This Ecommerce Coffee Break Podcast episode features a conversation with Marcus Seoighe, Managing Director of cleancanvas.co.uk. We discuss how the best premium themes supercharge your store as well as your buyer's experience.
On the Show Today You’ll Learn:
- What kind of theme can supercharge your store
- What makes a theme stand out
- Step-by-step insight into how you can build a theme for your store
- How to easily shift from one theme to another
- Can a theme be industry-focused, or should it be one theme that fits all
Links & Resources
About Our Podcast Guest: Marcus Seoighe
Marcus Seoighe is the MD of Clean Canvas, supplying top-selling premium Shopify themes to the Shopify Theme Store for over 10 years. He was previously the Senior Theme Partnerships Manager at Shopify, where he nurtured and shaped the Shopify theme store and ecosystem. Clean Canvas is the longest-serving Theme Store Partner and will soon have the largest theme catalogue with the release of their new theme ENTERPRISE in April 2023.
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Claus Lauter: Hello and welcome to another episode of the E-Commerce Coffee Break podcast. Today we want to talk about a topic which we, have not talked enough, it's themes. basically the core of every Shopify store is a theme. And a lot of merchants have a shiny object on syndrome when it comes to themes, checking out new themes.
But we wanna find out what kind of theme actually will supercharge your store and increase the bias experience in which that obviously sales and revenue. So therefore, guest on the show today is Marcus Seoighe. He is the native of Ireland and the managing director of Dean Canvas, he's a supplier. Premium Shopify themes, and prior to his role as managing director with Clean Canvas in 2022, Marcus was a senior theme partnership in Shopify for six and a half years.
So definitely the right person to talk to. During his time there, he not only vetted new theme partners and new themes, he actively worked with theme partners to ensure they built the very best themes possible and thereby insured an incredible quality level was maintained from versions, investing in themes from the Shopify theme store.
We can't get a better person on the show than Marcus and I would like to welcome to the show. Hi Marcus. How are you today? Close.
Marcus Seoighe: How are you doing? Thank you very much for having me here. Big fan of the show.
Claus Lauter: Marcus Themes, as I said, is a core pillar of every storm and we wanna talk about that.
You have been with Shopify for a very long time and you must have seen hundreds and thousands of different themes. What makes a good theme?
Marcus Seoighe: It's a million dollar question in a lot of ways. So much of it depends on what the merchant is looking for to experience that they're trying to create.
It does help to maybe dissect and drill down to what a theme has to offer, a merchant on their store that they can make informed decision around what they're looking for. But as you pointed out, People sign up for Shopify.
There's various sales channels there that they can operate within. The online store being one of the primary ones. And then a theme is essentially the face of the store, but we'll get into to the fact that it's an awful lot more than that. But you have the platform's
Tools, all the elements. But that's no good if you can't get in front of merchants. So obviously this is where the theme steps in helps you wrap all of that power, plugs into all the functionality and delivers that then to a merchant, and obviously then to the customer experience on the end of that.
It's a complex, interrelationship I suppose between themes and between the platform. This is something that tends to be overlooked a great deal in relation to an awful lot of, the education and knowledge of merchants in using themes is that it's not just a template, it's not just a design element. It's not, just a way that preformat existing elements. It's a vehicle by which, the core Shopify features are delivered to merchants and to their users. So all of that type of functionality, all of those type of elements, Depending on how robustly and well integrated and well delivered they're in a theme really dictates how effective a theme is going to be for a merchant using it.
If I had to try and to distill it down into what makes a really good theme, there's a number of elements. The first thing is, , the appearance and the. Aesthetic. You need to be leaning on people that have experience, that understand design. And I'm not just talking about, basic web design or, graphic elements or independent elements.
, the very nature of what speaks to people, because it's that almost intangible element of creating, an experience. And that is done very cleverly through everything from use. White space, so on, and so many nuanced details. But we like speaking from a Clint Canvas perspective, our designers have been working in this sphere for, nearly 20 years.
They've done print digital, various forms of, design and an awful specialized on both commerce and e-commerce. So having that sort of background and understanding obviously lends itself to creating an aesthetic and a. That a merchant, would spend a fortune hiring an individual designer to create that.
So the design aspect is one. The other then is reliability. You're going to need to know that, the features and the elements that are built in there, are 100% functional. Teams on the Shopify team store something that, I was very passionate about while working at Shopify.
