends up being stealing your attention.

Joe Valley  24:48

Yeah, let’s let’s talk about something simple that everybody can do. Is there a particular font that should be used on your website versus another? Okay,

Kurt Elster  24:57

so we talked about like, copying content was really realistically, what’s the greatest conversion rate hack? Like it’s not design, it’s not layout, that stuff is nice, but it’s set. It’s window dressing, versus the content is really like the thing that makes or breaks you. But I gotta be able to read the content. Readability by far, is like one of the most important things to get right. Even in terms of accessibility. Like if you’re set. The issue is brand owners, especially if you’re in like fashion apparel, as designers we go subtle and sophisticated. And so we’ve got like, Alright, I got my 12 point font, it’s in light gray, and it’s on a dark grey background. And we hope someone can read that. And you know what, it’s a challenge because we’re edgy, well, then they’re not going to they’re going to your biggest competitors, Google, they’re just gonna go back and go to somebody else. And so I the, in the web’s like 95% text, and you gotta read products and headlines and descriptions and all that stuff. And so if you just make the site easy to read, that’s like, the number one immediate conversion rate when I always start with when like, refreshing a site, like minimum 16 Point body font. The make sure it’s, you know, nice, nice high contrast. So I’ll do like printers, Black 333, the hex code on a white background, you know, fff bpfi, that kind of thing. It’s just like, give me black text on a white background, and make it big enough. And then you want to get fancier, you can start fiddling with line height, in schools to be like, Ah, I’m gonna write a 10 page paper, unless I use my friend double space, right? Like you actually want, right? The margins are 1.5 spacing, and you want to shrink the margins. Like if you’ve ever read, everybody’s seen a newspaper, I assume. It’s got really narrow columns, there’ll be like three to five words in a column. Yeah, that’s really easy to read. There’s a reason why we we read like that. And then when you go on, like an e-commerce website, there are called the text has to go edge to edge. And so it’s like on a 30 inch monitor, you’re reading this giant line, no one’s doing it. No one reads on the internet, I wouldn’t say hard to read.

Joe Valley  26:58

Yeah. And when I looked at your site this morning for a call, it reminded me of a buddy of mine site, and he is a designer, and I can see that you’re involved in this a little bit as well. So I would encourage people, and I’m not, again, this is not a pitch podcast, but I’d encourage people to go to ether and just look and go. And strangely enough, when I opened up your site this morning, I actually started to read the content. Uh huh. Yeah, imagine that. The other one is It’s literally my roommate from my freshman year of college on we’re still friends today. And he’s an incredible designer, working for high, well known names, well known names, putting stuff in target. And there’s who’s the Midwest, the Midwest woman that is very much like Martha Stewart, can I think of her name? Did all the

Kurt Elster  27:56

cheese in the dead center of the Midwest? And I don’t know you are.

Joe Valley  28:00

I can’t think of her name anyway, or To get a really good example of how the content pops. Both of them are fantastic.

Kurt Elster  28:09

Yeah, this pop kitchen, he really has a great sense of typography. I’m like a big, big type nerd. Like I just want to go back and do letterpress and mate start printing out Gutenberg Bibles is the kind of typography shenanigans I want to get into. But when you make stuff easy to read, and you treat a webpage, like a magazine layout, it really performs much better, regardless of audience, regardless of product and offer, just make the darn thing easy to read is step one.

Joe Valley  28:38

Yeah, imagine that. Again, some of these things are not hard. But maybe it goes back to everyone trying to look up and follow best practices, maybe, but we’re talking about some basic stuff, make it easy to read, but never be fancier pretty make it easy to read. Call your customer and have a conversation with, right. This is how you and I are getting to know each other right? We’re talking on a podcast next time I see you, I’ll know you more, versus just sending an email or text back and forth, not real complicated stuff. So make it easy to read any other tricks there. There’s no there’s not any particular font or anything like that, or you just named a few but there’s nothing else.

Kurt Elster  29:15

That’s probably well like as people worry about site performance. And one of the things that really impacts the Google core what vitals which is like the six KPIs they use to determine if your site is slow or fast according to Google engineer locked up somewhere. They’ll a loading a, an external font, as opposed to just like a regular system font really slows down one of those KPIs. And so an easy thing to do if you want to make the site easy to read oftentimes, is not load Google Fonts. Like I all my sites use Google Fonts. I love it. Like I want the look. But if we want to be realistic about performance, dump the fonts.

