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

The right out of office message means a clear inbox after a holiday

For most people the return to work from a holiday usually involves a great stress about peeking into your inbox to see what horror awaits. I get between 50-100 emails every day. This year I’ve had a three week holiday and a two week break. That would be hundreds of email to “catch up”. However I won’t be seeing any of these messages sent during my holiday on my return Monday.

I was finding it increasingly stressful last year playing catch up digging through hundreds of email just in case something important was hiding in that pile. This year I introduced a new way to completely side step the issue. I delete ALL email sent during my holiday with the exception of two people – my boss and my bosses boss. I have a modified version of Tim Ferriss’s out of office that is explicitly clear that if you need a response you have two choices, either contact someone else or email me from the date of my return. I’m serious.

It should be obvious why I exclude my line management – I like my job ha plus they know I’m away so anything I’m being sent is assumed for after my return.

After using this successfully for two holidays back to back it will now be part of my holiday check list. I can the jump straight back to work without wasting a week chasing shadows.

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!

Gone on holiday Sept 2016

Hey folks,

My two week holiday starts now. I’ll be zipping around the South West for a few days then in New York City for some of my holiday. I last went to NYC in 2000 as an 18 year old. It really will be a special family trip and I can’t wait to check out the museum scene, tourist hot spots and hopefully cycleways with my wife and kid. If you live in NYC and want to meet up just tweet me or drop me an email and i’ll do my best to see you.

Those of you who know me well will know I have a fear of flying and days before my trip it is throwing me for a loop. However I am determined to board that plane, ride it out and have a fantastic time!

 

 

Press quote in Fresh produce can add value to the art experience

Earlier this week I had a quote on Produce Business UK online in their article Fresh produce can add value to the art experience.

Zak Mensah, head of transformation for Bristol City Council, represents the city’s four museums and art gallery. He says the role of catering cannot be underestimated. “Bristol City Council’s culture team runs two cafes and a private hire business in partnership with Levy Restaurants UK,” he explains. “The year on year revenue exceeds £1 million. In line with the rest of the sector, the private hire side of the business generates more income than our cafés.

“It not only generates vital income, it also means we can make the best use of our venues, further opening them up to individuals, organisations and businesses across the city and beyond. Our cafés undoubtedly contribute to our very high overall visitor satisfaction, some 85% based on exit-survey data.” –

I always find it strange to write a comment that then gets adapted by an editor/press officer. The quote should have said we have five museums not four buy hey – oh and i’m only Head of Transformation for Culture not the entire Council!

Notes from Banksy panel: Does Banksy have a social responsibility to do more to support the causes he highlights in his art?

On Saturday 14th May 2016, to launch the 4th edition of the book Home Sweet Home by Tangent books we decided to host a panel “Does Banksy have a social responsibility to do more to support the causes he highlights in his art.?” At M Shed in collaboration with the Festival of ideas.

It was a glorious sunny day and about 100 people came to hear Will Simpson, Marc Leverton and Katy Bauer, all authors of Banksy books. Richard Jones was referee.

The third edition was one of our best selling products last year so this event seemed a great way to fly the flag whilst quenching the thirst of the Banksy loving public. We can’t go a day at the museum without people coming specifically to see our Banksy statue on their trail across the city.

We sold £100 worth of books and people seemed to really enjoy it. I know one person came all the way up from Cornwall.

It was only my second attempt at book signing and I have learned a few things to make it better. Also I’m convinced that it needs to either be an event or pure book signing. Either you want a signed boom or you come for the chat/debate. Cool.

Anyway below are the notes I scribbled down. They aren’t exhaustive and I may have misunderstood of misattributed points so please forgive any errors I may have made.

My panel notes

The majority of the audience answered “No” to the question “Should Banksy have a social responsibility to do more to support the causes he highlights in his art.
Will: explained that he was part of a group who went to Mexico with Banksy to paint and highlight the Zapatista movement. The plan was that Banksy was going to spend a few days painting and in-between they played some football. Whenever they were short of players, Banksy would be in goal. Will is recalling this trip from around 15 years ago and hasn’t seen Banksy in over a decade but remembers he was very smart and had a dry sense of humour. As Banksy was there to paint, Will remembers that Banksy had done lots of research and spoke to locals to see what they wanted. Will then backtracked to the Autumn of 2000 when Banksy was starting to get popular. To fundraise, he had an idea to use a painting, which was pink with a footballer doing an overhead kick and let people guess where the ball landed. The winner of the raffle would keep the painting. The painting was on display at Eat the Beat in St Nics for 1-2 months. Will and a few others thought of trying to rig the raffle but the person they sent pulled out at the last minute as they didn’t feel it was the right thing to do. The painting raised about £200 and eventually went on to be sold for £20,000 years later (Jo).

