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!

Suggestions/feedback

  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!

#shopifyretailtour

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.

Cafe

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.

Galleries
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.

Shop

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!

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.

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”.

Week 54 at work

This week I think email took over my life but I managed to:

  • One of our new style Culture management team meetings – change ahoy!
  • Made plans to start our digital literacy programme – learn how to use email, twitter and record oral histories for beginners
  • Met our Arts Council relationship manager and talked lots about working together
  • We’re on the verge of winning a 12 month project but needed to spend some talk meeting their ‘conditions’
  • Talked all things ‘interpretation’
  • Looked at how we’ll resource our marketing efforts once Claire leaves and Kerrie goes off for awhile and came away with 18 issues to resolve
  • Decided how to best proceed with our learning section in the short term
  • Showed a few folks how we’re using basecamp for small projects to ease the process and help us all feel more in control
  • Attended the monthly South Media South West event
  • Prepared our website and social media for the industrial action on the 10th
  • Spoke at an eLN workshop about making ebooks
  • Attended a half day Nesta project workshop

Year one: A year in review

Last week’s wrap up #52 marked the end of my first year at Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives. It has been a great year for me across the board. It was the year I decided to get more organised (at work anyway!), take control of my own working life by working on meaningful projects and we’re having our first baby soon!

I mostly stopped freelancing which was both easy and hard to do. Stopping meant that I could focus more clearly on the job and not let other people down. I can now come home and not worry about saying “i’ll only be an hour, only to disappears into some code deep into the evening”. This also gave me more time to enjoy personal pursuits including trying to say YES to any travel or holiday opportunity. I got to enjoy France twice, Budapest in Hungary, and the Peak district.

July

Starting a new role in a new sector takes some getting used to and I spent much of the first month getting to meet people, listen, review but ultimately kept quiet about possible new ideas – nobody wants to hear the unknown new guy stating the obvious. It was towards the end of the first month I realised too that I should blog regularly, mostly for myself to laugh or cringe back at in many years to come. I started to write a weekly blog post which i’ve just about managed to keep up with.

August

I was starting to find my feet and voice during the second month and began to make small ‘interventions’ such as opening up wide our social media accounts to staff. My favourite quote to this day happened during August “What have you actually fixed?” and it was a nice reminder that people must SHIP projects not ‘manage’ your career away. I got my head down planning what projects our team could actually ship during my 18 month contract.

September

I got busy building the digital team’s foundation and drafted our 8 digital principles. By now I could see some of our weak spots and set things in motion to improve across short and long term projects. I took on a marketing apprentice with a digital twist who has just written her first blog post yah! I took the second half of the month off to motorcycle down through France.

October

By October it was clear to me that as a manager I needed to better understand what I needed our ‘digital team’ to be. Plus I was so used to being ‘in’ a team rather than running one that I was in danger of neglecting my duty so I set about on revised course. During this month I put the wheels in motion for what turned out to be an unsuccesful Nesta project bid. Sometimes we need the wind to be knocked out of our sails. I finally got to meet a group of likeminded folk at Museumcamp and by the end of the end decided that my role is often best described as “spinning 1001 tiny plates”. I also worked with the team to produce draft social media training and guidance. Unsurprisingly, but a bit disappointing, is that opening up the flood gates for staff to use social media doesn’t actually mean many will. I strongly suggest you have an ‘open’ policy… you won’t regret it or be made to eat humble pie. We at least now have a framework and training to begin longer term digital take-up initiatives.

November

I kicked off the month running social media related training and being as sociable as possible by attending local digital events shouting to everybody that our museum service is taking digital seriously and we’re after collaboration. A thread of work that i’m very excited about long term ‘student as producer’ breathed into life. Our 8 digital principles were signed off with our mantra being to ‘create a ruckus’. I attended lots of events and cast one eye to our 2014-15 road map. By now I have clear vision for our most pressing projects and so this month felt like a real turning point.