Joe Valley  29:56

So where do you how do you pick a not Google font? Where do you get Um, what are you talking about this is I’m not a designer help me out,

Kurt Elster  30:02

okay? All computers, Mac, Our windows have like a handful of fonts, you have a pretty good idea are going to be installed, it’s like airy over Donna times new roman Georgia, if you just stick to those, they always look great. They render write no always work, you don’t have to have this big load because the font is fairly big. It’s like loading a large image. And then the browser has to render it, and it’s harder for it to render than a, than a photo. So using the system fonts, just like those, those classic fonts really helps. There’s a website, CSS font stack, that will tell that will give you like, you’re like, I want this and I’ll be like, Okay, here’s like the stack to use. And it’ll give you, you know, like, here’s five fonts that will work, you know, 98% of devices.

Joe Valley  30:49

Okay, I don’t know what the hell it means this is this is the stack to use, but I’ll just, I’ll skim right over that.

Kurt Elster  30:56

One, pass that info onto your developer friend. Okay, thank

Joe Valley  30:59

you. Thank you. There’s, there’s one thing that as a consumer as a person, when my wife and I are shopping, that sometimes we like, and sometimes it just pisses us off. And Edie has that is, if you spend x amount of dollars, we’ll give you free shipping $5, and I’m at even even on Amazon sometimes now when I’m up, I’m a prime customer, I feel like if I spend a little bit more, I’m going to get it a little bit quicker. And it. I always need stuff like we used to joke in our house. But we needed that. Right? So Amazon shows up every day, we need that. But does it hurt from a conversion rate standpoint to play those little tricks that are so obvious to the customer, that you’re just trying to increase the average ticket, and then you pay for the shipping?

Kurt Elster  31:49

I think 10 years ago, like the prevailing wisdom, even now is the number one reason people abandon checkout is unexpected shipping expense. I think in a post a post 2020 world, that expectation around you have to have free shipping has gone away. Because everyone with e-commerce experience understands I’m paying for the shipping either way, it’s just Did you bake that into the product or not? And so this I really wanted to I wanted to figure out I wanted to play with. And so we ran split testing shipping rates, it is fairly difficult, I could not figure out a good way to do this with Google Optimize. In the Shopify universe. There’s two tools I found that’ll do it ship scout and intelligence. There may be others. But they’re like two apps that will specifically do this one thing they will test shipping rate thresholds for you. And using that we tested different thresholds and like free shipping on everything versus no free shipping versus 2575, etc. And like, obviously, this changes is another one where no best practice. But what was interesting was we found as you lowered the shipping threshold, certainly, checkout conversion rate did go up. But no, but it was like marginal differences were nowhere near as huge as one would have thought. And so once you start to factor in profit, which these apps could do, like if you know my to pick pack and ship an order typically cost me $7 $8, you could put that cost in. And now it’s going to start calculating average profit per order using that. And what we discovered was your free shipping threshold should probably go way higher than you think once you factor in profit, like you’ll end yet, you may lose a few sales, but you’ll end up more profitable overall. Now this is a tougher one, because there’s so many factors like you really need to test this one for yourself. But for sure, I think like as a rule of thumb, I would take your average order value tack on 20%. to that. And that should be your free shipping threshold. And then if you want to get fancy, and you’re on if you’re on Shopify Plus certainly go grab one of these tools and and try to test it to figure out the ideal threshold.

Joe Valley  34:08

So very confusing. Obviously, there’s so many factors in there and you can’t cover them all. I mean, if I sell something for $300 versus $30, that’s gonna be a big difference in terms of whether I choose to charge shipping or not.

Kurt Elster  34:21

Yeah, at this point, I like until I’ve, I’ve sat down with a spreadsheet and two weeks of data. I feel like I’m just making a best guess.

Joe Valley  34:29

Yeah, yeah. What other things you know, are really standout easy things that people can do on their Shopify store to improve conversion rate.

