Jon Kennedy built what is probably one of the biggest ecommerce communities around. 100,000 active members with thousands waiting to get in! He started out buying and selling on eBay and launched stores on various platforms before gradually finding his way to Shopify. Today he runs a development agency geared for brands looking for quick "bite-sized" ecommerce development needs. Along his journey though, he founded one of the biggest ecommerce entrepreneur community groups on Facebook ever.
Jay: Jon, thank you so much for coming on the show. Are you ready to help our listeners hopefully own their commerce a little bit more?
Jon: Absolutely Jay, I really appreciate the invite and I’m honored to be here.
Jay: Jon, thank you so much for coming on the show. Are you ready to help our listeners hopefully own their commerce a little bit more?
Jon: Absolutely Jay, I really appreciate the invite and I’m honored to be here.
Jay: So who are you and what’s your story? What’s your path? How’d you get to where you are today?
Jon: Oh, man, I’m not like a super young guy, but yeah. My name is Jon I’m from Canada, I’m the founder of Shopify experts and development company called Hey Carson and we’re at heycarson.com and we do small scale development and design tasks for Shopify merchants. We’ve been doing that since 2015, and I got my start in e-commerce back in 2002 in the early eBay days, you might remember those days yourself.
Jay: I was there. I was there. I was selling against you, probably.
Jon: I was selling whatever I could get my hands on as a university student, maple syrup, we sold maple syrup to the US.
Jay: Where do you source it from?
Jon: Locally, like I was going to school in Montreal and maple syrup is all around us and I was reading some consumer reports that Americans really dug this stuff, but then I learned quickly that you need to know what you’re doing when you’re shipping food across borders. So I learned that pretty quickly. So I’ve been around since those days. I didn’t go into entrepreneurship full-time until about 2010, 2011. So I did have a career in a regular job. I worked in the marketing department for the Montreal Canadians, a professional hockey team in Canada. So I got quite a bit of experience there and then went off on my own in 2011. I’m a non-technical guy, so doing business online I’ve had to work a lot with hiring developers and working with them, designers as well. So, the businesses that I’ve developed in the past five years have been based on that experience.
Jay: So you founded Hey Carson as a way to — why Hey Carson, I guess? Let’s just start with that.
Jon: In 2014/15, I had a print shop online, it was on WooCommerce, and there was a business called WP curve. They were serving the WordPress space with small scale development and design, and one of my friends turned me on to the Shopify platform. As a non-technical person, he just said, try to set up your shop on this platform on Shopify and see how it goes, and I got more done in four days myself than I had gotten done with the WooCommerce platform with the developer in about three months. There was like an enlightenment at that point. The print shop was going well. I started a Facebook group at that time to kind of connect with other entrepreneurs in the Shopify space, and I quickly identified that there was an opportunity for small scale development. Exactly as WP curve was serving the WordPress space, that opportunity existed in the Shopify space and it was wide open. I think you had agencies serving the top end of shops really well, and then you had newer start-up shops who were either going to Fiverr or Upwork, facing all the challenges that new entrepreneurs face on those platforms. So yeah, 2015 we launched Hey Carson, slowly phased out the print shop and doubled down on Hey Carson.
Jay: So in a nutshell, Hey Carson is for small to medium-sized tasks where you don’t maybe want to commit to a long-term relationship with an agency? Is that a good way of looking at it?
Jon: Yeah, that’s a fair way to see it. Also for teams who just don’t want to commit to a full-time developer salary. We’re like a shared front-end, back-end design task desk where it’s a few hundred dollars a month or just under a hundred dollars per task or per hour. So it’s really like a way for growing merchants to stair-step their way to developing their vision on their shops, either through theme tweaks, graphic work, adjustments to features that are in the theme. So all kinds of stuff, like we’ve done 50,000 small tasks over the past five years and not one is exactly the same. That’s how entrepreneurs are different and unique and the platform has so many options and possibilities for people that no two tasks are the same.
Jay: Do most people just use Hey Carson, or do you find that some might work with an agency, but for quick smaller things Hey Carson might be a fit? Are they complementary?