December

A packed month around revising our digital strategy, launching an exhibition and agreeing to get involved in the forward plans. It was also the month where I knuckled down to start our website project which eventually went ‘live’ on 15th May. I learnt all about procurement, tendering, hidden agendas and being proved right and wrong ha. I also picked myself from the disappointment of our earlier Nesta bid and ran straight into a collaboration with Aardman and University of Bristol which eventually become our successful application in June. Notice that the timescales require a focus on both the here and now and also to think about 2-5 years ahead. Parked our online shop ideas. Spent a bunch of time reviewing our digitisation efforts. This will be a thread of work for an entire career. During December I also realised that having a wooly digital strategy wasn’t a great idea and ultimately decided to tackle projects in smaller pieces to let the strategy and tactics naturally surface. We were also short staffed over the christmas break so I got my first experience working as a visitor assistant to ensure our gallery doors stayed open. Our director sailed off to the sun.

January

During January we got the green light on our website project which I see as the foundation platform for much of our future work. I got to crack on reviewing our existing offering and making suggestions for direction to help the website agency. Our interim director took office and has been very supportive since day one – i love to learn from more experienced people which is a bonus. I and the team got our hands wet by agreeing to use trello to manage our workload and show our public roadmap.

 February

We kicked off the website project and used the helpful GDS service model to ensure we met our user needs AND stayed aligned to the general direction that public sector digital is heading. Took on a young student for one week’s work experience which was a privilege. Much of this month and the next was spent writing and revising our Arts Council 2015-18 bid. This cash keeps us afloat and pays my wages. A simple move to eventbrite for our event bookings literally has saved us thousands of plans. Amazing to be reminded that not all projects need to take a long time nor be expensive. Attended some events. Loved the smack in the face quote by Steve Jobs “Nothing is being held up that is any good“.

March

Towards the end of the financial year everybody sees what small pots of cash they had tucked away and get spending. I learned that others may spend your cash if you’re not quick enough. The result of which is we lost out on some kit we really needed but lesson learned! The council offered staff voluntary severance and it was sad to wave farewell during March and April to some great folks.I was working on two major project bids and this was a burn the candle at both ends month. Needless to say I hope I don’t have too many months like this one. That being said everything came good so it was worth the effort.

April

Heading out of the fog that was bid deadline submission felt great and made April whizz past. I had to take on some of the workload from those who left the service, some of this was good of course… some of it now forces me to spend too much time on frustrating processes that I hope to whack soon. Our website project moved through alpha and beta stages. We learned tons from our users and understanding data. I’m now converted to using data to help us in all corners of the service! Spoke at a conference and tried to visit a bunch of museums.

May

We hosted a MCG Museums Get Mobile conference and launched our website less than 24 hours apart bristolmuseums.org.uk which was intense but rewarding. It was a month of major projects converging and i’m glad that things panned out. I perfectly timed a week holiday in the south of France post launch which recharged the old batteries. Our service began what seems to be a long and protracted restructure which is never comfortable. Made our first internal ebook for an exhibition.

June

During this month I took on new responsibilities and got the new title ‘interim head of digital’. I have been moving quickly to get the ball rolling on related activity which i’ll talk about soon. I had lots of post website launch work to do as well as our 2014 digital p Right at the end of the month we heard we were successful in both our Arts Council bid which cast a shadow over Feb and March and another project subject to a few conditions. A great way to cap off the first year working at the service.

I’d like to thank David, Emma, Fay, Tom and Zahid for all their HARD work. I believe we have a great digital team and we should be proud of the work we’ve done together. Now let’s ship some even better work!

Onwards.

Introducing shopify

At work I’m currently working on delivering a project to offer online shopping to the public. So 2005 I know but better late than never. In the web world Shopify rings bells so I figured it was a safe bet to experiment for us. One of my favourite companies abookapart uses shopify and having been on the customer stand I feel happy with the platform.

