C-H-E-A-P-S-K-A-T-E: 10 Ways to Boost Your Ecommerce Business with Low-Cost Marketing Tactics
Who are you calling CHEAPSKATE?
No one likes to be called a “cheapskate.” However, today cheapskate is a good thing.
Wear the badge with honor. You see, CHEAPSKATE is an acronym I created to unravel a series of ways you can boost your ecommerce business with some highly economical sales and marketing methods.
I’m going to riff a bit on each letter and offer tips for various ways you can execute each tactic.
Here’s a preview of what we’ll cover:
- Social media
I hope the passages and examples presented in this guide inspire ideas to help you become a more successful and cost-effective ecommerce marketer.
C is for Competitions
One of your marketing objectives must be to continuously grow your email list. Another, I hope, is to learn more about the preferences of your prospects and customers.
Conducting competitions has proven an effective and inexpensive way to accomplish both objectives. Try the following:
Contests promoted on social networks, your website or any channel will generate awareness, drive traffic and increase conversion. A post on ShortStack details 11 ecommerce promotion ideas as well as the many benefits of conducting contests.
Contests may have interactive elements – such as pick your prize or cast a vote. Consequently, the data you collect will reveal useful insights into customer preferences.
Who doesn’t love free stuff? A giveaway is simply a form of a contest where winners are chosen at random. Contests, on the other hand, are judged.
While your contests and giveaways may offer a limited number of prize winners, you can make every contestant a winner by rewarding them with coupons and special offers.
The first two contests above engage prospects and enable your brand to collect user-generated content. Competitions such as these often feature photo and video contests.
The third example is a simple giveaway – contestants enter for a chance to win a relevant prize.
Images courtesy of ShortStack (from the article mentioned above)
H is for Help
As you probably know, in the world of content marketing you focus on delivering free resources to prospects designed to educate, entertain and inspire. We’ll focus on the education element with the following smart plays for ecommerce brands:
Your blog should be a consistent source of education about topics relevant to the challenges your customers face.
Develop “how to” guides in the form of ebooks, buying guides, checklists, cheat sheets, infographics, and even short courses. Gate the content with forms and landing pages to grow your email list.
While some prefer to read, many others rather watch. Make helpful videos that fulfill the same role as documented guides. They need not be elaborate or expensive. Here’s a robust list of ideas for creating videos on a tight budget.
Chat and chatbots
Some call it “conversational commerce,” that is, connecting through messaging apps. You can offer live chat or employ chatbots to provide assistance to customers to answer questions, deliver advice and help resolve issues. Chatbots use AI to infer customers’ preferences and create a better shopping experience.
Zenni Optical commits to creating resources to help customers throughout the selection, fitting and buying process.
The images here show a page where a variety of “how to” content is offered. Shown are one of the many videos and an infographic, which is accessed from within their “Quick Start” guide (neatly displayed as pull-down atop the “how to” page).
Images from the Zenni Optical website
E is for Email
Email is digital marketing’s most effective channel. We’re happy to deliver heaps of evidence. Email delivers a triple threat in that it’s an economical way to acquire leads, convert leads to customers via lead nurturing programs, and retain existing customers.
The different types of emails you might send prospects and customers are potentially enormous. Here’s a shortlist of proven winners:
The welcome email is an all-important tactic used to offer thanks, set expectations, deliver any type of offer, and help win over a newbie.
Discounts inspire purchases. ‘Nuff said.
Those slippery shoppers come and go. Unfortunately, the majority goes – even after beginning the purchase process. Abandonment emails often contain a sense of humor and attempt to gently nudge the prospect back into the buying process.
Smart confirmation emails do more than act as a receipt. They make additional recommendations, deliver offers, and instill in the customer the idea he or she just made a good decision.
Upsell and cross-sell
Follow-up emails might suggest upselling ideas where you invite the buyer to make a grander selection (bonus size, kit, subscription). They might also feature cross-selling suggestions in which a complementary product is offered.
Buyers opt-in and buyers tune out. The re-engagement email is used to win them back. For obvious reasons, special offers tend to be featured.
Send your subscribers occasional surveys to build goodwill, deliver purchase incentives, learn more about their preferences and help improve your subsequent email campaigns.
Say thanks. Share some love. It helps.
This email from Casper provides a strong example of a lead nurturing email to support their customer onboarding program.
Pictured are a few email templates amongst a robust portfolio offered within GetResponse, designed to fulfill the wide variety of email marketing needs of ecommerce brands.
A is for Automation
Email may be the heart of the marketing automation platform. However, there is indeed a body of parts that work together all around it. And the parts are tied together with data.
