That’s right. All we ask is that you bear with us on this one.
Growth hacking is usually associated with software and tech startups, but it’s just as valid for online stores too. After all, without a steady flow of customers it’s unlikely a store can ever be truly successful.
The aim of this guide is to give you an idea of unconventional marketing tactics that are known to few outside of the tech world, which you can use to try to hack the growth of your online store.
Let’s take a minute to think of some traditional advertising methods:
These methods have two things in common. They’re 1) prohibitively expensive and 2) notoriously difficult to track. If you have limited finances – and, let’s face it, most e-commerce operations do in their early days – then you’re probably looking for leaner, more measurable options.
Broadly speaking, growth hacking breaks down into 3 different elements:
Conversion and engagement might sound like the same thing, since conversion is indeed a form of engagement. However, as you’ll see when we look at each point in turn, there’s much more to engagement than just making a sale…
In most tech businesses, retention is much cheaper than acquiring new customers. Unfortunately, with the exception of driving repeat business – which we’ll cover later!) – that isn’t really an option in the world of e-commerce.
As such, driving CPA (cost per acquisition) down to as low as you can possibly get it is extremely important in generating sustainable growth. There are plenty of different ways to do this, and that’s what we’re going to look at it in this section.
There are tens of thousands of SEO agencies, strategists, specialists, consultants etc. out there, but the truth is that you don’t actually need to enlist anyone else to start making some progress with your site’s SEO.
In fact, if you use something like RedBubble or Shopify, then you really don’t need to do much at all in terms of SEO beyond writing good product titles and descriptions, and using the right tags.
Suggested tool(s): Moz, Unbounce, Google Analytics
Trying to target hundreds of keywords simultaneously, particularly if you’re just starting out, is a recipe for disaster. We once worked on a website that had 300 target keywords and posted three short articles per week in an effort to capitalize on them. It gained traffic for exactly zero.
It’s simply too difficult to get that sort of keyword density in posts, pages and product descriptions without the whole thing feeling like a cluttered mess. You’re much better off choosing two or three related keywords (e.g. “vintage denim jackets”, “retro jean jackets” and “70s denim jackets”) and using these as often as is organically possible.
Brian Dean’s website is an excellent example of this strategy: he creates massive resources that are designed to target a single keyword. A byproduct of this is that they also end up ranking for other associated long-tail variations. Despite having just 21 posts, Brian’s blog attracts over 100,000 visitors monthly.
Once you start to see traffic arriving from particular keywords, you can start thinking about adding landing pages or product variations that are designed to hit long tail keywords.
It’s hard to rank well on Google for short phrases, like “denim jackets” to return to the above example. You’re much better off looking to target longer, more specific keywords. For example, Neil Patel credits the majority of his 238,195 monthly visitors to long-tail phrases.
Here’s how you can do it:
SEO probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you think of YouTube. But, as the second biggest search engine (bigger than Bing, Yahoo, Ask and AOL combined!) in the world, it’s worth considering SEO before you upload videos of your products in action.
Try these hacks to get the most out of YouTube:
Ah, social media. It’s a complex beast, for sure, and one that you might be inclined to avoid unless it’s something that you’re familiar with from your personal life. There’s plenty of information out there on the basics of using social media for e-commerce, so we’re not planning to rehash that here.
What we DO plan to look at, however, is a range of ways to boost conversions, reduce the cost of social media advertising and engage with influencers with a view to growth hacking your e-commerce enterprise.
Make sure you’re able to act fast on social media – 42% of customers who reach out to you there expect a reply within an hour.
Suggested tool(s): Hootsuite
Facebook is a great way to remind visitors who landed on your site, but left before making a purchase, that you exist. Remarketing on social media is easier than through Google or remarketing networks, and might be regarded as less “creepy” simply because it’s already the norm for so many other brands.
Here’s how to get started with remarketing on Facebook:
Easy, right? Now you can reach previous visitors through Facebook, and maybe even think about sending them discount codes etc. for coming back to your site. You could also double down on social media retargeting by doing something similar on Twitter.
