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Migrating Over to Shopify with Jazmin Alvarez - Honest Ecommerce Ep. 136

Pretty Well Beauty, founded by Jazmin Alvarez, a 14 year veteran of the fashion and beauty industry, is the answer to functional and approachable clean and sustainable beauty. 

For the past 9 years, Jazmin has been a leading and trusted clean beauty advocate having experienced herself that using products with fewer and non-toxic ingredients creates a happier, holistic relationship with your skin that radiates from the inside out.

Having seen first-hand the direct relationship between the products that you put on your body’s largest and external organ to your vital organs. 

Jazmin’s goal for Pretty Well Beauty is to define and set the highest standards of clean beauty and wellness by partnering with brands that adhere to only the strictest standards of clean and sustainability practices. 

Additionally she would like to continue building upon the platform of education when it comes to clean beauty and how that plays into our everyday lives and making it accessible to everyone who seeks a more holistic approach to personal care and well-being.

In This Conversation We Discuss: 

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:15] New Shopify features announced
  • [03:37] The story of Pretty Well Beauty
  • [08:16] Building relationship with brands
  • [10:34] How Jazmin got started on her brand
  • [12:32] Jazmin’s biggest mistake when starting
  • [13:38] Finding a partner is very crucial
  • [14:09] Don’t rush and have a timeline
  • [14:41] Aesthetics vs data and marketing
  • [15:36] Prep for data and optimization
  • [16:23] Aesthetics are still important
  • [17:24] Sponsor: Electric Eye electriceye.io
  • [17:44] Sponsor: Mesa getmesa.com/honest
  • [18:38] Sponsor: Rewind rewind.io/honest
  • [19:13] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest
  • [20:42] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com/honest
  • [21:51] Getting those first sales
  • [24:26] Why Jazmin decided to migrate
  • [26:49] The advantages to Shopify
  • [28:37] Jazmin’s coming back for a follow-up

Resources:

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 Transcript:

Jazmin Alvarez  

The last thing you want to do is spend all this time on getting customers to your website to leave them to a place that's not visually appealing that they don't want to be.

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, a podcast dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And I believe running a direct-to-consumer brand does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 

On this podcast, we interview founders and experts who are putting in the work and creating real results. 

I also share my own insights from running our top Shopify consultancy, Electric Eye. We cut the fluff in favor of facts to help you grow your Ecommerce business.

Let's get on with the show.

Hey, everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm your host Chase Clymer and today welcoming back to the show --though most listeners don't know this-- our very amazing guest Jazmin Alvarez

Jazmin joined me a while back right when we moved to this new platform and I ruined it. So she graciously said that she would come back and donate some more time to us and help share our story again. 

Jazmin is one of the founders and CEO of Pretty Well Beauty. Welcome to the show. How are you doing today?

Jazmin Alvarez  

I'm doing well, Chase. Thank you. How are you?

Chase Clymer  

I'm doing fantastic. So today is actually a very special day. It was... We're recording this a bit in advance. So this probably won't come out for 6 to 8 weeks. But today was Shopify Unite’s announcement. 

So they just announced a whole bunch of crazy new stuff for the Shopify platform. And my team is just blown up in Slack talking about all the new stuff that's coming to the platform. So it's a pretty nerdy day for us.

Jazmin Alvarez  

What are some of the features I need? I've been so bogged down with what I'm doing. I haven't been caught in the air. I don't know what's going on.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. So one of the big things that everyone's been asking for lately and one of the limiting factors that people were putting upon the Shopify platform was the limitations of customizations of the themes. 

And it came down to just how they architected them originally. So one of the big things that came out today was this concept of Online Store 2.0

This is the second version of it, which allows access to all sorts of crazy customizations. The main one being is you can now apply templates to any type of page, which is pretty, pretty dang cool. 

They also, there's this concept of meta fields, which is like adding extra information to a product. 

So here's a great example: Say you are selling a skincare kit and you want to send them a digital product with it, you could just embed that as a meta field and run some automations, and that thing just happens. 

