Retail, technology

Shopify Retail Tour 2016 Bristol

Busy crowd at Shopify Tour in Bristol

Hosted at Arnolfino on Tuesday 27th September 2016

Myself and Darren popped along to the Shopify Retail Tour to see one of the experts, meet other retail nerds and hear what is new. The whole setup was very slick and I loved the fittings they’d designed for the tour.

At Bristol Culture we currently run four Shopify point of sale (POS) instances across retail (£300K+) , fundraising and Archives.

We had booked a one-on-one session with one of the Shopify support team. We wanted to pick their brains about better ways to run our small empire online and mention a few issues we have with POS.

One of the reasons I chose Shopify originally was due to the added features that third party apps can offer. Our host was fantastic at reviewing our current online shop which has a tiny conversion rate of 0.4% and making having done a test purchase suggested ways to improve:

  • Try out multiple shop inventory apps such as Tradegeeko (for our small £££ expansion) or Stitch labs
  • Quick books for more useful management of our business position
  • Using their newly acquired KIT for third party marketing
  • Free app SEO doctor to see where our online shop could be improved
  • ALT Text app (free)
  • Make it clear that we offer in-museum pick-up of orders
  • Read and action : 50 ways to make your first sales
  • regularly review our abandoned checkout analytics
  • Try Facebook sales Channel (found via report area)
  • Find a better header image
  • Blog regularly to help SEO – ask suppliers too!
  • Photography- keep consistent background
  • Organise products a in range or collection instead of long product pages

The helpful Mailchimp team also showed us 2-3 automation features we’ll be testing very soon to kick start our mailing list efforts.

I was super happy that David Seal from the POS team was at the event and I had the chance to explain how we use POS, some issues and made a few feature requests. I have been following David on Twitter for some time so it is always cool to meet twitter folk.

The new mobile phone version of Shopify was released on Tuesday which finally lets me login to multiple stores without the hassle of logging out on Android. It has only crashed once in 24hrs!


  1. Our biggest feature request is for the mobile app or bar code scanner to let us quickly scan products on the spot and get sales history. This would really help us review the position of products and any affect of moving, effectively letting us do easy A/B testing.
  2. As with many people i’m baffled that adding Cost of Goods isn’t possible natively within Shopify. How else do you know your profit margin?! it would immediately help you review products and maybe increase or delete a SKU.
  3. I also suggested that Shopify should look into partnering with retail shop fitters for pop-up equipments and fixtures.
  4. POS app can seem slow or unresponsive when our team are busy and we can get the odd crash – tough if it is in its locked enclosure!
  5. The till drawer only opens when we have wifi which sometimes falls over and unless you have the key you are in for a tough sell!

My favourite quote of the evening came right at the end when one of the speakers said “They can’t catch you if you keep running”

Thanks for having us!


Museums, personal, technology, Travel

Visit to Brooklyn Museum 9th September 2016

I’ve wanted to visit Brooklyn Museum for years. I love hip hop and the museum crops up directly and indirectly in the culture – from my favourite rapper talking about art “Cop Rembrandt, hang ‘em, pay the lot. Can’t complain, we ballin, true or not ma?” To showing artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat which pop up in my feeds frequently. No other museum has crossed my radar as much as the Brooklyn Museum and its famed African art collection to name just one area.

All of the above coupled with the exciting digital work such as the ASK project made choosing a holiday to NYC a sound decision. We took a stroll around the botanic gardens located next to the museum before visiting which our daughter loved. In addition to wanting to see the museum as a fan, in the back of my mind I’m also looking at our own future redevelopment of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery so seeing how other museums position various services will give me good ideas for the welcome, shop cafe, toilets etc.

The welcome

I’d say that the main entrance has three phases: an initial public outdoor space with cool foundation and seating, an inner floor to ceiling glass area with further seating and security (my normal bag too big which left me carrying a zzz 2yr, her change bag and my iPad – common practice in nationals) and then finally a large reception with bag checking-in area, welcome desk, access to the shop and toilets in view. The cost of “admission” is a suggested $16 or pay what you think. The messaging is good at having the bahaviour of paying the fee for me. The person at the desk explained the admission policy and that a benefit of paying is access to the special exhibition ‘Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present’. I took up this option whilst my wife went for $4 as she wasn’t bothered about sports. At this point I was expecting to hear about the ASK app but nope. A missed opportunity as Sara did say that staff normally tell folks about it. Hey we all have this happen. At this point I always ask the first visitor asssistant I see a question (I have a mystery shop list that is secret ha) and after they finally got my Bristol twang they gave me a very helpful answer. But first I needed to check out the cafe as I oversee two cafes at our own museums.


They have two options, a lovely looking restaurant and bar called The Norm or a standard cafe. I was tempted to try The Norm but it looked too lovely to disturb the diners with my young daughter. I’m sure it is kid friendly but I had that “pang” of not wanting to be loud as it didn’t look like that kind of space – more cool date type. This is the same feeling everybody has about being very quiet in gallery spaces even though this isn’t a rule! Instead we ate a lovely curated (I forgot the name of the artist) turkey cheese sandwich with coffee. Service was very good and I loved the design of the menu and bar area itself. There was indoor and outdoor seating.

ASK app
Whilst having lunch I started to spot messaging for the ASK app on the tables and lift. The app connects you in real time to staff who you can ask any question to and they get back to you. It wasn’t immediately obvious if you didn’t already know what it did. They seem to have mostly solved this by the helpful staff who work at the ASK station which you pass early on the first floor. I “asked” about what Ghanaian art they had on display and got a few suggestions and liked the style of interaction which was friendly and felt personal with lines like “my personal favourite”. The app worked well and lived up to my expectations having read about it on their labs blog for the whole development.

