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Perfidious Albert Blog


Ruairi Browne

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E-Commerce & Classic Cars

Posted by Ruairi Browne on Jun 26, 2024 2:20:17 PM

I love old vans because they are big, ignorant, and practical - a bit like me.

My oldest van (a 1971 VW) has been off the road for a few months. It was running badly, and I didn't have the confidence to just get stuck in. Maybe I was just waiting for it to fix itself. Then a couple of weeks ago I realised that was not going to happen. So, I got stuck in.

It turns out the carburettor was leaking fuel. I could have rebuilt it, but it was old and jaded so I just replaced it. The new carb worked but wasn't tuned well. It was idling high and running rough (see video!). I stuck some screwdrivers into the appropriate places and tweaked until the van sounded half normal. I then had to service the engine, adjust the valves, do the timing, and being an old engine I will probably have to do it all again in a few months.

What's all this got to do with e-commerce? It's actually very similar. No, it's the exact bloody same!

Consider an engine as sucking in fuel and converting it into movement. An e-commerce website sucks in visitors and converts them into customers.

Both have a lot of inefficiencies - an engine generates heat, and a website generates lost visitors. But the key similarity is that if it is not working well then you need to look under the bonnet and figure out why.

The carb is like your sales and marketing funnel - it needs to be tuned and delivering the visitors to the engine that is your Shopify website. Your website needs to be tuned to convert visitors to customers efficiently.

On my van there is even a pipe from the carb back to the fuel tank that sends unused petrol back to the tank so as it can be sent through again - just like we use Klaviyo to catch abandoned carts.

But most of all the similarity is a psychological one. If you want your website to work brilliantly you need to get past the fear and get stuck in. You need to be willing to break things, have occasional breakdowns, and maybe even risk a full-blown engine failure. Because the alternative is what so many classic car owners actually have - a good-looking shed ornament (or in your case a pretty website that does nothing useful).

So where do Perfidious Albert come into this? If you are really willing to get stuck in, then maybe we don't come into it - and that's ok. But if you want a good e-commerce mechanic to partner with and help you create a brilliant strategy for your website then we want to work with you. You need a curious mind and a can-do attitude to work with us anyway - we can only push so hard - it's your business. You need to own it. Call us for a no obligation consultation. We can talk about old vans or new websites - your shout! I love working on both.

Video of engine running after new carb but before tuning

Tags: klaviyo, shopify

Split shipping in Shopify checkout

Posted by Ruairi Browne on Jun 25, 2024 9:54:03 AM

Shopify released an exciting new feature yesterday. Previously when you have shipments to customers from more than one fulfilment centre or location or by more than one shipping method it would bundle them up into "shipping" and leave the customer clueless as to what was going on. All your hard work around shipping times, shipping options, and various options would not be displayed.

One place I have noticed this causing big problems over the years is with a mix of heavy and light items. For example if you are posting 4 t-shirts, 2 hats, and a giant metal poster to the United States. The clothing might cost €12 with An-Post, but the poster might need separate shipping and cost €60 with Fedex. The customer will see "Standard €72" at the checkout page. That might well be outside their budget. There is no clue given to them that if they can live without the sign then they could still get the clothes for a low postage cost.

If they do order it also causes confusion when the metal sign arrives by speedy Fedex but the rest of their order has not arrived. You can mitigate this with good emails and communications, but it is even better to set the expectations when they are paying - that is when they are most alert to the ins and outs of the transaction.

Now with Shopify there will be two or more shipping boxes if there will be two or more shipments. Problems solved. See the video below for more information.

Tags: shopify, checkout

Selling internationally with Shopify

Posted by Ruairi Browne on Jun 19, 2024 12:43:49 PM

Ireland is the greatest small country in the world. Is it big enough for you?

Here are some vague beliefs about selling internationally that we have formed while working with our clients.

  • Americans will buy from Ireland even if the shipping and taxes are insane.
  • Most Europeans prefer and expect an English speaking site when buying from abroad.
  • The UK is still the easiest place for Irish companies to make money online.
  • UPS, DHL, and Fedex will give you an 80% discount if you do any decent level of sales.


Do you need help with VAT?

When Perfidious Albert was in college learning software development from Professors Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace he also had to take a module on business and taxes. When explaining VAT his lecturer described it like so...

