Well, you did it. You worked hard to make it through the holiday shopping season, and now we’re entering into the new year.
As an ecommerce business owner, you might be taking some time off to reset, but you’re probably also spending some of your down time thinking about what you need to do to really hit the ground running and grow your business in 2018.
If your marketing and growth plans aren’t yet finalized for the new year, or if you’re simply looking for new ideas to test right away in Q1, consider the ten ecommerce business growth tips outlined below:
1. Create a Movement
In 2017 more than ever before, ecommerce brands invested heavily in community and community-building. Why? For two reasons:
Reason 1: Because ecommerce is an increasingly competitive space. Each day there are new entrepreneurs and business owners launching businesses and selling products that serve the same audience. In an effort to differentiate from competition and reach ideal customers faster, ecommerce business owners are now marketing and selling experiences over products. They’re connecting with target audiences by promoting movements, ideals, and a way of life that people can and want to relate to.
Reason 2: Because online consumers want to buy products from the right companies. They’re not just interested in buying from brands that promise the cheapest option or the one that will ship the fastest—they want to buy from companies that genuinely care about people, the world, and the issues that matter most. They also want to be part of something bigger. They want to find community online, and they look to brands to help plug them into groups and movements that align with their beliefs, passions, and motivations.
To understand this concept, it’s helpful to see it in practice. Consider, for example, Patagonia’s mission: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Or look to this purpose statement that can be found on the Beardbrand website: “we have a mission to do more than deliver excellent products. We also focus on providing a wide variety of tools that men need to invest in themselves. Those tools include education, inspiration, and an incredible community. When a man invests in himself, he then has the power to invest in his family, his friends, his career, and his community.”
Actionable Takeaway: Think about who your customers are and what it is that makes them part of the same community. Then decide how your company can begin supporting the causes or encouraging the way of life that you know the people you serve care most about. It could be as simple as creating a hashtag for people to use when sharing photos of themselves using your products, creating a private Facebook group for people to join, or donating a portion of your proceeds to a nonprofit or case.
2. Hire an Influencer
Another way that ecommerce business owners are reaching their target audience faster is by hiring and working with influencers on social sites like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Influencer marketing was a popular marketing tactic to try in 2017 for a few reasons:
Reason 1: It’s becoming much more difficult to reach people through organic Facebook posting alone, and social advertising is becoming increasingly expensive. As a result, more brands are choosing to invest their advertising dollars in other ways.
Reason 2: Consumers put a lot of trust in other people when it comes to making purchasing decisions. When deciding whether or not to buy a product, they turn to their friends, their family members, strangers who have already purchased the products before them, and the celebrities they follow on social media.
Actionable Takeaway: Find and hire a well-known influencer who can provide you with direct access to the people you need to reach in order to boost sales and build a loyal following. To find the right influencer, reach out manually if you already have someone in mind, or use a tool like Famebit, Tribe, or Open Influence.
3. Build a Video Marketing Strategy
Video was also a popular marketing tactic to invest in throughout 2017, and it’s predicted to be even more valuable in the year ahead. Consider the following facts about the popularity and business case of video from Buffer:
- Over 8 billion videos or 100 million hours of videos are watched on Facebook every day
- 10 billion videos are watched on Snapchat every day
- 55% of people consume videos thoroughly — the highest amount all types of content
- 4 in 5 millennials consider video content when researching a purchase decision
- 4X as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than reading about it
The right video can do wonders in helping you differentiate from competitors, boost brand awareness, connect with target customers, and sell more products—it’s all about having the right idea and the right strategy in place.
Actionable Takeaway: Decide how your company will leverage and benefit from video in 2018. Start by reading through this blog post from our blog. It will show you real examples of how other ecommerce brands are using video to grow their businesses, and provide you with a list of different videos you could create for your business in the year ahead.
4. Test New Product Copy
Another simple way to grow your ecommerce business in 2018 is to test new product copy across your website pages, product pages, email campaigns, and advertisements.
If you’ve never taken the time to test product copy before, now is a great time to give it a try. The smallest changes in headlines, body copy, and CTA button text can sometimes have the biggest impact on sales.
Actionable Takeaway: Make a plan to start testing some of the product copy that exists throughout your ecommerce store. A word of caution: START SMALL. Making too many changes all at once will make it hard to understand which copy change had the biggest impact, and could actually end up hurting your sales if you write copy that ends up being less compelling to your audience than what you had before. A good and painless place to start testing is with your Facebook Ads. Create two ads that are virtually identical as far as targeting, schedule, budget, and visuals, but different when it comes to copy and call-to-action. See which ad performs better, then decide how the copy could be incorporated into the corresponding product page or landing page on your website. If you really want to dive in, consider using a testing automation and management tool like VWO or Optimizely to run tests in real-time throughout your store.
