Alexander Marx and Manuel Buschmeyer have been running the advertising and communications agency markt 8 GmbH for 16 years. With the idea to use the gathered know-how not only for customers, but also for fresh ideas, two own online projects were created: a blogazine for fashion, beauty and lifestyle; and about-drinks.com, a B2B magazine for sales and marketing executives in the beverage market, which has firmly established itself in the industry for 12 years.
With the affinity to drinks and the network that had been growing for years, the idea for the first own e-commerce project greatr-drinks.com was born. In close partnership with the MBG Group, an international player in the beverage industry (including effect Energy, SCAVI & RAY, SALITOS), the subsidiary AMB Digital was founded and greatr-drinks.com launched in January 2019.
Alexander Marx tells us in detail how greatr found the start with WooCommerce in the e-commerce business, why the company could not exploit its own marketing strengths there and why Shopify turned out to be the better choice as a shop solution. In addition, the market expert gives tips to all e-commerce newcomers who are about to start a serious online business.
Why did you feel the need for an online shop?
As an advertising and communication agency, we deal daily with the digital issues of our customers. In the last 16 years, for example, we have realized a large number of web projects and have constantly learned to do so in various areas. With about-drinks, we also learned a lot about drinks and built up a broad network of contacts and partners.The combination has turned it into a great basis for us, which has motivated us to start an e-commerce project in the beverage market. The decision for greatr-drinks.com was so simple.
Before Shopify there was a WooCommerce shop. Why did you choose this shop solution?
Through our online projects in the agency sector, we have been able to build up a lot of know-how with WordPress in recent years. The widespread use – 30 percent among the 10 million most visited websites use WordPress as a CMS – and the flexible customization options have always been very popular.
With the WooCommerce plugin and some additional extensions, it was initially quite easy to provide a first shop platform. Large shop systems such as Magento or Shopware are certainly extremely powerful, but we were too complex for a quick start and too extensive in the implementation.
Of course, we also looked at other providers and evaluated our project. Large shop systems such as Magento or Shopware are certainly extremely powerful, but we were too complex for a quick start and too extensive in the implementation. That’s why we started with WordPress and the WooCommerce plugin to be able to sell very quickly and above all quickly to gain our first experiences.
How did your first experiences with the WooCommerce Shop?
We are very pragmatic by nature. So we started, maybe even with a little bit of naivety, in the project, have everything installed, configured and adapted. The creation of the first shop basis was relatively smooth and fast. As with so many things in life, the devil is in the details.
The initial lightness of the motto “We’re just building a shop” has been slowed down a bit over time. Because the technical adjustments for legal certainty, updates, extensions, new configurations u.v.m. At the end of the day we took more time than originally expected.
Which requirements for the shop solution have come up for you?
With our first shop, we had a steep learning curve relatively quickly. Although we had thought through marketing, content, technology, accounting, fulfillment and much more in theory, the practice looked different in many areas. The multitude of plugins for WordPress and WooCommerce are curse and blessing at the same time.
In particular, the technical possibilities and needs have cost a lot of time. The multitude of plugins for WordPress and WooCommerce are curse and blessing at the same time. On the one hand we have many extensions, eg. As in the field of marketing, reporting and product presentation tried and on the other hand constantly have to solve new technical conflicts through new integrations. The compatibility of the individual plugins with the theme and the CMS configuration used by us was often “Trial & Error”.
With these experiences, we wondered how we could concentrate more on selling and reducing the technical effort. We think that it is z. For example, our main task may not be to technically develop the most perfect checkout process possible. Others have already thought about it a lot and built up experience.
The success we can influence lies elsewhere. For example in communication, products, pricing or service. The technology and the shop system must function as optimally as possible in a high quality “out-of-the-box”.
How did you finally discover Shopify?
At a multi-channel e-commerce event, we met the founder of Try Foods. Jörn Gutowski was not only successful in “The Cave of the Lions”, but is also a convinced Shopify user. He spontaneously told us a lot about the benefits of the system, including: a. Reliable scalability and performance with high TV traffic and simple operation. That made us curious.
How did you go then? What were your next steps on the path from WooCommerce to Shopify?
After our conversation, I looked at Shopify in a free trial. Already the first impression was really good, because the backend is designed very clearly and you can quickly find an orientation in the individual areas.
Via an existing business partner, we established contact with Heiko Vogelsang of webserviceXXL, a Shopify expert from Berlin, and asked him for support and implementation of the shop. A funny coincidence in this context was that Heiko already worked for Try Foods. Thus, we had found a perfect implementation partner.
A real advantage of Shopify is that the entry costs are low and the effort for extensions is very manageable.
Heiko Vogelsang accompanied us through the entire project and is still available to us today for adjustments and extensions. A real advantage of Shopify is that the initial cost is low and the effort to integrate extensions is very manageable.