The Forestry
The forestry worker cuts down a tree that he grew from a free seed. He sells it to a lumber yard for €100 plus VAT = €123.

The Lumber Yard
The lumber yard reclaims the €23 VAT so they pay just €100 for the tree. They add value to the tree by cutting it into lumber. They sell the lumber to a furniture factor for €200 + VAT = €246

The Furniture Factory
The furniture factory reclaims the €46 VAT so they pay just €200 for the lumber. They add value to the lumber by making it into a table. They sell the table to a homeware shop for €500 + VAT = €615

The Homeware Shop
The homeware shop reclaims the €115 VAT so they pay just €500 for the table. They add value to the table by merchandising and advertising it. They sell the table to a consumer for €1000 + VAT = €1230

The Consumer
The final value of the seed -> table has now comes home to roost with the consumer. That means the Value Added Tax has also come home to roost. The consumer cannot reclaim the VAT. Revenue pocket €230 for the hard work of the 4 businesses that added value to the seed. VAT is a tax on that added value.

  • You should almost always charge VAT to Irish consumers.
  • You should almost always charge VAT to Irish businesses.
  • You should not charge VAT to non-Irish EU businesses.
  • You should charge the local VAT rate to a consumer in another EU country if you turnover more than 10k in that country.
  • You should charge the Irish VAT rate to a consumer in another EU country if you turnover less than 10k in that country.
  • You should not charge VAT when selling goods to outside the EU. This includes the UK, but not Northern Ireland.
  • You should always provide a VAT receipt or invoice.

All the above assume your own business is VAT registered and you should check all of the above with a tax advisor as there are lots of exceptions and we are only trying to indicate the complexities required so that you might know if you need our help with VAT in Shopify.

Do you charge accurate shipping and duty?

Depending on your courier it is now possible to charge your customers the appropriate duty for their product at the checkout. This means they get no nasty bills when their parcel is processed by customs.

We can help you integrate with all the major couriers for real time shipping rates, shipping times, and duty charges.

Do you need to be multi-lingual?

It is very easy to translate your checkout and general shoping experience on Shopify - it does it for you. Custom translation of product descriptions is obviously a much bigger task, but we can help (not with the translations, but with the setup!).

Do you want to it till you it?

Using local domain names such as .es .de. pt and .uk is straightforward and we are happy to help with registration and setting up different domain names for different regions. At the very least we recommend .ie, .uk, and .eu. Combine these with a local phone number and virtual office and your customers will feel very comfortable knowing (thinking?) they are dealing with a local operation.

Do you need a dollar dollar dollar is that what you need?

We will set-up multi-currency support so that your customers always see the prices in their local currency. Usually the customer can make the choice, but it will tend to default to the appropriate choice for their location. Customers in the UK will see GBP, customers in the USA will see USD.

Make it Happen

Fill in our contact form or drop us an email and we will be in touch.

Tags: shopify

I love a good analogy

Posted by Ruairi Browne on Jun 19, 2024 12:18:48 PM

We recently took on a few new clients for our outsourced head of e-commerce service. We promised them more sales by tweaking their e-commerce KPIs (key performance indicators) from the top end of their funnel (website visitors) to the bottom end (purchases). In all 3 cases with a few weeks of us starting we noticed their sales figures dipping slightly. Not a good look for us. One KPI (Total Visitor Volume (TVV)) revealed what was happening, but not why. E-commerce is all about psychology, but we only considered the customer. It turns out our clients have their predictable patterns as well.

But first an analogy.

You own an old house. It is cold. The house hasn’t been restored or updated since maybe the 1990s. You have old windows, little insulation, lots of draughts, and an oil-fired boiler. How do you increase the heat? You turn up the boiler. The heat is pushed in at a great rate and most of it promptly escapes through the walls, windows, and doors. But the house will eventually become warmer. Simple to understand.

In my analogy your website is a 1990s house, and your revenue is the heat. Your website visitors are the boiler. How do you get more revenue? You turn up the visitors. You blast away on Fakebook, Instascam, and TakeTok. You offer discounts and you do likes and shares. You sponsor a roundabout with a fishing boat in the middle (a pet peeve of mine) and you get a slot on Pat Kenny. You get sales, but the reward doesn’t match the effort and as soon as you stop the sales stop. Your visitors are not being efficiently turned into revenue generating customers. Your boiler is working hard and achieving little.