Your marketing automation software enables you to collect and use data to target, personalize, measure, and optimize online marketing campaigns for:
- Lead qualification (tagging and scoring)
- Post-sale communication
- Managing relationships
- Conversion optimization
Marketing automation platforms come in different shapes and sizes, and naturally, price ranges. Also, technology can be acquired in parts and pieced together to meet different needs.
The economic approach, however, is to select a provider based on:
- Feature sets and plans that meet your needs
- Integration capabilities with popular platforms
- Ease of use
As a customer of – and writer for – GetResponse, I’m partial to their elegant “all in one” approach, which includes robust tools for:
- Email marketing
- Landing pages
- List management
P is for Proof
Social proof is…
- The idea that we look at what others say and do to help guide our decisions,
- One of the most powerful tactics for swaying purchases,
- Absolutely everywhere on the web,
- A necessary component for ecommerce, and
- A ridiculously economical tactic to induce sales.
Social proof can take so many forms…
- Reviews and star ratings
- Bestseller lists
- User-generated content (photos and videos)
- Trust badges such as seals and certifications
- Media logos (“as seen in”)
- Client logos
- Subscriber counts, purchase counts, customer counts
- Social media numbers (followers, shares)
- Test results
Amazon has perfected the art of delivering social proof by enabling customers to post product ratings and reviews.
Honest Tea provides a form of social proof with trust badges that highlight their service is Fair Trade Certified and the products are USDA Organic.
Social proof examples shown here were sourced on “An E-Commerce Marketer’s Guide to Social Proof” from the Sleeknote blog.
We’ve spelled CHEAP.
Want 5 more ideas?
It’s time to spell-out
S is for Social Media
The best way to use social media for ecommerce is to buy ads on the channels your customers use. When you open your wallet to do so, the media’s ad servers will programmatically respond with targeted ads to expand your brand’s visibility deliver the clicks you bargained for. (Social media ads generally are based on the pay-per-click model.)
We’re not going there today. Remember, we’re focused on cheap strategies.
The second best way to use social media for ecommerce – and the only way to justify doing so – is to achieve greater reach and build a fan base by committing to forging connections, engaging them, and building relationships.
Some essential tips:
- Don’t aim to be everywhere instantly. Instead, focus on the channels with the highest chance of success.
- Create, curate and post content your target audience finds relevant.
- Monitor conversations about your industry and mentions of your brand.
- Engage consistently, but resist the temptation to sell constantly.
- Feature your customers as often as possible.
- Evaluate the metrics provided by the media sources and use Google Analytics to track traffic and conversions.
Above all, think visual.
Research from Shopify indicates the average order value on Instagram is $65.00 in the U.S.
Instagram is the fastest growing social media channel and a favorite choice for ecommerce brands. Following are tips for engaging followers on Instagram.
- Feature user-generated content.
- Have a sense of humor.
- Showcase authentic lifestyle shots.
- Go behind the scenes of your company to capture photos and videos.
- Create visually interesting quotes.
- Conduct promotions including contests and giveaways.
Clothing brand American Apparel encourages its customers to tag their Instagram posts with #americanapparel. When I captured this image, the photo and video count was approaching 1.1 million posts.
As you see in the example, customers often create quality ad-like content, which generates engagement in the form of comments and likes.
K is for Keywords
Your long-term results depend on achieving success in search. And your success with search depends largely on the effective use of keywords.
Consider the four-step approach to selecting and using keywords outlined by SEO expert Chris Yee of Square:
- Gather – Create a significant list of relevant keywords that pertain to your business. Use Google Search Console and scour your own web analytics data and onsite search.
- Categorize – Stratify your keywords by topical themes. For example, color themes, discount themes, etc.
- Insights – Quantify the relative importance of your themes. The data will provide insights you’ll use to prioritize your website and search marketing plans.
- Action – Act on your insights. If you grouped keywords by brand, you may need a page to target those terms along with the appropriate subcategories.
Understand the power of long tail keyword phrases.
Long-tail keywords contain three or more words.
- “Acoustic guitar” – This is not a long-tail keyword. It’s a seed keyword with extremely high volume search, but low buyer intent.
- “Used 12-string acoustic guitar” – I believe it’s simple to grasp how the specificity of this long-tail keyword phrase suggests increased buyer intent. Related phrases could include brands, colors, materials, styles, etc.
Long-tail keywords make up over 70 percent of online searches and convert better because they catch people further along in the buying cycle.
Here’s a tasty little cheat sheet with tips to improve product page rankings from a post on the BigCommerce blog about building perfect product pages.
“Best Cabernet Sauvignon under 20” is a great example of a long-tail keyword phrase that (1) has high buyer intent and (2) is searched at a significant volume.
