Creating an App that Matches Your Brand

Sandbox Commerce’s App Builder offers a robust set of tools that make our apps feel like a natural extension of your brand.

A blank canvas can be a daunting place to start, but we try to make it as easy as possible for you to customize your app and have it look great on iOS and Android. We’ll outline all the steps and show you how easy it is!

  1. Upload Logos: Our image uploader makes it easy for you to upload all of your brand’s logos. There are only two different logo sizes we require to make your app look fabulous. First, we’ll need a rectangular 3:2 logo. This will live in the top nav bar of your app and a couple other menus. Secondly, you’ll need to supply a square favicon logo. This will live on your splash screen and most importantly — your app icon.
  2. Brand Colors: We did our best to simplify all color options down to just a few choices. You’ll have to pick a background, button and a few text colors for your app. This can all be easily done with copy and pasting a hexcode or using or color picker.
  3. Adding Items & Categories: When I build an app for a customer, the first thing I do is see what items and categories are featured on their website’s homepage. On our App Builder Homepage, you can easily drag-and-drop the order of different selections and items. This makes it easy to adjust for a seasonal change or emphasize a flash sale.

Striking the balance between customization and simplicity is a constant balancing act. The Sandbox App Builder walks the tightrope and easily let’s e-commerce stores publish apps that fit their brand.

Turning Your Shopify Store into an App

Small side hustles have a lot more in common with mega-brands like Red Bull, Budweiser, and Tesla Motors then you might think. The common denominator here is that they all manage their content with Shopify.

Shopify has done an amazing job at leveling the playing field and offering enterprise level tools for a small monthly fee. With the existing landscape, these established brands have had to come up with new ways to stand out (queue the intro music for mobile apps). They’ve used mobile apps to create sleeker shopping experiences for their customers and distribute more engaging content.

The problem smaller retailers traditionally had was that they couldn’t justify the cost of building iPhone and Android apps – it was just too far out of reach. In the same way, Shopify leveled the playing field for organizing inventory and SKUs, Sandbox Commerce can turn your existing Shopify store into an app with 3 easy steps.

  1. Login and Connect your Shopify Store: as soon as you connect your store, we’ll import all of your inventory, items, and collections. We’ll also track them in real-time – no extra hurdles.
  2. Design Your App: Upload logos and match your branding guidelines with our intuitive app builder. You can easily drag-and-drop to customize your home page and show off your seasonal products
  3. Publish: As soon as you finish customizing your app, you can hit publish! From there, our team of internal testers will run through a quality assurance test and make sure your app is up to our standards. From there it’s ready to submit to Apple and Android marketplaces.

Just like Shopify, we only collect a monthly fee to maintain and deploy updates to your app. There are no setup fees and we’re constantly adding new features. Design your own app with a 7-day free trial!

Mobile Experiential Shopping (Not the Gimmicky Kind)

Creating a mobile app that nearly clones the mobile-browser shopping experience offers little value to consumers and business owners. E-commerce platforms like Shopify and Big Commerce have gotten so good at mobile-browser shopping, that the need to purchase items in-app is nearly non-existent.

Brands and retailers that are hoping to offer more to their loyalist have been forced to refocus on creating mobile apps that offer value through experiences, rather than seamless shopping experiences. Here are a few trends that are taking off to create amazing user shopping experiences:

  • AR (that actually gives customers value)

Furniture retailers are dominating this area and solving one of their oldest and most daunting issues…. the question of ‘how will it look in my house?’. These apps just require you to point your camera at an area of the house and like magic, you can see exactly how it looks. Check out this great demo from Magnolia and Ikea’s app.

  • User-Specific Personalization 

Brands are beginning to use big data to create better and more meaningful products for customers. Combine a slick interface with on-demand manufacturing and you have great companies like Son of a Tailor. They’ll make high-quality t-shirts to your exact specs. It’s easy to imagine how a customer becomes an evangelist of a great fitting shirt with their initials on it.

Going beyond the standard mobile shopping app is inevitable. What that feature looks like for each brand and industry is still a bit of a mystery, but it’s an exciting time at the least. Making the barrier of entry lower for turning a Shopify store into an iOS app is just the first step. We’re excited to keep working with ambitious brands and create immersive ways to engage customers.

The Rise of The Social Seller

The ticket for entry in becoming an online retailer has never been more accessible. One after another, companies like WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, and Instagram have brought the brilliant operations of Big Box Retailers to makers, side hustlers and early stage founders alike.

Starting at $99 per month, you’ll be able to use the classic Sandbox Commerce platform to design and launch your app within a week.

This variety of great vendors and their abilities to meet any sized business’ goals has ushered in a golden age of e-commerce. It’s hard to talk to anyone in your social circle who doesn’t have some kind of e-commerce side-hustle that they juggle between their 9-to-5 day job. These hustlers have grown incredibly talented at growing organic social media campaigns and leveraging social networks to accelerate their business to a point were their day job isn’t looking so tempting anymore.

