Ben Moore from Pixel Union on Leveraging Themes and Apps to Bring Your Ecommerce Product to Market

Ben Moore from Pixel Union on Leveraging Themes and Apps to Bring Your Ecommerce Product to Market

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Biggest Advantages of Themes 


  • Time – using a theme greatly reduces your time in bringing your site to market
  • Cost – using a theme is a cost effective way to test your minimum viable product
  • Technical knowledge can be minimal, can be compared to attaching a file to an email


  • Custom features are severely limited
  • Bigger budgets will always outperform a standard theme
  • More bugs, less maintenance and support

You essentially have two options—you can buy a theme off marketplace where agencies like Pixel Union have put in all the time and effort building and testing the product and bringing it to market, and you will have your storefront up and running as quickly as a few hours. OR you can go the completely custom route. This can work really well, but it does depend on where you are as a business. Let’s say you’re a small company that doesn’t have a lot of money to invest and you’re rushing to get a product to market, then you don’t have the time or reproaches to go through a full custom development cycle. In this case, themes are a good starting place for you because it gets you out the door and allows you to test the market before investing further.

There are a lot of people that come in with a list of wants, but most of the time they don’t know their market clearly enough to distinguish between wants and needs and what’s going to drive more sales. So this might launch someone into wanting a custom build—but this can be more than $20,000 plus the ongoing work to maintain that platform. This is what the app marketplace is all about, it comes down to trusting developers that specialize in certain aspects in the ecommerce journey. For Pixel Union, it was a natural evolution to move from themes to apps because they understood the merchant customers and they were confident in their abilities to build products to meet demands and for better product experience.

The Take Away

  • Difference between an app building company and somebody who is building apps for a secondary purpose
  • Maintenance and support is necessary to success of a customers app and product

For someone who is looking for apps, it’s important to be able to distinguish between a professional app building company and a company that has built and developed one unique feature and is building apps for a secondary purpose. This is a common problem, when people ask why their app isn’t working it’s usually because a company didn’t build it as a product, they built a feature for a customer and decided they wanted to make money off of it but they’re not resourcing a permanent development offering, they don’t have proper quality assurance testing being applied and they’re not testing this in multiple use case scenarios or supporting it. It can be easy to get a great product out there, but choosing the wrong app can result in an unstable product. A lot of developers don’t understand what is required when it comes to customer success. Ongoing support, maintenance and product stewardship is key to the success and should be an obligation to customers.

Trending Now

  • Push notification products
  • Subscription based products
  • Great brand narrative

Some big trends we are seeing and retailers should take advantage of are push notifications, repeat customers and building a great brand narrative. Push notification products have the unification of browser to mobile or someone can accept on Chrome browser and get delivered on the mobile device without having to sign up on both platforms. It’s an easy way to redirect your customers. Building repeat customers is important for revenue reliability and predictability, which makes subscription based products so huge right now. Signing people up for repeat and ongoing purchases adds predictability of revenue to the merchant. And lastly, the importance of developing a really good brand narrative and taking the time to explain the brand and tell the brands story. We’re seeing a lot of lifestyle pieces in websites and building attachment between customers and the brand which increases and establishes trust as well as image.