What is Shopify?

Before we begin, let’s give you a quick summary of Shopify itself. Shopify is a hosted e-commerce platform and its primary purpose is to allow you to sell products online. If you imagine a traditional e-commerce website, you’ll be thinking of the Shopify model.


Throughout this article, we’ll be comparing Shopify to other e-commerce platforms. The current market leader is WooCommerce, followed by Magento. Both are good at what they do, but all three have very different offerings, so it’s important to understand the differences and limitations.


Let’s start with hosting. An often after-thought when building a website. If you had a brick and mortar store on the high street you can think of hosting like rent for the building. The more traffic or footfall you get, the more expensive it is. Equally, the larger the store or website, the more expensive it is. You’ll also need to ensure your store is safe, which is where hosting is important.

When working with WooCommerce and Magento you’ll need to factor in hosting costs. Generally, you’ll find that Magento requires a substantial investment to keep your store online, this is partially due to the complex structure used to house its database. You can find more cost-effective hosting for WooCommerce, but security is a serious concern because it’s a plugin for WordPress.

Shopify differs quite drastically here. A Shopify subscription covers both your online store and your hosting. Beyond plugins and payment gateways, there are no additional costs beyond the standard subscription to keep the store online.

For anyone who has run a successful online store, you’ll understand how much of an advantage this is. The nature of running an online store means you get peaks and troughs of traffic throughout the year. A perfect example of this is the infamous Black Friday sale. Last year, online retailers in the UK alone took £1.5bn in sales in one day on Black Friday. That doesn’t take into account the increase in spending on the days before and after the big day itself, including Cyber Monday.

A traditional hosting setup would simply fail with a huge influx in traffic like this, but because Shopify hosts thousands of sites, their infrastructure is built to cope with these enormous peaks.

GymShark, a large gym-wear brand, experienced this first hand. Their Magento site experienced a huge spike in traffic which lead to it going offline for the peak parts of Black Friday. It’s reported to have lost them close to $150,000 in sales, plus countless unhappy customers taking to social media. There were also reports of money being taken but customers did not receive confirmation emails and there were no thank you pages, just errors and unhappy faces.

Disaster Recovery

On a similar note is disaster recovery. When we speak about disaster recovery, we’re often talking about what would happen in the event of a catastrophic failure with your website. Often, these are referred to as ‘acts of God’ such as hurricanes wiping out a data centre, or a tsunami taking out your server. However, issues at data centres do happen and are not usually because of natural disasters. In 2017 there was a huge outage caused by someone mistyping a command, and sometimes entire data centres can have power issues.

So, what happens when your server, or entire infrastructure, is no longer available? At the very least you should have a backup available so that your data is safe, but having the data doesn’t mean you’re back online and taking transactions.

For the most part, unless you have some cross-data-centre redundancy in place, you’re going to have to accept that your website will be offline for a substantial amount of time. You’ll need to provision a new server, (or servers), get them set up and then deploy your backup. You’re probably talking days worth of work.

“We moved all US East coast Shopify stores to US Central as a precaution for hurricane Florence. This was done automatically with zero downtime.”

Tobi Lütke, Shopify CEO

Shopify’s infrastructure is built to handle disaster recovery extremely well. Last year, Tobi Lütke, Shopify’s CEO, tweeted about hurricane Florence. At the time, Florence was heading towards a number of data centres on the East Coast of the US, threatening a degree of destruction. To quote Tobi: “We moved all US East coast Shopify stores to US Central as a precaution for hurricane Florence. This was done automatically with zero downtime.”

Platform Features

Moving onto Shopify, it does everything you’d expect from an e-commerce platform. This includes the ability to add categories, search, product pages, blogs, content pages, contact pages and more. We can’t list every single feature of the platform as there are just too many, so take a look for yourself.


One of the features I love about Shopify is the ability to sell on multiple channels. Most of our clients sell exclusively online, but from time to time they have a requirement to sell in person.at a pop-up brick and mortar store, a trade show or an expo. Shopify makes this transition exceptionally easy. There are a number of apps available for mobile and tablet that can turn your device into a fully functioning EPOS (point of sale). This mimics your full product catalogue and enables you to take card payments in person. There’s even a little gadget available to allow you to take contactless payments on-the-go.

ERP Integrations

If you’re fortunate enough to run a store that also needs to operate a warehouse of some sort, and you have an ERP system, then you’ll be glad to know that Shopify has your back. Their app store is heavily vetted by Shopify staff to ensure apps perform properly and that there are very few, if any, customer service issues. This is even more important when the app involves payment.

The Shopify app store contains lots of plugins for your store to interact with ERP systems. Of course, there’s also a powerful API for interacting with your data within Shopify, so we’re able to build middleware to integrate with any ERP system if one doesn’t already exist.

PCI Compliance

If you have ever run an online store with high turnover, you may have come across PCI/DSS compliance. PCI compliance is a set of technical rules and policies that must be implemented across your business in order to ensure your customers’ payment details are kept safe and secure. Implementing PCI/DSS can be expensive and time-consuming, as can proving that you are compliant. If you’re running a self-hosted operation then you are solely responsible for every aspect of PCI/DSS compliance. However, Shopify, and all of their hosted stores, are certified Level 1 PCI DSS Compliant so you would not be responsible.


Our final topic is arguably one of the most important. Security. Let’s start by looking at the competition.

WooCommerce is built on WordPress, which is the most popular CMS in the world. With a 47% market share, the second most popular CMS is Drupal with a 5% market share . However, WordPress’s popularity is its own downfall and has painted a huge target on its back. Malicious developers have created tools that crawl the Internet hunting for out of date WordPress installations, vulnerable plugins, poorly developed themes and known exploits for WordPress. WordPress itself is relatively secure, but the code people write for it by way of themes, plugins and third-party additions isn’t always as secure. Because of this, security is a huge issue for anyone running a large WordPress website, and it’s even more important when dealing with money and commerce.

Magento is another big target for would-be attackers. Magento used to be the e-commerce leader but has since lost ground to both WooCommerce and Shopify. On top of that, the community have also discovered a number of extremely dangerous exploits for Magento. Patching Magento can be substantially more complicated than WooCommerce. It leads to delays in sites being patched when the security fixes are released, which can, in turn, lead to vulnerable sites. MageReport offers a service which shows how vulnerable your Magento website is which highlights how big the problem is if a tool like this has to exist.

As we said earlier, Shopify is a hosted platform. You, as a developer, don’t have access to the underlying backend code that runs Shopify. You can extend it through APIs, build standalone apps for the admin area, but you cannot manipulate, change or see the code that runs Shopify itself. This makes it extremely secure. In the rare case that a security vulnerability is found, it will be fixed by Shopify themselves and rolled out across the entire platform in silence, without anyone ever noticing.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Shopify, or for a demo of an online store, please get in touch.

    We help our clients by taking the time to really understand their sector.

    By attending trade shows, hosting networking events and opening up meaningful conversations, we have built our very own travel, leisure and tourism community. This means we can actively explore the challenges within the industry and also the travellers, holidaymakers and day trippers that use their services.

    Here are some of the challenges they face.

    Challenge One
    We struggle to encourage frequency and loyalty.

    Gaining loyalty is a challenge that the industry focuses on heavily. It’s easy to spot overt offerings within the industry that are used to gain frequent custom. Airlines use air miles and hotels push price guarantees. Tourist attractions tempt return day-trippers with discounted rates and leisure attractions offer exclusive perks to those with memberships. However, for most businesses, a returning customer base is more complex to achieve.

    The key to gaining loyalty is about offering real value- not the lowest price. Many businesses within the industry do not take the time to uncover what is valuable to their customers.

    Gaining loyalty means offering different things to different personas. For example, a business traveller will look at price but they will also value aspects such as location, connectivity and ease. To win this booking, a hotel must offer something that addresses these issues. CitizenM gets it right, offering a ‘home away from home.’ Business travellers can embrace modern living spaces with super-fast Wifi, 24-hour access to great coffee and book a purpose built room for their client meetings. These extra touches, communicated in the right way, are likely to win a booking from a business traveller over price alone.

    Tailoring your approach to gaining loyalty relies on establishing an emotional connection with your customers on an individual level. It’s about connecting data and your customers and then taking the time to validate what attracts your customer to your brand in the first place.

    Here at Reckless, our Strategy & Consultancy service will help you to delve deeper into your customer base. How? We actually try the experience or service for ourselves. We speak directly to the customers and ask them about all aspects of their buying journey. This enables us to create a true snapshot of the customer, their expectations and their experiences. It allows us to see if the data is correct and if it goes deep enough when it comes to offering a personalised experience.

    If a travel brand tailored its information and overall trip experience based on personal preferences or past behaviour, 36% would be likely to pay more for their services”

    Google/Phocuswright, 2017

    Challenge Two
    We drive potential customers to our site but still have a lower than average conversion rate. How can we get people to convert now and not think, later.

    The first approach you might think of is creating a sense of urgency. While tactics used by sites such as Booking.com spring to mind, they, along with 5 other hotel booking sites have been given until September 2019 to end their use of pressure-selling. Instead of creating a sense of uncomfortable urgency, you should look to minimise the doubts that a potential customer might have and remove the barriers to making a booking.

    Here are some other areas to focus on when it comes to getting customers to convert online.

    Inspire and create desire during the planning process

    Before booking, most consumers will conduct research into the service or product type they are considering. It is critical that businesses understand where and how their customers are searching for information. By taking the time to explore the research stage of the customer buying process, you can ensure that your brand is not only visible but influential.

    A great example of using content to influence the decision-making process is easyJet’s new look and book feature launched last year. It allows potential holiday-makers to book their trip by uploading an image of a destination that they like into the easyJet app. Daniel Young, Head of Digital experience at easyJet, said: “Look&Book will help people to further explore Europe with ease and open up new destinations and previously hidden holiday locations for a range of customers. It’s fantastic how technology is enabling us to enhance and streamline the customer search and booking experience.”

    Be aware of social proofing

    Travel consumers collate a range of information before making a decision and social proofing is part of that process.

    Reviews, photographs and real-time reactions are shared across forums and social media channels for all to see. Travellers, holidaymakers and daytrippers trawl through this type of content during the research phase of the booking process to gain insight on the destination, product or service. There are ways in which businesses within the travel, leisure and tourism sector can influence how their brand is perceived. For example:

    Build and implement a social media strategy that captivates the target audience
    Encourage customers to write testimonials and reviews
    Work with relatable influencers within the sector to promote their brand

    Positive comments about a brand work to build trust with new audiences, meaning that they are less likely to delay the booking process because they feel confident in the company they are purchasing from. Needless to say, businesses can only achieve brand positivity online by delivering memorable customer experiences from beginning to end, across all touchpoints.

    Make the booking process simple

    Once a customer has chosen their holiday, theme park tickets or boat cruise, all they need to do is checkout and it’s job done. Right?

    It sounds easy but the real work begins when the customer enters the booking funnel, and businesses need to work hard to achieve those conversions. The current industry average for checkout abandonment is 69.89%, that’s over 2/3rds of highly motivated customers who are exiting the funnel for potentially something as trivial as an unclear CTA. So what can we do to improve the user experience at checkout?

    Serve the customer with the right information at the right point. Consider a common form on your booking form such as payment information. All forms consist of easy (low barrier to fill in) fields such as ‘Name’ and hard (high barrier to fill in) fields such as ‘Card Number’ or ‘CVV’. We need to ensure that the low barrier fields appear first in the user journey in order to discourage abandonment.

    There are a number of reasons for this. As human beings, we have an inert desire to finish things that we begin. Presenting easy to fill in fields first, starts this process and motivates the customer to complete it.

    Secondly, if the user has committed to starting the process they have spent time and effort to do so. Leaving at this point means they will have lost this time they put in and as mentioned earlier, consumers perceive loss greater than gains which can be a motivator to continue. In some instances, if the user has spent a great deal of effort this motivation to avoid loss can even go against logic (e.g. the loss at the end of the process may be greater). This is known as the ‘Sunk cost fallacy’. If you’ve ever booked a flight where you were drawn in by a low initial price but ended up paying much more than you set out to you may be familiar with this technique.

    These are just two of the challenges faced by brands within the travel, leisure and tourism industry. If you’re looking for more insight into the industry, why not listen to our webinar?

      What’s the most important part of a brand? It’s a tough question to answer. If you pose the question to your team you’ll no doubt get conflicting responses.

      Some will say “The Logo” which is true in a sense, as it should contain a brand’s name and a quick indication of what the brand does, but could it live without it? Others might say “Brand Proposition or Core Values” which form the foundation of any successful brand and are integral to a business’ growth and connection to consumers, but what use are these values if they’re not clearly conveyed and differentiate the brand from its competitors?

      So what is the most important part of a brand?

      From my experience working with brands ranging from global organisations to local restaurants, a business’ message and how it articulates that message matter more to people than logos, positioning and visual aesthetics combined.


      Imagery such as illustration, graphics and sometimes photography can date and deteriorate with time and therefore has to follow trends to stay relevant and competitive within its market. Words don’t date, they are timeless and when done right, they can not only lead consumers to convert but become loyal brand advocates.

      Okay, but what does that have to do with typography?

      Typography is the art and technique of arranging text to make it legible, readable and appealing when displayed. In other words, it’s the way in which a brand expresses its message to its target audience making sure it’s easy to read, easy to understand and coherent with its visual identity. Here’s our comprehensive guide to the elements of typography.


      How legible a typeface is refers to the design of each letter within a typeface and how clear and recognisable that letter is when part of a word. A poorly designed typeface will have inconsistencies in the design of these letters or could simply be hard to distinguish at smaller point sizes.

      A typeface with unclear letterforms vs a typeface with clear, well defined letterforms.

      Making a well-designed typeface that is legible, readable and unique to other typefaces is an incredibly in-depth process and takes type designers years to produce the individual characters in every weight, italic, extended, condensed and translation available. If you’ve ever looked at an expensive font and thought “Why would I spend money on that!?” there might be more to it than just the design of it that makes it worth the investment.

      A handful of typefaces renowned for their quality and design.

      Serif, Sans Serif & Slab Serif

      Serif typefaces have small lines to accentuate each letter’s characteristics. Sans Serif simply means “Without Serif” and Slab Serif is similar to standard serifs but has more basic and simple lines.

      Whilst Serif typefaces were originally designed to be more readable on printed materials and Sans Serif to be more legible on early-era low-resolution screens, over time, as digital resolutions improved and evolved so did the ability to render more complex typefaces. As a result, you may find brands using Serif typefaces within their digital presence today more than ever before.

      Printed serif text and the evolution of typeface rendering on screens.


      Contrast is vital to good typography as it directly affects whether a reader can distinguish text from its background. It’s often the first thing people notice when checking over designs and is easy to rectify by using a block colour or adding contrasting overlays to images. Beyond simple colour changes, there are some great online tools for checking contrast and accessibility.

      Colour Contrast Checker

      Sketch plugin for accessibility


      How readable a typeface is refers to the use of fonts as part of a wider design. Traditionally it was a Graphic Designer’s role to work with type and design layouts and a Typesetter’s responsibility to handle the arrangement of a matrix mold or printing blocks to enable a layout to be printed.

      As digital printing techniques advanced the role of a Typesetter has become mostly redundant and Graphic Designers are able to design without being restricted by certain printing methods. Despite this, the traditional techniques and methods from original typesetting set a solid foundation for arranging type in the digital age.

      A typesetter assembling a composing stick ready for adding to a layout.

      Line Length

      English text is read from left to right and when a reader reaches the end of a line they have to jump from one edge of the copy to the other. To improve the flow of copy on a page, the best practice line length is 10 words long. This is the optimal distance for a reader’s eyes to easily find the start of the next line. A common design tool used for managing line length is using grid systems and columned layouts…but that’s another guide for another day.

      Long lines of text vs best practice line length.

      Line Height / Leading

      Leading in typography is the space between each line of text. Unlike the standard best practice for line length, for a block of copy, it changes from one typeface to the next. A useful tip is to imagine clear white lines in between each row of copy preventing descenders from one row touching the ascenders of the next.

      Bad leading, good leading and use imaginary white lines to guide how much leading you need.


      Kerning refers to the space in between letters and should be incorporated within a typeface’s design process using kerning pairs. Imagine you type the word ‘You’, does the ‘o’ fit under the right edge of the ‘Y’ or does it sit after it? If it sits underneath then the type designer will have set this using kerning pairs, where every letter has a specified position based on whichever letter sits next. Sounds complicated right? See it this way, if there are 26 letters in a font, there will be 676 pairs to create.

      Incorrect vs correct kerning using kerning pairs.

      Tracking / Letter Spacing

      Tracking is very similar to Kerning and again refers to the gap in between each letter, however, the difference with Tracking is that it is applied universally without considering the visual impact. Tracking is an incredibly useful tool for designers as it allows us to make text more legible at smaller point sizes and be more impactful at larger point sizes. A useful tip is to remember to increase tracking as the text gets smaller and decrease tracking as the text gets bigger.

      Decrease tracking at large point sizes and increase tracking at small point sizes.


      In order for readers to distinguish titles from body copy, text styles need to be set and stuck to throughout a design to maintain consistency of messaging. In web design, this is done through Heading Tags, making sure each size has a responsive variant. In print similar consistencies still need to be met, but typography can be experimented with on a more case by case basis.

      Heading tags for web and a poster explaining type hierarchy.

      Personality & Purpose

      Once a typeface is legible and readable to users it’s time to give it some character. This is where brands can start to visually combine their message to customers in a consistent and ‘on-brand’ way. See if you can guess which brands the fonts below belong to.

      Custom type for niix fitness, to uphold their mission to be cutting edge yet human and accessible.
      Stylised type for Ixplor to reflect their brand values of dependability and adventure.

      Display Fonts

      Display fonts are where designers can be creative and bring a different dynamic to a brand. They’re usually very specific and don’t contain many characters as each one is very unique. You’ll find this type of font in places where typography needs to be a highlight or a styled element within a design.

      A selection of free display fonts. RusticoHamurzApex and Stanley.

      Want to know more about typography and how it can enhance your brand? Or want to share a typography challenge with us?

        Email marketing is a controversial subject here at Reckless.

        Some people say it’s spam and has no place in a modern marketing strategy. Some say it’s incredibly powerful when you understand the relevance to your audience. And some say they LITERALLY could not operate their lives without it…

        Now, as a marketer, the toughest aspect of your job is deciding which channels are most effective at engaging your audience. It can be difficult finding the right mix of channels to focus your efforts, and the traditional channels like email or social are likely to get the main focus.

        However, in the last few years, a range of other channels are opening up, offering marketers new and innovative ways to engage their audience.

        Two of the most popular channels to open up are push notifications and in-app messaging. Built into the apps consumers download onto their smartphones, app messaging techniques provide marketers with the ability to reach their audience at the right time, with the right content, to engage him or her further.

        Does app messaging work?
        Does it offer a new way to engage consumers?
        Or is it a whole load of baloney used to force you into buying an app

        Well, that’s the question we set our research team last week. Asking them to analyse engagement rates across email, push notifications and in-app messaging, we wanted hard evidence as to which channel is the most effective at engaging your audience.

        Before we start, if you’re new to app messaging, here’s a bit of a primer (if you’re a mobile strategist know-it-all, feel free to skip this section and head straight to the research).

        What is a push notification?

        Similar to a text message, a push notification is a message that appears on a smartphone. Push notifications are sent from an app, and can only be received by people who have the app installed. Users must have the push notification enabled to receive notifications.

        They look like this:

        What is an in-app message?

        An in-app message is a type of pop up that’s only displayed while the user is actively using your app. They’re used to drive interaction and discovery within an app.

        They look like this:

        What is email marketing?

        Do we really need to do this…?


        So, you have a list of emails, GDPR compliant, of course. Certainly not purchased lists – that’s CHEATING. Then, after a little segmentation. A sprinkling of database cleaning. And a whole load of strategy, you send an email.

        Now, email marketing is usually defined as “using emails to send ads, request business or solicit sales”. But we think that’s a little basic.

        So, we generally classify any email that attempts to build loyalty, trust or brand awareness as a piece of email marketing communication.


        They look like this:

        The Research Methodology

        Right then. How did our analysts put this study together?

        After a little negotiation, I managed to get the team to send over a methodology.

        Unfortunately… it consists of just six bullet points. So here it is, in all its mundane glory:

        So, what did we find?

        Open Rate

        Email Marketing

        With the typical consumer receiving 90 emails a day, I’m sure you won’t be gobsmacked to learn that less than 2% of the emails we analysed were opened. The industry with the highest open rate was Health & Beauty at 4.5%, while the lowest scoring industry was Motor with a 0.78% open rate.

        Push Notification

        OK. Email performs quite poorly. How about push notifications? Well, our study showed that push notifications had a sizeable 20% open rate across all industries. The Travel industry performed surprisingly well with the highest open rate at 29%, while Fitness performed the worst at 12%.

        In-App Messaging

        Now, if you own, or you’re building an app, this is where you might start to get a little giddy. Our study found that in-app messaging had a startling 75% open rate. That’s over 45 times higher than email and nearly three times higher than push notifications. With all industries scoring highly, the outright winners in this section were Fashion and Travel scoring over 85%. At the other end of the table, Health and Beauty scored the lowest with a respectable 64% open rate.

        Click-Through Rate

        Email Marketing

        After a poor performance in our open rate analysis, could email win back at least a little honour in the click-through stakes? Well, as we are sure you’re not surprised to learn, our analysts found that email had the worst click-through rate across all channels. Scoring just over 1% across all the brands we analysed, the worst performing industry was Motor at 0.2%, while the best was the Travel industry scoring a 2% click-through rate.

        Push Notification

        In better news (if you’re building an app) push notifications scored a respectable click-through rate of 28% across all industries. Interestingly, the best-performing industry was Travel scoring a 44% click-through rate, which is nearly four times the click-through rate of the Fitness industry at 12%.

        In-App Messaging

        After a strong performance in the open rate category, in-app messaging didn’t quite score as highly in our click-through research. Across all brands, the average click-through rate was a reasonable 7%. The best-performing industry was, again, Travel with a 12% click-through rate. The worst performing industry was Fitness with a 5% click-through rate.

        Apps are winning…

        OK, so we’re not saying that you need to build an app, but if you’re looking for channels that allow you to engage your customers more effectively, then HEY, there’s an app for that.

        But seriously, our research showed that app messaging techniques are, by far, the best way to engage your audience.

        And why wouldn’t they be?

        Email is practically synonymous with the word spam. And you’ve got far less competition when delivering your message through an app than other channels.

        So, if you are interested in really engaging your audience, and you think an app could do the trick, get in touch with us, tell us your challenges and let’s find out if we can help.