And then something that [they] coasted over really quickly during the presentation today --that I'm excited to drill into-- was basically, you can just create content types that live within your CMS

So if you can dream it, you can build. It is what I heard, but I really want to investigate what that means. Because I personally thought the blogging aspect of Shopify CMS was lacking. 

Basically, they gave us everything we were asking for and more today as far as the community. So I was really excited to get into it. 

Some of the stuff came out, literally 35 minutes ago. You can start to look at some of the stuff. And some things are coming July 1, and then other things are trickling down the grapevine. 

So very, very fun, nerdy day for me, and thanks for letting me just take up all of your time again. (laughs)

Jazmin Alvarez  

Yeah, this is great. This is actually really useful information because Chase, I'm migrating over to Shopify.

Chase Clymer  

Oh. See, I knew you were gonna do that. It was when we previously talked, I planted that seed. So that's the "now". Let's talk about the "then". Let's go back to the beginning. Let people know where this idea comes from, what Pretty Well Beauty's uniqueness is?What is it? Where'd it come from? And what [were] you doing to get started?

Jazmin Alvarez  

Yeah. So I'll try to answer this as quickly as possible. Forgive me if I become a little bit too long-winded but... 

So my background is in fashion and beauty. I worked for over 10 years as an executive photo producer for a lot of brands, including Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren... 

I did the digital launch for Fenty Beauty back in 2017. But to go back even further, I've been around beauty my whole life. My mom was a hairdresser so I basically grew up in a hair salon. So beauty is in my DNA. 

She always preached to me that less is more, natural is best. And of course I didn't listen to her until much later. 

So Pretty Well Beauty, really, is the answer that I was looking for when I was on my quest to find clean, sustainable brands that are actually delivering on the promises that they make while touching upon different touch points that matter to me like diversity and inclusion. There was not a lot of that, at the time. 

There still isn't enough today. So one of the biggest hurdles that I hear and something that I was able to relate to, as well is that... It's just overwhelming. There's so much noise in the space. 

People don't know where to start. They don't know what products, what they do, what they're for, what the ingredients mean. 

And so I really wanted to just streamline that process, because I figured if me, being a bona fide beauty junkie, is overwhelmed and really, they don't know where to start, I can only imagine what the average consumer must be feeling trying to navigate this landscape. 

So I decided to start by looking at the brands that were exceeding the industry's standards for clean and sustainability, looking at what some of the other retailers' standards were and just going a few notches above that, while also focusing on brands that have a really great story and a great mission. 

Their products don't exist just for the sake of existing. There's a story behind there. There's a touch point that people can relate to. There's a mission, there's a purpose, and it's giving back and a bigger scope. 

And so those are the kinds of brands that I really, personally like to use and brands that I feel whose voices need the most elevation. 

So Pretty Well Beauty is sort of a mixture of brands that people have known that have been around for a while. But it's also a place to be able to discover brands that you've never heard of before. 

So you have the best of both worlds, but also just like knowing that they've gone through such extensive vetting that anything that ends up on the website is there for a reason. If it's not on a website, it's because it just wasn't a fit for a variety of reasons. 

Or maybe it's just because of one reason. So yeah, I really wanted to make something that was easier for people to find what they needed, while also offering multiple different price points, because one of my other experiences was that the barrier of entry in terms of the price points was just way too high. 

I couldn't build a full regimen, you know, some of the places that I was going at the time. And that's just not something that I agree with. I want to democratize the space.

 And I feel like the only way you can do that is by being very inclusive across every single touch point, including price. 

And the people, the founders behind the brands and you know, offering a different narrative and a point of view that is much more authentic, versus being just a capital opportunity. 

For me, this is something that really speaks to my heritage. You know, being a BIPOC individual. 

People who identify as such, most likely have been exposed to natural beauty their entire lives. That was how they were raised. And so this is just like an homage to these stories, and to present it in a way that's modern and accessible to all people.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Yeah. And so one thing I want to highlight, there's only using some more nerdy or more industry terms, it's so basically a highly curated marketplace, full of products that you did not manufacture. 

These are partnerships that you have with these other brands. And now I'm starting to remember a lot of the conversation we had last time. So I'll have some very, very poignant questions for you. 