As the Head of Growth at Sandbox Commerce, I spend 80% of my day communicating with online brands and retailers. Traditionally I focused on ‘medium to large’ folks, but the social seller kept showing up on my radar in a more frequent occurrence each day. After collecting swaths of customer feedback, Sandbox Commerce is excited to announce  SandBox Commerce for Social Sellers tier of our platform.

Starting at $99 per month, you’ll be able to use the classic Sandbox Commerce platform to design and launch your app within a week. You’ll have the option to launch on either iOS or the Android marketplace and have access to key features like of push notifications to let your entire audience to engage your audience with in stock notifications and and exclusive sales that increase your ROI.

We’re excited to add another tool to the toolbox for the social seller and get them one step closer to competing with the big shots. We’ll be launching the all new Social Seller tier on May 15th, but you can sign up for early access here.

Introducing SandBox Commerce Engage

Actionable data” is one of those phrases that you’ve likely seen being tossed around in online digital marketing forums but haven’t had the time to really understand what it means to you and your business. From Google Analytics to Facebook for Business to Intercom;  a ton of tools promise to provide insights that help brands and retailers better understand who their customers are, but few actually provide the tools that a small/midsize business needs to deliver the ROI without hiring a third-party consultant. One proven tool that online retailers and digital agencies seem to underutilize today is the power of push notifications.

Take a moment to envision a sleek mobile app for your store that properly represents your brand, more than pays for itself and is custom built to increase engagement with your most loyal customers  – extending their relationship with your brand and encouraging them to shop more on the go.

Sandbox Commerce is tailor-made for mid-size retailers and digital marketing teams who have limited time and even smaller budgets to leverage actionable data from multiple touch-points to increase engagement with their most loyal shoppers.

Global brands and retailers in nearly every vertical have been leveraging the power of push notifications for years, employing actionable data to send more personalized advertisement, invitations, and calls to action to their shoppers on the go. Until recently a midsize retailer would need to pony up more than $250K to build an app that would allow them to experiment with push notifications which for many was frankly a non-starter.

These global brands and retailers have proven that engaging their shoppers in an effective and succinct way is critical to long-term success. Using push notifications, online retailers can instantly fill their most loyal customers in on newly restocked inventory or promotions that they’re running for a limited time. In addition, retailers may segment users by region and then notify local shoppers about pop-up shops that they’re activating. The possibilities become endless when you pair the power of push notifications with a sound communications strategy.

Sandbox Commerce is tailor-made for mid-size retailers and digital marketing teams who have limited time and even smaller budgets to leverage actionable data from multiple touch-points to increase engagement with their most loyal shoppers. We recently worked with over 3 dozen brands and retailers to launch our one of a kind Engagement Dashboard – A tool that’s laser-like focused on helping founders and marketing teams increase revenue using actionable data that larger brands and retailers have been leveraging for years! We’re currently offering free trials for a limited time. Reach out to me if you’d like an invitation.

What I’m Asked Series: What is the Difference Between Responsive Web and Native Apps?

In this aptly titled recurring series, ‘What I’m Asked’ I try to give a high-level understanding of some of e-commerce more complicated questions.

My name is Alec Boyd and I’m the Head of Growth at Sandbox Commerce. Most of my day is spent chatting with e-commerce business from a variety of sizes. Whether I’m chatting with a Chief Marketing Officer or a business owner who is trying to quit their 9-5, the question of ‘What’s the difference between responsive web and native apps?’ always comes up.

Native Apps

Native apps are the easier of the two to grasp. We all have apps on our phones and understand that they live on our phone, have their own icons. They also have their own OS and are designed to work on a specific device – this usually results in a safer transaction and better user UI. We’ll dive into more of the pros and cons momentarily.

Responsive Web

To get started, let’s get a table stakes understanding of what ‘reactive web’ is. Responsive websites are designed to automatically adapt to any screen size. Whether a user pulls up your site on a 27″ monitor or their phone, the website will adapt and scale to display your website.

As e-commerce began to shift towards mobile, it didn’t take long for retailers to realize that they had to adapt. Those who weren’t willing to would be left behind as their competitors grabbed a larger market share.

The Good

Responsive web became a very popular option for a single reason…. price. Retailers found making a great responsive website justifiable in comparison to the hefty cost of native app development. Traditionally native app development starts around $150k and 6 months of development.

The Bad

Lagging: Responsive websites tend to have poor performance. Images and animations are too heavy. Connection speeds and phone performances can really exacerbate the issue too.

Navigation: Responsive web also lacks natural navigation. iOS and Android users have different navigations and UI’s. Responsive web can get close, but it will never feel completely natural for shoppers.

The Ugly

Push Notifications: Responsive web will never have the ability to send push notifications. Some of our greatest success stories have been from savvy marketers making push notifications a powerful call the action. Responsive web will never be able to interact with users outside of their browser – when everyone is fighting for engagement, it’s hard to not see the advantage

Security: When a shopper connects to a responsive webpage through a browser, they’re exposed to trackers and other liabilities associated with public connections. Native apps offer a much more secure shopping experience. The user connects directly to the business without intervention from 3rd parties.


At a quick glance, responsive web and native apps don’t seem like they have many differences, but once you dive into functionalities – native apps are the clear winner.

It was understandable when medium-sized retailers couldn’t justify such a hefty cost to build out their own app. Sandbox Commerce has created an easy way for all sizes of retailers to design and launch their own app and avoid the hefty upfront cost. The list of reasons to ignore native apps is shrinking…

The Times Are a Changin’ – Why Your Store Needs a Mobile App

To successfully run an e-commerce website in 2018, you need to create an amazing mobile experience. The numbers don’t lie – early statistics for 2018 indicate that more than half of your potential customers are shopping while mobile. By not catering to this segments needs, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

In a scramble for retailers of all shapes and sizes to adapt to the mobile world, they’re focusing on getting their product out the door and forgetting their reputation of quality that they spent so long crafting. An alarming 85% of mobile users have experienced difficulty executing a mobile transaction. To make the problem even worse – studies show that 45% of users will shop with a competitor after a sub-optimal mobile experience.

E-commerce stores are turning to is responsive web apps. Responsive web apps require the mobile shopping experience to be reliant on the website as the foundation of its technology. The issue quickly becomes out of hand as issues compound from scaling an entire website down to a phone screen and alterations to the website can have unknown issues on your mobile app.

After weighing all of the cons of a responsive website, it becomes clear the native mobile apps are essential. Now we’re going to expand upon and explore the benefits of a native app.

Early statistics for 2018 indicate that more than half of your potential customers are shopping while mobile.

The Power of Push Notifications

Mobile apps allow you to cut through the static and send push notifications to your entire audience or segment a specific cohort. It doesn’t take much imagination to quickly realize how cart abandonment can be improved after sending a push notification offering a discount for the item they left abandoned in their cart.

Push notifications are also for extending engagement beyond social media and in-store interactions. Reward your most loyal shoppers! Make sure they’re the first to know when a popular item is restocked.

Expanding Brand Loyalty

Going beyond our previous example in push notifications, features like location-based notifications, augmented reality (AR) to let users snap a photo of themselves and know exactly how that product will look on them.

Sandbox Commerce’s Engagement Dashboard allows marketers to export mobile users to Klaviyo and Mailchimp. Quickly create campaigns that match user segments and shopping behaviors.

Knowing Your User

Experienced digital marketers knows that rich user data is worth its weight in gold. As more e-commerce stores begin to sell across different channels like traditional big-box retailers and web giants like Amazon, they’re losing an understanding of who their customers are.

Start to recapture user data and learn who your customers are. For every unique download, a plethora of rich user data comes along with it. From there it’s easy to create look-alike campaigns and optimize other campaigns.

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Tips for Retailers, P2 – Promoting and Extending Your Referral Program

In our first segment on encouraging and gathering customer reviews, we talked about ways to ask your most loyal customers for referrals. In this second part, we’ll dive into making that program a success and the best ways to promote it.

Promoting Your Program

It happens more often than you would think, but shops will go through all the work of creating a program, and never put any weight behind promoting it. Even businesses that have monstrously successful referral programs, like Airbnb, have fallen victim to this pitfall – the referral program will fail if none of your customers (or even employees) knows it exists.

  • Know Which Referral is Best for Your Business – The two main incentives are either a cash discount or percentage off discount. For industries that have a less frequent purchase rate (i.e. mattresses), a cash discount incentive is known to work best. Percentage off of promos are fantastic for recurring businesses. This allows your evangelist to collect a promo they can actually use, instead of multiple cash discounts on a mattress
  • Email Your Current Customers – Clearly, you have to have an established customer base to execute this, but the store that has been idly waiting to implement a referral program – this is the best place to start.
  • Go Beyond Email – Your program can extend far beyond the email world. Implementing your program in social media channels calls to action on your website and targeted push notifications are effective ways to get the word out. Treat this like a marketing campaign – albeit a little different from your traditional campaigns, it’s marketing nonetheless.

Getting to Your Next Customer

It takes a lot of hard work to maintain and keep an omni-channel referral program running, but you’ll soon see how effective they are. Most retail books, written 50 years ago or 5 months ago, will typically include an entire chapter on ‘referral programs’. They’ve proven their worth over the years and now it’s time for you to implement it in the modern age.