The top half of the search engine results page for the phrase served me a carousel of Google Ads featuring images, special offers, and reviews – followed by ecommerce product pages and highly specific blog posts.
A is for Advice
What shopper doesn’t want advice? In the brick-and-mortar store, all day every day, shoppers ask for product recommendations and help making purchase decisions. Your challenge is to fulfill this need on your website with “guided selling” and you can do so in many ways:
Create product advisor content in the form of blog posts and downloadable assets such as buying guides, cheat sheets and checklists. (Yes, I touched on these above under “Help.”)
Display popular choices for specific categories and product lines. Buyers tend to favor the top sellers.
Showcase relevant products and/or competitive products. Make cross-sell and upsell recommendations to increase order value.
Collect and display product reviews.
Providing advice that helps shoppers make informed decisions positions you as an expert. It can improve traffic from search and give shoppers more confidence to part with their money.
I selected a relatively inexpensive flower bouquet on the ProFlowers website from a selection of “Best Sellers.”
The subsequent product page offered a suggestion to “upgrade to the deluxe version” (an upsell), followed by a short list of well-matched vases (a cross-sell). A couple of bouquets in a separate “You may also like” section match my original price point.
T is for Tools
Effective tools for ecommerce sites are continuously introduced. Keep tabs on new and innovative tools and experiment often with those you believe might improve the customer experience and boost sales.
Some proven winners employed by ecommerce champions include:
Consumers prefer onsite search to navigating by category and spend more when they use it. Note that few ecommerce brands have mastered mobile onsite search, so doing so presents a competitive advantage and clear conversion opportunity.
Shoppers glean great value from digital tools such as digital assessments and quizzes. Interactive product advisors or quizzes spare shoppers from extensive research and deliver fun and informative shortcuts for discovering the right products. Bonus: they also provide you with valuable insights about your customers.
A customer loyalty program drives customer loyalty by providing incentives and rewards for patronizing your store more often. Loyalty programs might offer discounts, coupons, rebates, free merchandise, priority access to products and helpful content.
MizunoUSA.com offers a smart interactive tool to help buyers select the perfect baseball glove to match their needs.
E.L.F. Cosmetics encourages shoppers to join its free “Beauty Squad” loyalty program and elegantly presents four compelling reasons for doing so.
E is for Ease
And F is for Friction, a factor an ecommerce brand must eradicate.
I found a useful foursome of tips from Curalate for explaining how to help guide buyers down the easy, frictionless path they seek.
- Shorten the path to purchase
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Is there information missing when they discover your product? Can you eliminate any steps to purchase?
- Improve the mobile experience
The relationship between time and money spent on mobile is alarmingly dire for online sellers. Focus on making your mobile store more user-friendly with uncluttered design, fast load times, and a streamlined checkout process.
Mobile’s Hierarchy of Needs, a report from ComScore, reveals a 49% gap exists between the share of minutes on mobile versus share of ecommerce spend. It cites the top five factors that minimize conversion:
- Security concerns
- Cannot see product detail
- Navigating is difficult
- Can’t browse multiple screens/compare
- Too difficult to input details
- Show the products nicely
Help your shoppers overcome what’s missing from the in-store experience however possible. Feature high-quality images, a magnifying glass feature, lifestyle images, 3D images, video, FAQs, and detailed product descriptions.
- Optimize the checkout process
The ultimate friction eradicator is a fast and friendly checkout process.
- Ask only for the information you need. If it’s not imperative the buyer creates an account, don’t force it. Allow “guest checkout.”
- Offer guarantees, free shipping, shipping details, security assurance, and whatever you can to increase the buyer’s comfort level.
- Handle the phones and chat. Don’t make customers wait for the answers they want at that critical moment.
- Offer simplified payment methods such as digital wallets, PayPal, etc.
Threadless provides a smooth checkout process to reduce friction. Buyers are sent straight to the shopping cart page without the need to register first. All purchase details are reviewed on a single screen.
Clothing brand H&M offers shoppers an interactive chatbot that acts as a fashion advisor using photo options and asking questions to deliver product recommendations.
Invest in the growth of your ecommerce brand.
Of course, I realize you’re going to invest in online advertising and other paid techniques in your quest to identify high ROI marketing tactics for your online store. I also realize that many of the tactics this guide presents may require investments in development or specialized platforms designed to add selling power to your store.
Nonetheless, some – or many – of the ten ideas that comprise my CHEAPSKATE list may be tactics you haven’t yet considered or tried.
Try a few on for size. Your register’s likely to ring more often and quickly justify the resources you invest in improving your ecommerce business.