Kurt Elster  34:39

This is one that’s always controversial when I bring it up. Okay, when you land on any website, like just about anything, there’s that big, beautiful hero image. Sometimes it’s even a video that’s like the first thing that loads at the top of the page. And, like the homepage 100% I’ll have that in e-commerce. A category collection page will probably Have it product pages generally won’t. The funny thing about it is we split tested this. And every single site, when we got rid of the banner on the collection page perform better, I thought, and I love the way those banners look. So I’m like, let’s try this again, maybe it’s mobile versus desktop. Same deal always performs better without maybe it’s new versus returning customer Same deal always performs better without it. And the the hypothesis, the theory here is pretty simple. The banner is just shoving the products down the page. So if you get the products above the top to the top of the page sooner, people are more likely to scroll and browse and therefore more likely to buy. The same goes on your homepage, like I swear to God, the best homepage should just go head like here’s the value proposition. Here is a feature product or a featured collection, and then just let them scroll through it and decide if they’re going to buy or not.

Joe Valley  35:53

So I had to go and look at certain sites, you know, so I’m turning my head over here because I’m looking at the other monitor. And because we talked about Ezra right, and can you hit the button again? Oh, of course, check nasty. Tech nasty, okay. I went to boom by Cindy Joseph, just to see if Ezra who’s I mean, amazing at e-commerce and what he does. And lo and behold, the last thing you said, it’s right there. There’s a new fun, natural, no makeup look button right there. And you can sort of see some of the products and all that good stuff. It’s interesting, you know, at, where I sell the book, and whatnot. I’ve removed the big headline. And first thing my developer said, Oh, nacelle, you gotta you gotta put that big headline back in there. Now, look, I’m just promoting a book, it’s a very different thing than a product. Even looking at the quiet light site was like, What is it, we’re doing the same thing. We don’t have a whole lot above the fold there. We’ve got one thing we want people to do, which is get your free valuation on the homepage. So I think we’re doing okay, there. But there’s a lot of space, like there that one of the best practices, Once Upon a Time was lots of whitespace. I feel like now that I’m looking at my site, we’re stuck in that best practices phase, would you agree?

Kurt Elster  37:18

Which one exitpreneurs?

Joe Valley  37:19

No, Don’t even look at exitpreneurs being redesigned. Everybody should go and everybody else should go. Oh, thank you very much. Appreciate it simple. Quiet, light, calm. Look how much whitespace there is. Yay or Nay. There’s one button, we want people to get a valuation. This is a lead generating business, right?

Kurt Elster  37:37

Yes. And so what I would do, if we really want to go ham on the lead generation, you go, you make what’s called a captive site. So like more traditional landing page. So on this site, if you just for only the homepage, if you just remove that main menu at the top, sell, buy, learn about success. Now suddenly, I got to one option, and it’s click free valuation. And so you just that immediately, you’ll get more people to do it. It’s also an easy one to split test.

Joe Valley  38:04

I guess all the buyers would have a problem with that though, because they want to buy a business and they go to the Bikepark. See, so you’d have to

Kurt Elster  38:11

have like you could do like a text button like a text link underneath Get Your FREE valuation be like oh, you’re looking to buy click here. And so now it’s like a choose your own adventure with just two things. This is another one like people in I’m not saying your main menu is screwed up. But in e-commerce, like I think

Joe Valley  38:30

if it was just for the record, I’d be okay with you saying that.

Kurt Elster  38:35

Now now, now the, in econ, like we’ll see, you go in like a Shopify store. And you’ll the main menu will be like shop and everything is jammed underneath that. And then there’s like 10 more legs that’s like, blog about FA it. The important part is the shopping and you buried it under four little characters in this like big flyout menu. And but if I go to like Amazon, or any of the big box stores, you look at the main menu, show me one in which a single thing in the main menu does not go to a product or category page. And so like that’s the optimization. That’s an easy one. Everybody misses this. It’s just like point and click Change navigation. Don’t have to mess with code. It’s such an easy one.

Joe Valley  39:18

Yeah, just [email protected] and it’s also very, very simple. It’s not complicated. I feel like that’s the theme here right now. Everything you’re saying is just simple and logical. It’s not rocket science, but people don’t do it.