I'd be the first one to raise the hand even while we were there, and still to this date. There is very poor education around the value that merchants actually get from the themes on the theme store. The fact that all the themes going on there are vetted to make sure that all the core features work natively perfectly out of the box.
That's something that's probably not shouted about half enough. So making sure that you got that reliability and functionality. And then the final element on that, I'd say is, for one of a better, all-encompassing term, the aftercare, having a highly educated support team, having the ability to rely on enhancements, updates, maintenance, bug fixes, all of those elements.
That in itself is an entire industry in itself, let alone just, something that's coming natively with a product from the theme store. Experience design, , reliability of the functionality, and then an aftercare service. Those are probably the three things that I'd lean into.
Claus Lauter: Now merchants usually, have a bit of a journey when they start their store, most likely they will start with a three theme, specifically if they're solopreneurs or drop shippers. Then at some point, they will go over to a premium theme on Shopify, a pre-made theme. And then finally, if the brand grows, becomes bigger, more professional than they want to go for their own premium theme that is customized for them.
you touched also, on the aspect of support and that sometimes is a problem for a lot of merchants when something breaks, who is the one responsible fixing it, and how quickly can you get to the support. Now when it comes to a custom build premium theme, there goes a lot of things into it.
And I reckon a lot of merchants, come from the side of you don't know what you don't know, so they probably do not even know. Are the questions they have to ask when it comes to building a theme? How do you help with finding them the right track, the right way?
Marcus Seoighe: , it's a difficult scenario. , because , it's , been a complex product. There are so many layers and there's so many potential areas that could be affected by, conflicting code from apps or, custom elements or even, Updates on browser, compatibilities, device types, whatever.
one. Key answer I can give to that is experience. We've dealt with, clean canvas, having, somewhere in the region, I know it's well in excess of 80,000 merchants that have used our themes. So between that and the countless years, Clean Canvas are one of the longest standing theme store partners there.
Uh, joined the Shopify team store 20 10, 20 11, thereabout. between then and now, you can imagine the amount of support, tickets, various scenarios, issues, concerns, questions that have been raised. So we've pretty much seen it all at some point or another. And I think that allows us to, decipher or translate these issues when they come in from a merchant.
I'm, Exceptionally proud of the support team that we have because they're all ex Shopify. They're all very experienced support people. the great thing for us is we can become such product experts in terms of our support. It almost becomes like a white glove support service to our merchants.
We not only help decipher the issue further in many ways, if it's not something that. we personally can affect or resolve or assist with. We generally tend 'em to be able to point 'em in the right direction and obviously help them phrase what they're actually looking at in terms of the issue.
It is so complicated and I do genuinely feel for enough a lot of merchants cuz even going to Shopify support. There is such a huge platform and there's so much for these people to know. It is impossible for them to know absolutely everything, it might be difficult for the merchant to discerned whether an issue is a Shopify related feature or a theme related feature, or it could be a custom coding element or an app integration and an awful lot of the Shopify support, people equally find that challenging to try and decipher that. So an awful lot of the time, it lands on our laps, because it's.
One easiest sort of avenue to almost push it to, because I suppose in terms of hierarchy or layers, there's the platform, there's the theme, and then there's everything else that happens to the store thereafter. , so if the Shopify individual or the support member, whatever, hasn't got the tenure knowledge or the experience to be able to, find that complexity, we generally tend to be the next port of.
Claus Lauter: Okay, no, makes perfect sense. So support actually is a key factor of when you're picking your theme, you wanna make sure that you can talk to someone when things go wrong. Now, with all the themes that you offer, they're obviously all online shopping 2.0. There was this process about one and a half years ago, coming from the standard now to the new standard of Shopify, what were the biggest struggles for merchants getting through this kind of transit?
Marcus Seoighe: I was there within Shopify when the actual transition was happening. I was also there when we moved to sections for the first stage as well. There was the old type of themes, which are very much a hard coded formatting.
It's, , the biggest challenge I think for merchants was the fact, because. There was essentially, massive change in the underlying framework of a theme to allow section speed, across every area of the store. It really meant that, They had to redo their content and, the store had to be reimagined.
