Ecommerce needs no introduction; brands like Amazon, eBay, and Shopify have made it mainstream. But with popularity comes a new set of challenges. 20 years ago, all you had to do was build a website and customers would come knocking, now it costs $29/month to get a basic subscription to Shopify, plus a great theme, and all the tools you need to put an ecommerce store online. Over a million people have taken advantage of that unique opportunity to launch ecommerce businesses.
The question then becomes, “How do you stand out in such a competitive landscape?” The answer is simple. Use ecommerce growth hacks to give yourself an edge.
This article walks through 7 ecommerce growth hacking tactics that’ll serve you for years to come.
Why Do You Even Need Ecommerce Growth Hacking?
There are two important reasons to adopt ecommerce growth hacking strategies.
The Market is Saturated
It can be difficult to understand just how much competition there is these days. There are over 110,000 English ecommerce websites on the internet generating meaningful revenue and traffic. Meaningful revenue is over 6 figures per year.
There are still countless others (possibly in the millions) that are generating less than 6 figures but are still competing with you.
Customers are Smarter than Ever
The ecommerce industry is slated to grow to 4.8 trillion dollars by 2021. Brands are springing up every single day and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Even though there are opportunities, there’s competition and an issue with trust.
Let’s say someone starts an ecommerce store tomorrow and developed a beautiful brand and consistent website. If a customer discovered it and your brand on the same day, how would they know who to trust?
That’s why they’re looking to third-party websites—Google search, review sites, and more—to make it easier to choose. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge.
If you’re able to build meaningful connections with your customers and meet them where they are, good things happen. The ecommerce growth hacks in this in-depth article will help you do that. Let’s dive in.
Ecommerce Growth Hacking Tactic #1: Priceless Appreciation
When an ecommerce business takes a moment to stop and interact with its customers like humans—good things happen. It doesn’t have to be a sweeping gesture. It can be as simple as remembering their kids on social media or sending a get well soon card. Thank you notes and package inserts your customers weren’t expecting also go a long way.
Best customer service ever. After getting one bad bar in a box, they not only sent me a replacement bar, but sent SIX bars, a coupon, AND a handwritten thank you note. Will be an @EPICbar customer for life! 🙌🏻 pic.twitter.com/WgHNlNJQLh
— Megan Walker Holcombe (@meganwholcombe) May 26, 2018
This tweet from an Epic Bar customer turned a potentially damaging situation around. The customer was ecstatic because she was treated like a human.
How much do you think it cost them to be considerate and humane to resolve the issue of an unhappy customer? Whatever the cost, it pales in comparison to the tangible and intangible ROI.
You don’t have to wait for an unhappy customer before making customer satisfaction a priority. Incorporate showing appreciation in the way you do business. For every 100 orders that go out, send 10 or 15 handwritten notes or extra goodies. Word will get out and you’ll likely acquire more customers.
Ecommerce Growth Hacking Tactic #2: Take Advantage of (Real) Scarcity
If you shop online, you’ve probably experienced fake scarcity. Some marketers will put a countdown timer on a page that resets when it’s reloaded. Fake scarcity is not what we’re going for.
Real scarcity causes people to put a higher value on a product that’s in short supply. It’s part of the reason there are stampedes and fights on Black Friday.
Princeton Psychologist Eldar Shafir explains how scarcity consumes mental bandwidth and causes people to make different decisions in the heat of the moment. He even went as far as saying IQ drops when there’s scarcity.
This is a powerful ecommerce growth hack that should be used ethically. That means no fake timers or fake going-out-of-stock notifications. Be honest with it and you’ll see the benefits play out time and again.
ModCloth uses red text to show how many items are left in stock. If the item is no longer available, it writes “Sold Out” which builds anticipation for when it’s back.
Many brands will have a natural yearly cycle with new editions or styles every season, especially in fashion and apparel. This is one of the reasons there are changes in availability. Companies try and entice their audience to visit their site as a part of a solid ecommerce email marketing strategy. It starts with a new summer collection, a flash sale, and final sales (and there are more steps to a full cycle). The price point is also a type of scarcity to boost that FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
Scarcity works well if you have landing pages targeted at specific buyer personas. Instead of showing scarcity everywhere on your site, use limited time or limited stock messages with the type of shoppers you know will respond well to it.
Ecommerce Growth Hacking Tactic #3: Send Out Transactional & Regular Surveys
Not enough ecommerce brands do this which is why it’s still a viable growth hack. How do you find out which items are well received by your customers? You could look at your analytics and make assumptions. Or, you could ask them directly with a simple questionnaire that helps you understand their experience.
There are two types of surveys you can use here.
Transactional surveys are sent soon after someone purchases a product. Its goal is to help you understand what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and how you can improve.
This is a type of customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey. Make it easy for your customers by asking five questions or less and also limit the open-ended questions to one or two.
Here are a few to get you started:
- How easy was it to find the products you were looking for today?
- How satisfied are you with the checkout process?
- Are you satisfied with the quality of the products you received?
- Would you recommend the product to a family member or friend (a NPS style survey)
- What changes could we make to better serve you?
Regular or Relationship Surveys
A relationship survey is sent out multiple times throughout the customer lifecycle. Its goal is to understand sentiment towards your brand over time. Do people like and appreciate what you’re doing more or less over time?
A net promoter score (NPS style survey) works well in this situation because it’s designed to gauge loyalty. Make your surveys more effective by measuring responses from your entire customer base and specific cohorts.
