Few things feel better than watching an online business you've given your all to really take off. Reaching this achievement is no small feat, but true success – the kind that will one day get you that dream home – comes from being able to sustain growth in the long term.
This article will show you how to beat sales slumps with intelligent marketing that has helped us double revenue for our clients. It’s strictly for ecommerce entrepreneurs who aren’t about to let a temporary drop in revenue stand in the way of their dreams.
Every business hits the occasional plateau, and when that happens you have two choices: you can stand by and watch your ecommerce sales dwindle and fall month after month, year after year, or you can reach inwards for the strength and ambition that made you start a business in the first place and fight back with a clear and effective strategy.
Find out why your sales have slowed down
To understand HOW you can improve your ecommerce sales results, you need to start by digging into your data. Many business owners fall at this first hurdle because they focus on the wrong information.
Data is a very broad term that represents dozens of metrics. Most of these metrics, though they might create a nice impression of your business, are simply not that important in driving ecommerce sales. Prioritizing these so-called vanity metrics over other data that will actually help you scale your business is a lost opportunity.
So, what are these vanity metrics? The first and perhaps most surprising one is actually your revenue! Don’t get us wrong; revenue IS an important number to watch, but it can’t usually inform any immediate action.
Here’s a brief example to demonstrate what we mean: imagine that your ecommerce sales (hence your revenue) have shot up way beyond even your wildest expectations. Great! Your ego and you can pat yourself on the back but.. you have no clue WHAT brought you this great success.
Without knowing what caused your sales to grow, you can’t SCALE your success and what’s worse is you can’t REPLICATE it. Keeping track of your revenue is useful but it is not the key metric to watch, if you care about growth.
In a moment we will point you towards some way better alternatives, but first we want to let you know that another vanity metric which you put aside is the total number of ecommerce sales or clicks on your ads.
Grow your existing ecommerce sales
Boosting your ecommerce sales is a two-step process which begins with evaluating your current performance.
Step 1: Pull your existing ecommerce numbers
To understand how you should prioritize your actions, evaluate your business using the following 6 metrics:
- Purchase Frequency (F)
- Average Order Value (AOV)
- Traffic (T)
- Conversion on the store (C)
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV)
(Soon we will publish an article explaining all of these metrics in greater detail. If something is unclear in this article, mention it in the comment section below and we’ll be in touch to help!)
Checking each of these metrics will give you a good overall picture of the health of your ecommerce company, helping you to diagnose where to start when scaling your business. Once you have gathered this data, you can use it to make informed decisions about the future of your business.
For example, imagine that the number of new clients you are attracting (i.e. traffic x conversion) is low. Could it be because there are not enough people visiting your site or maybe those who do come don’t buy? By posing questions like this, you can come up with actionable tactics.
Another approach is to envisage how you want the metrics to change, then check if tweaking one or two of the other metrics can help you to achieve this.
For instance, you might decide that you want to increase your business revenue by 10% in the next 3 months and you’re considering investing in new traffic to achieve this. However, after looking at your metrics, you realize that you can achieve your goal by improving your upsell offer and strategy. Great! You can now invest that money into developing new products.
There is a beautiful revenue equation built from these metrics which we use in our clients’ businesses:
→ Now you see why revenue is a vanity metric; it is so complex!
Once you have evaluated your numbers, it’s time to get cracking with the next step: deploying effective tactics to drive them up.
Step 2: Apply tactics to increase your ecommerce numbers
There are proven tactics that can help you increase each one of the above metrics and we’re going to share some of them with you in the next section. So, next time you want to boost your business just pull out the right tactic for the right metric and observe the results.
The chart below (one of our favorites) shows some of the key campaigns that are needed to support your customer lifecycle, from the moment they first hear about your business ‘til the final goodbye.
What tactics can you use to increase purchase frequency?
Ecommerce email campaigns are a proven way to boost purchase frequency. Switch between the different campaign types detailed below to keep your online appeal fresh.
1. One-two punch email campaign
This approach targets the most recent buyers of a particular product with the aim of converting them into multi buyers. In the days following the purchase, a follow up email is sent to draw the customer’s attention to another product they might like. The follow up should be received within a month of the initial purchase, but never on the same day on which the purchase was made.
In order to create this campaign, it’s important to analyze the behavior of second-time buyers and note how many days have elapsed since their first purchase. If your multi buyer purchases the same item 30 days later, then market the same item to them. If your multi buyer purchases a related item 50 days later, then market a related item to them.
Based on the two buying behaviors we’ve just described, there are two types of follow up emails which can be sent:
One: Replenishment email
This message invites a user to order the same product again.
Two: Cross-sell email
This email invites a buyer to purchase related or complementary products.
If a user purchased shorts, then send them an email within 30 days offering them a t-shirt for the regular price. If they don’t buy the t-shirt, increase the incentive by adding a discount ladder to subsequent emails, inviting a cross-sell.
