The Trellis Guide to the E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle – Acquisition
Leading traffic to your online store is no easy feat, yet if you incorporate the right tools, information and strategies, the opportunities for profit and growth are unmatched. By coming to Trellis, you have already given yourself a head start, but to complete the race, you will need to master your marketing.
Welcome to the next portion of our series on the E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle (ECL)! As we discussed in the first article, this series will document unique factors in online selling that Trellis has learned over the years. In this series, we’ll focus on strategies and tactics that any brand can make use of to more effectively appeal to their customers.
In today’s article, we’ll take a more detailed look into the first step, Acquisition, which is all about driving traffic to your site. This stage goes over all of the ways you may attract a first-time shopper to your store and believe us when we say there are plenty of options to choose from.
Acquisition: Balancing Long And Short Term Success
Whether you’re trying to attract your first customer, or your thousandth customer, driving traffic to your online store is a task that lasts indefinitely.
In order for your store to thrive, you’ll need to define a mix of tactics that work for your brand, which will depend on your product, your audience, the problem your products solve, and your audiences’ shopping habits.
While the specifics of your plan will vary from brand to brand, a company’s success will depend on the ability to balance long term investments with instant-gratification strategies.
At Trellis, we break marketing up into strategies that you “own” success, and strategies where you “rent” success. In order for your online store to thrive, you’ll need a mix of both.
Marketing You Own
There are a handful of marketing strategies that have only one associated cost: time. These require hours 0f effort, but otherwise can be accomplished free of charge. We refer to this as marketing that you own because once you have mastered each of the below tactics, and you are able to operate the campaigns on your own prerogative you own the work you have done. Similar to a physical piece of real estate, even if you started neglecting them, you would see a slow decline (instead of an immediate end) of their effectiveness.
Social media has been an established part of the internet for quite a while now. An essential part of engaging with your customer base is to meet them where they already like to go on the internet to be social: social media platforms. The tricky part is locating and reaching them since there are so many platforms to choose from. Consider your target market and define your ideal customer.
While each channel is unique, there are a few things you should do for each one:
- Form a content schedule – frequency and post type
- Make sure you only share posts that are relevant, helpful, entertaining, or (ideally) all three.
- Post an image with at least 50% of your posts.
- Join in the communities that your audiences are excited about.
- Consider Influencer Marketing
At any level, it is a good idea to use a social media management tool to assist in your social media endeavors. Tools like Hootsuite or Later can help you plan out posts weeks in advance, synchronize your schedules across multiple channels, and engage with your followers more effectively
Trellis Tip: Make sure that your tone, voice and personality of your posts match the feeling of your website. If you are presenting your brand as fun and approachable via Social Media, make sure your store reflects that personality as well, or visitors will feel that they’ve been misled or on the wrong site and will leave.
The other key to social media is to engage and connect with other people via things like retweeting or tweeting at someone. The more value you provide and engagement you create the more other folks will want to connect with you. Simply promoting yourself and your products or services will not get most people excited about connecting with you.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a unique mix of technical strategies and high-quality creative work. In order to get the most value out of your efforts, you’ll need to focus on both sides.
The creative side of the equation is likely what you think of when someone says “SEO”: the written and visual media on your website that everyone can see. Years ago, SEO was all about the percentage of keywords and could be easily manipulated. However, as search engine algorithms have improved, effective SEO is increasingly reliant on updated content that is clear and concise. The rules of SEO are constantly changing. It is important to stay up-to-date with the changes and ensure you are following best practices set by Google.
The more technical side, likely initiated and handled by your e-commerce agency, has to do with correctly tagging various parts of your website in a way that is easily read by search algorithms.
Luckily for you, Trellis are leading experts in this space and can walk your brand through the process step by step.
The final piece of great SEO is making sure that you optimize your backlinks. Put in layman’s terms, this means you need other websites to link back to you. The more highly respected the website, the more it lifts up your own Shopify store. This practice is called link building, and it’s a mix of people skills and technical analysis.
There are both do-follow links and do-not-follow links. Each plays a different role and neither should be overlooked.
Trellis Tip: Great SEO has more to do with how your website is built than you may think. From difficult-to-read URLs to pages that are hidden from search engines, there are a lot of technical mistakes that can tank your rankings. If you’re putting out great content but not getting the results you wanted, it may be time for a website upgrade – or overhaul. Structured data, undescribed alt texts, and blank image descriptions are just some of the factors of SEO that are sometimes overlooked and can cause issues for some of the mot well known brands out there.
Even though content marketing and SEO best practices work hand-in-hand, they are moderately different yet equally important. SEO caters to the search engine whereas content marketing caters to the customers. Make sure to fine tailor each marketing plan based on your target audience.
High-value content marketing is defined by producing high quality in high volumes. The type of media produced is not as important as the quality of the production. Beneficial content can include written pieces (like blogs, ebooks, articles, whitepapers, case studies, or social media posts), videography and photography, infographics, webinars, or any other medium that brings company information to the target audience’s feed in an efficient manner.
