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As if the ecommerce industry wasn’t expanding fast enough, the pandemic added fuel to the fire. Now, more ecommerce stores are launching than ever before.
And while the competition is growing, you may be wondering: How can I grow my ecommerce business?
Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have learned more than a handful of ways to growth hack your online store.
But let’s get things from the start.
The origins of growth hacking can be traced back in 2010. It was when Sean Ellis coined the term “growth hacking”. So what exactly is growth hacking?
According to GrowthRocks, growth hacking is “data-driven marketing that uses rapid experimentation and low-budget tactics to determine the most effective ways to grow a business.”
Growth hacking was born out of necessity for startups and SaaS companies whose needs couldn’t be covered by traditional digital marketing. Building brand awareness and encouraging audience engagement are not enough for any startup to grow fast. On the contrary, A/B testing and establishing certain growth metrics were closer to what they needed. Growth hacking came to fill that void.
Likewise, growth hackers possess a unique skill set that combines engineering and marketing. Whereas traditional digital marketers focus on awareness and customer acquisition, growth hackers go beyond that. Growth hackers use a different framework, known as the AARRR Framework. According to this, marketing goes beyond acquisition and has 5 phases:
In short, growth hacking, when compared to digital marketing, is more technical, it has a certain process, and it requires a different skillset. And it includes more aspects like customer retention.
As we mentioned earlier, growth hacking began developing with startups and SaaS companies in mind. Since then, growth hacking startup marketing agencies have started applying
But your average ecommerce store is not a startup nor a SaaS business. It’s actually closer to retail. So what does growth hacking have to do with ecommerce in the first place?
As a matter of fact, growth hacking has helped SaaS company names such as Dropbox, Airbnb, and Hubspot grow, and -at the same time- it’s done the same for ecommerce brands such as Dollar Shave Club, Casper, and Gymshark.
These ecommerce companies managed to achieve scalable growth by applying growth hacking strategies and tactics. Among these tactics you will find referral programs, email list building and ways to make the most out of your content marketing campaigns.
So, which exactly are these growth hacking strategies we’re talking about?
We present you the 12 best of them, divided into two categories: on-page and off-page strategies.
On-page strategies are the strategies that you can use on your ecommerce site. It’s the kind of strategies that begin and end on your digital property.
As you can imagine, the biggest advantage of these strategies from this category is that you are not depending on external sources to start using them. As a result, you can start experimenting with them immediately and see for yourself what’s working and what’s not.
FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, is the emotional response that happens when we believe that something -somewhere- is happening and we aren’t being part of that.
The human condition is wired to FOMO because, first and foremost, we are social animals. We wouldn’t exist today as a species if we hadn’t endured the tests of nature. And endured we did thanks to our collaboration, and through forming communities, societies, cultures and civilizations. Therefore, our instincts dictate to stay with the pack and mimic as much as we can.
So, when we don’t, sometimes we get this feeling of FOMO. Apart from its social dimension, FOMO also happens when something is in scarcity, limited or it is downright a pretty good deal.
Here are some of the most common FOMO types you can start using immediately.
Applying peer pressure: How does one apply peer pressure to the user in a digital environment? You show them what other users do, of course!There are apps and tools dedicated to this job. With these tools you will show your users live information about recent purchases and other interactions, through pop-ups.
Limited time offers: Limited time offers include any offer that expires after a certain period. Sometimes, there’s also a countdown.
Exclusive deals: This kind of deal means that a user needs to make a certain action to be able to reap the benefits from a deal.
Free shipping with conditions: Free shipping is a big deal for every buyer online. Stores take advantage of that by forcing a minimum number of purchasing cost if the buyer wants free shipping for their items.
Show scarcity/ the stock levels: Showing the stock levels means that on the product page you are going to be very explicit and precise about how many items there are left.
3 seconds; that’s how fast your website must load before your average visitor loses their patience and leaves. According to Google, more than half of visitors will leave if a page takes more than 3 seconds to load.
The higher the loading time, the higher the bounce rate (and the higher the number of sales you would have made but you didn’t).