Jon: Absolutely. I think once you get into like teams that they’ve been in business a few years, maybe they’re in the six, seven figures they might have an agency as a resource. That agency might be a little bit more expensive, so they’ll have our service on the side for, I don’t want to say lower value work, but smaller digestible tasks that they just want to handle and not eat up the more senior developers’ time.
Jay: Can you give me an idea of what a common task type is or what’s something you might see come through Hey Carson?
Jon: Yeah. I think a lot of people want to optimize their product pages, for example. So they’ll go and they might find an app in the app store and the app might have just like a slight impact on the design or the front end, and they just need some help styling that in so the work is seamless and it fits the theme. So these layout tasks are very common. Sometimes people just need help integrating or setting up apps that are a little bit more complex, and a lot of graphic tasks as well.
Jay: Yeah. I know a lot of your people work with Bold apps and a lot of ones like it fits subscriptions or upsells or options, you’re right, there’s kind of an out-of-the-box look, but it’s like, you don’t need an agency. If you have one, you can definitely use one, but you’re just kind of getting it to look and feel on brand.
Jon: Exactly. Yeah.
Jay: And you guys are completely remote, correct?
Jon: Yeah. We’ve been remote since the start. I think it just always made sense for us from a financial standpoint, it made sense and from talent pool access for us to find developers and team members. I also came from a previous company that I ran from 2011 to 2014 with two co-founders, and we had an office full of people, and while that was a great experience, it was also kind of difficult. When things go well, everybody’s on the up and up, when things didn’t go well towards the end, it was challenging and you started to see the downsides of being in an office and being in one place. My wife and I wanted to travel also, so that probably played a role in our decision to go remote.
Jay: And is it various countries all over the world or is it mainly in one area?
Jon: If you go to the Hey Carson About page, I think everybody’s there and I think there’s probably 12 or 13 countries represented on the team. We have a cluster of team members from Serbia. I don’t know if it’s just my relationship with the first team members that came from Serbia, or—I haven’t been there yet, so I can’t speak generally about the culture, but there’s just a nice fit. They command English very well, they are hardworking, very connected with European and Western standards of what’s professional, and it’s just been working. So we have this little cluster of team members there, they’ve referred each other and they meet up; monthly, they’ll get together, they’ll get together for birthdays. We also have excellent team members in Nepal, in Peru, in the US, Romania, Spain. It’s amazing, it’s just this melting pot.
Jay: Yeah, well you’re ahead of the curve, everyone was thrown into… like at Bold, we had some people working remotely, but now we just went full remote and we had to kind of figure things out and it’s gone okay, but you were in a good position to definitely just be remote already.
Jon: I was thinking of you guys and how do you guys manage that, I think it’s a much bigger challenge to switch than it is to start, and it’s also a big challenge to do both. So when you have some of the team in an office and some of the team remote, I never wanted that combination ever, but yeah, there are all kinds of challenges around it, for sure.
Jay: I remember before everyone, it was kind of the sexy thing for these tech companies to all be remote, and a lot of our staff wanted to push for it, which we were happy to as well too. But now that we are fully remote, a lot of staff, they really miss seeing people. It’s almost like emotional; people have broken down in tears on Zoom calls just because they haven’t seen someone physically for seven months. So there’s pros and cons, I think eventually when this is all over, we’ll end up being a bit of a mixed scenario, but we’ll see how it goes.
Jon: Yeah. I think bigger teams like yours; it’s going to be such an interesting next couple of years to see how that’s going to play out.
Jay: So I want to talk a little bit about community. When I think of ecommerce community, and I don’t know how intentional it, well, I guess maybe it wasn’t super intentional in the beginning because I remember Shopify unite in 2016, as we were sitting on the back of a bus and at the time you had 20,000-ish members of your Shopify Facebook group, which is Shopify Entrepreneurs — first of all, if anyone is looking for a great Facebook group to join checkout shop for entrepreneurs. But I remember you saying something along the lines of, ah, Jay, I don’t know what I’m going to do with this Facebook group. It’s taking a ton of time. I created it, it was fun in the beginning, but now it’s so much work and you kind of seemed like a little bit disheartened almost and judging by where it is now. I don’t even know what it is, it’s well over a hundred thousand members and it’s probably the predominant Shopify group. So what’s changed for you?
