It’s a very uncertain time for the world. Things are moving very fast, hourly news briefings can bring excitement and fear, often simultaneously, and nobody knows how things are going to look post-pandemic. What we can be certain of is that there is a fundamental shift happening in the way people are going about their daily lives–the population has shifted in a matter of weeks to ordering everything online. HEB, a local Texas grocery chain (that purchased Instacart competitor Favor), has seen online grocery orders increase dramatically. Food delivery services like DoorDash have skyrocketed, and even Thrift Stores who’ve never had an online presence have quickly launched ecommerce sites in response to this digital shift.
Many ecommerce businesses are growing like crazy right now, with buyers stuck at home and few options but to buy their necessities online. Add to that, because they are bored, people are spending more time online browsing, and more importantly, buying. Customer acquisition and revenue growth levels will continue to be record breaking for many companies, at least for a little while. But the reality is, it’s just a bump in revenue and it will go away – be it in a few weeks or months. One of the highest priority strategic moves an ecommerce business can do right now is to implement infrastructure and processes to retain these new customers when coronavirus worries ease and those customers’ product shopping trends start to normalize.
One vertical we’ve seen experience unprecedented growth is the Nutritional Health sector. Some of our supplements and herbal clients are currently seeing 2x-3x their daily online sales, and revenue that rapidly increased in early March and has remained high since.
We’ve been working with one particular supplements client to ensure the rapid growth they are experiencing isn’t just a short term bump, and instead, is a strong foundation to grow rapidly from. They are in the stages of building a strong ecommerce foundation, a systematized remarketing foundation, and a conversion-centric ecommerce site. Also, they are realizing this is absolutely the very best time to be investing in marketing as many online retailers are pulling back on budgets, resulting in advertising costs that have never been cheaper.
Here are 8 things we’ve put in place recently that are helping our clients to grow and retain customers during and after this crisis.
Have a Strong Ecommerce Foundation
TIP 1: Enable Headless Commerce.
Your new customers might be buying on your website now, but long term, they may not naturally seek you out. You need an ecommerce platform like Magento 2 which enables headless commerce, so customers can find and buy your products where they are already shopping. For example, our supplements client has seen an incredible increase in sales of their immune system supporting products such as Zinc, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B. But they also sell other supplements that these new customers could be interested in after the pandemic. They are prepared to meet their new customers where they are shopping, which may not be their website. They are starting to sell their products through wildly different websites: lifestyle blogs, fitness websites, other sites including Facebook, Amazon, and marketplaces like iHerb. They have also enabled Google Shopping via Magento2 – check this post out on more Google Shopping tips. So, if you haven’t made the upgrade to Magento 2, now is a great time to do that. You get many other features from that upgrade, but we’ll cover those in another post.
TIP 2: Enable Subscriptions.
If you offer a product people could buy on a repeat basis, make it easy for them to do so. Offering recurring purchases of products or bundles of products makes it more likely customers will buy from you again. For example, a busy mom who buys supplements regularly might not think about her supplements running out without some notification reminder. Prescription medications typically can be set for auto-refill, so you are simply creating the same experience for other types of products. Baby diapers, dish soaps, vitamins – it’s all the same – repeat buyers are already in your database.
TIP 3: Setup one platform for B2B and B2C.
If your business is truly just B2B or B2C, go ahead and jump to the next tip. For the rest of you, do yourself a huge favor and put an ecommerce platform in place that allows you to create very different B2B and B2C experiences, all within the same platform. Our nutritional health customer wants to deliver a very personal and mostly web-based B2C experience, but they also want a very personal B2B experience for practitioners who buy products to sell in their own physical offices. However, those same practitioners want to offer the products to their end clients through their own online “store” and are not in a position to build their own ecommerce site. Technology like Magento 2 will allow practitioners to share their personalized online catalog to their clients. Furthermore, both the practitioner and our customer’s sales reps will be notified about any sales that come through that online store. This is all done in the same Magento 2 platform – it wasn’t necessary for them to license two different platforms. It may go without saying, but the reason you would want to have one platform for B2B and B2C is that as you rapidly grow your business, you will have to ramp new people and having a common technology simply makes that easier to train on, scale, and support.