Decreasing your site speed, is also one of the most straightforward ways to provide a stellar customer service experience. But the benefits of decreasing your website loading time don’t stop there.
Site speed first became a ranking factor in 2010, according to Google’s Search Central. If you are looking for ways to improve your domain authority, improving your speed should be on the top of your list.
So, how can you know if your ecommerce site is fast or slow?
With the help of Google’s PageSpeed Insights, you can find out your site’s current speed. After the tool analyzes your website, it will tell you how much time it needs to load. Not only that but it will make a number of suggestions so you can know exactly what to do to decrease the speed in every case. If you are not proficient enough, consider hiring a developer for this job.
Remember FOMO from growth hacking strategy #1?
The same reasons that make FOMO so strong apply here, too. And these reasons have everything to do with how other people influence us and our opinion. The truth is that we value the opinion of others, consciously or subconsciously.
When you want to choose where to go out for dinner, you check the ratings of your options on Yelp.
When you want to find out whether that new book is overhyped, you will try to find the truth in the customer reviews of Goodreads.
And every time you want to book an AirBnb, you will go through all the comments and opinions of those who’ve already spent a few nights there.
Social proof, in the forms of testimonials and product reviews matters. This is especially true for the digital industry, as the consumer can’t see, smell, hear or feel the real product. Online buyers rely on the opinion of others. So, on your part, the least you can do is help them make a good decision by providing the info they may be looking for. Transparency is, in the long run, always a winning strategy.
Now that you know the power of social proof, you should also know its common types:
Expert social proof. Who doesn’t want to follow an expert’s advice? I mean, they are an expert.
Celebrity social proof. Celebrity endorsement is as old as celebrities themselves. Any influencer marketing also counts as celebrity social proof.
User social proof. Everyone has an opinion. The Average Joe may not be an expert nor a celebrity. But when many Average Joes make a verdict, they become the “common sense”. Their strength lies in numbers.
Last but not least, if you have any media mentions or have received any award or any kind of official recognition, don’t hesitate to even include these even for a moment on your online store’s homepage.
Different pages have different copywriting requirements and needs.
Your site is going to have different pages such as a Homepage, an About page, a Service page, a Product page (or many, if you are an online store), etc.
However, no matter what page we’re talking about, there are some common rules that can mean the difference between good and bad copywriting.
And copywriting matters more than you may think. Here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time.
As with editing, you write with your erases. Copywriting is about selling and in sales your time is limited to convince. Your customer is not a student in a lecture that has to stay and listen to you going on and on for minutes and hours on end.
In fact, you got mere seconds to grab your audience’s attention – and a few seconds to lose it.
Consequently, you need to be short, precise, and to the point. Remember, a smaller copy is more: scannable, memorable, and actionable.
As much as you’d like to tell everyone about your company, your brand, and even about yourself, the hard truth is that nobody really cares. People are not really interested in who you are but what your product or service can do for them.
The same goes for your copywriting regarding your products. Indeed, product pages are technically about the product itself. It is the most appropriate place where you can give all the information your customer would like to read about the product. From how it looks to how much it costs.
However, there is always room to show exactly how your product or service can benefit the customer.
You might be wondering what on earth “landing pages words” are. But you already know. You will also come across them on many home pages, too. Take a look at these words:
Out of the box
Do they look familiar? They do, because you’ve stumbled upon them time and time again. These are words that marketers -and marketers only- like. Your average customer is not going to get impressed with your adept linguistic skills.
Which brings us to our next point.
Remember when we said to avoid “landing pages words”? What if you ditched the business tone altogether? Same goes for your academic tone you may be using without even knowing. After all, all these years in school and academia do leave a mark in many of us.
So what if you were writing the way you speak? When you write the way you speak your copy flows. The reader goes from one sentence to another. And another. And another.
A conversational tone is also more familiar, less robotic, and more engaging. A casual tone builds rapport with your audience, makes you more approachable, and easier to understand.
Everything we’ve talked about thus far is done for a reason. The reason being that you (should) want any website visitors to take an action.