For example, monitor the survey results from everyone who purchased from you for the first time in January as one cohort and the survey results from everyone who bought in February as a different cohort.
This will give you an idea of how people look at your brand as the relationship matures and reveal ways you can optimize the relationship. When you look at the survey results from every cohort together, you’ll get a better idea of overall brand sentiment at a specific point in time.
You’ll see that a solid growth strategy spans across all stages of the customer lifecycle and once you introduce AARRR funnel metrics, it will not only be Acquisition and Activation but also Retention, Referral, Revenue and you’d be happy sounding like a pirate when you report on them.
Ecommerce Growth Hacking Tactic #4: Optimize Order Confirmation Pages & Emails
The order confirmation page is largely neglected by ecommerce brands and, for the most part, so is email. Oftentimes, the page is only there to track purchases and tell people to check their email for a receipt. The receipt that’s sent is cold and transactional.
This is a mistake.
When you get the post-purchase experience right, you improve your retention. When retention goes up, profitability goes up too because it costs more to acquire new customers.
It was found that customers who’ve had a positive experience are 5x as likely to forgive a brand for mistakes, 5x more likely to purchase, and 7x as likely to try a new offering.
So how do you use your order confirmation page and emails to improve the customer experience and increase revenue?
Here are three quick ways to improve the customer experience.
Highlight Brand Personality
The brand personality makes you who you are. Without it, you’re just another random store selling products. Get rid of the generic transactional emails and infuse them with your brand’s tone, personality, and style.
In the example above, eye-catching colors and several interactive elements showcase the product and optimize the CRO, but it’s the personality that keeps people engaged. It also delivers valuable information like the shopper’s abandoned products and additional product recommendations.
Don’t expect your customer to already know how to use your product no matter how simple it is. Create specific resources for them to get the most out of it. If you’re selling jeans, show your customers interesting ways to wear them. If you have a large product catalog, create resources for categories instead of specific products.
Cross-selling is looked down upon by many stores because of pushy practices popularized in the past. The truth is that it still works. Look no further than Amazon—it cross-sells customers every time they add an item to their cart. You’ll also find recommendations on the product and order confirmation pages.
This single strategy is responsible for about 35% of its revenue. If it produces billions of dollars for Amazon then I think it’s effective.
Get started with simple ecommerce recommendation software that’ll help you personalize your store based on browsing behavior and deliver product recommendations. This software doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either. There are many solutions on the market and more are being developed daily so you’re bound to find one that fits your budget.
Ecommerce Growth Hacking Tactic #5: Promote Loss Leaders
A loss leader is a product or service that’s sold at a loss in order to attract new customers into your business. This strategy works best when you have a clear understanding of the customer lifetime value and enough capital to keep yourself afloat while you wait for a positive return on ad spend.
A loss leader makes it easier for you to acquire new customers so you can benefit from their continued business in the future. I want to make something clear: When I refer to loss leaders, I’m not talking about cheap products given away for free. Those products may hurt your brand in the long term. I’m referring to high-quality products you can sell for a really good deal.
For example, you can create a small sample size of your more expensive product and offer it for much less.
Annmarie Skincare uses this approach by offering a small kit for $10, a coupon for $10, a money-back guarantee, and a free book. This is a great way for customers to try out smaller versions of its products which start at $50.
Ecommerce Growth Hacking Tactic #6: Comparison Charts for Similar Products
It’s not always clear to your customers how one product differs from another. For example, how are two helmets, two pairs of jeans, or two bags different? Yes, they may have slightly different designs but what else?
This is an important question because if your customers can’t answer it, they may not purchase it. Overcome this challenge by developing comparison charts for similar products.
Keurig produces coffee makers which may appear to be similar to the untrained eye. They noticed that people weren’t buying their products because they didn’t understand the differences between models. To encourage purchases, Keurig added a compare button on certain models.
After selecting the two coffee makers you’d like to compare, a chart opens up. It shows you what features are available and which ones aren’t which helps shoppers make informed decisions.
Ecommerce Growth Hacking Tactic #7: Make Discontinued Product Pages Work For You
This strategy was shared with me by Lorena Torsani—the marketing specialist at ContentKing. I’ll let her use her own words to describe it.
“In case there is still search demand for discontinued product pages, make them work for you!
Short-term: Make sure the discontinued product pages point out that the actual product is no longer available.
Long-term: 301-redirect product pages to the most relevant alternative you have, thereby retaining the link value the discontinued product pages accumulated over time.”
This can be adapted to other areas of your website as well. Getting links to commercial pages is notoriously difficult. Other webmasters, unless they’re your affiliates, usually won’t link to your sales pages.
Instead of using only discontinued product pages, take advantage of content pages that are outdated or no longer relevant but still have links pointing to them.
Another variation of this ecommerce growth hack is to use a canonical link. It will allow you to send the SEO juice from links pointing at your content pages or blog posts and direct them to your product pages.
The only problem is that the page with the canonical link won’t rank in search engines so only use this strategy if the page with the links will provide a lot less value than the one you’re directing the link juice to.
Ecommerce is the only trillion-dollar industry with double-digit growth. There’s a lot of potential for new and existing businesses but there’s also a lot of competition.
The ecommerce growth hacks shared in this article will help you build a solid foundation for future expansion and customer growth. Don’t attempt to implement all of them at once. If you do, it’s likely that none of them will work well. Focus on one or two that you can do right now and once you’ve mastered those, move on to the next one. Repeat the process until you’re seeing consistent growth in your business.