The product pages were certain, suddenly had all these new tooling, these new elements, these new layout abilities, all these new feature ads. It was a case of basically them having to reimagine their store and rework it. There was no avoiding that type of a scenario because the content portability would never have worked from the old system to this.
It was one of the biggest things that was needed in the online store was that versatility of components across, all areas of the store. The lift for merchants was, I'm not gonna call it painful, it was just a phase that they had to reimagine how the entire store was gonna operate.
Claus Lauter: Now talking about supercharging your store and increasing the bias experience, what are the key parts that really make a difference when it comes to the buyer experience?
Marcus Seoighe: Engagement is a huge thing. When a person lands in a store, they're making obvious, , relations with, what they feel the brand is, the elements that are there.
So it's all about capturing that engagement as quick as possible. I mean, within themes , there is obviously a finite limit as to what we. Influence or present. But we do try and focus on making sure that what we offer gives the merchants every possible, tool to try and capture customers within their focused area, subject to store size, et cetera.
user experience of the customer experience, we have, a new team coming out very shortly. Probably within the next week or two called Enterprise. And we've heavily focused on the conversion and the user experience in this area.
Stuff that hasn't been seen on other themes in the Shopify team store before things. I know that one common pain point that we see with merchants, , it's something that we can't really affect, which is like the discount code. It can't be brought forward from the carer to the checkout because themes can't influence the
components of the checkout area of Shopify. It's a separate area outside of themes plugging the discount codes directly in there , for users was always that little bit of a, pain point. So what we've done is we've integrated, , for example, , an automatic click button that just copies , the codes to the clipboard, so customer can use that then, at the checkout, minimizing the amount of effort that they need to do, but things in terms of like transitions, animations, making sure that you're focusing on things like performance, all, all of these elements speak highly to ensuring that your customer really has a good experience on the store.
We try and always balance every consideration for the customer experience. And things like, the promotional aspects, conversion flows, load times, load speeds, nice interactive elements and experiences. Those are all critical
, and so much of that stuff I'm not gonna say is unnoticed. But there's so much work built into that to making it look so natural. That's actually the difficult part.
Claus Lauter: Yeah.
Marcus Seoighe: Now
Claus Lauter: when immersion wants to do a transition and move from one theme to another, there's a process in there.
And you touched a little bit on that. What kind of timeline or a planning process would you recommend to emersions, , when they go into a new theme?
Marcus Seoighe: suppose so much relates to, their growth stage, where the field they're going to be at and how much they can invest , and speaking on the investment point as well.
With themes. I think often may look at the price point to say, $350, $320, whatever. Is this an investment that I'm willing to make? , but they've gotta a factor in what they get for this. They're getting a theme that essentially costs well in excess of 80 or a hundred thousand dollars.
To develop and build. , they're getting ongoing maintenance support, future updates, all free of charge as part of it, white glove support service should they ever need it. To even try and pay for that out in the wild. The value that they're getting from this is, incredible. But in terms of allowing their, set of up from, say, a free theme into a premium theme status, , the great thing is, Shopify introduced this from the get-go with themes is that you have the free trial.
, you can literally install a theme and, trial it for as long as you want while you're setting it up in the background. And during that time, merchants can reach out to us and ask us questions and ask for guidance. From our perspective, we try and make things as.
Quick and as smooth as possible for setup. We're providing a huge amount of default templates for the product page so that merchants can immediately plug into these pre-formatted elements to make that launch all the more quicker things like compare pages coming soon, countdown timers, pre-order, et cetera.
On average, what we understand from, the start of a setup of a store to an actual launch with a full premium theme can be anywhere in the region from two to five weeks. But that's a rough approximation because obviously as we know, stores vary so much in terms of content and elements , that go into it.
Claus Lauter: Okay. No, I think that's a good guideline. Two to five weeks, , gives our listeners, our merchants a good idea when they should really, or how much time they should, , put aside yeah, to get this going You offer? Quite a few themes. Are there themes that are for specific industries on these verticals or is every theme suitable for any kind of industry?
Marcus Seoighe: This is actually something that was always a massive conversation point and got to the stage of almost being like a philosophical debate within Shopify as well as within theme partners is can a theme be. Industry focused, or should it be a one theme fits all?
Or how does a theme speak to a certain, format or business model? The long and short of answer is there's yeses and nos in all of this. In terms of industry, I don't think there's any theme that can be specifically set to an industry.
