As we’re wrapping up the year and heading into 2020, it’s a natural instinct to look back at what has been changing the marketing landscape and what trends will shape the future (we’re certainly no exception). However, while finding the next big thing can provide a huge boost, the fundamentals are still essential. After Coca-Cola’s famous 70/20/10 case study, perhaps too much attention was put on that 10%. Don’t get me wrong – as a marketer, those campaigns can often be the most fun to work on. But at their core, they’re still just a test. To have the budget and opportunity for testing, brands still need to master the tried and true eCommerce growth marketing strategies.
1. Guide Your Prospects Down the Funnel – Email Marketing
While many brands are jumping from one new shiny tool to the next, email marketing still remains arguably the most effective among eCommerce growth strategies. 80% of marketers say email is their best source of customer acquisition and marketers like Neil Patel suggest that eMail marketing ROI is as high as 4000%! Email marketing has so many important tactics and best practices that it could easily be its own blog post, but there are two primary strategies when it comes to email marketing.
Trigger Emails – These are pretty self-explanatory, as they’re email sent as a result of the user taking a specific action.
- Welcome – After someone joins your email list, it’s a common best practice to send an onboarding email to help new leads or customers get started with your product. These can also be used to help double-verify the user’s email address to ensure a clean email list.
- Transactional – These are triggered after the user makes a purchase, confirming the transaction details and setting expectations about the next steps. These can also be used to prompt users to leave a (hopefully positive) review for your product.
- Abandoned Cart – Users adding items to their shopping cart and leaving the site before completing the purchase is all too common in eCommerce. These trigger emails can be a nudge to remind the user, or at least stay top of mind for when they’re ready to purchase.
- Milestones – These are used to help build relationships with your customers by celebrating things like birthdays, join date anniversaries, or milestones for how much they’ve used your product. These emails can also be a great excuse to extend an offer, such as a discount code.
Drip Campaign – A drip campaign is a series of automated emails sent to a user base in a specific offer. These can be triggered by certain events, such as someone joining your email list for the first time. However, they can be extremely powerful in other ways. Drip campaigns can be used to increase sales, such as teasing the release of a new product or cross-selling additional products. Drips can be used to nurture leads, such as an educational content series on a topic that’s highly relevant to your readers.
2. Help Your Customers Find You and Make Decisions – SEO & Content Marketing
When 88% of consumers are conducting an online search before making a purchase, and most searches not making it past page one (with a rising number of zero-click), SEO is another eCommerce growth strategy that’s impossible for marketers to ignore. Again, SEO is such an in-depth topic that it could easily fill its own blog, but here are some highly relevant examples for eComm growth.
Blogs – Even if all your product pages are perfectly optimized for their particular keywords, there will still be many relevant search inquiries that you want your business to rank for. That’s where a blog comes in. If your product pages are designed to rank for people searching for those specific products, your blog pages should be designed to answer questions about your product or industry. For example, clothing retailer Stitch Fix creates style guides to help people choose outfits for each season, how to wear certain items, or how to dress for specific events. If the page is properly optimized and ranks for “How Your Shirt Should Fit,” a user will navigate to the page for the info they’re looking for, as well as find links to their products that fit their style.
Quizzes – As entertaining as Buzzfeed can be, those aren’t the type of quizzes we’re referring to here. Unlike discovering which Disney character is your spirit animal, quizzes can be utilized to educate users about your products, offer personalized solutions, and incentivize users to complete a lead form. Rather than overwhelm their site visitors with options, ThirdLove created a simple questionnaire to help women find their perfect fit, then ask for their email address to send the results. This is a perfect exchange – the user gets her questions answered and ThirdLove is now free to continue engaging to complete the sale.