Jon: I remember that. I think I’ve matured. So that’s like maybe four plus years ago now. I’ve come to understand that not everything has to be super measured, and as a business owner, if you trust your gut that something is working, trust yourself, and I think that’s what happened with the community. I originally started as a merchant who was working from a co-working office, thinking there were other Shopify merchants in the world that were also working alone and that theory ended up being very true. There were a lot of people trying to start Shopify stores on their own. So we got many members in those first few months, like Facebook was just kind of suggesting the group to people who are somehow connected to Shopify. So it had this really quick explosion of members in the first few months, and that’s kind of what set off the Hey Carson, let’s use this community to kind of launch that service.
Then, yeah, it grew very well over the next one or two years where Facebook was really focusing on groups and really introducing people to the concept of groups, and at that point we were dealing with spam, I wasn’t sure how to measure the impact of running the group on my business. Then at some point like around, I don’t know, 40, 50, 60,000 members, I was just like, there’s something here, people are coming and going. I know a lot of people are benefiting from it. Merchants, partners were also benefiting from it, growing their businesses and their networks and just felt good about being at the helm of this community where important insights were being shared and connections were being made and people’s businesses were going in the right direction for the most part. So I just kind of settled on that idea. You like doing this, keep at it, keep moderating, keep sharing what you know and keep trying to build connections between people, and just trust the process. I think that’s where I landed on.
Now it’s at a hundred plus thousand members. Facebook’s always kind of changing things. There’s a lot of people with questionable motives in the group, but there’s way more like — the net impact of the community is overwhelmingly positive.
Jay: Well, that’s the philosophy I’m using with this podcast. I’m going to just keep doing it. Don’t have to worry about metrics. Although listens, downloads, and reviews are awesome, but it’s fun. Having fun doing it, enjoying talking to really interesting people and I think your group, I just looked, it’s 106,000 active members right now, and I know your goal is not to just be as big as you can because I’m a moderator in there, I can’t see everything, but I can see active requests and I think there’s over 10,000 pending. So you’re very, even though it’s so big, you’re still a particular about who gets in. You want quality people contributing, asking good questions, that must be a lot of work. Well, you have a few people helping, right?
Jon: Yeah, there’s a few people helping. A couple of years ago, we just decided to really slowly add these membership questions that you can add in Facebook groups. They were late adding that to our group features. So once they did, we started like, just asking people, what’s your store URL? If you’re a Shopify partner or if you’re a Shopify staff, tell us, and so all these pending requests now they’re actually, I think if you look, I think there are 35,000 to 38,000 pending requests.
Jay: Yeah. It just says 10,000 plus.
Jon: Yeah, so basically these people haven’t answered the questions. We kind of just want people to commit to answering those questions and answering them properly, and then that kind of just gives us like a little bit of a sign that they actually might get value or they might contribute to the community itself. There’s no reason to just grow a group massively because all you’re going to end up doing by not screening members is creating more work for yourself, and really what was happening between 50 and a 100,000 was the experience for a lot of members was dropping because of the amount of span, the amount of private DMs that were maybe unsolicited and we kind of wanted to adjust that and redirect the group into like; there are still challenges, still a lot of spam. A lot of people think because they’re beginners, they can’t ask good questions. But what I found is if you’re a beginner, you can actually ask really great questions. They’re sharing their pain, they’re sharing what they’ve tried, and then they’re putting that out into the open, and that takes a lot of courage, and when you do that, I think the members with more experience engage more with those posts.
It’s very possible for newer merchants to come in there and really add value, find the answers to their questions, but also add value to the community and I think there’s one thing that I would love to communicate to everyone is: although you have a problem that you want to solve, it’s a community and so just putting some time into crafting that question could have such a ripple effect and provide value to other people who haven’t built up the courage to ask the same question yet.