I’ve just attended a half day workshop led by Keir Whitaker from Shopify which was an introduction to the platform with time to have a little dig under the hood. The session gave me the confidence that shopify should meet our immediate needs and longer term needs. The point of sale (POS) rollout in 6-12months is also pretty exciting. I made a few notes:

  • Shopify is a theme based e-commerce hosted platform
  • you can try out the partnership platform for testing out the entire process and flow for internal stakeholders
  • uses an open source template language called liquid
  • at present over 110,000 stores
  • Shopify uses stripe to handle payments but accepts many other gateways
  • examples of great shops included – United pixel workersGreats brandHerb Lester
  • essential cheatsheet for code snippets
  • you can use www.fetchapp.com for handling digital products
  • there are new EU rules coming into force in 2015 that need exploring around item returns and digital downloads from 2015
  • if you’re a mac user like me you can use their free desktop app to edit themes on your computer
  • get used to making shudder for, else, if statements
  • one product can have multiple variates e.g. a product is a t-shirt but the sizes are variates
  • building a theme consists of HTML, CSS,  javascript and the liquid template language
  • uses five folders (assets, config, layout, snippets, templates) and 11 core files.
  • #shopifyu

I’ll let you know how we get on in July!

Week 51 at work

This week i’ve been up to:

  • Shorter week due to being at the Le Mans 24 race in France
  • Shut down over 200 web pages which were scattered across the retired mshed.org website and Bristol City Council pages
  • Set up 301 redirects which are critical to help Google know we’ve moved the content. Where possible I have mapped old URLs to their new home
  • Met with Bristol Record Office to review their web section
  • Went on a fact finding mission to see how we can improve our performance data gathering
  • Enjoyed being part of the IT Desktop user group giving feedback about what needs to improve: start up and shut down speed, unrestricted web access and skype!
  • Carried out my final team members six month review
  • Improved the staff ebook I released last month
  • Sent the director my draft plans for the next few months: interpretation, website phase two and more!
  • Spent a lot of my time with my head in the GDS measurement guidance and coming up with key performance indicators based on our Council and Arts Council measurements
  • Agreed to start a ‘behind the scenes’ breakfast instagram and blogger tour of the sites
  • Chopped it up with Sarah Saunders about images, metadata and engagement

A few thoughts on in-car technology

View of the cockpit from the drivers seat

This is a post about how in-car technology has clearly moved on since our 2001 car was built.

Last week I rented a Nissan Note for our week in the South of France. I grabbed the keys and found my silver car in a long line of shiny new cars. I pressed the unlock button on the key fob and jumped into the driver seat. Everything lit up like a runway and my immediate thought was what the heck do I do now AND don’t touch anything. I moved to put the key into the ignition and realised it didn’t have a keyhole but those ‘push to start’ buttons. The car knows i’m the driver as it senses the key fob close enough. The last time I saw this feature was on Top Gear with a Ferrari. At this point I think must people will try and press the button to start the car but they’d be wrong. You need to press the clutch at the same time or the car won’t start – i found this out a few years back when I wasted 15 minutes failing to work it out on a previous rental. Once the engine started I decided to check my surroundings properly. My dashboard displayed a range of completely comprehensible details, which I later learned stood for ‘range of fuel left’, how green I was currently driving, current fuel level, gear etc. My steering wheel also had a number of buttons which I steered clear of initially. These controls allowed me to change the radio settings, activate cruise control (which I played with at 130kph to learn…!) and mess around with bluetooth devices.

In short, things have moved on in 10-15 years but not massively and I was a little bit disappointed. In addition to the above, I had a front and rear camera to assist parking (a bumper is a much simpler feature ha PLUS I built a parking sensor in college in 2000 for under a fiver), LCD display control unit with GPS and some odd flashing lights for whenever I was very close to a car or wall when driving – something that is required to drive those amazingly twisty narrow roads like the D44 between Plan De La Tour and Le Muy.

We are looking at buying a larger car yet I can’t help wonder who would pay for all these ‘features’ which basically poorly replace good road craft. Also I can’t imagine the LCD screen or many of these features still working perfectly in 10-15 years.

The best features? a cup holder next to the driver seat and a cubby hole under the boot, which probably is possible with a small spare instead of a full blown wheel I lug around.

At least now I can rest easy just looking for a second hand car with a decent cup holder and the will to carry me around.

A few details:

  • Approx £190 for seven days rental from the airport
  • We covered 650KM for £40 fuel