3. Be Where You Customers Are – Social Media Ads
Social media has become so ubiquitous with digital marketing that we can skip a lot of the usage stats and agree that it’s among the most essential eCommerce growth strategies. But just in case, 54% of social browsers use social media to research products, and 50% of Gen Z and 42% of millennials say that social media is the most relevant advertising channel. It’s safe to say that social media is likely a fit for just about any eComm business, so let’s look into a few areas where it shines the most.
Audience Targeting – Facebook and Instagram collect the most data, and therefore, can offer what is probably the most precise targeting we have available. The lookalike audience is the simplest, most effective way for most businesses to scale. No assumptions or guesses about your target demographic are necessary – just upload consumer email addresses and reach more people that are demographically and behaviourally similar. However, there is always the risk of data bias, so be sure to continue testing new areas and refreshing your lookalikes.
Shoppable Posts – Being able to complete a transaction without making the user leave the app drastically reduces the likelihood they’ll abandon the sale. So naturally, Facebook/Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and even TikTok have been experimenting with and releasing various shoppable ads, where retailers can feature specific products in a way that facilitates seamless transactions.
4. Reach Customers In Moments That Matter – Paid Search & PPC
Alongside paid social, paid search is another must-have eCommerce growth tactic. One of the bigger challenges of a paid advertising campaign is trying to get in front of your audience at the micro-moment they’re looking to make a decision. It doesn’t get much simpler than bidding for the top spot when someone is actively searching for something where your product is a solution.
High Intent Search Keywords – While it may be tempting to include any word or phrase associated with your business, that’s also the fastest way to burn through your entire ad budget. The more niche you can get, the more qualified your leads will be. Say you’re an online retailer that sells custom jewelry. Bidding for the keyword “jewelry” isn’t going to bring you the most qualified traffic, as that person could be in the research phase of their buying journey. On the other hand, bidding for the keyword “buy custom jewelry online” will drive a lot more high intent traffic, as that person is clearly looking to purchase. Results will be more efficient the more qualifiers you can add, so you can specify things like type (necklace, rings), material (gold, turquoise), and so on.
Shopping Ads – Google Shopping ads generated 85.3% of all clicks on AdWords and Google Shopping campaign ads and account for 76% of retail search ad spending. One of the reasons they’re so popular and effective is their positioning. On mobile, Google Shopping ads appear in a carousel on top of the SERP. On a desktop, they’re shown in a grid on the right side of the page. Their prominent positioning combined with them being obviously much more visually stimulating make them basically an essential part of any eCommerce growth strategy.
5. Don’t Let Them Forget About You – Retargeting
While the effectiveness of display advertising is a very debated topic among marketers, there’s no question that there’s value in staying top of mind among your audiences most likely to convert. When someone has come to your site and viewed specific products, it’s safe to assume they’re in the market for what you’re selling. In that case, reach them any way that you can.
Product Ads – If you go to Zappos and look at a specific pair of shoes, odds are you’re going to continue seeing ads for that shoe for the next few days. Why? Because Zappos knows that you’re likely looking to purchase new shoes and knows the exact style you like. While some users might find these ads annoying at times, there’s a reason brands continue to use them – they work. Retargeting audiences across the board will show higher click and conversion metrics when compared to targeting new audiences. It’s a pretty common behavior for someone to begin browsing before they’re ready to buy, re-targeting ensures that your products are top of mind when they finally are ready. Facebook and Google are great places to start for re-targeting, but there are other solutions like Criteo or AdRoll that can specialize in retargeting across multiple platforms.
Cart Abandoners – While it’s pretty rare to see someone go to a physical store, fill up a shopping cart, then just ditch the cart and decide not to buy anything, it’s almost shockingly common in the eCommerce space. Cart abandonment rate tends to vary between 60-80%, with the industry average at 69.57%. As mentioned above, it’s common for users to browse and price shop and even add things to carts to save for later when they’re ready to buy. To a large extent, cart abandonment is unavoidable, no matter how good your products are or how optimized your site is. However, re-targeting is among the best ways to combat this. If the user is far enough along in the checkout process that their email address has been collected, follow up emails are a strong way to close the loop. Cart abandonment emails have an open rate of 46.1%, a 13.3% CTR, and a conversion rate higher than 35%!