Here’s another idea for improving the ROI of your retargeting campaigns. In fact, this great trick can improve it by up to 7000%. Just take the following steps:
Engaging with influencers is notoriously difficult, purely because so many brands are trying to jump on the bandwagon of partnering with bloggers, journalists or even Instagrammers who have their own devoted audience.
Social media is a good way to reach influencers directly, rather than trying to cram yet another email into their already overcrowded inbox. A discount, or free products, for both them and their audience can be a good way to stand out from the crowd as well as getting some name brand recognition for your company.
Here’s a really simple one. We don’t need to look much farther than the success of Instagram to know that images are extremely powerful. That power extends beyond social networks that have been designed specifically for imagery and videos.
Attaching images to your tweets make them 18% more likely to receive clickthroughs, 89% more likely to be favorited, and garner 150% more retweets. Just make sure you pick images that really capture the essence of your brand!
Email is an important part of any marketing strategy, and it’s always a good idea to be building an email list. But what if you can’t do that on your ecommerce site? Well, you might need to get a little creative!
Here’s one way to collect emails using Twitter:
Not sure how to make the best use of Twitter hashtags? To avoid hashtags just because you’re not sure how they work is to ignore one of the important things Twitter has to offer!
The first thing you need to do is find some relevant hashtags for your industry, and you can use http://hashtagify.me/popular to do just that. Once you know which hashtags you plan to use, try the following tips:
Pinterest has always been an interesting place for businesses to engage, and that’s even more true that they’re now adding affiliate links again. But there’s much more to success on Pinterest than just posting constantly.
A good start is optimizing your images so they look their best on the site. Create horizontal images with 1:3.5 ratio (for example, 200×700 pixels) and feature multiple products. Remember that the more attractivr your pictures, or the more helpful your information if you’re posting something like an infographic.
Use detailed descriptions with a CTA to influence clicks, but try to avoid being too promotional – Pinterest isn’t, by nature, a salesy place after all! Creating a business account means that you’ll miss out on some features of a personal account, but it could be worth the tradeoff to use promoted pins (note that these can’t include pricing information, a call-to-action or reviews) and A/B testing.
It’s worth thinking about creating a YouTube channel even if your ecommerce business doesn’t necessarily seem to be something that lends itself particularly well to videos. One of the most common types of YouTube video is instructional/”how to” content, and there’s usually some element of that in every business.
To figure out which videos to post, try the following to generate a list of relevant keywords:
Here’s another protip for boosting your YouTube subscribers by up to 400%. Add “/?sub_confirmation=1” to the end of your Youtube channel URL. e.g. https://www.youtube.com/user/YourChannelName/?sub_confirmation=1 (this only works on desktops).
Use this link in all your videos, website, tweets, blog posts etc. and everyone who clicks the link will see a popup asking them to “Confirm Channel Subscription”, which can have a huge impact on your subscriber numbers.
Facebook advertising can be pretty expensive, especially as you try to figure out what works and what doesn’t for driving potential customers to your site. But there is a way to do it more cheaply…
It’s possible to gain likes/clicks from low demand countries, like India or the Philippines, for as little as $0.005 per post engagement. Once you’re happy with how your ads are performing, or you’ve built up some social proof by landing ~1,000 likes, switch your targeting to focus on high demand, high competition countries.
Of course, you’ll need to be aware that what appeals to an Indian audience may not necessarily appeal to one in, say, Canada but this technique can still help you to reduce your overall cost per engagement by up to 64% and improve your click-through rate by as much as 920%.
Every time you send an email to your potential customers, you’re competing with 75+ other businesses vying for their attention. But that’s not to say that you should stop sending emails! It does mean, though, that you need to make sure your emails are comprised of killer content.
Suggested tool(s): OptinMonster, Vero
Text tutorials? Snore. Why not make a GIF instead?
Create a short video that shows potential customers how to use your product or features it in some other way and upload it to YouTube.