So the first one being, how did you start these relationships with these brands? How did you get them to trust you and this startup to help to start selling their products?

Jazmin Alvarez  

That's such a good question. Honestly, all I did was I made a list. I wrote down on a piece of paper, all the brands that I had my eye on, but I've been spending a lot of time researching. And I just cold emailed them. 

I just emailed them introduce myself and what I was building and they were on board, like no one said no other ones that didn't come on board were the ones who had certain policies in place that were saying things like, "Oh, we require you to be in business for at least six months before we will partner with you," which is fair. 

But everyone else is like how can we support you send me products, you know, tell us more. And then some of the brands I've actually had relationships with through my previous life as a producer. 

They were makeup artists who had created their own line of skincare products like Moon, for example. And OBL. The founders of those two brands are women that I've had a relationship with for a very long time. 

And so I mean, OBL I watched that brand's sort of evolution from day one. It had a completely different name in the beginning. 

She wasn't even planning on making this a product for people to be able to purchase, she really made it for herself to really use on models on set. 

And it just started to get a lot of attention from models wanting it and then asking them to purchase it. And that's when she realized, “Oh, I might have an idea for a business”.

So yeah, that was one of my first friends because I have that relationship with her. And then other brands that I just love, I just literally just emailed them, and it's just myself. And it works. So I launched with 12 brands, and now there's 35.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. And so let's pivot over to the launch. You know, I think a lot of people who have listened to the show even have a cool idea, they probably figured out the product or products that they want to list. 

And they just don't know how to launch or they haven't done it yet. Because of some limiting factor. It's more of a limiting belief, in my opinion, enough to pose a very leading question. How did you press go? What happened? What was the initial traction like?

Jazmin Alvarez  

So my initial idea was actually a brick and mortar. But then, of course, crunching through other numbers, I realized I need a million dollars. 

And so the second solution was “Okay. Well, let's do an Ecommerce site”. But I didn't have those technical skills or even design skills or even the industry at the time, I didn't have an industry sort of like best practices. 

So I knew from the very beginning that that was going to be something that I would need to invest in. My first big investment was going to be finding a partner, either an individual or a couple of individuals or an agency to do this. So I went to places like Fiverr and Upwork. And I posted the project.

I got all these people who wrote to me and I spent probably about 2 or 3 weeks really going through everybody's work having phone calls.

I narrowed it down to 3 different potential partners, and then narrowed it down ultimately, with the company that I ended up hiring that is based in San Angeles. And they did everything. 

They did my design and my logo. It was my idea. I gave them sort of what I envisioned. And then they presented me with multiple options. And so we landed on the one that we have now. And it was the same process with the designing of a website. 

I sent them some examples of other websites I liked and the different elements that I liked, the elements that I wanted. 

I think my biggest mistake was really focusing more on the form than the function. Because I'm a visual person. I come from that space. I'm used to things looking a certain way. And I wanted a website that didn't look and feel like everybody else's. 

So I probably prioritized the form over the function too much, in my opinion, at this point that... Hindsight is 2020. [That is] some of the reasons why I'm going through a whole new migration and want a rebrand, relaunch the whole thing because now I've learned a lot more. 

So yeah, I would say for anybody who doesn't know where to start or wanting to launch an Ecommerce business, I would look at the brands that are in your vertical that are doing it well. 

I would go through their entire customer journey and look for maybe some areas where maybe [you] didn't like or the areas that you do like and then just start picking things that make sense for your business. Finding a partner is really crucial. Finding the right partner... 

There's a lot of questions I didn't even know to ask in the beginning, like SEO for example. They didn't do any of it for me. I had to do it all myself. 

And that's very crucial, especially when you're a new brand making sure that that's set up properly. Or at least you have the tools to be able to do it yourself. And I haven't quite taught myself so…

Yeah. And don't rush it. I feel like I had a very specific timeline in mind. And I had to learn very quickly that I needed to be flexible. 

And so the time for launch kept getting pushed and pushed and pushed, which was fine. It took all in all about 3 months from start to finish. Started engaging with the agency in October and the website launched in January. This is in 2019 January.

