Despite being two companies engaged in markedly different areas of online sales, namely tangible products vs. intangible products, Victoria’s Secret and TurboTax both have something in common: they’ve got the online marketplace on lock.

Even though your business might not be trying to get under women’s shirts or helping people with their taxes, there’s something to be learned from these companies’ accomplishments and missteps.

Victoria’s Secret: Beauty Meets Brains

The transition from retail giant to online mega-store must have been an easy one for L Brands’ flagship Victoria’s Secret, seeing as, for years, they’ve been known for their trademark mail-order catalog. And the numbers support this. For instance, in 2014, Victoria’s Secret retail sales dropped by a shocking 5 percent year-over-year every month, but online sales grew by 15 percent year-over-year in every quarter.

So what can other brick and mortar businesses with an online presence learn from these bastions of bras?

Being at the Forefront of Social Media

It’s no surprise that a company trying to cultivate millennial sales would be expert social media marketers. A recent study by Spredfast, a market research company, identified that Victoria’s Secret was a veritable industry leader with a strong social presence across the social landscape.

Out of the fifty brands surveyed, researchers found that Victoria’s Secret had:

  • The highest Instagram following
  • The highest Tumblr note performance
  • An engagement rate that put them solidly in the top three brands
  • An Instagram original content creation rate in the top ten

Their brand was mentioned on social media a whopping 3 million times during the 2015 fashion week alone, nearly double the mentions of their closest competitor, Forever 21.

Victoria’s Secret’s cornering of the social media market is just further proof that if you’re going to sell anything in the physical or digital marketplace, you must have a robust, unique and, most importantly, active social media presence.

Free Shipping

If you take a gander at Victoria’s Secret website and homepage, you’ll notice a heavy focus on free shipping. Free shipping has become a potential differentiator for businesses selling tangible goods. If a customer has to choose between two companies selling a similar product, but one offers free shipping, he will likely choose to purchase from the business offering free shipping.

For a business to offer free shipping, the product retailers must plan, budget, and market accordingly to ensure the benefits exceed the cost. This is something that businesses offering intangible goods, such as TurboTax and other software sites, typically don’t have to worry about, given most software services are cloud based or available via download.

Brick & Mortar and Online Marketing Synergy

A quick glance at one of Victoria’s Secret’s ads on Google shows they make use of location ad extensions, which direct customers to brick and mortar stores to buy their products.

Because Victoria’s Secret’s products can be purchased in either online or offline venues, their marketing efforts have be interconnected. This entails a completely different strategy and marketing funnel in which sales conversions occur.

If Victoria’s Secret lacks synergy between online and offline marketing efforts, they could potentially lose out on numerous sales. This is a struggle all businesses with an online and offline presence must confront: determining the optimum buyer’s journey in which to shepherd potential customers.

In contrast, TurboTax and other software sites do not have to deal with this issue as their business lives and breathes solely in the digital space.

Focusing on What Works

Anybody working in the tech or digital world knows the meaning of the word “pivot” and how it’s imperative for a business to sometimes do just that.

Victoria’s Secret recently broke up their three biggest brands—Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, PINK, and Victoria’s Secret Beauty—into what essentially amounts to three different divisions with three different executives. They’ve also begun to pare down their offerings, most notably their swimwear category, to focus on what’s working and avoid the dreaded “inventory heaviness.”

Not only that but they’ve, you guessed it, decided to shift their attention onto becoming primarily a digital market.

All things considered, it will be interesting to monitor Victoria’s Secret’s steps going forward as undergarment buying habits shift.

TurboTax: Geek Makes Good

A few bumps along the way notwithstanding (a class action lawsuit), TurboTax remains the reigning champion of e-filing. When considering what TurboTax offers consumers, there’s no wondering why they continue to dominate the competition in domestic and world markets. But there are other reasons, too, that the company does so well.

Part of TurboTax’s continued success has to do with market trends. In 2012, a comScore study showed that the use of do-it-yourself tax filing services grew by 11 percent compared to the previous year. The top three services—TurboTax, TaxACT and H&R Block—accounted for a whopping 92 percent of these filings and, of those three, TurboTax hauled in 60 percent of users. That’s even more incredible when you consider that TaxACT came in second with only a 17.7 percent share of the market.

Examining how TurboTax climbed to the top of the e-filing hill is a great way for businesses selling intangible products, even those in vastly different fields, to pinpoint and adopt policies and procedures that may help them grow the same way.

You can easily find plenty of reviews espousing the good and bad of the nuts and bolts of TurboTax. Here, though, we will look at a couple of things Intuit and TurboTax do well that could be of interest to other small businesses and digital marketers selling intangibles online.

Bait Consumers with Free Trials

Nearly every button available on TurboTax’s site for initiating signup features the text, “Start for Free.”

TurboTax’s marketing strategy heavily focuses on enticing potential consumers with the free trial. By offering a free trial, TurboTax gets your foot in the door and starts the e-filing process. Once you’ve begun e-filing you’re much more likely to pay for additional services than you would be if you’d already paid a flat fee to gain entrance to the tool.

For instance, many consumers choose TurboTax for their free federal filing. After gaining familiarity with the tool and completing one’s federal taxes, said consumer will likely not hesitate to pay a slightly higher rate than they otherwise might have done to complete their state filings. After all, TurboTax is easy to use, and you just want to get your stinking taxes over with already!

The free trial is a vital marketing tactic for software sites and other businesses selling online tools. By offering consumers a free taste, business’s are able to get potential customers hooked on their service. Genius!

SEO and Marketing

SEO and marketing are two of the things TurboTax may do better than anyone else in their field, and there are metrics to prove it. Market research studies indicate that TurboTax is the most visible tax-related site on the web because of effective search engine optimization. This could be because their parent company, Intuit, has a branch specializing in SEO, so they know just how important it is to be at the top of the SERPs.

They’ve even won awards for just how good their marketing is, and not just for their creative on-air advertisements during the Super Bowl, but also for digital media advertising and overall engagement with users via social media. TurboTax spends immense resources on their digital media marketing package and it’s apparent that it’s working.

High SERP rankings and engaging ads are two of the most fundamental differentiators between successful and non-successful online businesses.

Admitting When They’re Wrong and then Changing

TurboTax receives major points for admitting when they’re wrong and rolling back bad business policies. This is something every business can learn from.

In 2015, TurboTax introduced additional fees for products it had previously provided for free (with purchase of a package). Customers felt this was unfair and were outraged. Instead of continuing to roll right along with their modifications, the CEO of Inuit issued a public apology, reverted to the policy that customers preferred and offered up rebates for their troubles.

If you don’t think a company showing that they’re personable or flexible is quantifiable, take a look at the numbers: the year following their snafu, Intuit and TurboTax posted some of their strongest quarterly returns of all time.

Bottom Line

Just because two companies are greatly different doesn’t mean they can’t use similar approaches to see equal successes. Victoria’s Secret and TurboTax are obvious examples of this sentiment and further prove that, no matter the type of business or product sold, there are comparable methods to achieve the same demonstrable accomplishments.