If you are a dropshipping store, you want your visitor to buy something.If you are a blog, you want them to subscribe to your newsletter. And if you are a SaaS business, you want them to opt in for a free trial.
And the way to achieve that is through a call-to-Action (CTA). Not only that but every page usually serves a variant purposes and different needs; and thus needs a different CTA.
However, no matter what your CTA is going to be, all good CTAs share some common characteristics and a few of the practices behind them. So next time you add a call-to-action, keep these things in mind:
Include power words. Words like ‘free’, ‘now’, and ‘fast’ trigger emotional response and can increase your click-through-rate.
Don’t include many different CTAs. Focus on the one action you mostly want your visitors to make.
A/B Test your CTA buttons. Test their color, style and text. And don’t forget to experiment with their placement altogether.
The buyer’s journey doesn’t begin and end on your website. You need strategies that include other digital places, too. This is where off-page strategies come into play.
Off-page strategies are the kind of strategies you can use outside the digital property of your website.
Referral marketing is one of the first growth hacking strategies ever conceived.
Some of the most classic growth hacking examples and case studies feature referral marketing as their basic mechanism behind their success. From Hotmail to Dropbox and Evernote, referral marketing has been in many cases the fuel that skyrocketed the growth of many SaaS companies.
As any SaaS consultant will tell you, eCommerce stores are different from SaaS companies. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from referral marketing and word of mouth.
You probably know Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s. Both ecommerce brands grew exponentially thanks to referral marketing. But referral programs go beyond razors and face creams. Even Tesla has its own referral program for its cars as well as its solar panels.
What makes referral programs so appealing for most types of online businesses is that they are not expensive to implement and they also have a standard process.
And that process is simple. According to Viral Loops, there are three ways to introduce a Referral Program to your ecommerce customers:
Build a dedicated landing page.
Setup email campaigns.
Leverage Messenger as a marketing channel.
So, if you own an ecommerce business, you should seriously consider starting a referral marketing program, as it’s one of the most cost-effective strategies you can implement immediately.
Email segmentation is about dividing your email list based on set criteria. No matter which ecommerce email type you send, there are always more ways to make your messages tailor-made.
The biggest benefit that comes with email segmentation is focus. The more focused your messaging becomes, the more you increase conversion.
Say you are a man and you are subscribed to receive emails from an ecommerce store with clothes. Imagine that the emails, besides jeans, ties and sweaters, also included skirts, dresses, and corsets. How interested would you be in these kinds of emails?
Now, imagine that you receive a tailor-made email. What does this look like? For a start, you only get mens clothing and accessories. Then, since according to your shopping history you have a soft spot for shoes, shoes are what you mostly get. Not only that but they also suggest you a shoe polish cream and a polish brush which will certainly come in handy.
This is the power of email marketing segmentation.
In our case, segmentation was the result of the combination of two categories: gender and favorite product category.
Likewise, there are numerous other segmentation examples. Although there pretty much any kinds of segmentations you can think of, they all belong to four categories:
Demographic segmentation: it’s about the who. Traits such as age, gender, ethnicity, and education level belong in this type.
Geographic segmentation: it’s about the where. Simply put, it’s the physical location of your customers, as in their country or city.
Psychographic segmentation: it’s about the why. This segmentation type is about the personality and interests of your audience. What are their goals? What are their values and beliefs?
Behavioral segmentation: it’s about the how. Behavioral segmentation is the most demanding type of segmentation to assess because you need to find ways to get that data. Browsing and purchasing habits, shopping cart value, time spent on your site – these are some of the data you will have to find.
Segment your email list according to the needs of your store.
You can start with just a couple and build more segmentations from there. Do so and you will probably see your ecommerce marketing metrics converting rates increase fast.
Have you ever visited a website, saw an ad in the corner of your screen and said “Wait a minute, that’s the shirt I was looking at yesterday on a totally different site”? That’s a retargeting ad.
The power of retargeting ads lies in their familiarity. Retargeting ads are referring to a warm audience rather than a cold one. And the main difference between them is that it’s so much easier to turn someone from the former audience into a new customer.