Any industry is going to need a certain amount of core features. , but some in particular industries are going to need more nuanced or more tailored elements that speak to that industry. If you're. selling food, for example. Having recipes, want an awful lot of return customers and retention and stuff like that.
So like the tribe building, the, new email signups, promotions, the marketing is gonna be a massive part of that. If you're a drop shipping store, obviously that's less. Important. What you want is just a large catalog that like literally displays a massive amount of, products with the key details there and get quick to sail straight off the bat.
While a theme can definitely build towards catalogs and business models, I think the industry element is, a bit of a moot point. people can get misled thinking that they go in and they may see a theme on the theme store that's, Has lovely dogs and leads and cats and whatever on it.
And they go, oh, this is built only for pet stores. Not at all. , what I would always recommend to merchants, because the themes have a free trial is go in and test it, see what's in there, and definitely reach out to the theme partners to talk to them because you need to know who's on the other side.
You're investing in this element. You're going to be getting a product. You're probably going. Stick with this theme. , not because of the cost, because the cost , I feel is very minimal, but because it does take a certain amount of work to set up your store around this, so you want this to be right and it's good to get to know the personalities, the passion, the talent, and the experience that you're gonna be working with behind the scene.
With release of enterprise will be the largest theme catalog holder on the theme store will have nine themes. Our themes. Do vary in the sense that, we have some that have a, a very conscious set of feature elements that tend to speak to certain types of business models or catalog sizes.
For example, we have say, boost, which is a Playful type of theme. And it's really down to the designs, the animations, the soft, rounded, corner abilities, which of course you can edit or change, beautiful gradient effects. all very smooth and fun to play with. Gives a really nice, engaging, playful experience for the user.
Then you'll have the, like symmetry, which is our top selling theme. and that is very much, Really high-end classical brand, fashion, style magazine, store. But again, we've seen it used from high-end fashion brands to, somebody, Selling, those little widget spinner things that were a big deal
There's just a vast array. I think people need to use their imagination, but having a sense of your own brand and identity, , as well as understanding what your catalog and your primary drivers , should guide that. , for example, enterprise coming out is. It's large catalog, drop shippers, mega store.
Anybody with a really large inventory that's really interested in, a lot of promotional aspects, a lot of really nuanced product descriptions and specifications and stuff. So a mega store type feel, whereas maybe the likes of our alchemy theme would be something. More towards, a smaller category and, an awful lot more focus around larger, but maybe a less amount of image or product assets.
So just depends, on your business model and your brand aesthetic more than industry.
Claus Lauter: Okay. That was a very good insight into themes. I learned a lot there, and I have to, to update my theme as well. So I will definitely go and check your themes out. Where can people find out more about Clean Canvas?
Marcus Seoighe: Just hop onto our, website, , our support site, one or the other. There's an option there to literally send us a direct, message to our contact form. Anybody who wants to contact. You can reach firstname.lastname@example.org uk. I'm happy to chat to anybody at any stage about Clean Canvas, One point that add in as well is that something that we haven't done with Clean Canvas before, but something that we've noticing more and more of by requests that we've have coming in, which is Because so much goes into building a theme because there's so much in maintaining, updating constantly, enhancing and improving and, living with a theme.
, an awful lot of agencies and developers are opting to buy a premium theme and then customize that to an element for their clients' needs because they know. That there's all this backend element that they do not have to worry about. It's there, it's secure, it's in safe hands. So something that we haven't really done is exposed too much of our inner workings, but we are, with enterprises going to open a new era for us, for, exposing the various js events and ways for developers and agents to hook onto our themes and build from them.
We'll be putting out some technical documentation with it. We'll also then be, interested in chatting to any. Agencies who are looking to do client work that would like to, essentially, have this exceptional benchmark , to build from. so that's there as well as the merchants.
But feel free to reach out. Either of those ways we're, on hand pretty much five days a week.
Claus Lauter: Okay, cool. I will put the links in the show notes and you just want click away and I hope a lot of people will just test, your themes cause they look really, really good. And I will be one of the testers I can guarantee you.
Thanks very much. Thanks so much, Marcus, for your time and talk soon. Have a great one. Absolute
Marcus Seoighe: pleasure. Take care. Have a great day. Thanks so much. Bye bye. Bye-bye.
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