Chase Clymer  

I just want to thank you for sharing that little tidbit there about you being focused more on what it looks like than what it was going to do for you. 

And I find that that's something that happens a lot with young entrepreneurs and startups: "It's got to look the best." 

And I always say, "It doesn't matter what it looks like if nobody's looking at it." I think marketing is superior to the design of your website when you're first getting started. 

And it goes down to just saying you can't optimize anything if there's no data behind it. So why invest all that time and energy into what it looks like, if no one's going to be looking at it.

Jazmin Alvarez  

I agree with you to an extent. I do still feel like you need to have something that's well thoughtfully designed because the last thing you want to do is spend all this time on getting customers to your website to lead them to a place that's not visually appealing; That they don't want to be in.

Chase Clymer  

Oh yeah. There's a give and take here. I guess my advice is usually just go find a theme that you're okay with, that's already... It's a shortcut, essentially. It's why they exist.

Use that and apply it to your brand, and focus on marketing, 100%, until you scale up to KPIs where it really starts to matter where optimization is reality. Because without a certain amount of data to look at, you can't optimize anything really. 

It's just going with your gut, and knowing your customer until there's a threshold when you can actually read the data and make informed decisions from that. I'm sorry. I went on a tangent... A little bit of a tear there. Any of that you agree with or not agree with? 

Chase Clymer  

I agree with that. Definitely. For sure.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. I mean, you don't want to just stand up to something that's ugly. No one's gonna trust it. (laughs) But there's a...

Jazmin Alvarez  

First impressions are everything, especially when you're in a space that is so visually, aesthetically like in my industry. Now, if you're selling auto mechanic parts, okay. Fine. Whatever.

But when you're a brand that is selling beauty products, you don't want to go to a website that's not beautiful. So I think it's very industry specific on how much you should focus on the visual. 

But yeah, like you said, I agree. Just find yourself a template that works, that you can work with for now and then as you start to scale, then you can bring in someone to customize it for you.

Chase Clymer  

Exactly. Yeah. And that's that. I think people just get caught up on the wrong elements when they're getting started. The hardest thing is to sell the product. 

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Chase Clymer  

So let's talk about that. How was it kind of acquiring those first sales? What did that look like? When did things start to really click?

Jazmin Alvarez  

Oh my gosh, I'm still trying to figure that out to be honest. (laughs) So my first year, the majority of my sales actually came from pop-up events because I didn't have money for advertising or marketing or PR and I still don't.

So all my sales are still 100% organic. But once you start to get your name out there from these types of events and people purchase from you may go to the website because maybe they liked it and they want to get more, they'll tell their friends. 

A lot of my traffic... My number one source of traffic is organic Google searches because of all the SEO that I've done. And the second is just direct traffic. 

People just go directly typing in Pretty Well Beauty. So that's word of mouth right there. I think I've had some nice press, which has helped too. I've been featured in Forbes and Who, What, Wear, and Yahoo, and Beauty Independent, and Byrdie Beauty, and W Magazine. A lot of really reputable [sources]. 

And so that obviously boosts your ranking in Google. It gets more eyes on your website, gets more traffic there. So that helps. Social media also, engaging with people on social media. I actually haven't had a huge amount of success with getting people to convert from social media. 

That's really a very specific skill that I just don't have right now. I hope to be able to get to a point soon where I can hire somebody who can take that over. But it's a slow thing I'm starting out with. I just started with some affiliate marketing.

So I've got probably about 60 or 70 people who signed up for the platform. So now it's just a matter of getting them to actually post. So trying to figure out how to make that as easy for them as possible. So yeah, I'm still figuring it out. 

A lot of times, I'm like "Where did these people even come from?" 

Email marketing is also a big channel. I just started doing SMS a few months ago as well. So I'm trying everything at this point and just throwing everything at the wall, gathering data along the way.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. That's the crucial part there: It's getting the data in place to start to be able to make the decisions from it. So we alluded to it at the beginning of this conversation, --which I didn't even know-- was that you are making the leap over to Shopify. 

I feel like I might have had a piece to do with that from our original conversation. But can we explore that a little bit and talk about why?