Jay: Would you say there’s, if you could kind of from a high level classify different themes of questions, what do most merchants have the most trouble with based off of questions they’re asking?
Jon: Yeah, that’s a good one. I think, I mean, there’s obvious ones in my mind with the growing selection of apps in the app store, I think Facebook groups become an easy place for people to go and say like, what’s the best app for this? What’s the best app for that? We try to limit those ones because they’re just asking that without saying, “this is my exact problem, these are the apps I’ve looked at, what do you guys think?” Just those three steps or those three elements in the post change the dynamic of the post completely versus what’s the best app for X or Y or Z. That’s a really common question, the other one is just courageous people on the first version of their store want feedback. Again, they can formulate that in a way where there’s people that will just come out and really help them, and then there’s like a lazy way to do that where you’re just like, what do you think of my store? “I’m trying, these are my goals, these are my resources, this is when I started, this is why I started, check out the first version of my page or my site and my product. I’d love to hear what you guys think,” that really drives engagement on threads.
Jay: You launched or acquired a tool for that, didn’t you?
Jon: I did. Early this year we acquired a platform called User Insights and we actually acquired it to add value to our Carson customers. So what we do now is we have we have our subscribers and we have this network of testers. We haven’t commercialized that platform, it’s at userinsights.com. We use it as a value add to our Carson service.
Jay: So what does it do? How does it work?
Jon: So you can write up a short test. You can either do a navigation test, a general homepage or website test, and get feedback from people that fit the demographic profile of your buyer, and they’ll create a five minute video where they’re narrating their path through your shop, giving advice, giving impressions, and one five minute video, you can end up with like really nice insights that can really move the dial on your store. So yeah, we haven’t commercialized that, but it was really just to add value to our current customers.
Jay: So that’s a tool that a Hey Carson customer has access to?
Jon: Yeah, so for our subscribers, we’ll do like two to three tests and then they can actually get more if they want to pay for them.
Jay: How do the testers get selected? Are they in a database, if I wanted to be a tester, do I sign up and then if I match, I’m a certain age male living in this country or…?
Jon: Exactly. We have a sign up to be a tester link on the site itself, and they do like this little mock test and we kind of gauge their diction, their level of knowledge, and then after that, we’ll parse them based on the demographics that the website owner is looking for. So it’s difficult to do… we have about 700 testers there and so they’re getting like, part-time work, but they’re not getting like the volume that they’d get on platforms, the most well-known platform that does, this is usertesting.com. But yeah, we’re just trying to create this little bubble of value for our Carson customers.
Jay: Yeah. It’s interesting. I mean, there are probably other ways that you can find people on Fiverr or something like that, but I think you’re smart, adding it as a value-add to Carson subscribers.
Jon: Otherwise it’d be like another business to have to manage and run, but the value is definitely there, getting feedback on your store, private feedback on your store is really valuable. I think for the people who aren’t so comfortable to put themselves out there on a Facebook group, those types of services are very valuable.
Jay: So just a couple more questions on community. How do you see communities evolving, I guess in relation to e-commerce, what role do they play and how do you see them evolving?
Jon: So I think ecommerce communities, we can be talking about an e-commerce community like Shopify entrepreneurs that’s for merchants, but everything applies to merchant run community. So merchants who are actually creating customer communities, I think the same ideas apply. I just wanted to throw that out there so we’re not always talking about merchant communities.
Jay: I mean a ton of them, and they’re very niche and to your point earlier, the small communities of a thousand members are extremely valuable, as long as the people are active and engaging and it’s not a numbers game for sure.
Jon: Absolutely. I think there’s a quality element to it, I just think as the landscape evolves and the verticals within this landscape, whether it’s like Shopify partners serving merchants or merchants themselves serving their customers, as it becomes more competitive and our world is kind of contracted down to our home offices. I think we’re just seeing like this growing need or reliance on connections made and value gained in these online communities. So I just feel like they’re getting more popular. What do you think?