To create it to a GIF, all you need to do is add “gif” to the beginning of the URL, after “www.” and before “youtube.com”. For example: https://www.gifyoutube.com/watch?v=yYsHh5qHWwQ
You can then embed this GIF right in the body of your emails, and we all know that people love GIFs!
Would you like to increase your email opt-ins by up to 70% in 5 minutes? No need to answer that because, if you’re reading this, then we already know that the answer is yes.
Here’s how to do it:
Fedora tested out this tool, which takes just a few minutes to set up, and found that it boosted the number of opt-ins to their email list by a huge 70%.
Lots of marketers write an email, send it out and forget about it. If they’re feeling proactive maybe they’ll run an A/B test on the subject line before they send it out. But then, once they’ve done that, it’s onto the next email.
Hold your horses, Mr Marketer!
Copying the text of that first email to a new one, changing the subject line to something else and emailing it a week later to those who didn’t open the original can increase the number of opens for that message by up to 30%.
Before you set up a complicated referral scheme that takes a lot of time and effort to manage, let’s start with something really simple.
Rather than encouraging your users/customers to blast their entire address book, just ask them to share your site with a single friend who they think would like your products. This can result in a 250% improvement on pressuring them to email lots of people at once, most of whom won’t be interested.
Suggested tool(s): Friendbuy
You might think that offering a discount code or freebies would be more effective than encouraging an altruistic approach, but you wouldn’t necessarily be correct. Airbnb ran an interesting test in which they encouraged their customers to refer a friend using two different approaches:
They found that, wherever in the world customers were located, the altruistic approach proved to be more effective.
If you’re starting to think about running a true referral scheme, you want to make sure that you find customers who are in it for the right reasons – you want to find people who really love your product!
Ask your customers to answer the question “How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?” with a 0 to 10 point rating scale.
Based on the answers, you’ll find:
Promoters (score 9-10). Ask them to share your content.
Passives (7-8). Ask them what you can do to get them to score you a 9 or 10.
Detractors (0-6). Ask them what you should fix first of all.
The list of promoters represents a fine place to start with your affiliate program!
Let’s say that you spend $2,000 per month to get 50,000 visitors, of which 5,000 become customers. Suppose you want to double the number of customers you get every month. You can either spend another $2,000 per month, or you can optimize your site with the aim of boosting your conversion rate from 10% to 20%.
Because CRO (conversion rate optimization) is now virtually ubiquitous – almost 50% of businesses are now actively trying to improve their conversion rate – even e-commerce newbies with no prior experience can jump in and give it a try without spending much money at all.
Suggested tools: Optimizely, Unbounce, KISSmetrics
Cluttered checkout pages can extremely distracting. When your visitors arrive on that page you have them exactly where you want them – you’re about to make a sale! – and you don’t want them wandering off to check out your Instagram page.
If you remove navigation links from the landing page and leave only a call-to-action, it can increase your conversion rate by 100%. Amazon and Nike are just two e-commerce giants who remove virtually all of the links on their checkout pages.
Not everything in CRO can be a quick win, though some things definitely can be! There’s a lot more to conversion rate optimization than changing button colors and tweaking copy, but it’s still possible to boost conversions by making changes that take just a few seconds.
It’s been proven that adding a “»” symbol to the end of buttons can drastically improve your conversions. It doesn’t get much more simple than that.
Here’s another one for you: try increasing the font size on your online store from 12 px to 18 px. Past experiments tell us that it will result in 32.68% more clicks.
Using the first person is another way to increase your number of clicks. Replacing “your” with “my” (e.g. Place My Order instead of Place Your Order) can improve your conversion rate by up to 90%!
One crafty trick to get people closer to the mindset of checking out is to show a sales button with a discount applied.
This is exactly what WebinarJam did – they didn’t actually list the price, only showed the OLD price crossed out with a 40% off notice:
$497 SAVE 40%. Of course, customers wanted to know what the final “on sale” price is, so they clicked the button to find out.
With this technique, WebinarJam made a staggering $3 million in five months!