Build a Strong Remarketing Foundation
TIP 4: Cookie Your Future Customers.
You absolutely must build a remarketing foundation so that when people come to your website and leave without purchasing or giving you an email address, you still know who they are and can follow them. You need to set up the infrastructure now to assign cookies and segment those customers based on interests. This enables you to follow them around the internet over the next few months and show them content relevant to their interests. You can follow them on Facebook, YouTube, Google Shopping, and pretty much anywhere else. You can use technology like Adroll to help this remarketing. You will also want to implement a marketing automation technology at this point, if you don’t have one.
TIP 5: Context is Queen.
You’ve heard the phrase ‘Content is King’? Well Context is Queen, and she holds the purse strings. Taking the remarketing concept one step further, be ready to display interesting and contextually relevant content to your current and future customers. You might create Facebook Ads or Google Display Ads, but be sure you promote content that is relevant to the products they looked at. For example, when a visitor browses a product that contains Turmeric, they will start seeing content that talks about the health benefits of Turmeric. On the reverse, visitors will see remarketing ads for products that contain Turmeric after they have read articles about Tumeric. Within Facebook Ads, it’s relatively easy to create videos for products, categories, or campaigns which you can export and use on YouTube. This can be eye-catching content and it works, as long as you know what they are interested in.
Build a Strong Website that Converts
TIP 6: Find Conversion Opportunities.
Some of our clients have asked us to do a Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) site audit where we look for low hanging fruit that can dramatically increase sales with little effort. Whether you have these opportunities and what they are will be pretty specific to your own business. For example, with this client we realized that 80% of their traffic was mobile, but only 20% were buying through mobile. That was a great indicator we had to improve the mobile experience for buying. When we dug deeper, we discovered this particular client had an older demographic audience, which historically doesn’t trust mobile devices for purchasing. We found that some interesting, subtle tweaks to the website showing them the website was “secure,” such as including a padlock icon on the checkout page, helped people have more trust – increasing their conversion rate. Another interesting thing to look at is peak traffic times. Our client found a specific day and window of hours represented their peak site traffic and that window had an unmanned chat available – adding a human to chat during that window dramatically increased online sales.
Now What? Invest in Marketing!
TIP 7: Scale Marketing
Once your ecommerce foundation and remarketing engine is in place, now you can scale it. Our nutritional health client has found that a dramatic increase in ad spend has continued to deliver very strong ROI. They were originally seeing 6x ROI on their ad spend. When they multiplied the ad spend by five, they still got 3x ROI. They are about to multiply their original ad spend by 15x and we are confident they will still have a comfortable and positive ROI. That said, as you spend more on ads, managing that ad spend requires more work. The basic reasoning behind this is that when you are spending small dollars on ads, you can cast a very small net and hit a high percentage of good-fit customers (assuming you shape your audience targeting correctly). As you spend more dollars, you have to cast wider nets, so the concentration of good-fit customers is smaller. So, as you spend more money, you have to get better at your creative to be more convincing to buyers. As explained for this example, you will see lower ROI ratios as you spend more, but you should still get positive ROI >1 up to the point you reach the literal end of your market net.
TIP 8: Keep on Selling.
Supplies may be hard to get right now, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be selling. If you run out of inventory, but know you can get more soon, don’t lose the momentum and the traffic you’ve got. Online buyers understand and accept right now that product shipments may be delayed. They are still happy to make a purchase and wait until your product is ready to ship, knowing they will be at the front of the line when you get more in stock. Speaking from personal experience, I want to buy a particular TV device right now and I see ads for it all the time. But, every time I go to the online store to buy it, it’s always out of stock. I would love to be in the queue to buy this when it’s available. I would even give my money now for it. Customers are open to things right now that they otherwise wouldn’t be. By the way, it’s actually more annoying if you are going to serve me ads for the thing I already want to buy, but you’re not letting me actually buy it! If you cannot take their orders, then take their email and offer to send them back in stock notifications.
Ok, hopefully that is enough to give you some thoughts about how to retain the burst of customers you are seeing right now and ride that wave to capture even more. If you still want a bit more information, maybe check out that post on google shopping tips. Oh and of course, if you are interested in having a conversation about this, let me know and we can set up a call.