Jay: I agree, I agree, and I think in every area you trust the communities more than you would trust sales people, and I’m not surprised that that’s one of the most common questions in your group is what’s the best app for X, because we’re an app developer and we can write whatever we want on our app listing page, but really it’s what merchants think that probably has the most value to another merchant. So if I was into photography, I’d be asking what camera should I buy in a photography group. If I was into audio, I’d be asking what microphone should I buy in a podcast group. I think they’re becoming a sounding board and advice for almost anything, like raising kids, having a cat, there’s literally a group for everything.
Jon: Yeah, I’m seeing that too, and I think like Facebook knows that and Facebook is feeding those communities to us, but there’s also other places to build community also, there’s Slack communities, the Shopify partner community has like a Slack channel happening. So there’s other platforms but I think, yeah, the general idea is that we’re gravitating towards these groups for support, for social connections, for advice, and all that good stuff, on all kinds of topics.
Jay: Can you list like the top three communities you are involved in or recommend for a merchant?
Jon: For a merchant, I love what Kurt does in his group. I think he brings really just stats and he’s very analytical and he’s got like all this experience. So he really brings a lot of value to merchants, you’ll just drop something and it’s like, how did you come up with that? But he’s actually done research. He dropped a really interesting post today about average online AOV.
Jay: I just saw that, when you’re using like timed payments.
Jon: Exactly. Yeah, that was it. But he’s dropping that like almost daily. So it’s super interesting, his group is called the Unofficial Shopify podcast group.
Jay: Unofficial Shopify podcast, and actually we just had them on the show two weeks ago. It hasn’t aired yet, but by the time you guys are listening to this,Kurt’s episode will be live. So make sure you check that out and I couldn’t agree more, and when I was thinking about smaller communities that do have a ton of value, Kurt’s community is a perfect example of that. It’s not huge, but the engagement is great in it.
Jon: Yeah. There are a couple of others I think, Susan Bradley, she runs a community called, I can’t remember it right now…
Jay: She’s got a few things, I got to get her on the podcast because she’s got an interesting story. She’s documenting her journey, she started a store and she’s trying to get it to $50,000 a month.
Jon: That’s it, Road map to 50K on Shopify.
Jay: So she’s got a group for that, she’s got another one called Tribe, which I think it’s just focused at subscription merchants, and I think that one’s why it’s called Tribe, but yeah, she’s a very interesting person. Yes, a hundred percent recommend her as well too.
Jon: Yeah. She’s always, always trying to create a surplus of value for the members in her group. We’ve been friends for five years also and she’s just consistently doing things that bring value to merchants while being a merchant herself. A lot of respect for Susan.
Jay: That’s the weird thing about Facebook groups like, Susan, I remember at one point she commented on something I posted, oh, it was when we wrote our seven subscription models ebook and she just commented or replied on it saying, this is a great book, thank you so much. And I was like, oh, you’re welcome Susan, and she said, I’d love to learn more about it, and when you see someone’s name in a group, they’re just like a little name on the screen, but that person has so much more to them and there’s a story and I’ve had this happen to me dozens of times where someone will say like, hey, I’d love to jump on a call and if I have time, I’ll do it and you just build these relationships. The people are such interesting people, and there’s a lot to be said for actually, even though it’s virtual and I’ve never met Susan in real life, but we’ve been on Zoom calls together and the quality is so much better versus just like going back and forth and replies in a group. So I always encourage people that not like cheesy DMS going out, but just be real and actually get to meet people. I have genuinely met people that I feel I have a great relationship with and I’ve never met them in real life, but just through groups.
Jon: Yeah, absolutely and like that same thing. I’ve seen people start from knowing nothing in the past five years to building six, seven figure ecommerce stores or Shopify partner businesses and that’s amazing.
Jay: That’s so cool. You’ve got a front seat to it.
Jon: But there’s collateral damage, there are a lot of people that kind of, they don’t make it, but the success stories are also really, really interesting, and this is why I always tell people, like if you’re in a community, I know people have different personalities, but try not to lurk, and try to engage, try to ask questions, lurking, it’s a bit selfish. You have a body of experience, your inner community, share whatever it is that you’re up to or whatever it is you’re trying or what your hypothesis is, what your new product is, the people who do that, they get so much value and it ends up paying them back many times over. Then you have people who are way ahead of others, and when you’re way ahead of others, I think, what I’m noticing in a lot of really great entrepreneurs, is they’re just willing to help. They’ve been to war, they’ve made so many mistakes and they feel good from just sharing, like, their experience and I think that’s also very cool when you see somebody who’s wildly successful coming in and basically sharing really key knowledge for free.
