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“Not looking at things from a buyers perspective” and the other mistakes on your website

Every Month Now In Store hosts MTL + Ecommerce, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Experts in the field of ecommerce and online marketing come and give talks to a packed room. Last month Alaa Hassan of and ecommerce aficionado spoke about responsive design.


We had the chance to sit down and chat with him after the event…

Divya: What’s your first memory of selling online? 

Alaa: Remembering I sold my first DVD at $400 to an Australian customer.  It was Wrestle Mania 2000. That was the most expensive DVD I sold.

D: What has surprised you the most since then?

A: The power and flexibility it gives to anybody to become global instantly. Back in the day, barriers of entry in terms of going in to business were very high. It was costly and it required a lot of I.T. Now you can start selling to China and import from China easily. So that’s something that is really great.

D: Advice to people just starting out to sell online?

A: Focus on making money. Your top line (sales) is exciting but what matters is your bottom line (profits). Because at the end of the day if you’re not making money, long-term you’re not going to be able to support your operation. Start local before going global. I tell people that it’s a lot easier to target everyone in Montreal than it is to target everybody in Canada. So the idea is to scale as you grow.

D: In ecommerce, if you could only focus your energy on one thing what would that be?

A: Establish your hub – which is your website, so you can own the customer. Knowing your customer will allow you to build a satisfying relationship where your customer’s needs are met. At the same time do not stop yourself from venturing into other marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, or any channel out there because these companies have a bigger marketing budget than you and I. Online retailers should Leverage that opportunity with the right strategy.


D: Let’s say, I have an Etsy store, I want to build my own site and make sure it’s responsive what is the first step I take?

A: First of all, I’d ask why do you need a website? If your customers are mainly on Etsy I would say go where your customers are going. If they are demanding a better shopping experience, then do it. And if you don’t know – ask. Ask your top clients.  This way you base every decision on data, not just feelings.

If you decide to build a site I would suggest Shopify. It’s affordable, easy to learn & easy to setup even for mobile devices.

D: Let’s say, I have a site on Shopify, I have a budget. What’s the first step I take to building a responsive site?

A: If you already have a Shopify site I am wondering why you’re not responsive already? Shopify has a lot of templates you can learn from and get inspired from. Then you can buy one for $150 dollars or customize one from scratch.

Also, I wouldn’t recommend drastic design changes because it could effect your conversions, so start with incremental changes unless you have data proving that your current site is really bad.


D: What’s the one thing people are doing wrong in responsive design?

A: Not looking at things from a buyers perspective. They look at things from their perspective. Put the site in front of your shoppers, first time shoppers and return shoppers, and monitor what they do.

Go to and for $50 bucks you can record someone for a good amount of time to see how they use your website. That’s how Amazon does it and that’s how the biggest ecommerce companies do it. [Divya: We’ve been using Inspectlet at Now In Store and are big fans!]

D: What do you do in your free time?

A: In the summer I garden. I read a lot now, I am enjoying reading. I love being helpful, I love sharing my knowledge in ecommerce with everyone else through my blog, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  That’s why I am forcing myself to love writing.

I am reading Rework (by Jason Fried) right now. My favourite writer is Seth Godin, I’ve read all his books, I’ve met him, emailed him – my favourite book of all time is Purple Cow.  Every ecommerce person should read that book. Especially now since ecommerce has matured. It’s no longer easy to differentiate yourself so, being remarkable is key – so that book is a really good guide.

D: Thank-you very much Alaa

A: My pleasure.


Take aways:

(1) Focus on your profits

(2) Think local before going global

(3) Explore other market places

-Divya, with Now In Store