Let’s see how the one-two punch campaign would look for someone who buys shorts from your ecommerce store:
Email 1 on Day 30: stating that we know that a user purchased shorts. Offer to purchase a t-shirt
Email 2 on Day 40: 10% off offer on shorts with a time limit (available for the next 48 hours)
Email 3 on Day 50: 15% off offer on shorts (available for the next 48 hours)
Email 4 on Day 60: 20% off offer on shorts (available for the next 48 hours)
You are safe with a discount ladder as it reduces subsidy costs while allowing users who could purchase a product for a regular price to still do so. Remember, if you can’t give a discount on the offer, you can always start by offering free shipping, free gifts with a purchase, etc.
2. Sheepdog ecommerce email campaign
Any customer has a lifecycle in your store. Identifying when customers start purchasing fewer and fewer items and when they stop making any purchases at all gives you the power to reach out to them at the right moment with the right offer to keep them buying.
Let’s look at an example in which a user made five purchases from your online store. The time between the first and second purchase was 60 days, then you counted 30 days between the second and third purchase, 90 days between the third and fourth, and 140 days between the fourth and fifth.
From your observations you can see that the customer has made multiple purchases but that their buying behavior has slowed down. This data suggests a well-timed sheepdog email campaign could keep them around longer.
For future customers, try offering them a product at the regular price after they have made their third purchase. Then, add a discount ladder into emails sent to those who didn’t take advantage of the regular offer.
3. Win back email campaign
This campaign is meant for customers who were frequent buyers in the past but who haven’t purchased from you in a long time (basically they fell off their typical buying cycle and your sheepdog didn’t manage to bring them back into the customer flock).
A great way to win these once active customers back is to tempt them with a nice seasonal offer or present them with an entirely new offer that is related to their previous purchases.
If they don’t take the offer or engage with your emails at this point, then maybe they are just not your audience anymore. But, before you give up on them completely, try sending them 1-2 emails with the subject line “We’re gonna miss you” or “It’s our last email.” Tell them that you noticed they don’t open emails from you any more and tell them that you don’t want to keep them if they don’t want to stay. This way you can give them a choice: to stay or leave.
If they don’t do anything to stay in the email list, we suggest removing them to keep your email contact base healthy. You don’t want to send emails to contacts who will never open them.
4. VIP Email Campaign
Target frequent buyers who made their last purchase not so long ago. You should be aiming to build your business around your best customers (who buy a lot).
The goal of this campaign is to learn more about these customers as they bring the most value to your business and also to express gratitude to them for buying from you. Run a survey about their shopping experience and ask them to suggest ways to improve it. You could also seek their views on your catalogue of products and ask them what products they would like to see in your store.
5. SMS campaign (for SMS subscribers)
Use short SMS messages to announce sales, store giveaways or other gifts as Starbucks has done in the following example:
6. Push Notifications (for push subscribers)
A campaign we created for one particular client only featured push notifications at a marginal level, but blasting out a product offer just once a week resulted in >70 purchases from mobile and desktop devices over a 4-month period.
To start sending your own notifications, set up a push application in your store and then collect push subscribers.
7. Auto Subscription offer
Offer your customers an auto subscription as they are in the process of making a purchase. This overcomes problems with purchase frequency in an easy and cost-efficient way that is convenient for customers.
This tactic works particularly well with returning customers who are making their second purchase as they have already tried your product and decided to stick with it (yay!).
Effective tactics to increase Average Order Value (AOV)
1. Ecommerce Bounce Back Email Campaign
This email campaign targets those who have just purchased at the store for the first time. The email should be sent on the day of purchase, right after the transaction has taken place.
Even if the goal is to get the second purchase, the key factor here is that we want to increase the AOV of the same-day purchase. Thanks to this well-timed tactic, it’s possible to achieve a 10% increase in the AOV.
2. Immediate Ecommerce Upsell Popup
After a purchase, or at the stage where a user visits a product page or adds an item to their cart, show them an upsell popup which invites them to purchase:
- A related item (Cross-sell)
- A bundle
Check which products are often purchased together (via your store, customer support, etc). If you don’t have any data available, think intuitively and ask yourself what might people want to purchase together? If they’ve just bought nail polish, offer them a nail themed bundle that includes a polish remover and a nail file, or offer them a pamper pack featuring a face mask, a miniature bottle of Prosecco and some divinely scented bubble bath.
Once you create a bundle, market it on the homepage, in the newsletter, via related items and at the checkout.
For one of our American clients who sells creams for women in the US, we added an upsell offer that gave customers a $10 discount on the purchase of a second tube. This tactic resulted in a conversion rate of 23.6% and netted our client an extra $47K in revenue over 5 months.
If you have a trial product, you can also add an upsell offer with a full product at a discounted rate. We find this tactic results in a conversion rate of +12-15%.
3. Split tests on pricing
Many entrepreneurs end up undervaluing their products when using this kind of tactic. Avoid falling into this trap by creating an A/B test for your product with paid ads traffic. Create a copy of the product ad offering the product at a 20% price increase. Drive traffic 50/50, then compare the revenue.
4. Free shipping on a select basis
We don’t recommend offering free shipping on all your products since users can order an inexpensive $3 product and still get free shipping. Instead we advise only offering free shipping on orders over AOV+20%. This will help to increase the AOV.