Jay: Stuff you would pay a lot of money for in a course, and it sometimes blows me away how helpful people are and the depths they’ll go to for essentially nothing other than social equity, I guess. But I think sometimes people are afraid to ask. I’ve even felt that myself like, and I would say, I feel pretty confident in my knowledge of ecommerce, but I’ve had questions and I’m like, oh, if I post this this, like someone might think I don’t know that. Or I don’t know, like no one will ever judge and I couldn’t agree more to just get involved.
Jon: I also hesitate sometimes but I’m the one trying to answer questions a lot and I’ve hesitated over the years to post my issues, but when I do, and like, I do it every few months when I do, I get really great honest feedback and it’s like, I’m so grateful for that. I think that’s one of the best things of running the group is I’ve had such key insights. Like we changed our pricing earlier this year and I asked people what they thought, I thought one way before posting and then I completely shifted my mindset around pricing after hearing what actual merchants had to say, honestly, about my pricing. You got to pick who you listen to and kind of digest everything, but it’s extremely valuable.
Jay: So ecommerce in general, I guess you see a lot going on through what comes through Hey Carson and what’s in your groups. Is there any trends that you’re really excited about or kind of keeping an eye on?
Jon: I think I’m super impressed with how in the past six months, especially with how restaurants and food and drink businesses are getting online and coming up with like wildly creative pivots. It’s impressive to see how the food and drink food and beverage industry is adopting to ecommerce. Other than that, I think the one thing that came to mind is like, I don’t own a Tesla, but I’ve been all the way to the cart process on there on their website.
Jay: Did you get an abandoned cart email with 10% off?
Jon: I haven’t gotten that, but it’s amazing to see how traditional industries will be, are being disrupted with these simple ecommerce solutions and, yeah, I’m just wildly impressed. I think if you’ve purchased a car in a dealership and then you kind of go through that process on Tesla, I can’t wait to go through the whole process, I want to one day, it’s wildly different, and it’s kind of just cool to be living through this this time.
Jay: It’s a complete shift, the showrooms or the stores retail are becoming the showrooms, and the transaction happens online. And retail isn’t dead by any means, it’s just evolving and changing and I think we’re going to start seeing this for every store, for Best Buys for, I mean, it’s like Apple stores, your transaction really happens in the app or on the website and you might go to the store, but very few people would go to the Apple store and have no idea what they’re going to buy and like, I’m just browsing. So Honda is doing that too, you can look at one of their cars, you can’t even buy it at a dealership, you have to buy it online. You can go to the dealership, you can drive it, you can try it, sit in it, but then if you want to buy it, they say, oh, well just the transaction takes place online and you come back here and pick it up. So it’s interesting, and on your restaurant topic, I totally agree. I have been so inspired.
We just did a case study on an ice cream store that basically was out of business and it was when COVID hit and they were shutting down, and it’s a local company and one of the founders knows me and he reached out and he just said, “hey, do you think a subscription program would work for ice cream?” And it’s like, why not go ahead and try it because it can’t hurt, and they are killing it with subscriptions. They’ve actually like now introduced a completely new revenue stream that is doing really well and their store could completely close and they would be okay. So now when their store reopens, they’re in such a good financial position now, and it’s not just revenue, it’s recurring revenue, which is predictable and there’s a lot of reasons why that’s good. So yeah, not just surviving, but thriving and actually even becoming in a better position because of all this.
Jon: Ice cream subscription would work in my house for sure.
Jay: Yeah and you think it’s something like that, like how do they keep it cold? You can’t just deliver it, it has to be when someone’s home, there are a ton of things they had to be figured out but they did it and they’re doing well.
Jon: All kinds of inspiring stories like that coming from the restaurants and food businesses, I love it.