3 Tips to Increase ROI using Content Marketing

There are a lot of myths and black magic surrounding return on investment (ROI) in regards to content marketing. Most store owners have heard the old adages like, “play the long game and it’ll pay off someday” or “becoming a knowledgeable voice and the buyers will seek you out”. Shop owners have a lot of fish to fry and it’s hard to justify such a cumbersome task that has an intangible ROI.

More importantly, a LOT of money and resources is spent promoting and creating this content. Finding a more actionable and optimized method for ROI with your content marketing can lead to impressive revenue jumps.

Drew Sanocki is often given credit for creating this golden rule of Content Marketing Growth Multipliers. He breaks down content marketing into three categories.

Number of Leads x Purchase Frequency x Average Order Value (AOV)

Drew is often keen to point out that very few people think about the money earned from content marketing and their main goal is just to increase the number of leads (or impressions) from each post. We’ll dive into the three multipliers and learn which is the most important to optimize, and which aren’t as important as you’d think.

Number of Leads

This is the multiplier that most folks get wrong. Increasing this number without putting thought into Purchase Frequency or AOV won’t yield you favorable results. When the other multipliers are a secondary thought, marketers are then eager to load the page with obnoxious calls to action i.e. pop-up information, flashing adds, scroll through ad- content and the list goes on…
The biggest concern in this multiplier is providing your reader value and information. Well written content will create a call to action for the reader. Their mind will naturally start to follow your lead – chances are if they’re reading your persona specific content, they’re in need of what you’re offering.

Get creative and subtly with your calls to action. Hyperlinks embedded in the content and quotes from a professional in the domain will do wonders with this multiplier.

Purchase Frequency

Now that we’ve collected our list of leads from the value-driven content – it’s time to get them to open their wallets.

Chances are you spent some coin to acquire that lead, so we want to do everything in our power to convince them to purchase. A single purchase is fantastic, but once you snag a repeat customer – margins decrease because of your lower acquisition cost. That’s why the last two multipliers are crucial.

“Tripwire” products are a common practice to incentivize first time buyers. Tripwire products are discounted goods sold with the hope that they will lead to repeat business down the road. A/B testing different products to optimize your promotion is also encouraged.

After any new customers convert, use targeted campaigns to show them other best selling product from your store in hopes recurring purchases. Sandbox Commerce’s Engagement Hub offers marketers rich and actionable data to help segment user behavior. 

Increasing Average Order Value

Customers are now purchasing from us at a more frequent rate, the last piece of the equation is to increase how much they spend on each transaction.

Bundling products that complement each other is an age-old way to increase AOV. Offering two items that pair well with each other, at a discount, creates urgency with the buyer. Don’t let the discount freak you out – you’re still boosting the AOV.


It’s easy to think that increasing your number of leads is the key, but in reality, it’s much more difficult to scale. By focusing and optimizing on purchase frequency and increasing average order value, you can increase (and finally calculate) ROI from content marketing. 

Tips for Retailers, P1 – Encouraging and Gathering Customer Referrals

Word of mouth – especially customer reviews – are one of the strongest tools an ecommerce entrepreneur has at their disposal. It is easy to let frustration set in after your customers are happily consuming your product and not sharing rave review, here are a few steps to encourage your customers to submit reviews.

Knowing Where to Start

It’s important to not take the blanket approach. It’s in your best interest to identify your most loyal users and the users who consistently have great experiences with your organization – you can expect to see a lot of overlap in these segments. Once you identify these cohorts, you’ve identified the customers most likely to write a review.

Signifiers of a loyal user: Have they bought more than one product or even multiples from you? Another key metric to consider is order value. Filter out the users who consistently spend larger average cart values in your store. These are like loyal and happy customers who have a high likelihood of sharing some rave reviews. Sandbox Commerce’s Engage dashboard give shop owners incredibly insights into who their loyal users are for mobile app usage.

Asking for customer reviews

We now have a persona in mind and know exactly which users are likely to write a review for us. Now it’s time to start asking. It’s essential to leverage the power of email to create a scalable and personal point of contact between your users. 

It’s important to make these feel like intimate and personal – here are a few tips:

  • Address them by their first name
  • Use plain text – avoid images or any flash – it should feel like a letter of direct correspondence
  • Reference products they have purchased from your shop
  • Give a reminder of how much you appreciate their business

Make sure you mix it up and experiment which formats yield the best results. Once you’ve found a template with a good open rate and acceptable response rate, automate and send it to the masses.

After you’ve done some testing to deduce which templates work best for certain types of purchases, putting automatic triggers in place is the next step — an easy best practice is to set a trigger for any customers that are placing a second order with your shop.

Automating personalized emails that encourage referrals and guarantee customer satisfaction is essential to scale your online business. Remember, word of mouth and customer reviews is one of the most valuable marketing tools you have.