Kurt Elster  39:33

Now I want to my goal is always not to complicate it. complicating things is how things break right? complex things are more prone to failure. A your your conversion funnel is it’s a process and so when you can simplify it and kick get rid of friction, get rid of issues, stumbling blocks confusion, wow, lo and behold, the whole thing performs better. Well additionally, managing the site as the business owner also becomes was easier. Everything in your life gets easier when you focus on simplicity. And you can mix in a little bit of automation in there, which is not simple. But the end result ends up being simplifying things.

Joe Valley  40:13

Let’s complicate it with this question. Browsing History. I see it. I’m not sure. I mean, I understand the algorithm pulls up what I’ve looked at, and things of that nature, if I’ve been on a site, but is this something that can be controlled in any way by the site owner?

Kurt Elster  40:34

Oh, you’d be like, so I’ll go on Amazon. And they’ll be like, Hey, here’s your recently viewed items. Remember when you were looking at that thing two weeks ago?

Joe Valley  40:41

Right? Can you tell that’s a Shopify store, too? Yeah,

Kurt Elster  40:45

so a lot of Shopify themes can just produce a recently viewed items list like it’s built in. And if it’s not adding, it is not difficult. The recently viewed items widget, like I earlier said, designers like subtle, subtle, sophisticated, when I’m honest, and now I’m saying like, Hey, we got to simplify it by everything. So when I’m on a site, and I’m like coming up with split tests, really, a lot of my split testing is just like me looking for to justify being able to get rid of stuff, I gotta get rid of those recently viewed items, definitely one of those things that I want to get rid of, unfortunately, when I split tested this one, in it, it was a net win. Whereas if I had the recently viewed items on a cart page, I think that’s a good spot to put it. You had an like a cart page or the end of a product page. The site always perform better. And it makes sense like, oh, yeah, this was the thing I was looking at two weeks ago,

Joe Valley  41:37

it’d be like, Oh, thank you. Now I don’t have to shop for that. It’s right there appreciate Yeah, I’ll spend more money.

Kurt Elster  41:41

But when when a test doesn’t go my way, when it does the thing, I don’t want

Joe Valley  41:46

to see results in lie to your people.

Kurt Elster  41:49

No, no. Would that be tough? But no. The I’ll, I’ll start running it as segments where it’s like, Okay, is there a further optimization here? Like this is the result different mobile versus desktop, and the new versus returning customers with a recently viewed items, which it was interesting, when I showed it to new customers, they it had a negative effect. And so it’s like it probably because it’s on at that point it is it’s a distraction, right. They’ve been on the site for minutes. And this thing’s like remember that stuff you were looking at 30 seconds ago. So it didn’t help. But if I’m a Returning Visitor, whoa, oh, yeah. Hey, this little helpful widget. That’s the thing I was looking for. Thanks, buddy. Isn’t that comes helpful.

Joe Valley  42:30

That’s a widget issue. Can’t the widget say don’t pull up anything unless it was 12 hours ago? Or is there a time period there?

Kurt Elster  42:38

You know, it depends on the platform. And like if you’re using an app to implement it for me, I Google Optimize, in addition to be able to do split tests, you can also have a do personalization, where it’s essentially like the same technology, but it goes, Oh, this is a new person to the site. Alright, we’ll hide that element. Oh, you’re a returning visitor. Okay, we’re not going to do anything. So I’ll use Google, the personalization feature in Google Optimize to implement stuff like that. If you can’t, like, ideally, I could do it, you know, in whatever, like, widget is running. But if you can’t do that, Google Optimize will do it for you.

Joe Valley  43:13

And this is a stupid question, because I think the answer is yes. But Google, Google optimized can not just only work with Shopify can work on all sorts platforms, WordPress, so on and so forth.

Kurt Elster  43:23

If you can run Google Analytics, or Google Tag Manager on your site, you can use Google Optimize.