As much as I wanted to see everybody in the museum using the app I feel that this strand of “connection” with the public is very much in its infancy. The team behind ASK are tinkering with the future by making it. In 20-30yrs it may not be ASK but it will be a distance relative. Personally I think voice recognition will be something to keep an eye on. As an aside when I’d previously mentioned ASK to our curatorial team they were intrigued and also concerned about the time involvement of answering questions – when is too much of a good thing a burden? I didn’t get a chance to ask about this.

I really enjoyed the four open floors of galleries and started top down. The Luce Center for Amercian Art visible Storafe Study Center is the best example of explaining how a museum works I’ve come across. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a simple clear explanation of an accession number. The ASK app suggestion had the additional benefit that I felt I was seeking out a unique way to find objects.
I enjoyed seeing a closed section being worked on. I loved the African art, Rodin and got a sleeping baby and me selfie with the Venice scene by Monet. I enjoyed the sports photography and was pleasantly surprised to see a photo of Wolverhampton wanderers football team (I lived there for 12 months and saw them play) among the basketball all stars, boxing stars and Motorsport. Use of tech was subtle and mainly used for TVs with bright signs. I liked the use of directional audio. There was lots of big open empty space throughout the building.


Our own shop suffered from neglect for years so shops are front and centre in my head at the moment. The layout of the main shop was very nice and sweeping. I thought I’d see lots more budget kids stuff we love in the uk but it was more gift stuff which I’m sure works very well. I saw a print on demand station but sadly ran out of time to try it out. There was a pop up shop in the special exhibition area that was well visually merchandised. I liked the seating by the book section and overall visual merchandising.

Meeting a few of the team

I was very fortunate to get to spend an hour with Sara Devine, JJ and Christina who took me up on the offer of saying hello. I explained how we’re trying to transform our service and focused on our own version of Pay What You Think, user research, shops and digital literacy for staff. I picked up Some helpful nuggets and hope to see these guys on the circuit soon.

Thank you Brooklyn Museum and thank you Sara, JJ and Christina for taking time to meet me…. Now back to my holiday!

Museums, technology

Get your museum digital skills started in 3 steps

As we rapidly approach 2016 i’m still amazed at how many people (organisations are people right?) say they are still yet to get started with “digital”. I’m also still reeling over a comment from a chatting with strangers at the Making Digital Work conference back in October in which I was told “it’s alright for you Zak, you are a senior manager so you can do what you like and make it happen”. That comment hurt me, not personally but my sense of championing “digital” for everybody. I wasn’t always a “boss – who lets not forget has a boss who has a boss and so on”. But I disgress. YOU, yes YOU can do digital. You simply start. You don’t need permission from anybody in your organisation. Pssst people actually like it when their colleagues get stuff done for them.

Here is how I would start to do digital today (1hr to 1 week):

Step 1:Google your organisation

Log out of your google account and search the name of your organisation. What results came back? For me it is our website, followed by a Wikipedia entry about us and then trip advisor.
Both Wikipedia and trip advisor WANT you to use them. Setup an account, review their guidelines and start to review entries. When you spot an error fix it or in the case of trip advisor write a reply to any comments that have 2 stars or less.

There is a good reason that Wikipedia and trip advisor show so highly in the Google results and that is because so many people use them. And you also using it will get your work in front of the many people looking at those websites. You’ll immediately be improving your organisations customer service by keeping an eye on these two website and the wonderful thing is you just did it without a committee. If you don’t feel empowered to even do this then I suggest you leave your employer and I’m not kidding.

Done that? You have just earned your first digital badge and it took less than one hour.

Step two: Simple – copy what others are doing

Organisations like mine recruit people with lots of experience and/or potential. As at this stage I assume the digital team is YOU you probably don’t have others to bounce ideas off. I look at it as an opportunity as there is nobody to tell you no. Instead of giving up, copy what others are doing, that’s how I started. Watch and copy how they respond to tweets, negative comments on Facebook or trip advisor etc. This approach lets you piggyback off much more experienced people and only costs you a bit of time. If you can I also suggest you attend as many of the free evening meet ups that nerds like me speak at throughout the country. You rock up to a pub, buy a drink and listen to a variety of people who love digital so much they want to spread the word or share a problem. I know rocking up to an event on your own is difficult but that tingle of fear is only in your head. You don’t even have to talk to anybody if you don’t want to, just smile and politely clap after the talk.

Step three: Read the GDS service manual

The Government Service Design Manual is the blueprint about how to start and scale a digital service. The brightest minds in the land of digital have produced this resource for YOU to learn on the shoulders of giants.

Museums, Notes, technology

The Shortcut to being good at digital

You’re generally seen to be good at something if it take little effort to come to the answer or ‘do’ the work. I can pretty much do this for ‘digital’ in lot of its areas. I need my team and wider service to know much too. Yet there are no shortcuts. Should you use a tiff image file type on the web or a jpeg? what makes the internet work? why is the open web better for us than a closed system? will a PDF open in 250 years?

To learn the answers to these and much more you just have to start on the long path. Read more about the web and digital, attend evening sessions (often in a pub if that helps), be curious at all times. Here is a tip though: until you ‘do’ the leg work the answer is nearly always “yes that could work but it depends”.