Katy: Described her encounter with Banksy’s people during the time of the Bristol tension with a new proposed Tesco in Stokes Croft. Chris Chalkley from People’s Republic of Stokes Croft funded a Banksy print to help fundraise. A Banksy contact approached Chris about the collaboration. It was very particular. All the proceeds must go to PRSC, it can only be £5 and they could only print the agreed 2000 [note – i have a signed copy of this as a wedding present…].
The prints were sold at the Anarchist book fair. Katy had asked if it could be sold for £10 as it was clearly going to be a sell out and the money would benefit but was told no. Katy says the experience was clearly very much that Banksy is in control and it must go the way he wants. Katy shared a story about a piece she wrote that never saw the light of day as Banksy censored it, Katy was appalled. The piece was intended for Paul Gough’s book on Banksy and was written as an honest piece that wasn’t meant to offend about Banksy maybe [recanted]. The incident left Katy a little disappointed that Banksy would do this.

Richard: The level of control and attention to detail is astonishing.

Marc: says that Banksy doesn’t have to be socially responsible but his size means that he almost has to. He thinks Banksy is very aware of his early start as a vandal and is now ironically part of the art world.

Richard: questions how much control Banksy really his over his own image and ability to affect anything.

Will: agrees broadly with Marc and that Banksy’s unique selling point is his leftie/punk

Marc: Says to answer the question you need to understand Banksy and he thinks punk was a big influence. For example Banksy and his contacts would have known the queue to buy the Tesco posters would have been chaotic and they probably like that. Hence why they didn’t stop people buying more than one.

Richard: If Banksy cares then why wouldn’t he allow a second print run, knowing it would have greatly helped?

Katy: Says it is sad that more people in the audience don’t think Banksy has a responsibilty as she thinks not only does Banksy but all of us should be helping each other and the planet. Banksy is the left-ing voice the media can’t resist. Katy def thinks Banksy would be left-wing and is very Bristol i.e. d.i.y with Marc saying Banksy is capitist. Katy doesn’t see addressing social issues and making a living as being exclusive.

Will: If Banksy making the news helps highlight a cause that is enough and is helping.

Audience now join in.

Audience: thinks his work is giving back to the community and showing we can take it further.

Richard: If he was Batman he’d have a charitable Wayne foundation surely?

Marc: Part outlaw, part capitalist

Richard: During the mobile lovers episode he thinks it was clear that Banksy only got involved as he was forced into it and that the piece wasn’t meant to be removed or sold.

Marc: Dismaland has lots of local people involved which shows social responsibility.

Richard: During the Banksy vs Museum exhibition Oxfam and the city benefited. Also the sale of advertisement opening tools for ads hells shows his view on advertising and his radical/left stance. However at the end of the show, all the works were sold.

Katy: Perhaps Banksy could be more helpful.

Audience: everyone has responsibility, especially with some power, influence and money. Being negative towards Banksy is a defence mechanism [claps from audience].

Audience: missing the point. Feels that Banksy is about making you think for yourself.

Audience: His work raises awareness when it disturbs us and his work is disturbing.

Audience (Chris Chalkley): we all need to be thinking of the arts as a movement to help. The techniques Banksy uses re purposefully the same as corporations. We should all be thinking about how to tackle keeping ownership of the visual spaces in the city. So much is now being hidden behind advertisement hoardings e.g. Bear at the end of the M32. We should heed the message from the Banksy piece laugh now but one day we’ll be in charge.

Audience: Banksy really appeals to everybody. The converted in the room but also the new people to his work.

Richard: The positioning of pieces at Bus height shows he is thinking of the average person not just car drivers. The Mild mild West piece in Stokes Croft was in response to the police breaking up a party.
Marc: Saw Dismaland as a return to form with the messaging, appeal and humour, even though the media missed the point. He thinks the GCHQ piece would really have annoyed him as it caused a headache for the family living in the house and this wouldn’t be be what he wanted.

Richard: the press didn’t like the dismal dismaland people

Will: His presence is important to the city.

Audience: He is a national treasure.

Audience: There is a battle for public spaces.

Chris: We should be fighting this attack on the visual public spaces – he turned down a lot of money when advertisers wanted to place ads around the bear pit in Bristol. Big corps should kindly go away

Katy: Sees Banksy as one of us.

Thank you New Zealand, thank you #NDFNZ

My 22 day trip here in New Zealand is nearly at an end – boo hiss.

During this time I’ve visited a LOT of gardens, museums, art galleries and cultural spots. Oh and small businesses.

I’ve had the pleasure to meet volunteers through to directors and CEOs. Every conversation was valuable and I’ve met some great folks who I hope take me up o my offer to meet in Bristol some day.

