Growth hacking isn’t a discipline that is only made for SaaS businesses. Anyone can apply the same growth mindsets to any kind of tech business.
Yet, if you go to GrowthHackers.com almost every article you will see is geared towards SaaS businesses. Maybe you will find some articles for mobile apps and marketplaces, but that’s all.
That is disappointing for those that are interested in other types of business models, like e-commerce. Since I’m an e-commerce store owner, I would love to see how I can apply the growth mindset to my store.
Why is growth hacking so focused on SaaS? Is it because e-commerce can’t be “growth hacked”?
Or is it because there isn’t that much interest in doing growth hacking for e-commerce stores?
Whatever it may be the reason, I think this is nonsense.
E-commerce is a great business model, probably the oldest of all. After all, commerce has existed since the dawn of times. The only difference now is the medium in which the transactions take place is online.
After a lot of research and testing on my own store, I discovered some growth tactics to implement on an e-commerce store.
Since this article ended up being way longer than expected, I decided to break it down and turn it into a series of articles. In the first article, I will show you some customer acquisition tactics that any e-commerce store can use to grow their bottom-line.
Table of Contents
Can E-commerce Growth Be Hacked?
Despite the mainstream “ignorance” of the topic, e-commerce’s growth can be hacked just like any other business model.
The best way to understand the growth of an e-commerce store can be summed up in the words of one of the best e-commerce growth hackers, Drew Sanocki.
In one of my favorite articles about the topic, Drew explains there are three main levers that impact on the growth of any e-commerce store:
- The number of customers.
- The average order value (AOV, for short).
- The frequency (i.e. the number of times a customer buys from you in a given period of time.)
Drew explains that from all the metrics an e-commerce store can focus on, the three most important ones that have the biggest impact on the growth of a store are those three. With this three metrics in hand, you need to organize your growth tactics based on how they impact the number of customers, the AOV, and the frequency.
Not only this can help you quickly see where you have your biggest gaps so you can prioritize your time and money, but improving each of these metrics can have a compound effect on your growth.
In his own words:
Here’s the math. If you increase average order of value by 30%, […], if you increase frequency of purchase by 30%, in other words, bring 30% more of your customers back to buying again, […] and if you increase the total number of customers for your business by 30%, […] then you’ve doubled the business. The math is […] 1.3 times 1.3 times 1.3 equals 220%. It’s pretty cool, huh?
There are other metrics you could focus on, like the number of visitors, the conversion rate, the opt-in rate, the average time on site (horrible metric, by the way), and a billion more. But none of them compare to those three.
In the rest of this article, I will show you how to apply highly effective customer acquisition tactics for your e-commerce store.
How to Increase the Number of Customers
Use Paid Traffic
Growth Expected: 20.5% ROI for Adwords, and 293% ROI for Facebook Ads, using industry averages.
One of my favorite customer acquisition tactics is using paid traffic campaigns.
There are many options you have available, the most common being Facebook Ads and Google Adwords.
Despite Facebook Paid Ads costs have increased by 247% (probably more, since this stat is a few years old now), it’s still my favorite go-to option for e-commerce stores.
What makes Facebook Ads better to Google Adwords, is the former uses contextual data, while the latter uses queries.
This means Facebook uses multiple data points to target their ads to their customers, including demographics, purchase habits, age, and more. If you want to attract customers in the US, Facebook brings all their users that live in the US and shows your ads to them.
Google, on the other hand, uses their user engine searches as a proxy to their ads. If you want to target customers that look for “wood bar tables”, Google would show your ads to everyone who searched that in their engine.
The problem with Google Adwords is its scope it’s limited: you only show ads to people who search for a particular query. Since the great majority of queries (aka. keywords) are searched less than a few hundred times per month, your reach will be much lower. Also, since most companies will be competing for the same keywords, this will take the bids much faster than with Facebook Ads.
This doesn’t mean Google Adwords isn’t effective: if you take Google Adwords’ 2016 average conversion rate of 1.40% for your store, and the industry average CPC of $0.88, you can expect a CPA of $63. Taking the Q1 2016 AOV industry average of $75.9, that represents a 20.5% ROI.
If we do the same calculations for Facebook Ads taking the previous average conversion rate, and Facebook’s US average CPC of $0.27, you can expect a CPA of $19.28. With the same previous AOV industry average of $75.9, that represents a 293% ROI.