6. Leverage Your Customers – Referral Marketing
When talking about eCommerce growth strategies, it’s almost cliche to mention Dropbox or even Uber when discussing referral marketing. While their tactics have been replicated by brands many times over, referral marketing is still an important channel for many brands, particularly ones that may lack the budget and resources for paid marketing campaigns. Similar to going viral, referrals beget more referrals, driving growth that compounds over time with little to no additional work or resources.
Create a product worth referring – The most obvious point here is also the most difficult, but it’s worth mentioning because of its importance. Before you offer an incentive, are people already inviting their friends? Are there any active communities (Reddit, Facebook Groups) where users are discussing your product?
Build referrals into your product – We mentioned Dropbox above, but there are countless examples of brands who have built similar mechanisms into their products to incentivize referrals. Robinhood offers free stock to both the existing and new customers. The gaming app HQ Trivia offers free lives to users who refer their friends. One of the reasons these examples are so effective is that the rewards are incredibly relevant to the user base. Anyone on Robinhood is looking to build an investment portfolio, so offering free stock is going to be highly coveted (they also get a boost from the fact that the actual stock isn’t known in advance, creating a variable reward). HQ Trivia players trying to complete the trivia challenge, so offering an extra life is such a native/natural fit that it doesn’t even seem like marketing.
Cost-effective rewards – Another reason the above examples are so effective is the physical cost of the rewards is so minimal to the business. Outside of paying an engineer to create the referral mechanism, it costs nothing to the bottom line of HQ Trivia to give a user an extra life within their game. Robinhood, on the other hand, has some upfront costs to endure given that they need to buy and gift an actual stock. However, the cost of that is ultimately minimal compared to the estimated CAC of driving someone through the full acquisition funnel via paid ads. Robinhood also benefits from a high LTV, therefore, a company like theirs can afford to pay a little extra upfront, knowing they earn that back and more in the future.
7. Build A Team To Help Promote Your Products – Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a proven and effective eCommerce strategy for expanding reach and ultimately sales by connecting businesses with marketers who can sell their products. This strategy is also considerably lower risk than many others on this list, as affiliates are performance-based, therefore, the business is only paying when their affiliates actually deliver sales.
Affiliate Marketing Tools – Affiliate marketing tools essentially play the middleman between you and a network of affiliates that are looking to sell products. Amazon is the biggest and most popular example, but others like ClickBank or Rakuten also work for certain types of products. Once connected to a network, you decide the commission percentage you’re willing to offer. Many eComm businesses will start off with a high commission to incentivize early affiliates to get the product out there, then draw back a bit as your products have more brand awareness and can sell themselves better. Since these commissions are only paid after a sale, you can determine your ideal commission by looking at cost of goods sold and your mandatory profit margin to see what you can pay out to still ensure a strong ROI.
Influencers – While many consumers have developed a distaste for influencers, you can’t deny their effectiveness, as influencer marketing has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. While there are some networks out there that can help connect businesses to relevant influencers, oftentimes the best strategy is to research popular people within your niche and connect with them directly. The biggest difference between influencers and the tools listed above is how they’re paid. While some influencers work very similarly to the marketing tools above (getting commissions for every product sold), some demand a flat fee for promotion, while other people just want free products. Influencers require a bit more of a personal touch, so keep in mind your pricing structure and goals when deciding how and who to work within the influencer space.
There’s a wealth of strategies and channels that can be utilized to drive online sales and with technology advancements, the complexity will only continue to grow. While the shiny new social network may look tempting, make sure you’ve got the fundamental eCommerce growth strategies covered first and you’ll be well on your way to driving consistent revenue.
Interested to learn more about how to grow an online business? Check out our guide to performance marketing for eCommerce to learn all the steps you need to launch.