Starting Something New

I’ve moved back to Canada to work on my new business (announcement TBA!) and a few other things I’ve been investing my time (and money) into.

I will forever be grateful for the opportunity BigCommerce and the other wonderful people in Austin, Texas gave me over the years. Things I’ll be missing, in order are:

  1. The amazing people of Austin that allowed me to have such a great time while I was there
  2. The wonderful weather that let me wear shorts 11 months of the year
  3. The delicious food that made eating out to places an easy decision every time

Magecredit was just Acquired!

The popular eCommerce store credit system I built that worked for the Magento eCommerce platform called Magecredit was just acquired by a German consulting company.

I’d rather not disclose the acquisition amount but I can say that I am very happy with the result.

The acquirer does have technical expertise so I’m confident they will continue work for the current Magecredit clients to improve and grow the product with new features. I will remain available for the next 6 months on an “on-call” basis.

PHP Foreach Preserves Last Item

I thought I’d blog this because it’s something that comes as a surprise to me, so it may come as a surprise to you. Let’s consider this code: http://pastebin.com/mxsjMdij

The second time the loop runs it actually preserves the value of the “$app” variable, and thus triggers the if statement’s isset() function to true.

This issue caught me for a loop for a while, but I guess now I know…. interesting PHP….

It’s more than a Magento store credit extension…

Last week I announced my latest obsession: Magecredit. Magecredit is a store credit extension for Magento. It all started a few months ago when I decided to tackle the problem that eCommerce stores experience a large amount of refunds in their lifetime. For some stores, this kills their performance. In fact, analysts have seen eCommerce store return rates of up to 25%¹, especially in the clothing industry.  That’s a 1/4 of all sales!

So what are merchants doing right now to combat this issue? Well, they’re basically giving customers back their money and hoping that the customer decides to chose another product… In my calculations I’d consider this a lost customer unless you can find a way to keep the money in your store. From an accounting stance, returns look ugly as well (especially with the credit memo system native to Magento).

Magecredit helps solve these issues. If you can create credit memos and returns that go directly to store credit, you can incentivize customers not only to continue to shop at your store, but to also potentially increase their purchase size (as suggested by Tony Hsieh of Zappos in Delivering Happiness).

The first step of this journey to retaining customer value is to build the store credit extension for Magento. I’m focusing on Magento store owners simply because I know the Magento ecosystem very well and I can keep close to the merchants using store credit in their store so I can learn and adapt the system to be the best that it can be for merchants. Later I’m going to look at implementing the system for Shopify and BigCommerce, and even some of the larger platforms like Demandware.

So you see see, it’s much more than a Magento module to me. Magecredit is about increasing customer happiness and loyalty. I’m excited to see merchants succeed with it on their side.


¹ Old school vs shiny new technology

Smart Habits

I always recommend that people read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book has taught me a lot. If you don’t have time to read it or at least read the lesson summaries on the Wikipedia page for the book.

Someone brought up the issue that if you practice the principles discussed in the book in real life it may make you seem fake or forced. This is absolutely true! (See video above). The fact is, it’s really, really hard to pretend to like someone. So how do we solve this?

The answer is to create habits out of the good practices taught. A habit is something you do without a conscious awareness of doing it. If you create a habit out of never criticizing people, then the next time they say something really, really stupid, you’ll look less like you’re holding in a fart resisting correcting them and more like a naturally nice person.

I recommend you read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is an excellent read after you read How to Win Friends. It talks a lot about the creation of habits and how we can use habits to improve ourselves.

Putting 20Alpha.com On Pause While I Complete My MBA

I’ve been running the store 20Alpha.com on the side for the last few weeks. I learned a lot from the experience, but as I’m starting my MBA at Ivey in London, Ontario, I know I wont be able to dedicate the time that the website needs to provide a great service to my customers. For that reason, I’m putting the store on hold and no longer taking any orders. For those who are curious, here were my key take-aways:

1. It’s easy to sell, hard to profit.

It didn’t take long before I got my first sale, and I didn’t even have to spam my friend base on Facebook or Twitter. The profit margins were thin, and I imagine, unless you’re making your own clothing, it’s pretty hard to get a higher than 60% profit margin. For $20 shirts, that’s not much profit per sale.

2. One-time sales are hard

Having built my previous company with a SaaS (Software as a Service) pricing model, I can see the immediate disadvantages of running a one-time sale operation. Not only do clothing need-not regular replenishment, but they’re typically not purchased more than once in a long while. Add that to my point #1, and it’s a very big problem. Maybe there’s a market for subscription clothing? So you’d pay like $2.5/mo for 12 months for a year…. who knows…

3. Branding is Boss

All it took was thinking ‘outside of the box’ for the branding. Look at what other sites do and do it differently, how you think it should be. This allowed me to make a lasting brand pretty quickly.

4. Cater to your market. Nobody else.

I focused my marketing around the ‘Bro’ demographic that I believe is being underserved. This I feel was the reason people purchased from 20Alpha. People want to buy things from their friends (or ‘bros’ in my case).

5. You can test the waters with very little funding, however funding is needed to grow.

I didn’t invest any money into marketing, but it really limited my growth. It did validate my hypothesis  that there is a very unservered market however. Given a few thousand in financing, I believe I could have made some decent Facebook marketing and business development.

6. First customers are awesome.

My first customers were so responsive over email that I actually felt like we were becoming friends quickly through our convos. They gave me honest feedback and asked me questions about my products that shaped the store to be better for them, and as a result, better for me.   Hope this info helps anyone out there hoping to launch their own store!