So thank you New Zealand for letting me behind the curtain and coping with my 1000mph Bristolian accent.

I’ve listened a bunch and learned tons.

A special shout to Matt Oliver for arranging me safe passage with the Wellington gang 😉

 

Hello New Zealand, Hello #NDFNZ

When I travel I like to try and visit as many interesting places as possible that  touch on my work interests of digital, connections, retail, cafes, commercial hire, user research, fundraising and more!

Thanks to the wonders of Twitter I have been able to arrange an introduction with some kind folks who hang out on the #ndfnz hashtag. I’d like to thank each and every one of you who reached out and/or suggested people and places I should check out.

Trust me I’m not a traveling salesman ha. I’m just keen to say hello to as many like-minded folks as possible and swap stories about where I/you are at and if I can be of any help from my neck of the woods in Bristol, England.

The main reason I’m back in New Zealand is for a wedding this weekend with family and I’m around until the 9th May.

So if you want to say hello or meet up for a drink in or outside of work don’t be shy just email zakmensah@googlemail.com or drop me a tweet or text  +447730574129

The short version of my job title ‘Head of Transformation’ is that I work for Bristol Culture, a local authority culture service with a remit to make a ruckus in user research, digital, earning income – retail etc, and making us digital by default.

I oversee a third of the service, we have over 1M visitors a year and 5 museums plus archive and arts team who make cool stuff happen across the city.

My background is helping people to use technology and address user needs

I hope to see as many of you as time allows.

Thanks

Summary of West of England Retail Day, Bath

Yesterday I spent the day in Bath with around 35 other people to focus on retail. In the morning we were hosted at the Holborne Museum and three of delivered 20min sessions on the state of play with us. my slides as ever are freely available. I spent my time explaining how in the blazes a nerd become responsible for overseeing Bristol Culture’s retail and what it’s like to have shops spread across the service. If I had to sum it up as an elevator pitch it would be: our shops needed root and branch overhaul, I Meddle a  lot, Retail thinking are fantastic, my team are along for the ride, I hate moving stock across the city, stock from 1983 is indicative of the scale of the problem and this year we’re back to making a profit!
I really enjoyed hearing Anna Bryant and Mari-Liis, the other speakers grappling with cross Christmas collaborative promotion and measuring success.
The question and answer session had me answering questions about shopify epos and giving suggestions for teaming up to share stock and resources. Two highlights stand out, firstly one of the audience is now disappointed we have improved the shop as they have spent years coming up and photographing our shockingly bad dead stock to make them feel better about their own shop! I think I may be reselling this story for years to come. The second comment was a “challenge” that very small museums don’t have the money to even entertain the cost of shopify which although affordable, is still out of the reach of many volunteer run teams. Point taken. However I responded that perhaps several of them could club together to spread the cost (I hope the small print of the terms of use permit this for voluntary organisations?!). Furthermore Shopify can run from any iPhone/android mobile as well as an iPad and nearly everybody has access to at least one of these. If you don’t have much stock then paper and pen are just as good because ultimately epos like shopify are just a tool that work for retail at scale. If you want to better understand your sales you need to find a way. If I had no money and little time I’d personally use a google spreadsheet and paper.
The questions were a welcome reminder that despite me wishing we were further along with our retail journey,  14 months later since me grabbing the wheel, we have made a leap.
After this session we had a two hour mission to visit 5-6 nearby museums and grab lunch. I was joined by Emma who was v cool to hang out with, chop it up and share our respective experiences. Each shop was well displayed. I did my usual of asking the retail assistants if they knew their own bestsellers  but they never do – worryingly I think we’d fail too. I purchased a tea towel, mug, greetings cards and guidebook from the various shops. Until today I was perplexed at how any small shop turned a profit as the turnover is usually modest. The answer is that retail assistants are normally volunteers which was my “a-ha” moment. This is the same as a self employed person running a stall in effect who doesn’t get paid by the hour regardless of sales.
I made an offer to the room that I’m happy to extend to others:
We’ll provide a small museum or arts shop with our bespoke range on a sale or return basis as I completely understand buying power is very restricted for you. I’d also consider the rest of our range too if you were looking at trying new lines like toys/homeware etc and use our products to test the water. I think that would give you a fair shake of the dice.
We ended the day with a session at the museum of working life on using a retail consultant and sharing between groups what we discovered on our missions.
I came away from the day full of ideas and hope for 2016-17. I met some great people and look forward to visiting them soon.
Thanks for the invite :Liz.
Now where is my pricing gun… (Awkward moment when one of the group said none of the stuff she saw recently had prices on at our museum aargh ).