This month we celebrated the 1 year anniversary of the official Segments Analytics launch on the Shopify App Store 🎉. Instead of listing all of the things we did right this past year (survivorship bias), culminating in being featured as a Staff Pick on the front page, I wanted to share a few things we wish we had known earlier:
1. Invest in content. Then invest some more
We know content is effective. A lot of high quality traffic, both direct and indirect, comes from the articles and videos we’ve made. We also know that content is a long game. The returns from hitting “publish” is realized gradually over a long period of time… slowly, steadily, and continuously. Content is one of the highest ROI work we can do even if it doesn’t seem like it immediately. We know all this, but we still criminally underinvested in content, and probably still do today. Content can be anything relevant to your business even if it’s simply thoughts or learnings (like this post!).
2. Make it as easy as possible for people to talk to you
In the beginning, all we had was an “Email us” on our site (actually still have this in places 😅). I can count on one hand the number of people who have actually taken the time to click on the “mailto:” link and send us an email. We then added a text box and “Ask us” form in our FAQs — slightly better, but still almost nothing. So what do people actually do?
- Chat with us directly via a floating button in the bottom right
- Reply to our emails (including the automated ones)
- Schedule calls with us from pre-set calendar slots
These communication channels are more contextual (chat button), more relevant (personal email), and higher value (video call) than a basic “Email us” link. Ironically, these value propositions also happen to be what we’re helping Segments stores do with their own customers.
3. Use the free startup credits
We were paying out-of-pocket for AWS servers for several months before finding out about credits. Then thanks to some experienced friends and plentiful startup community resources, we’ve been running on credits ever since (the two best programs: YC Startup School and Segment.com). For a bootstrapped business like ours, server operational costs add up and having credits is a huge psychological cushion for feeling comfortable enough to both experiment and scale when needed.
4. Run our own store
We actually did have a Shopify store a couple of years back, where we sold time slots for data science consulting (“Tresl Consulting”). Selling consulting hours is not exactly the best use case for Shopify. It was, however, a great way to learn the Shopify platform and all its nuances, as well as experiment with apps. We shut the store down once Segments launched. It would have been helpful for us to have been running a live Shopify store selling real products, not only for ongoing testing of basic app functionality (install, sign in, sync, etc.), but also for putting our own Segments analytics into action. Fortunately, we’ve talked to hundreds of stores and agencies by this point, and have an amazing group of customers we can turn to to fill in any details. We’re still big fans of “dog-fooding” our own products — while admittedly running a store is an entire business on its own, we’re on the lookout for a good setup for that direct feedback loop.
We may have gotten all these points wrong or late, but we did get one thing really right: both ecommerce and Shopify have gotten massive tailwinds this year, and we're lucky to be a part of it. Lastly, I just want to say that the Shopify developers and partners ecosystem is awesome, and we wouldn’t be here today without the support, feedback, and key shoutouts from our friends.
Onward to the next year!