Joe Valley  43:28

Okay, good. I wonder if we’ve ever used it? Probably not. All right. Okay. Any other knowledge bombs you want to drop before we finish up? Hmm,

Kurt Elster  43:43

I will say I think I think a lot of people worry about is my site slow? You know what the answer is? Probably yes. And also, it does not matter or cost you nearly what you think it does. Like we have several stores that are into eight figures. And also, Google is like, this is so slow. We don’t even think anyone on the internet’s ever loaded it before. Oh, then how did it make $20 million this year, my friends. Now with that site perform better with a faster site. Maybe the tough part in e-commerce is like, they are really complex sites that use a lot of JavaScript. And that’s the thing that kind of chews through your your Google Pagespeed score, but I put his like, a faster site doesn’t hurt a slow site doesn’t help. But it is not nearly the detrimental thing that it’s been made out to be. I would

Joe Valley  44:37

think that most people today would think that it’s their own internet service that’s causing the site to load slow. I could be wrong. That’s the first thing I would think I’m like, dammit, the wireless in the house over this spot is so slow. I need to move by the time I move. It’s loaded and it’s good. I can shop on that site.

Kurt Elster  44:55

I always do this move I like just turn airplane mode on and off. Like that’s like my mini reset. Just like Alright, let’s just reconnect everything.

Joe Valley  45:02

That’s it. That’s, that’s really the knowledge bomb right there.

Kurt Elster  45:06

You know, sometimes it works, too.

Joe Valley  45:08

So those two, you know, you said, we’ve got two eight figure stores and they split the load really slowly. Are those your clients? Are those yours?

Kurt Elster  45:17

No, I do I personally do not have have an e-commerce Store.

Joe Valley  45:21

It’d be a conflict at this point, I would say, unless you, well, maybe not.

Kurt Elster  45:25

years ago, like we years ago, we tried. We had some false starts. But you know, so it’s so time consuming. It was like attention splitting. So you got to commit to well, art, what are we doing here? We’re going to help clients and and build an agency and software? Are we going to try and build an e-commerce Store? Like you? It’s really not a thing you can have asked.

Joe Valley  45:47

So not half assing at the agency. Again, your specialty is what I mean, you talked about a whole bunch of different stuff here. specialty is what

Kurt Elster  45:57

Shopify theme development and conversion rate optimization.

Joe Valley  46:01

Okay, so we talked to all about conversion rate optimization, not a whole lot about Shopify theme development in 60 seconds, what the heck is that?

Kurt Elster  46:10

So, with Shopify themes, I would say your people really get hung up on like, what’s the right theme for x? At this point, if you’re installing a new theme from the Shopify Theme Store, there really is not a wrong choice. They’re all going to be online store 2.0 themes, which means they got all the features all the bells and whistles. And if it’s a paid theme, it’s probably fantastic. You know, I don’t think there’s a bad one in there. Just pick the one that is closest to the layout and look you want and then it is not tough to customize them from there.

Joe Valley  46:39

Cool. Awesome. And the podcast, you’ve got like 2 million downloads on your podcast, I think, is that right? And what is the name of the podcast and what the heck you’re talking about?

Kurt Elster  46:49

The Unofficial Shopify Podcast, mostly what we we talk all Shopify, we mostly interview Shopify merchants and some sub Shopify partners. Like we had a lovely woman, Elaine from Quiet Light on the podcast a few months ago. And the but yeah, you’re right. We hit 2 million downloads this summer. And really, that’s brute force. I’ve been doing it eight years and over 400 episodes.

Joe Valley  47:13

That’s a lot. I think we hit 10,000 downloads last month, which is, you know, good for us. We’re happy, tiny little niche. We’re good. That’s a lot of downloads. The unofficial Shopify podcast, right, that’s right. Awesome. And URL again, Check it out, folks. Kurt, thank you so much for all the time you spent with us today for having Elaine on the podcast for having that Ezra Firestone button that just takes it over.

Kurt Elster  47:45

Yeah, well. That’s too nice.

Joe Valley  47:49

Thank you. Alright, man, I appreciate it. We’ll talk soon. Okay.

Outro  47:55

today’s podcast was produced by Rise25, and the Quiet Light content team. If you have a suggestion for a future podcast, subject or guest, email us at podcast at Be sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.

Thinking of Selling Now or Later?

Get your free valuation & marketplace-readiness assessment. We’ll never push you to sell. And we’ll always be honest about whether or not selling is the right choice for you.