Using a proactive chat invitation, you can make a chat window pop up and send a question to visitors e.g. “Welcome back! Are you interested in [X]?” You can also use it to collect email addresses for marketing purposes (though be sure that you allow people to double opt-in before you send them anyway) – “In case we get disconnected, can I have your email address? Mine is …”
Effectively setting up this feature is a key to better conversion rate and you may need to test dozens of different welcome messages and settings before you find the most effective. But it’s worth it – leads from live chat can contribute to approximately 20-30% of revenue growth each month, and make it one of your key sales channels in terms of revenue.
Reviews and testimonials are still the most popular type of social proof, and can be hugely effective – you already know this if you’ve ever picked up an item in store only to check out some reviews on Amazon before taking it to the checkout counter.
It should come as no surprise that businesses will always try to show themselves in the best light, so prospective customers are often quite sceptical. You can make your message more powerful if someone else confirms it in their own words.
Get quotes from your past customers and ask them to share a testimonial, or use a service like Feefo to demonstrate your customer-centric service, and it will help to overcome some of that scepticism.
Multiple case studies show that a lot of shopping carts (more than 68%) never make it to the checkout. Customers abandon their shopping carts for a number of reasons, but two of the biggest are complex checkout processes and hidden fees.
We’ve seen above that removing unnecessary links can help to speed up the checkout process, but reducing the number of required fields and allowing users to check out as a guest can also be a big help.
Make sure to show the number of products in the cart and the subtotal, and be sure to indicate all of the associated costs (tax etc.) on the product page. No unpleasant surprises! DON’T hide any additional costs – a huge number of customers abandon their shopping carts when they only see shipping costs on the last page of the checkout process.
Everything from the size of the images you use on product pages to the speed of your website can have a significant impact on your site’s growth. For example, according to a study at Amazon, every 0.1 second decrease in response time resulted in 1% decrease in sales. The longer your page takes to load, the longer it’s leaking money for!
We’re going to start by taking a look at the essential ingredients of a product page, then follow that up with some other tips to have your site looking, and performing at, its best.
Suggested tool(s): Cloudflare
More and more customers are using their smartphones and other mobile devices to make purchases, and about 60% of mobile shoppers will abandon websites not optimized for mobile users.
Making sure your website is mobile friendly – odds are if you’re using something like Shopify or ekmPowershop then they already will be – and immediately increase your target audience without having to make any other changes.
This trick is more commonly used on blogs, but it can be just as effective on your main e-commerce website.
Offer your visitor something special the moment when he or she attempts to leave your store. It can be a pop-up window with an engaging “limited time only” discount deal or maybe a short survey to ask about their experience. It’s even better if you can customize your message to focus on the particular product or category the customer has just viewed.
Make the registration process easier by auto-filling as much information as possible for your customers. You just need to ask for their website or social media account and grab tons of information from there. Auto-fill and let your customers correct or update the information.
Do you even need your customers to register or would it make things easier to let them check out as a guest? If you’re unlikely to generate much repeat business – maybe your product has a lifetime guarantee, for example – then you should allow users to go through guest checkout.
To create good copy, make sure you understand your customers. Conversations with our customers helped us shape much of the copy on our website, and that’s one of the main reasons why it converts: the text is written in their language, not ours.
To understand our customers’ language we send emails to all new customers asking them why they signed up, and it might be wise for you to follow up with your buyers in a similar fashion.
Don’t be afraid of using gentle persuasion in your writing, but beware of pushing too hard. Guégen and Pascual once conducted a study – they hit the streets and started asking people to donate money. When they added the phrase “but, of course, you’re free to accept or refuse” they quadrupled the rate of donations.
Phrases like “if you decide to buy”, that emphasize the reader’s choice, might help to alleviate some of the offputting pressure that very salesy content places on readers.
Online shopping has a significant disadvantage – your customers don’t have a chance to touch and feel the product, so they have to rely on pictures and descriptions only. Put some effort into displaying items as accurately, and attractively, as possible with good quality images.
Copying or importing low resolution images from other resources will do you no good; you need professional photos that show products from every angle, so your customers can inspect and view all of the little details as closely as possible.