Let’s stick with the house and have you decide to call in the professionals. Perfidious Albert Insulation and Heating Ltd give you the best sales patter and you decide to take a chance. They promise you massive savings on your heating bill, a warmer and cosier house, and a happier life. You pay the money, and they start the work. Triumphantly and with great expectations you go out to the boiler house and unplug the boiler. I won’t be needing that anymore says you. And of course, your house goes cold and stays cold.

This is what has been happening with our website clients. They are tired and fed-up of hawking themselves on every social media channel. We start working with them and we do the website equivalent of installing new windows and doors and insulating the walls. We increase average order value (getting more heat with the same amount of oil) and we increase conversion rates by turning visitors into customers (retaining the heat). And so, our customers see revenue rise and they think it is great and they no longer need to waste time trying to get visitors.

But unfortunately, if we increase conversions by 100% and you reduce visitors by 50% the net result is the same level of revenue (and an unexpected extra invoice from us).

So, it turns out that not only do we need to be psychologists when it comes to your customers, but when you work with us you need your head examined as well (!!). Now I bet you are thinking this is easily solved – just turn the boiler back on. And you are right, and that is the short-term solution. However, if you have been keeping up you know that we dislike social media for business as much as you do. But that was another email about two weeks ago – perhaps in hindsight I tried to sell you the heat pump before the insulation.

Anyway – the purpose of these articles is to share my insights and help you grow your business. I believe I am an expert in e-commerce, but the truth is that a real expert only knows how little he knows. Learn with me and please pass this article on to anyone who it might help – they can also join our mailing list...

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Tags: kpi, klaviyo

The age of email has arrived.... again

Posted by Ruairi Browne on Jun 19, 2024 12:06:19 PM

As a business owner I gave up on Facebook a couple of years ago. I was finding that any money we spent on advertising was getting less and less results. I ended up on a call with a Facebook salesperson and his advice was to widen the net to include large urban areas like London and then increase the budget. I argued with him that I didn’t want customers in London and that the budget had been perfectly adequate until recently. I asked him to explain what had changed that my ad spend was getting 10% of the traction it had previously. He had no response, and I knew then, and I know now that the same thing was happening lots of businesses. The secretive and arbitrary goalposts had changed, and they continue to change.

When I start doing websites in 1995 SEO was easy. You got a few links from other websites, added some alt tags to your images, and shoved in a few keywords. Google or Yahoo would send users to your website and keep an eye on how long they stayed there. If you managed to hold the user for more than a few seconds, then the search engine would know it had done a good job in matching the search terms and the result and it would continue to send users to your website. The longer users stayed on your website the higher you ranked. Then the search engines sold out. Now the first 5 results for almost any search are paid adverts, the next five are companies that spend money on Google Ads, and the position of the rest is based on more vague and very fluid goalposts -and lots more advertising.

I started an Instagram account for a food business a couple of years ago. I made a post about something or another and featured an image of a female friend of mine cooking on a barbeque. Someone made a sexist comment, and their spelling and grammar was terrible. I replied and said, “why are all racists and misogynists so badly educated and stupid?”. My account was banned for using bullying language. The account that made the comment lived to be hateful another day. My own personal Facebook was banned for a week because I called a close friend of mine (who is white and Irish) an ape in a friendly comment after he did something apelike. I was banned by their automated algorithms for using racist language. I appealed to supposed actual humans and lost. My account was reinstated but I haven’t used it since.

Just last week Supermac’s was banned from Facebook and lost their 114,000 followers when the GAA did not see the funny side of a very tame April Fool Day joke about “Supermac’s Croke Park”. 15 years of hard work gone in a second. It has been reinstated after a few days but with no explanation or apology from Meta.

Back to 1995 and my first email address was I will never forget it. The web was 6 years old at the time, but email was comparatively ancient. Everyone predicted the end of email. Everyone said email was insecure, unreliable, and would be destroyed by spam. Web 2.0 came along in the early 2000s and again email was predicted to become a dinosaur - a quick web search still brings up lots of articles predicting its demise.

In 2020 I taught a web development course to disadvantaged teenagers in inner city Dublin. I was caught off-guard when I realised out that most of them had never used a PC or a full-sized keyboard. Their confidence was immediately on the floor when they sensed from my panicked pause that they had failed before they had even started. I recovered the situation by blaming my old age and stupidity for forgetting that “kids these days” have their computer in their pocket. I made a joke about Snapchat and Instagram or whatever was supposedly trendy that year. I caught them sneaking side eyes and bemused smirks at each other. I asked them if I was being stupid again? They confirmed that I was and that everyone uses email these days. Apparently, I should try it.