Jay: Yeah. Well, Jon, I think we’re ready for our lightning round. I’m going to fire through a few questions, I don’t know if you had a chance to read through them or not, but we’re going to get you in the ecommerce hot seat here.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made or you see merchants make?
Jon: Just one?
Jay: You can list more than one.
Jon: I want to share them because they all feel as important. So waiting too long to launch, I think that’s an obvious one to people who have been through a few business cycles. Not delegating things like book keeping or secondary tasks fast enough, and delegating core things like customer service or live chat too soon, not being conscious of how your product or service fits into the market in terms of how it uniquely fits into the market. Not enough people go through the exercise of defining their value proposition, and I think that makes marketing very, very difficult. Whereas if you take a day or two to really see how your product fits, and find a unique fit, that makes a huge difference and that’s why we see a lot of people struggling with marketing. I think they just haven’t taken the time to do that. So those are the three, four big things I see.
Jay: That is really good and before I just jump onto the next one, which you just mentioned, we had Patrick Kudu from Supply.co on episode four. I would encourage anyone to go listen to that one because he’s built an incredible DTC brand. He’s been on Shark Tank, got investment, but right now he’s really figuring that out and it’s called the jobs to be done model, and understanding what job your product does for the customer is so key because it helps you align all your copy, your marketing, and I couldn’t agree more. So anyways, if you want to learn a little bit more about that, listen to that episode with Patrick Kudu. Do you have a pet peeve when you’re shopping online?
Jon: Bad customer service, I think it’s not a hard thing to get right, and it’s just like, it’s pet peeve for sure.
Jay: And just because you’re shopping online, that’s not an excuse to not give good service, all the more so I think you have to stand out even more.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Jon: This one’s easy, the time freedom that it affords me to spend with my family, hands down. And the other thing is just, I love having a role in helping the people on my team and customers enrich their lives, even if it’s a small role, I take a lot of pride in that. But yeah, those are my two favorite things about what I do.
Jay: What’s your favorite online store?
Jon: My wife does 98% of the online shopping, but I recently bought these cool earbuds from a shop called Status Audio instead of like dishing out the big bucks for the Apple stuff, I got these really cool earbuds from this really small but high quality brand called Status Audio and I liked the guys at Peel, Buypeel.com, they just make these really slick iPhone cases, it’s as if there’s not even a case on your phone, I’m a big fan of those two shops.
Jay: Wait, do you have a case on your phone now, Jon?
Jon: I do.
Jay: Because when you were in Winnipeg a few years ago, you did not have a case on your phone and you said, do you remember that?
Jon: I can’t believe you remember that.
Jay: I don’t remember what my wife will tell me last night, but I remember three years ago, you not having a case on your phone and telling me that it was like a European thing or something that your wife, I can’t remember exactly, it was something to that extent. So nice to see you are now protecting your phone.
Jon: Yeah, I’m protecting my phone, but it looks like I don’t have a case and that’s the look that I’m going for.
Jay: What’s the number one thing you think stores could be doing to grow sales, but aren’t doing?
Jon: I think if you’re a new store, I think product development from actual research interviews is like really underestimated and whether it’s like doing interviews with your target market or your first paying customers, I think this is a great way to like figure out how you’re going to get momentum and then grow sales. I think bigger shops like AB testing, the cost of AB testing, if you have a lot of traffic or enough traffic going to your business, your shop, it’s a great way to like crawl your way up to more revenue for not too much of an investment.
Jay: Yeah, couldn’t agree more, getting close to your, especially your early customers, understanding the thought process in their mind, why they’re buying, why they like it, why they don’t, it’s so critical.
If store owners only tracked one metric besides sales, obviously, what should it be?
Jon: I’m not being fluffy here, but I really think your own level of happiness or satisfaction with the business and if you have team members, their level of satisfaction, because the trickle down effect of that is immeasurable on the whole business. I think that’s a huge one. If people want to like more practical answer, I think conversion rates on traffic sources is really important to know where to spend more of your time and where to stop spending time. There’s a few answers there, but I hope they’re helpful.