Oneupweb found that 70% of visitors are more likely to make a purchase if the homepage of a website contains images of products. While it might be tempting to feature products that aren’t proving popular with visitors, featuring your most popular items is a smarter move – they have proven their worth and are more likely to win the masses.
FOMO (fear of missing out) is a very big deal. Ticketmaster significantly improved their conversion rate by using a countdown timer to encourage its users to purchase tickets quicker. This helped them to create a “limited time” event, and people, being afraid of “missing out”, hesitated less.
Using a plugin, or even just a product description, to indicate that a product is available for only a short space of time or in limited quantities will often spur those who are “on the fence” into action.
Take notes of questions that real customers, or potential customers, ask you or issues that they face when they email you asking for help. You can also monitor search queries used to find your website and build your content around those queries.
Once you know what some of the issues are that prevent people from making purchases are, you can address them on a dedicated FAQ page. This should not only lessen the number of support queries you receive, but result in more happy customers too!
A good way to make your website and company seem more trustworthy (and fun!) is to ask some loyal and enthusiastic customers of yours to take pictures with your product(s) and share them on social media.
You can use a special widget and make a separate section on your website to feature all the mentions of your products. Most companies use Instagram or Twitter.
Take a look at your website, put yourself in the shoes of your potential customers and ask the following questions about your site:
Obviously not all of these questions will apply, and there are some that will only apply in certain spaces. For example, fashion stores will need to think about the customer’s need to find clothes that fit.
There’s much more to running a successful ecommerce business than just making sales. Ideally, you want to drive repeat business to your store. But, if that’s not possible, a close second is encouraging customers to send potential customers your way via word of mouth, social media etc.
But how exactly do your make your brand so compelling that customers consider themselves evangelists, and not just a consumer of a necessary product? That’s the tricky part, but we’ve included some tips below to make the process a little easier.
Useful tool(s): Copyblogger, Help Scout, Chatra
Customers don’t (just) want to know why your products are better than those of your competitors. They also want to know what makes you tick – what are your values? How do you treat your staff? What do you do to make the world a better place?
These storytelling formulas can help you make your pitches engaging:
Got a special promotion or new design that you want to show to previous customers? You can always email them, but showing personalized Facebook ads is another way to get them to take another look at your site.
While there’s no guarantee that previous customers will check their emails and return to the site, the vast majority of them probably check Facebook every day. That makes this a great way to reconnect with buyers when time is of the essence!
Your customers and potential customers are constantly being bombarded with the content marketing efforts of countless other companies. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to prevent that!
All you can do is do your best to make sure that all the content you put out is as engaging as possible. And engaging content always starts with a great headline. Below are ten headline formulas that are proven to generate clicks:
When Google launched Gmail, it was available by invitation only. Applying this element of exclusivity made early users feel like they were internet VIPs, and their friends and family were eagerly waiting for their invites.
Needless to say, this worked very well – Gmail is now the most used email service in the world. We’re not saying that you should only make your product to a select few, but treating your customers like VIPs can definitely help to endear you to them!
The battle isn’t over once you’ve made a sale. No no, far from it! It’s much cheaper to retain a customer than it is to bring in a new one, which is sending retention emails to customers that encourage repeat business is always a good idea.
Here’s a look at 7 different ways brands encourage/facilitate previous visitors/customers to come back to their site:
Running out of ideas for things to put on social media? We hear you. Trying to come up with fresh content to post day in, day out can be really difficult.
Here are a few ideas to spark off some inspiration:
The ecommerce space may be very different to the world of tech and startups, but there are plenty of areas in which growth hacking techniques traditionally associated with lean startup marketing can be really useful.
We’ve attempted to cover as many of these as we could possibly cram into a (reasonably!) short document, along with some real life case studies and applications for your business.
Growth hacking is as much an approach to business as it is a particular approach to marketing, which is why some of its principles transfer so well to e-commerce. We’d recommend keeping up with the latest trends in growth hacking – you never know when one of them might serve your e-commerce business well!Related posts: