You already know the basics.
There’s no point rehashing rudimentary ecommerce store tips like cart abandonment emails.
Instead, we’re going to look at a few foundational ways to scale sales, along with some new trends that will revolutionize how people shop online.
Here are 7 top ecommerce lead generation tactics for 2019.
1. Personalize Facebook ads by tying them to each stage of the buyer’s journey.
A troubling trend has developed over the past few years.
Facebook’s organic algorithm has tightened. You used to be able to reach ~20-30% of your fans with each post.
But now? Organic (free) reach has fallen off a cliff. You’d be lucky today if you could reach any of them without paying.
Unfortunately, a similar trend has been playing out over on Instagram, too. Its reach is also declining quickly.
You might not want to pay to reach them, but you also don’t have much of a choice anymore.
We’re not just talking about some random post ‘boosts,’ though.
You’re going to need ads at each stage of the funnel, targeting people who don’t even know they want what you have yet, all the way through to repurchases and referrals.
That’s exactly how Spearmint Love blew up over the past few years. They have customer acquisition costs down to a science, knowing exactly how much it’s going to take to drive a certain number of sales from each new customer.
One of their key reports is a vintage analysis that will show payback period over time, including comparisons on individual products or even across product lines.
They didn’t start out on the first day with this level of sophistication. In fact, they had some trouble getting their Facebook ad campaigns to take off initially.
The problem was that they could sell a product or two. But they has issues translating that into multiple sales from the same customer over time. That kept the lifetime value of each customer lower, making it tough to spend aggressively on new ads.
That all shifted when they started tracking ‘custom windows’ of time for each customer, and then tailoring ads (and products) accordingly.
For example, Spearmint Love wants to reach new mothers when they just find out about being pregnant. The window shifts when the baby comes, and again when the baby grows up. Here’s how co-founder John Lott, describes it:
“The window of time from six months before the baby is born and six months after the baby is born is the exact time we want to capture them. Ideally, we capture them as early in that window as possible. That’s window one.”
The reason is because this is when new mothers tend to spend heavily, too. That tapers off in the subsequent windows, based around when the baby is ~0-18 months old, 18-30 months, and then beyond.
The key to their success is that they don’t just keep hammering the same Facebook ads or products during these windows. Instead, they promote different product lines to each window and have custom upsells or cross-sells that appeal to each.
This entire process starts with data.
You need the Facebook Pixel running for months (or years) to be able to build out custom audiences full of people who’ve already been to your site, and new lookalikes of these people to bring in the top of your funnel.
Once you have this, an easy built-in place to start is with Facebook’s Dynamic Product Ads.
The toughest part is building out an initial database of related products, including everything from the product name to link, description, and category information.
Next, you can build out an ad template that will dynamically pull in these fields based on the audience you created.
All of those fields you just created will be pulled in based on the products people visited, for example, or new recommendations based on product sets you create.
This type of sophisticated dynamic retargeting can increase results while cutting costs at the same time. The Honest Company saw a 35% CTR lift plus a 38% cost decrease with these hyper-targeted campaigns.
Just keep in mind that this also means you’ll want to edit your ad creative images prior to them getting pulled into your dynamic ads (with the wrong sizes, resolution, etc.).
This level of tracking is also easy to set up. Major ecommerce sites like BigCommerce allow you to separate out Facebook sales from your online store on an individual product basis — without ever touching a line of code.
Yes, there’s a lot more prep work involved.
But this effort will get you one step closer to running the same type of cohort and vintage analyses that will show exactly what people will buy and the exact right times, to drive sales through the roof.
2. Match new content creation to each stage of the buyer’s journey, too.
When choosing the best ecommerce platforms to drive website traffic, companies often get top or bottom-heavy with content.
A quick audit would reveal that B2B companies, for instance, tend to have a lot of bottom-of-the-funnel content, with virtually nothing at the top.
That limits the amount of new people finding them through search, for instance, and makes them completely reliant on driving leads through word of mouth.
There’s simply not enough content based on informational or educational long-tail keywords that targets new, unaware people.
The point is that if you need a steady stream of new customers, you need a steady stream of content targeting each stage of the funnel to move people from stranger to customer.
Primally Pure walks this fine line beautifully.
First, they have detailed tutorials that show people how certain products might work, all while targeting long-tail variations around treatments like “double cleansing.”
Many of their posts like this provide both video and text, making Google happy but also catering to the 43% of readers who usually skim blog posts.
But that’s not the only type of content they produce. Take a look at just the last three posts on their blog:
It’s a perfect balance across the entire funnel.
The first is a classic keyword play for “pregnancy skincare products,” that also ties in deep links to their individual products.
The second isn’t for awareness or visibility per se, but in starting a movement. If customers care about why you do what you do, starting a spa that emphasizes “a whole person approach to beauty + well-being” and “real ingredients” does just that.
It’s a sizeable investment that’s as much a small business branding play as it is a new potential source of revenue.
The third is a more aggressive bottom-of-the-funnel sales pitch. But the emphasis is on the outcome and end results (i.e. what someone gets from the the balm) as opposed to just another 10% discount.
Primally Pure’s success isn’t because they’re doing any one of these extremely well. It’s because they’re doing all of them well.
Birchbox also does an excellent job creating content across the entire funnel with their magazine. Although they’re best known as a sample subscription service, they have a large ecommerce component to purchase full-size products of the samples.
Here, they’re working with (and piggybacking on) the audience of influencers to drive the top-of-the-funnel attention for them.
But they also mix this in with more traditional SEO-based queries, like this “best SPF” guide:
The people looking for an extremely commercial query like this are ready to buy.
So Birchbox capitalizes on that perfectly by highlighting the top product recommendations right below the content:
The point is that there isn’t just one kind of content you need to create. Whether it’s top of funnel blog content, bottom of funnel retargeting campaigns, eBooks, podcasting strategies, or sales tactics, your content needs to align with the customer journey.
You need to beware of being too top or bottom heavy with any one kind. And then you need to create a steady flow of them all to make sure you’re equally driving attention, nurturing customers, or generating sales.
3. Keep people on-site with targeted, interruption-based offers.
There’s a reason you see pop-ups on almost every single marketing site.
They work, plain and simple, whether we like it or not.
Literally every study you find, like this one from AuthorityHacker, is up and to the right.
All digital marketers try to follow Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing. However, even he said that the first step often has to start with interruption.
There are two keys to making these less terrible for consumers.
The first is to customize how or why these are triggered. For example, you can turn pop ups off after the initial visit. Or, you can make it time-based so only people who spend five full minutes browsing your site will see an offer.
That’s the entire premise of exit intent: it only fires when your mouse moves outside of the window like you’re about to close it. Here’s how HelloBar’s looks:
The second key for making these work is the offer itself.
The usual approach for ecommerce companies is a standard discount. Helix Sleep runs a calendar-based flash sale for new visitors depending on which product you’re looking at:
But you can make these perform even better (and seem less annoying) by tailoring the content in each to what the visitor is trying to see.
For instance, Primally Pure does it by blog categories. So if you’re looking at skincare-related content, you’ll get an offer for a skincare guide:
Whereas if you’re looking at more of a ‘wellness’ piece of content, you’ll get a guide about taking better care of yourself:
If these offers aren’t taking over the entire screen, but just showing up in one specific place, you can use animations to help create the same effect (while being slightly more subtle, too).
Animations on site offers have been backed up by studies, with a ‘rotational’ one besting a ‘zoomed’-effect according to Thrive Themes.
If you’re reading this blog post, you’ve probably already seen the animation with the “Get Started” button shaking up above:
4. Let people test drive your product before buying.
Free samples might be the oldest promotional trick in the book.
Every vendor at every farmer’s market is trying to hand out free samples.
Store sampling for ecommerce companies can literally skyrocket sales by 2,000%.
But today’s highest converting content management systems don’t just give out a freebie here or there.
They’re taking this same simple approach and elevating it to transform their sales model.
For example, Smith & Noble will give away as many as 30 free samples for customers to try out before ever spending a dime:
That’s impressive, but nothing compared to these next few examples.
Warby Parker is a custom eyeglass company. Understandably, one of their bottlenecks is the friction in getting someone to buy something for their face without actually knowing what they’ll look like in them.
So how do you get someone to purchase glasses without trying them on?
Answer: You don’t. Instead, you let them order a few samples and give them a couple days to get comfortable enough with one to buy.
If the customer keeps all five over five days, they get billed. So there’s little risk beyond a few damaged, returned items.
Helix is another that takes the same approach, but this time they lengthen the time to 100 days!
After the first 30 days, customers get the option to try the product out — literally sleeping on the mattress — for nearly a third of a year.
The reason for that initial month is because of how mattresses take a few weeks to ‘break in.’ So they’re also helping to set expectations. Customers know the mattress might not feel perfect initially, but should in the near future.
Otherwise, they’ll get their money back.
Doris Sleep takes a similar approach with their Thin Pillows, giving people a 60-day trial to rest their heads and make sure they’re 100% confident in their purchase.
If not? They’ll donate the pillow to homeless shelter — earning a bit of goodwill in the process, even if the customer isn’t completely satisfied.
Executing on this strategy shouldn’t just help sales, though. It can also drive new awareness at the same time.
The Girlfriend Collective (via Jeff Bullas) gave away free leggings to anyone who shared their site socially (for a limited time of course).
The cost of a pair of leggings is probably negligible if you compare it to how much it would cost to advertise the very same product.
So at worse, they’re getting ‘free’ publicity and expanding the number of people who recognize them by name. And at best they’re driving a ton of new sales they can later retarget those customers to drive repurchases.
5. Recommend the best products for a customer with quizzes.
Almost two decades ago, researchers used the jam study to see what happens to sales when customers are given more options to purchase.
Initially, presenting customers with more options (in terms of products, variety, etc.) drove more people to the booth than when they had less varieties on display.
The purchases, however, were a completely different story.
Despite there being more varieties to choose from, and despite more varieties bringing more people over to the booth, this didn’t translate into more sales.
In fact, presenting the customer with less options at the outset ended up driving more ecommerce conversions.
That’s the trouble ecommerce companies face. More SKUs might increase the long-term revenue, however, in the short term it can overwhelm users and slow down sales.
That’s why many ecommerce companies are starting to use quizzes as an interactive way to make tailored, customized recommendations.
LeadQuizzes reported a 33.6% average conversion rate for lead gen, and quizzes still rank among the most shared content type on Facebook.
Birchbox uses a Best Face Mask Quiz (via Relevance) to help whittle down the preferences of each person.
The questions are designed to qualify or disqualify different product attributes so it’s easy to come out with specific recommendations at the end.
Like every other personalized example here, they also convert better than generic recommendations.
Warby Parker also uses a quiz, in conjunction with the five free frame trial, to help someone make sure they’re bound to like at least one of their options.
The questions start extremely broad, asking about gender style and face width, before asking more specific, finely-tuned questions at the end.
These questions are also like the reverse of your product navigation, too.
The answer for face width narrows down the frame style, before getting granular later with colors, materials, and even asking about your latest eye exam.
At the end of the eight questions, you’re left with five personalized product recommendations that fit your exact criteria.
It’s almost like having a personal shopper do all the work for you, and pick out something that you’re more likely to want from the get go.
This last point is especially important.
Enabling customers to pick products that are a better match should mean you can reduce the number of support requests or returns down the line.
The retail industry already sees the most support requests by default, according to the Freshdesk Customer Happiness Benchmark, with over 4,800/month on average.
Another study proves that people have short patience with bad service, where 56% would never give the company a second chance.
The best way to give your support team some help isn’t to react to these complaints, but try to prevent them before ever happening.
6. Let customers create their own products with interactive builders.
The sixth tip is similar to the last, but the next evolution for execution.
Here, the goal is to let customers create their own products — especially in complex expensive transactions.
For example, EvoDesk sells standing desks that regularly head north of $1,000. That’s a tricky sale when people can’t actually touch or feel the product.
So they’ve created a way to let customers start with the base product, and then add customizations on top so they can get exactly what they want.
For each additional product decision, a user can flip the viewing angle from the front to the back or even on top. They can also watch a video to see what it looks like in a real world setting.
The best part about this approach is that it allows for seamlessly upselling the customer, too.
For example, once you have the basic desk materials figured out, EvoDesk starts asking about additional options like a new sound system, improved storage, better keyword, anti-fatigue mats to stand on, and even a treadmill to walk while you work!
This tool helps customers purchase what they want, without becoming overwhelmed by a ton of options at once. And the seamless upsells boosts the average order value at the same time.
7. Break up large payments into smaller installments.
Last but not least, new financing options have popped up in recent years to help customers purchase more expensive items online.
Affirm, one of the largest in this space, claims that adding them to your site can increase average order values by at least 75% on average!
They’ve been a big hit with online jewelers like Vrai & Oro, who actually reduced the number of SKUs they offer and still increased annual revenue to $2 million.
Here’s how they look and work.
Head over to Movado, for instance, and add a new watch to your cart:
Right at the bottom, you can get prequalified through each service and find out within minutes how much they can lend you. It’ll even include details around payment terms.
You can also use related or recommended products to help upsell customers who’re financing their purchase. The perceived price increase for customers isn’t that bad when it’s framed as a few extra bucks each week.
Additionally, if your sales are more complicated, you can collect electronic signatures at checkout to increase conversions.
Yes, cart abandonment emails are critical.
All of the so-called ‘marketing basics’ are important to make sure your site’s foundation is solid.
However, it’s going to take a lot more than that to grow sales 100x over the next few years.
You’re probably going to need to add a paid acquisition channel like Facebook, tying product sales to each stage of the funnel. You’ll definitely need different types of content that align with each funnel stage, too, helping customers bridge the gap from stranger to customer to advocate.
Pop ups and other interruption-based techniques are good, but only when you can use triggers, offer personalization, and animations to make them more valuable to users.
Extended free trials show that you stand behind your product, while quizzes and interactive builders can help customers pick products that will be perfect for them.
Finally, new financing options can reduce ‘risk’ for customers to make large, expensive feels seem a lot more manageable.
Having one or two of these items covered is a good start. But it’s only when you have them all going at the same time can you start seeing sales grow by leaps and bounds.
Guest Author Byline
Adam Enfroy is a content marketing and SEO consultant and manages partnerships at BigCommerce. With 10+ years of digital marketing experience, he’s passionate about leveraging the right software, content, and strategic partnerships to scale digital growth. Adam lives in Austin, TX and writes about how to make money online and blog like a CEO at adamenfroy.com.
You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
These are really cutting-edge insights, Adam. Thanks for going in-depth and providing quality examples and references.