Jazmin Alvarez  

Yes, so a few months ago, I started testing some ads on Instagram and Facebook just to gather some data. It drove a lot of traffic to the website, which is great but I got zero conversions. 

And so after looking at the customer's journey, we realized that people were just falling off for a couple of reasons. The website just wasn't optimized for checkout. People are used to Shop Pay. One click and you're done.

The longer somebody has to spend to type in their information manually is a second for them to change their mind. 

And so right now --the way that my website is set up-- every single time you make a purchase --even if you've been there before-- you have to manually type in your information every single time. And that's obnoxious. Nobody wants to do that. 

And I think it turns people off. Also, I feel like the way that you navigate a website can be improved as well. And then also, it's very limiting with what I can do. That's another big reason as to why I'm making the change. 

Because my website is completely built custom with code, I can't go in and make certain changes that I need to make. I mean, aside from adding products, or changing copy, or image. If I was to change the layout, or colors or fonts, you can't do any of that stuff, really. 

So Shopify is the number 2 highest converting platform, we still don't know the number one is. I know it's not WordPress, which is where I'm at right now. WordPress is great for SEO, but not so much for Ecom in general.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, well, I think Shopify claims number 2 because number 1 is like custom and a lot of more legacy stuff. And all the analytics can be skewed whatever way that they want to do it. But I think that  Shopify's checkout is one of the most split-tested in history. 

And then once Shopify Pay got going and everyone's cards were tokenized on the platform... And it's a cross store. 

So if I buy something from Pretty Well Beauty, and then I go buy something from Only NY, if I had checked out at either of those stores, it's going to know my credit card information and save me from entering that information if I want to checkout faster, which is a huge advantage to just the entire network that Shopify has created there. 

And then just going back to what you said about being able to customize the site. There's a lot of unique stuff coming to the platform now, like they just announced today. 

So I don't know how much of this stuff is going to make it out into the wild by the time you guys are making the switch. But you can always add it down the line to make things a lot more easier for a merchant to edit. 

And that's something that we always want to do. I don't want to change the headline on your homepage, that's not what we want to do as an agency. We want to empower the merchant to... We want hard, fun, challenges. 

Making it say from "Summer Drop" to "Fall Drop" is like not what we want to do.(laughs)

Jazmin Alvarez  

Yeah. And don't get me wrong. The people that the team that I'm working with to do the design and development, there's going to be some a lot of cost of customization. 

It's just going to be much more sort of like, "No, I want it to be like this." You know what I mean? It's going to be more strategic.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, absolutely. Well, is there anything I forgot to ask you about today that you want to bring up before we go here? 

Jazmin Alvarez  

I don't know. You tell me. 

Chase Clymer  

Well, I don't know. My mind is spinning about Shopify Plus. That's all I can think about. 

Jazmin Alvarez  

I'm going to have to go and investigate some of that now.

Chase Clymer  

It's really cool. I'll shoot you the link here in a second. But yeah, thank you so much for coming back on and sharing all this with us. 

What I'm going to do is I'm going to make a mark in my file and we'll have you back on in a couple months after you make the migration to talk about what went well, what didn't go well,  the anticipation... From a merchant’s perspective what that looks like.

Jazmin Alvarez  

Yeah, I would love to. I'm hoping that the new site will be launching in September, so maybe we can have another follow up in the fall. 

Chase Clymer  

Sounds great. 

Jazmin Alvarez  

Everything's different. We're gonna get a new logo. It's gonna be really cool.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Yeah. So when this comes out, people keep checking out Pretty Well Beauty and see if it's made the switch just yet. Jazmin, thank you so much for coming back on. 

Jazmin Alvarez  

Thank you, Chase. Pleasure, as always. 

Chase Clymer  

Alright. I can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their knowledge and journey with us. 

We've got a lot to think about and potentially add into our own business. You can find all the links in the show notes. 

Make sure you head over to honestecommerce.co to check out all the other amazing content that we have. Make sure you subscribe, leave a review. 

And obviously if you're thinking about growing your business, check out our agency at electriceye.io. Until next time.