Kit is a virtual marketing assistant and Shopify app (recently acquired by Shopify) that promises freedom from the daily task of marketing your e-commerce business. You can sit on the beach and sip piña coladas while Kit does the hard work of running Facebook and Instagram ads and handling email marketing for you.
But can you trust a robot to market your e-commerce business? 🤖 🤔
At the risk of sounding like an old-school marketer who still relies on a fax machine to send press releases (don't worry, I don't), I think it's a lot to ask of a virtual assistant to handle all of your Facebook marketing. However, if you read the reviews in the Shopify app store, it sounds like more than a handful of Shopify business owners are having success with Kit, so I wanted to unpack my skepticism. Am I just biased because my business depends on people rejecting "easy" marketing solutions, opting instead to hire me at a cost 10 times that of a virtual assistant?
Can Kit really help Shopify businesses grow their revenue through smart Facebook advertising? In order to get the answer, I took a deep dive into Kit. Here's what I learned.
(Since I'm focused on Facebook advertising right now, in this post I'll be talking about using Kit to run Facebook ads only.)
UPDATE: As of June 7, 2017, Kit is now free for all Shopify store owners.
First, the basics
Kit costs $10-25/month depending on what plan you use and integrates with your Shopify store and Facebook ads manager, which you need to have set up already.
Its main channel for communication is SMS text message. Once you have it set up, Kit sends you texts asking if you want help with marketing while you're doing stuff like meeting with vendors and setting up wholesale accounts for retailers. (Or sipping piña coladas.) The software is designed to sound like that "magical marketing intern" you always dreamed of who mans the shop and does all the creative and effective marketing tasks for you while you work on other things.
Sounds great, right? It is, sort of. Let's take a look at some of the pros.
Pros of using Kit
Using Kit means you don't have to learn how to do Facebook ads
Kit allows you to avoid ever having to log into Facebook to handle advertising, so you can skip getting acquainted with Facebook's complicated ads manager interface and simply respond to Kit's texts to get ads posted.
Kit's prompts help you remember that marketing is a thing you should be doing
You hardly have time to remember to post to Instagram or send emails, let alone schedule Facebook ad campaigns. Kit takes the work or remembering to run Facebook ads off your plate by sending regular SMS reminders that you can boost products with ads.
Kit is free
As of June 7, 2017, Kit is now free for all Shopify store owners. This means you'll execute Facebook ads for much cheaper than hiring a marketing consultant or a part-time employee.
Kit suggests unique ways you can market your products on Facebook
Kit has a few suggestions for promoting products, such as running ads for slow moving inventory, boosting sales on new items in the shop, and even advertising offers you create through its integration with Bold (you have to have the pro account to enable this feature).
All this sounds pretty rad, right?
Yes, but then there are the cons.
Cons of using Kit
Kit targeting doesn't work for the little guys
Kit uses custom audiences and look-a-like audiences to target new customers for your Facebook ads. This means you have to have a certain number of Facebook page likes (100) and customer sales (20 email addresses that map to addresses customers use for Facebook for a custom audience, 100 email addresses that map to Facebook for a custom look-a-like audinece) in order for the targeting to function. If you don't have at least 100 pages like or 100 sales, Kit won't work well for you.
Kit has limited targeting options that don't work for everyone
Read a handful of Kit reviews in the Shopify app store and you're likely to come across at least one shop owner complaining about Kit's wonky targeting. Let's take a look at why this happens.
Again, Kit only uses 2 forms of targeting: custom and look-a-like audiences. It is not going to build new audiences for you from scratch. It will only use the look-a-like audience feature to try and approximate the type of customer who buys from you. This means that, using Kit, you can't create ads that target audiences beyond your current reach, like:
- Friends of fans of my page
- Fans of my competitors
- Fans of a magazine you'd like to advertise in
Facebook doesn't exactly reveal the decision making that goes into how look-a-like audiences are created (think: secret sauce), and while I think look-a-like audiences are a powerful way of finding new fans and customers, I also think they rely on data a human being wouldn't use to target their ideal customer. For that reason, look-a-like audiences should be PART of your Facebook marketing plan, but not all of it.
If you don't have a big enough fan base to create a look-a-like audience, Kit will let you target based on vagaries like gender, location and age, but at that point you're better off running the ads yourself as you'll have more control over demographic, behavior and interests targeting than Kit currently provides with its user interface.
Kit doesn't let you control ad copy or images
This is perhaps the most frustrating part of using Kit. Kit pulls all of its copy and images directly from your Shopify product pages. You have no control over the ad copy or images Kit uses unless you retroactively log in to Facebook to edit the ad copy Kit pulls automatically. Not exactly a time saver!
Kit only runs ads that direct to product pages, never landing pages
While it's sometimes appropriate to direct people who click your ads to a product page on Shopify, it's often not the best place to send them. Kit is ONLY promoting your products and product pages, no other type of content. So you're not able to promote blog posts, sale and offer landing pages, or any other type of content that gives Facebook users any type of context for your product or business. Landing pages should be a big part of your Facebook marketing strategy, especially if your products are unique or require some introduction. Kit doesn't work with them.
Kit only runs one type of ad, and only in the newsfeed
If you're only using Kit to handle Facebook marketing you're leaving a lot on the table. Kit won't be running video ads for you, or offer ads. Kit's strategy is to run image and carousel ads that link to your product pages with the goal of conversion (people buying the product). And they only run these ads on the newsfeed because, they claim, sidebar ads "don't have as much return." (While sidebar ads may not garner as many clicks, they definitely offer a cheap retargeting option for product-based ads and shouldn't be left off the table.) Bottom line: you should be thinking beyond products ads in the newsfeed and looking at the entire Facebook marketing funnel.
The verdict on Kit
If you run a Shopify store with hundreds of products, hundreds of fans, and hundreds of customers, and you have a little bit of a budget to use on running a very specific type of ad (product ads) with a simple goal (conversion), then Kit might be a great way to automate the creation of product-focused ads in bulk.
However if you:
- Are starting small, with fewer than 100 fans of customers
- Have products that require an intro, or some explaining (such as handmade items, products with a higher price point, etc.)
- Want to have control over ad content
- Want to control who your ads are being targeted to
- Want to run ads with a different conversion goal, such as video views or offers, so that you can grow your audience first
... then Kit may not be right for you yet.
Real marketing takes real work
When I work with clients I find myself comparing marketing to eating right and exercising to stay healthy. There are a lot of gimmicks and tools out there, but the real work is a process that involves a daily commitment. Kit, like a Fitbit, might be a nice automated part of your strategy, but you shouldn't rely on it to do all the work for you.
Kit executes marketing tasks for you, but, despite its claim that it works from goals, it doesn't create a strategy. No computer can do that (yet!). Kit certainly isn't all bad — it helps busy business owners automate the creation bulk product ads on Facebook — but you're better off building a real Facebook marketing strategy, ideally based on funnel tactics, before employing a virtual assistant.