How did the project work with webserviceXXL?
The implementation of the shop and the integration of the previous product data was very easy and smooth. As a basis we have used the theme “Debut” offered by Shopify and adapted it according to our ideas. We had excluded the development and implementation of our own theme from the beginning due to time constraints.
Through the old WooCommerce based shop, we had a transparent overview of the required functions and article representations. I would say estimated that nearly 80 percent of all requirements were met by Shopify. The remaining 20 percent were very specific things, such as litre price information, but could be implemented by Heiko very quickly.
With Shopify, some things have been rethought and implemented differently. For example, we have re-created all item data and processed it more uniformly. And if things sometimes could not be implemented one-to-one like the old shop system, then it was a good opportunity to think about another process that would lead to the same goal.
A new shop system is initially work, but also brings with it the need to clean up a bit. The implementation was extremely fast and after about three weeks we already had a first online capable stand.
What has improved on your new online shop in contrast to the old WooCommerce shop?
In sum, there are many small and big things. Basically, we have a lot less technical effort for updates and performance with Shopify. The thoughtful backend with many great features such. For example, the Analytics Dashboard or Order Management make daily work easy and customer behavior more transparent. And that’s exactly what we wanted, a system where we can focus on our strengths: marketing and selling.
Another nice example are broken shopping carts, a topic we have dealt with relatively little in the old WooCommerce shop. This is initially believed lost sales, but you can still win with the professional recovery mail. We can see that in our numbers and also in the feedback from our customers, who in some cases even thank you for the e-mail, because they were on the go at the time of the order and could not finish the shopping cart due to various reasons.
Thus, this feature contributes to both sales and customer satisfaction. At WooCommerce, we would have had to configure the reports first and assemble them with a plugin. Incidentally, Shopify in the backend as an online assistant, even inexperienced shop operators constantly small tips and hints. You have the feeling that you have bought a software that is well thought out and that works well.
Were there any features that needed to be customized to suit your business needs?
Basically yes. That means that Shopify covers everything we need first. But as we evolve and the business idea matures, so will the demands.
In fact, we have something that Heiko is currently developing fresh. The point is that orders for a specific warehouse run in an external CRM system and then be processed better by an external partner.
We work with big brands and soon we will offer products that can be individually personalized. For sure we need Heiko again. But basically Shopify already offers a lot.
How would you like to present your brand through the online shop?
greatr stands for the things that are extraordinary and different. We aspire to offer our customers products that inspire and may not be available in every other shop. But it is also about transferring this claim to service, prices or communication. Therefore, for us, greater is a feeling with which we want to recharge our brand in the coming months and years.
The search for suitable products is of course a big challenge. Is there an interesting niche somewhere? Can we make something more attractively priced? Or do we possibly develop products that no one else has with other brands?
A good example of this is the SCAVI & RAY glitter bottles from our MBG Group partner. These are unique and beyond that as a gift idea in many great variants – even personalisierbar – very attractive for customers. Incidentally, that was the first product when we started over a year ago. And this has shown us the following logically: If you have products that no one else has, you have a good chance of earning money in e-commerce.
Meanwhile, we offer a whole lot of products that are not available anywhere else. Some of these are directly linked to a brand. For example, SALITOS has a new ceramic grill for the summer season. This is an exclusively branded product of the brand SALITOS and that makes it attractive for brand lovers again.
Which marketing mix emerges from your strategy?
I think we have a great advantage: as a long-time experienced and well networked advertising agency, we can draw on services and knowledge that other startups have to buy expensive. This creates many internal means of communication and strategies, which is ultimately faster and cheaper.
In addition, we also work closely with other brands and use z. For example, their existing social media channels on Facebook and Instagram, which sometimes achieve enormous reach in the millions. And last but not least, in parallel to greatr, we also run our online magazines BEAUTYPUNK.com and about-drinks.com, where we can regularly display ads and advertorials for free.
Do you feel supported by Shopify in your marketing plans?
Yes, Shopify supports its clients in marketing in very different places. On the one hand with the very detailed and meaningful Analytics data and on the other with many functions such. For example, the Marketing Campaign tool, which offers great opportunities, especially for newcomers.
In addition, easy-to-install apps from the Shopify store can integrate a variety of additional tools that can be used to implement your own marketing ideas. Personally, I like the buy button extremely well, which allows you to quickly place items directly on other websites for sale.
What is your hottest tip for a successful e-commerce business?
I would advise every founder to examine exactly where their own core competence lies and where their own time is best invested. Running a shop requires a variety of services and competencies. Many underestimate the effort and complexity.
Start with a system where you get a lot of work done.
Therefore, it makes sense to start technically with a shop system that already works out-of-the-box and greatly reduces development effort and investment. Especially if you start as a newcomer in e-commerce, then the recommendation can only be: Begins with a system in which a lot of work is taken away from you.