5. Optimize Sales & Customer Support with a Messenger Bot
As ecommerce brands look for new ways to communicate directly with customers and ideal customers, many are now turning to a new channel: Facebook Messenger. Here’s why:
- According to Facebook, there are now 1.3 billion people using Messenger to communicate with friends.
- In 2017, there were 17 billion realtime video chats on Messenger—twice as many as recorded the year before.
- On average, there were over 7 billion conversations taking place on Messenger every day in 2017.
As more people adopt Facebook Messenger as a daily communication tool, new software is being introduced that can help brands use the channel to reach and communicate with their audience at scale. Manychat is one such example. It offers tools that make it easy for businesses to create trigger- and conversion-based sales, marketing, and customer support automation bots within Facebook Messenger.
Actionable Takeaway: Look into Manychat and decide if it’s something you can leverage to optimize and scale sales or customer support for your ecommerce business. To get a better idea of how it works, spend some time exploring the tutorials offered in their help section.
6. Collaborate with a Dream Partner
Another way to gain access to more people in your target audience in 2018 is to collaborate on a product with a like-minded partner that shares or aligns with your values, mission, and focus.
You might be thinking to yourself: a product collaboration will take A LOT of time, and you’re right. That’s why it’s important that if you decide it’s a tactic you want to try in 2018 you get started as soon as possible.
To find the right partner to collaborate with, follow these steps:
- Step 1: make a list of the business owners you know personally or through a connection, and the dream partners you’d love to collaborate with. Compile contact information in a Google spreadsheet. Again, try to think of products that serve a similar audience as you, or sell products that would complement your own.
- Step 2: think about what kind of collaboration you’d like to propose. Have a few ideas in mind, but don’t worry about making anything too official. The purpose of a collaboration is to actually collaborate! But having a few rough ideas can help get your foot through the door and the person you’re reaching out to interested in talking more.
- Step 3: Reach out to a few companies from your list, and work to finalize a collaboration partnership. Fecide on an idea, set specific goals and budget, and build your timeline.
- Step 4: Put a clear launch and marketing plan in place. Make sure that you and your partner are both doing the heavy lifting (and spending) when it comes to promoting the collaboration to your audiences.
- Step 5: Launch!
Actionable Takeaway: Try to complete steps 1 & 2 from the list above over the next few weeks.
7. Refresh Your Content Strategy
In 2018, content marketing and content creation will continue to be an important part of any ecommerce business owner’s marketing strategy. If you didn’t have a clear strategy in place in 2017, or you didn’t stick to it, consider spending some time reviewing and revising your strategy for the new year.
Actionable Takeaway: Start by making a content marketing strategy for the first 90 days of 2018. Set clear, hard-to-reach goals, determine your budget, figure out who your key players and stakeholders are, then use a tool like Airtable to manage and execute on your plan.
8. Send Gifts to Your Best Customers
To kick sales and product awareness into gear right away in the new year, consider sending small gifts to your best and most loyal customers in the first few weeks of January. The purpose of the gift is to thank your customers for their support. The goal is to get them talking about you and buying from you again.
Types of gifts include:
- A restock of their favorite product, or one that they order regularly
- A free sample of a new product that you’re getting ready to release
- A handwritten thank you letter with a gift card or promo code
- A customized or small-batch VIP product that no one else will have the opportunity to purchase
As we’ve written about before on this blog, customer delight can be an incredibly powerful and effective way to grow your business. All you need to do is put a plan in place and execute on it as early in the year as possible.
Actionable Takeaway: Come up with a gift idea that you can send to a small group of your best customers. Package it and send it out before the end of the first week of January.
9. Validate a New Product Idea
If sales slumped over the last few months of the year, or if sales have never been better, it might be time to consider introducing a new product. Before you invest too much of your time and money, however, it’s important to try to validate your idea. The easiest way to do this is by creating and launching a product page that allows people to pre-order your product. By launching a pre-order product page, you’ll not only find out how interested your audience is in your new product idea, you could also fund much of the production costs with the pre-order sales that come in.
Actionable Takeaway: Think about a new product that you could sell on your store. Create a lean landing page or pre-order product page to send people to. Send traffic to your landing page by creating new content, launching Facebook ads, and sending personalized email campaigns to segments of your audience that you think would be most likely to purchase.
10. Adopt an Always-Testing Mentality
Finally, one of the biggest ways to boost sales and growth in 2018 is to simply adopt an always-testing mentality when it comes to your business and your growth strategies. If you execute on the exact same strategy that you did in 2017, you shouldn’t expect to grow. Instead, you need to be willing and able to test new ideas throughout the year. You can’t be afraid of spending money (within reason) and failing often in order to land on the right tactics (the ones that make you the most money).
Actionable Takeaway: Create a list of tests and tactics that you’d like to try in 2018. Prioritize them based on cost and impact. Figure out which tactics you’d like to try in Q1, then get to work!
Over to You
What are you doing differently to help boost growth at your ecommerce business in 2018? Tell me in the comments below.
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