Another favorite channel of my are shopping comparison engines. This includes Google Shopping, NextTag, and PriceGrabber, among others.
They are incredibly effective for one reason: the purchase intent of the users is much higher than in Facebook or in Google’s search results. Also, the CPC is quite cheap.
Some great guides for e-commerce stores to create relevant Google Adwords, Google Shopping, and Facebook Ads campaigns are:
- How to Spend Your First $100 on Google Adwords
- The Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Advertising
- The Evergreen Guide to Facebook Advertising
- The Ultimate Guide to Google Shopping
- The Ultimate Product Listing Ads Guide
- What I learned spending $2 Million on Facebook Ads
Growth Expected: 380% increase in conversion rate.
If you aren’t using a retargeting campaign for your store, you are leaving money on the table.
According to data collected by Wishpond, 70% of your store’s visitors that don’t convert are more likely to do so after getting retargeted.
Also, 72% of online shoppers are likely to abandon their shopping carts, while only 8% of them will come on their own to finish their process. That represents a 5% conversion rate.
However, with retargeting, 26% of your visitors will return and complete their checkout process after getting retargeted. That’s almost a 19% conversion rate from all the people who left their shopping cart, totaling a staggering 380% increase in conversion rates from the non-retargeted audience.
The best part is, creating a retargeting campaign is simple: you only need to add a pixel to your store, segment the campaign, and create the ads. After that, the majority of the work is done by your favorite retargeting tool.
Some of the best tools to do e-commerce retargeting are:
My favorite articles to learn about retargeting are:
Use Email Marketing
Growth Expected: 380% ROI.
Email marketing has been proven multiple times to be highly effective for any business, e-commerce or not.
According to the Digital Marketing Association UK, email has an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent. That’s a 380% return.
There’s no question you need to use email marketing for your store. This may not be a “growth hack” on its own, rather, it’s a growth channel.
If you use email marketing right, you will see a great return on your investment.
Some quick ideas to help you see what kind of campaigns you should run:
- Post-purchase follow up sequences for cross-selling.
- Pre-sell drip campaigns.
- Win-back campaigns.
- Seasonal campaigns (valentine’s day, mother and father’s day, Christmas, etc.).
- Email abandonment cart campaigns.
- Product reviews campaigns.
I have used many email marketing solutions, including Mailchimp (the one I use for this blog), Aweber, and Constant Contact.
But my favorite for e-commerce, and the one I use for my own store is Klaviyo.
They offer a comprehensive suite of features that can help you create perfectly targeted email campaigns, including all the ones I previously mentioned.
Improve the Store’s Trust
Growth Expected: 17% to 61% increase in conversion rate.
One factor most e-commerce store owners don’t consider when opening and promoting their stores is trust.
Trust is an intangible asset that most stores need to convince their website visitors to purchase from the store. You can have everything right: the descriptions, the photography, the design, etc. But if your store doesn’t scream confidence, then few people will buy.
These days most people feel wary about online purchases, especially after hearing about scams and identity thefts.
To increase your store’s trust there are a couple different actions you can take:
- Add a live chat box.
- Add security badges and seals.
- Add customer reviews and testimonials.
Live chat boxes allows you to diffuse any kind of doubts or fears your prospect customers may have, allowing you to give them the final assurance they can and should buy from you.
Security badges show your customers your store is safe, and their payment information won’t be under threat. 17% of online buyers abandon their carts, and they do it because of “concerns about payment security.”
And there are a few surveys that have found that 61% of people who doesn’t complete their online purchases do so due to the lack of a trust seal.
Finally, customer reviews and testimonials are crucial to show your customers other people like your products. Since 77% of people consult online reviews before purchasing something, it’s important you show them.
Some apps that can help you add live chat boxes, security badges, and customer reviews are:
Increase the Site Speed
Growth Expected: 21% in conversion rate.
No one likes being on a store that is a pain to browse around. From a usability standpoint, having a site that is fast is a must.
But this isn’t another “nice to have” feature. It has been proven that “a 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.”
To add insult to injury, many stores don’t have a 1-second delay problem; it’s probably closer to the 2-3 seconds mark.
So if you do the math, if you have a 3-seconds delay problem, by solving it you are improving your conversion rates by 21%.
If you want to improve your store’s speed, the following guides will help you do it:
This is all for the first part of the series.
In the next article, you will learn how to increase your average order value.
Have you ever implemented any of these growth hacks for an e-commerce store? If so, what was your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below!