Tactics to increase the number of new clients - traffic and conversion
Instead of looking at new clients as one number, we suggest you split this metric into traffic and conversion. This will make it easier for you to clearly see where and how to act, especially when you are reviewing the different segments of each metric. For example, when you segment your website traffic according to its source (Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads etc.) or when you segment your traffic into paid vs organic.
There are 2 types of audiences: cold and warm. While cold audiences are made up of people who have never visited your site and have probably never heard of you, warm traffic consists of individuals who have visited your page, watched your videos and/or liked you on social media etc.
Directing warm traffic to a product page could produce a sale (yay!) but sending cold traffic to the same destination is a bad idea. Why? Because this audience doesn’t yet know who you are or what you are selling.
If you are guilty of sending cold traffic straight to a product page, don’t sweat it. It’s a common mistake which we see all the time. And, more importantly, we have created a neat workaround.
To make your frosty audience hot for your products, warm them up with engaging content. Then, when you remarket them to your sales page, or to a page offering them a trial of your product, you’ll be much more likely to get a good outcome.
Pre-sale engagement pages that we’ve found do a particularly good job of warming up cold audiences are blog posts and educational videos.
Examples of targeting audiences for Facebook:
- Ads targeting & communication
(Laser-focused targeting and communication for persona on paid channels)
Make sure you define your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) and communicate it consistently across all your channels. While presenting your products, focus on the pain points for each persona and describe how your product will solve them.
Use any reviews which you have already accrued to build your credibility. Those positive customer testimonials are powerful tools which you can work into the marketing content you create to sell your product. Try adding a positive customer quote to your product pages, emails, ads, videos, etc.
If you’re a newbie and your review jar is yet to fill up, check what customer feedback your competitors are receiving and play their weaknesses to your advantage. For example, if their baked goods are said to look great but taste bland, you can emphasize how full of flavour your own cakes are in your marketing communication.
- Budget distribution (according to CAC)
When distributing the budget across the channels, take into account the CAC metric you’re getting per channel. At the same time, make sure you’re distributing the budget per campaign in a ratio of around 57:43 between content distribution campaign vs sales campaign. You need more traffic to go to the content so that you can remarket them with a sales offer later on.
More ads tips here!
2. Conversion on the store
- Sales Pages
Great products can be let down by poor photos, so make sure any images you use are high resolution and top quality. Alongside the standard shots of your products you should include eye-catching lifestyle photographs of that product actually being used. Think of this way, would you be more likely to buy a summer skirt photographed on a hanger, or a skirt photographed on a smiling model who is standing on a gorgeous beach.
Don’t just stop at static images; including product videos on the page will increase its ranking in Google searches and show your customers the story behind the product.
It’s worth remembering that people assimilate information differently, so supplying information through a combination of text, photographs, video and even audio where appropriate will engage a much broader audience than if you rely on just one method of communication.
Sites that are poorly laid out or tricky to navigate can be really off-putting. Make your pages simple and straightforward and design them with your users’ experience in mind. Show them how this product can help with a particular problem, why should it be bought from your brand, who the product is for, how to use it, etc.
We’ve already mentioned how useful positive reviews can be in your marketing. Make sure you have plenty of amazing comments to choose from by enabling reviews on your website.
Feedback helps you learn what your customers like and dislike about your product. Plus, you could also discover some interesting new uses for your product that open up a whole new market.
Enable “recommended for you” (another version: “people also viewed”) products to increase conversion from visit to purchase.
Remember to highlight any free shipping offers, free returns, warranty offers etc. The longer the money-back guarantee, the higher the conversion rate.
You can increase your conversion rate by making sure the user sees a positive testimonial when they access their cart. This simple tactic works like a friendly recommendation to reinforce the wisdom of the user’s decision to buy your product.
Giving your customers the option to adjust the number of units they wish to order at the cart stage is a great way to tempt them into buying a larger quantity of products. You can also use this opportunity to let them know of any discounts they might receive by purchasing your product in bulk.
Once your customer has made the decision to buy your product, praise them or thank them with a message such as “you’ve made the right choice.”
Finally, be sure to follow up with customers who abandon a cart containing products as they may be interested in making a purchase at a later date. You can increase your conversions by sending this warm audience integrated follow up emails, SMS and push notifications.
We suggest sending 3 follow-up emails highlighting the benefits of a product and its usage. For notifications, stick to short messages that remind the customer about their waiting cart and include a link through which they can complete their purchase.
Keep your checkout process short, sweet and secure and include only NECESSARY fields. A one-page checkout, in which the most common payment methods are enabled on the page, is ideal.
Online shoppers are often short of time and wary of sharing their data. We recommend giving customers the time-saving option to checkout as a guest (without needing to create an account).
Be persistent and proactive
Armed with the tactics we’ve laid out in this article you need never fear another sales plateau. Keep an eye on the metrics that matter, look at why your sales are slowing, then identify your biggest growth opportunities.
Once you’ve figured out which metrics need to be increased, refer back to all the practical tactics we’ve shared here and go forth and conquer!
There is plenty more where they came from so if you’d like more information on how to drive ecommerce sales in your business, check out how we do it in Tribe47 or ask us in the comment section below!