Everyone goes to Amazon

What are the differences between the sort of website that publishers generally provide and the sort of sales-focused site that Shopify is all about?

The answer, we think, is that publishers have largely given up on D2C sales websites, because everyone goes to Amazon. The challenges that are defeating them at the moment are as follows.

  • Lowering the barriers to making a sale (the need to provide credit card details and a logon, for example, and handling payments)
  • Discoverability
  • Providing more advanced sales features (recoverable baskets, discount codes, cross-product discount, price drops)
  • Keeping costs absolutely tight.

Unless publishers believe that they can do this, the web site becomes primarily a marketing tool that is paid for by marketing, and then it focuses on whatever marketers do – and, more often than not, that means spending money without needing to account for results.

Revenue generation

Publishers don’t believe they can rise to those four challenges, so they give up on using their website as a revenue generation tool.

However, these are challenges that anyone who sells D2C also face, because Amazon competes with everyone other than those selling jet engines and submarines. Bicycles, handbags, pens … it’s all on Amazon nowadays, right?

So Shopify and its ecosystem focus on exactly the problems that publishers are beset by, and they are evolving to meet all of those challenges in a way that only the biggest publishers can currently afford.

It integrates to allow selling through Facebook, and will allow selling through Twitter when that is widely available. It integrates with 50 payment processing gateways, you can fulfill worldwide through state of the art shipping centres without going through a book distributor, use SEO and analytics, sell personalised digital downloads, and even let customers sign in with their Amazon credentials.

Cost management

Most importantly, it does these really economically because there is now a very liquid market with aggressive competition among suppliers of these features.

We don’t think that this is confined to trade publishers, either. Academics also have unique challenges, which is why they end up fulfilling journal and book orders through Metapress and the like. However, it is technically very easy to upload digital journals and their individual articles for sale on Shopify, and hand out discount codes, provide bundles and upselling promotions, and so on. Shopify costs about £30 a month. There is a rich ecosystem of additional apps – such as basket abandonment protector – and the others you can see here, which tend to be anything between free and around $19 a month. And Consonance’s Shopify integration ships as part of the standard user license: no extra charges.

In other words, you can have a state of the art, revenue-generating, modern, beautifully-designed website for a tiny amount of money.

Reasons we like Shopify

If you use Consonance you can have an amazing customer-facing website for no extra date entry effort. Consonance feeds your Shopify store with book data. Then you can sell your books: digital and otherwise.

  • Shopify is the world’s leading commerce SAAS provider, and the platform of choice for over 100,000 active global retailers.
  • Sell online, offline and on-the-go using Shopify’s powerful technology.
  • Use your own domain name
  • Sell gift cards
  • Integrated blogging platform to create blog posts
  • Process credit card payments directly through Shopify, or other gateways
  • Process in-store purchases with Shopify POS
  • Process purchases with your iPhone using Shopify Mobile
  • Receive on-boarding support from a Shopify Guru
  • Access ecommerce analytics
  • Use built-in SEO, coupon codes and A/B testing
  • Rely on fast servers and cutting edge infrastructure
  • Fully PCI Level 1 Compliant checkout
  • Unlimited products
  • Shopify is always adding free new features to help you sell

Case study: Liverpool University Press

When this award-winning university press chose Consonance as their publishing management system, they also wanted it to integrate with their customer facing website. We designed a new, beautiful Shopify store for them from the ground up, giving them an online presence befitting a leading publisher in its field (Anthony Cond, Managing Director, Liverpool University Press, IPG Frankfurt Book Fair Academic and Professional Publisher of the Year 2015 and The Bookseller Independent Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year 2015).

  • Bespoke design, adhering to sensible ecommerce conventions whilst being tailored to precisely LUP’s specification
  • Complex multi-level taxonomy, where books can belong to more than one category
  • Series, sets, editions, formats, tags, metadata, reviews: products arranged in an accessible way
  • Seamless and automatic integration between Shopify and Consonance
  • Sells all formats: ebooks, hardback, paperback, journals, online
  • Discount codes to support LUP’s ‘Free Read Friday’, plus mailing list sign up
  • Plenty of easy to edit static pages
  • Multiple payment gateways including Paypal and credit card via Stripe
  • Fully responsive
  • Fully supported design, with ongoing tweaks as desired by the client
  • Analytics via a complete back-end admin interface
  • Correct VAT management on European ebook sales
  • Shipping and stock management
  • Prominent social media links to encourage sharing, and a blog
  • Related products, related journals
  • Search, sort, filter, follow links to interesting related products

More reasons we like Shopify

Good design

Choose from over 100 existing templates which range from free to about £100 (a one off fee), or ask us or another Shopify design agency to create one of your own.

Good value

Even on its most expensive monthly-rate tier, Shopify costs less than other options. They make their money based on a modest cut of each transaction – so you only pay if you sell books. And we don’t charge to integrate Consonance with your Shopify store. It’s a low risk way to have a full service ecommerce offer. We do, however, charge to design your store and prefer that you use a dedicated Shopify developer who can integrate Consonance with your shop by using the following documentation.

Link a Consonance account with a Shopify store Shopify and Consonance: Data Reference How Consonance sends data to Shopify

Why Shopify?

We love it because its code is clean, it’s OK to integrate with and it’s easy to make a Shopify shop look modern and act in a way that delights your readers.

Flexible functionality

There are many extensions available to enhance the core Shopify functionality. From social DRM watermarking to email marketing integrations, it’s easy to find additional plug-ins which means if you want a particular functionality you won’t have to pay for bespoke code development.

No hosting plus maintenance charge

You don’t pay a user license and hosting: it’s all in one. So if you have the basic tier, it’s $29 a month. Nothing more. (That’s not per user – it’s $29 for the whole site, regardless of how many users interact with it). Consonance doesn’t charge anything to integrate with your Shopify store – the functionality is included in our user license fee. We do however charge to set up a store for you, and this is between £2000 and £20,000 depending on what you want.

Blog and social media

Shopify comes with a blogging engine. You can import your blog’s history, including posts, comments and images, from your old system, whether that’s Wordpress or a proprietary CMS. Social media sharing links and widget integrations also ship as standard, so your readers can share the gems they find on your website with an easy, familiar click.

Email marketing

A single tick is all the configuration that’s required to set up a Mailchimp mailing list integration, and there are many other email marketing integrations available, too. Readers can sign up to any number of mailing lists from your site.

Data feed

When your book data is compliant and complete in Consonance, you can approve it for publication on your website. You can do things like amend prices, add reviews, change images, upload spreads and construct complex authorship arrangements in Consonance, which sends all this data and more in the correct format to your Shopify store (using their API). It’s seamless, painless and means you only have to enter data once.


Consumers living in the EU must pay VAT on digital goods at the rate applicable in their own country. This rule applies regardless of where in the EU the seller is located. From January 1st 2015, if you’re selling digital goods to customers in the EU, you should charge VAT based on your customers’ locations. Shopify has worked quickly to ensure that the recently VAT changes are supported. You can also configure the special low book VAT rates enjoyed by Italy, Malta, France and Luxembourg.

Semantic markup

Shopify does a good job of injecting relevant search terms into your page, and its generated markup is modern and optimised for search.