Guide: Growth hacking and ecommerce

29 Oct 2014
| Last update: 23 Sep 2015

I’ve mentioned Sean Ellis in a couple of my articles, where I talked about what growth hacking is. He is the guy that started this madness. A viral madness, I might add. Everyone is talking about it, whether to say good and even bad words about it. Until now, we’ve seen how growth hackers use very ingenious techniques in many different fields, from marketing to smartphone apps.

Today, it’s ecommerce’s turn. In this article, we’ll take a look at the potential of ecommerce, and what techniques are best to use if you want to growth hack. I will not go over again on what growth hacking is, because I’m sure you already know, and you have your personal opinion on this subject.

In the beginning, growth hackers were active mostly in the startup world. But recently, they started to raise attention in ecommerce as well. Why wouldn’t they? Who wouldn’t like to increase their sales and customers without putting too much money into it? Here are some of the most important principles of this practice.

Why you should use growth hacking for your ecommerce business

growth hacking

Most of the times, ecommerce companies fail because they don’t have customers. Growth hacking will fix this problem, because it focuses on user acquisition, on ways to understand the user, and to develop a product that will fit the market the best it can. After the ecommerce business is developed, it’s time for the growth hacker to do its job, using acquisition, activation, retention, and revenue techniques. Because everything happens online, growth hacking will use SEO, A/B testing, content marketing, email marketing, or other techniques which we’ll see later on in this article.

If you want to growth hack your ecommerce business, you need to ask yourself a few questions: how you can approach the market, how you can improve the page rank, how to reach to new users, how to use promotions to acquire customers.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about the success story of the Canadian startup, Shopify. If you didn’t know,  it is a very successful ecommerce platform, where everyone can open their own online store. There are thousand of success stories that show how big this market really is.

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People buy online for many different reasons. More products to choose from, free shipping, saving time – all of these characteristics, and many others should be taken into consideration when creating a growth hacking strategy for an ecommerce business. Let’s see how you too can growth hack your online store.

A website easy to use is always a plus

When I enter for the first time a website, I immediately notice how fast it loads. If your website is moving slow, your potential customers will probably click off. Find a good host for your website, so that it loads instantly, and it will be more likely for users to stay and browse through your store.

Also, it’s always a good idea to show your customers that it’s easy to buy something from your website. Make it clear that registration is easy, the shipping is free, and fast (there are just a few ecommerce companies that still charge for shipping), and specify that if they aren’t happy with their purchase, they can always return what they bought (as long as it is in perfect condition, of course).

There’s nothing more annoying than an online store that has no directions on how to buy from them.

Build a brand

All your growth hacking strategies and tactics should focus on building a brand. Nowadays, people are more oriented towards a brand. Offering quality products/services, and value the relationship with your customers should be your main goal, if you want to growth hack your ecommerce business the right way. If branding is something you successfully develop, then you got yourself customers for life.

Be customer oriented

Speaking of customers… Sure, building a brand will not spare you of all the problems that might pop up. You need to maintain the image you created through a customer oriented culture. Admit when you’re wrong, and when you made a mistake, and apologize. Build a support platform, through which your customers will be able to reach you, and ask for help.

Go mobilegrowth hacking

According to an article on Business2community, on Black Friday “40 percent of all online shopping was carried out via a mobile device”. That being said, if your website is not mobile friendly, your ecommerce business is pretty much dead and buried. Smartphones are becoming more and more advanced, so people will use their phones more and more to buy what they need, instead of waiting to get home, and browse your website from their desktop, or laptop. Make sure that your website is compatible with Android, and iOS devices, or Windows phone (if everyone still uses that).

Use testimonials

Testimonials are a great way to show people that they can trust you, if they’ve never heard of you. Think about it. You’ll most likely buy a product that has positive reviews, instead of one that has none. A good testimonial should tell you how the product/service helped that person solve the problem he had.

Traffic acquisition

So how do you acquire traffic, and ultimately customers? You use push, pull, and referral tactics. The best pull tactic is using content marketing. Why? Because the only thing you will spend on content marketing is time, which makes it a great growth hacking tactic. Ebook, tutorials, infographics, webinars, SEO, and social media are great ways to build content. The only thing is you need to put some effort into it, and provide some valuable content in order to attract your customers. The most common push tactics are Google AdWords, retargeting, testing, affiliate marketing, or promotions. Referral tactics work best when you offer something in return.

Retention

Email is the number one channel through which you maximize the retention. When a customer abandons the cart, send them an email reminding them that. Maybe they were too busy to finish purchasing the product, or they just lost Internet connection. Send new customers a welcoming email, and show them a brief selection of what they can find on your website, to make them curious. Show them offers for first time customers. Send them a “Happy Birthday” email. There are many email marketing strategies that could fit in here. These are just some of them.

What growth hacking ecommerce practices would you use?

Growth hacking is all about the conversion funnel. In ecommerce, it looks like this: a potential customer visits your website, finds a product he likes, adds it to the cart, checks out, completes the purchase. This looks pretty basic, but you need to ask yourself how did the customer find your website. You could even introduce a feedback survey at the end of the purchasing process, to find out if there’s something you need to improve about their experience.

Here are some awesome examples of how 5 ecommerce merchants used growth hacking for their business, which will definitely give you some inspiration. If you happen to have a retail online store, which one of these tips have you used?

My final advice is experiment, experiment, experiment. What would be your tips for growth hacking an ecommerce business?

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Ana Darstaru

Content Writer at Squirrly
Ana has a strong sense of pragmatism and realism. Aside from the articles she writes for our lovely clients, she also loves testing new beauty products, and is obsessed with Pulp Fiction.
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