This has been a long email to let you know that after a lot of consideration and lots of research I have concluded that in 2024 and probably in 2044 email is the ONLY show in town when it comes to reaching and communicating with your e-commerce customers. It is the only medium that respects the free and open foundations of the world wide web (despite pre-dating it). It is the only platform that you can’t be removed from and where you own your audience. Email is becoming more and more technically difficult. Security and anti-spam protocols are [finally] taking centre stage and that is making it hard to get an email landed in a person’s inbox. But that is a technical challenge with solid goalposts that are well documented. It is not an arbitrary or financially motivated change by some guy in Silicon Valley who sleeps with his Tesla and has a $40,000 coffee machine and no cooker in his kitchen.

Start building your mailing list. Start using your mailing list. Take back control.


Tags: e-mail marketing, klaviyo

Trading Online Vouchers - good or bad idea?

Posted by Ruairi Browne on Jun 19, 2024 11:40:48 AM

The TOV or trading online voucher is a €2500 grant match funded to any small Irish business to spend on e-commerce activities. Match funded means you must also pay €2500. E-commerce activities include everything from web development to photography.

There are several reasons we are not big fans of the trading online voucher.

It has increased costs for businesses.

We purchased an electric car a few years ago. We had an installation point for an electric charger at our house. We could purchase a charger for a couple of hundred euro. We then had to find an electrician to install the charger – 30 minutes work at most. They all wanted €850, because there was a grant available for approximately that amount. The trading online voucher has had the same effect on web development. It was common for lots of small web developers to offer start-up sites for a couple of hundred euro. Now they all want €5,000.

It has led to deception being an acceptable practice.

We have had many supposedly potential clients ask us for a proposal. That’s not unusual, but when they tell you that their budget is exactly €5,000 you know it is a waste of time.  Probably 50% of the requests for proposals we get now are people who already have a web developer but need 3 quotes for the TOV. I usually reply and say “that’s seems awful expensive for what you need – I think around €1,200 would be reasonable – but that’s just me being perfidious.

We have also heard of people asking if a web developer can build a website for €2500 but send an invoice for €5,000. The net result is a free website for the company, paid for by the taxpayer.

It has led to thousands of business owners throwing away €2500.

This is my biggest problem with the TOV. I have had business owners come to me looking for an e-commerce website and insisting on getting the TOV. Up until a couple of years ago I would generally say yes - it is a few bob,

I would build a nice website and I would put it live. I would a fair and honest amount of work for the money.

To this day most of those websites have never sold anything much at all. The owners invests the €2,500, the government invests another €2,500, and everyone sits back and waits for it to become the next Amazon. That’s not how e-commerce works. If you consider e-commerce to be a garden, then your website is the potting shed. The plants won’t grow themselves and the grass won’t cut itself. E-commerce needs skills that you have to learn, and it needs an investment of time and money, An ongoing investment. €5,000 is more than enough for most e-commerce websites but it is only a start.

Years ago, in the late 90s when e-commerce was starting, I remember the promise that so many companies made – open a website and you will have 6 billion customers (the population of the world at that time). It was an utter lie and a foolish promise. If you open a website, you have no customers. None. Not one. Unlike a physical retail location, you do not even get passing footfall on the web. You won’t even get an accidental customer unless you go looking for them. When you do manage to find a “visitor” for your website you probably have a less than 1/1000th chance of turning them into a customer.

E-commerce is about increasing visitor numbers and increasing conversion rates. The trading online voucher will actually help pay towards that effort (so that is a positive in its favour to be fair), but not if you have already spent it on your website and believe that is your job done. Sit back and wait for the orders? Not gonna happen sunshine.

So, what’s the answer?

In my humble opinion ditch the grant and replace it with education grants. Approve courses in e-commerce and pay business owners to take them. If you attend every session and pass the exam you get refunded. Restrict it to approved education facilities.

This starts your relationship with e-commerce in the right frame of mind – an investment by you into your business – not a one off cost that can be recovered.

But that’s just my 2c? What do you think? I would love to know your comments whether you are a web developer, a small business owner, or an e-commerce expert.

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