So how does remarketing and retargeting ads work in practice? Here are a few examples:
Show the products you know they are interested in. This is the most common retargeting practice. For example, if your ecommerce store is a bookshop, and the user browsed for Dune, The Art of XCOM2 and Street Fighter Swimsuit Special, then in your ad you will show them exactly those books.
Offer a discount. Sweeten the deal with some good ol’ discount codes and coupons.
Use urgency. Limited time offers and last minute deals work like a charm.
Urge cart abandoners to complete their purchase. Shopping cart abandonment is an ecommerce reality. However, you shouldn’t necessarily compromise with said reality. Think about it: you’ve already spent so many resources to get them to that point. According to redstagfulfillment’s calculations, if your abandonment rate is around the average at 75%, cutting that by a third would double your completed sale percentage from 25% to 50%. That’s 2X the sales and 2X the revenue for your ecommerce business.
Therefore, urging them to get their hands back on their shopping carts and complete the checkout process is essential.
Contest and giveaways are probably one of the most cost-effective ways to raise awareness about your brand and your products. You give your customers the chance to win something they like with the click of a button while you build awareness and gain followers. Many ecommerce case studies feature contests and giveaways that have been part of their success.
Giveaways are an excellent way to grow your social media accounts and your email list alike. If you are looking to increase your Instagram followers, Facebook page likes or email subscribers, contests and giveaways work wonders. In the first case, you would ask your audience to “Follow us on Instagram to enter the contest”. Likewise, in the send case, you would ask them to “Enter your email address to win”.
There are a number of concepts you can base your giveaway on: new product launch/ pre-launch, photo contests, holiday/ seasonal Campaigns, and sponsored campaigns.
The best part is that contests and giveaways make a great combo with the previous strategy, referral programs. The way this works is that if a customer enters the contest, they have a certain chance to win. But here’s how it works better for both the contestant and you: you can give them the option to increase their chances of winning for every friend they refer.
Nowadays, users trust influencers almost as much as their friends. And, according to a Rakuten global survey, as many as 88% of consumers surveyed have been inspired to purchase based on what they saw from an influencer.
This is exactly the power of influencers in the ecommerce industry. Influencer marketing can be one of the most powerful weapons in your marketing arsenal that will grow your ecommerce business.
So how does one get started with influencer marketing?
First, you need to make sure you’ve created at least one buyer persona – your brand’s typical customer. What’s their age, profession, and finances? What do they do in their spare time and what are their shopping habits? And, most importantly, what is their pain point and how can your product(s) help them with that?
Second, you have to pick your social media platform. Now that you know what your buyer persona is, you will also know in which platform your persona spends most of their time. Undoubtedly, Instagram is the most effective influencer marketing channel. It’s the platform that gave birth to influencer marketing in the first place. YouTube, Facebook and TikTok are considered to be the next best options.
Third, choose your influencers. Finding the right influencers for the job is not a trivial task. You will have to research everything from hashtags to blogs and magazines. And what else -your competitors.
Fourth, outreach to the influencers you’ve chosen. Email is the best channel for this task, therefore it’s a good idea to know how to craft a good outreach email for influencers. Keep it short, straightforward and professional, and let them know what is in it for them from the start.
Upon agreeing with the influencer, it’s time to make some quality content with the right content marketing tools.
Now that you know the most used growth-hacking strategies, you might be wondering: are all strategies suitable for all ecommerce businesses?
Regarding on-page growth strategies, the answer is: yes! All of them are suitable for all types of ecommerce businesses.
However, this is not the case for the off-page strategies. Given the different nature of B2B ecommerce, referral programs, contest/ giveaways, and influencers don’t work that well.
Growth hacking may have started in the SaaS industry but it didn’t take long for other industries, like ecommerce, to copy many of its strategies and start using growth software.
You shouldn’t also forget that one of the pillars of growth hacking is rapid experimentation.
Trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t is part of the growth hacking process; it’s more of a necessity than a nice-to-have. Thankfully, most of these ecommerce growth hacks don’t need a lot of time nor budget. You most likely won’t need a growth hacking agency to apply these – every marketer or owner can follow them relatively easily.
So go ahead and start experimenting!