Jay: I don’t think that’s fluffy at all because in the end, why are you doing what you do? And if you can have every metric, you can hit every KPI, but if you’re not enjoying it and you’re not happy, or it’s not fulfilling some need, it’s not worth it. So that’s not fluffy, that’s great advice.
Jon: Yeah, absolutely, and the team members, keeping them motivated and happy with their work, I think it just has an impact on sales and customers also.
Jay: Do you have any favorite quotes or business advice that has impacted you or that you would like to share?
Jon: Quotes no, I’m not — like, I love quotes, but I can’t, they’re like jokes, I can’t come up with them. I think we haven’t talked about it, but I did in the past five years build and grow a business called Store Tester and what I really got from that experience, it was also like a platform for Shopify services. I ended up figuring out that the more value I could create for the experts on that platform the more I was getting rewarded, and I think like just going out there and focusing on creating a surplus of value in the interactions that you’re having with your customers is priceless, the universe is going to reward you, if you’re helping other people solve their problem, whatever that problem might be, and I think that’s, you hear that a lot, but it’s so true. And then I think marry the right person. Great piece of business advice from, I think Warren Buffet said that, just marry the right person.
Jay: From that one decision, I think comes 90% of your life’s happiness or misery. So yes and I was just going to look it up but Zig Ziglar, I used to love his books when I was younger, and he had a quote,it’s something like, “if you always give more value than you receive, you’ll never be poor day in your life,” so that’s great. Lastly, what advice could you give a store who might be trying to go from zero to their thousandth sale and then is there anything different trying to go from their thousandth to their a hundred thousandth?
Jon: Yeah. I think what you see in new stores is they’re kind of secretive, get out there and tell people what you’re up to, even before your launch. So how are you going to make these big steps or these serendipitous connections or these first sales, if you don’t tell people. So get out there and tell people you know, tell people you don’t know before launching and after launch.
Jay: A lot of people say work in public, like do your work so people see it and bring people in?
Jon: Yeah, there’s another idea out there that says don’t tell people what you’re doing and then like come out and show them later. But that’s like a chip on your shoulder type of advice. I get much more excited about people who are taking bold chances with a new business. I don’t care if they fail, you know that person’s going to learn a lot. As a business owner myself, who’s been through maybe like 12, 13, 14 different little failures, that’s what kind of made me. So I have a lot of respect for people who do that.
Jay: Yeah and letting people know brings them in and it’s accountability, it’s just so many benefits. So I agree.
Jon: And then also I think people underestimate the value of getting on live chat and talking to your first visitors or your first customers with real conversations and the value that brings, not to mention like the first sales it can generate. So not being so quick to outsource live chat or email or any kind of support.
Jay: That is your brand and it’s so critical. So is there anything different than from your thousandth to your a hundred thousandth?
Jon: I might repeat myself here, but I think just understanding where you’re getting the biggest return on investment. So if you’re marketing on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, really being able to measure where your time and resources are well spent and again, AB testing. If you have a thousand sales on your shop that you might be ready to start AB testing or start learning about it, and there’s no better way to crawl your way up to improved conversions and revenue then with AB testing, in my opinion, there’s a whole bunch of things you can do.
Jay: Yeah. I love it. Jon, thank you so much. I really enjoyed this conversation and I always appreciate your insightful, thoughtful ways of approaching things, and it comes through in the community and your comments and in your posts. You’re a very thoughtful person. I would encourage everyone to definitely join the communities that Jon runs. Where else can people find you? Where would you like to direct people to learn more about you or your services?
Jon: Yeah, so we have, Heycarson.com, I love getting emails, questions. If it’s like more of a private question [email protected] and yeah Shopify entrepreneurs, Facebook group, I’m there every single day paying attention — and Jay, thanks a lot, man. I really appreciate it. You know I have a lot of respect for you and what you guys are doing at Bold, I’m honored that you asked me to do this, so thank you.
Jay: Our pleasure. Well, we’ll leave it at that. Nice high note. Thanks Jon.
Jon: Okay. Thanks Jay.