This content should reinforce company branding, values, and spread a message in line with the business’ short term and long term goals. Make sure to publish this content to as many channels as possible in order to gain maximum exposure. The greater the reach, the more impactful your content will be as it improves SEO, maximizes acquisition, and improves conversion rates for online brands.
The content should be clear, concise, and include a call-to-action that pushes the customer into the next step of the ECL process.
One of the most effective strategies for email marketing is also the most straightforward: collect emails from sales and by promoting your newsletter on your online store and social media platforms, and then send out offers. The higher the number of contacts you can collect, the greater the effect will be. Incentivize customers to join the list by offering coupons, flash deals, and rebates that give them a VIP feeling for being a part of the mail campaign.
In theory, an exemplary email marketing campaign could be put into place manually. However, operating an operation like this would drain all resources if done so manually and results would be poor. We recommend using an email marketing automation tool to create improved, personalized material that will take just a few hours each month to operate. These tools offer low-risk high reward services that will surely impact your business if implemented correctly. There are a few to choose from but We recommend using Klaviyo, a great tool that will enable you to send super personalized emails with a few clicks (as well as a ton of other tools like Facebook advertising, user behavior insights, and more).
Trellis Tip: Make sure to put a “Subscribe to our Newsletter” button somewhere visible on your store! This CTA will help compile a database of users that can be used in the future for further marketing efforts. It’s also a good idea to have at least a few design elements from your website present in your email layout to encourage your customers to form a visual brand association.
Marketing You Rent
What do you do if you don’t have weeks or months to build up your “owned” marketing efforts? You go and “rent” some success – in the form of advertising, a subset of marketing that offers instant but ephemeral results.
There are many mediums on which to put your advertisements, and all fall into one of the following categories:
- Search engine advertising. These are the advertisements you see in your search results when you use Google, Bing, or another engine.
- Display. Ads placed in the middle of an article, usually distributed through an ad network. These popups can be effective because it incorporates past search history.
- Social media. Promotions that appear on the sidebar or in the newsfeed of social media platforms, both on desktop and mobile displays. This is a booming medium.
- Retargeting. Promotions that are triggered after a user looks at your website – these are technically a subset of all of the other categories.
Deciding on your advertising strategy will largely depend on your budget, as ads are, by their nature, pay to play. However, regardless of your budget, online advertising is accessible – it’s more a matter of “fat head vs. long tail.” This weirdly visual piece of jargon describes two different online advertising approaches:
- Fat head: Ads based on broad, popular keywords, in which the most successful brand is the highest bidder.
- Long tail: Ads tied to highly targeted, specific keywords, with a lower audience. While these ads may not pull the same numbers as fat head ads, they often end up having a higher ROI over time.
Creating a successful advertising campaign on any platform, however, will require that you complete three key tasks: audience selection, creative, offer, and ad spend optimization.
Selecting the right audience to show your ads to is a critical step in making sure they’re optimized and efficient. If you select too broad an audience, you’ll be throwing part of your ad spend at people who aren’t interested in your product. If you select too narrow an audience, you miss out on potential buyers.
Online advertising also gives you the opportunity to select specific demographics and keywords, so make sure you have a solid handle of exactly the type of person who buys your product is, and what they’re looking for when they find your store. Do some research prior to throwing thousands of dollars on ad spend. Understanding your ideal customer profile, acquisition costs, average order amount, lifetime value, CPC, and other consumer metrics will yield superior results.
Once you have an audience in mind, it’s time to make your ad come to life! To do so effectively, you will need to understand the context in which it will be viewed and the psychology behind it. You’ll need to understand who you’re talking to and give them a reason to click the link in the first place. There are two key components of a great online advertisement:
- A visually stimulating design that will resonate with the viewers. Do not use stock images. Spend some extra money and obtain high-resolution images that look clean, crisp, and stand out on all mediums.
- An effective call to action. Most online advertisements do not much space for text. Make sure to make it count with a brief, action-oriented message that focuses on the value you can deliver and pushes the customer toward the next step of the ECL.
It’s important to also keep in mind the medium that your ads will show on. For example, Facebook now offers a multi-product carousel, which gives you a lot more room to show off what you can do. If you’re running a video advertisement, you’ll have a lot more time to explain your product – but you’ll need to do it in a way that holds the viewer’s attention. Fine tailoring your ads for the channel it will appear on is an easy way to obtain improved results.
AD SPEND OPTIMIZATION
As we touched on earlier, ad spend will be a major determinant of how your advertising performs, but a smaller budget doesn’t necessarily mean fewer results – it just means a greater reliance on finding the correct, super specific keywords. Regardless of your budget, you’ll want to frequently review the data around your advertising spending, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Trellis Tip: Don’t skimp on A/B testing your advertising! It’s impossible to know what the optimal advertisement looks like for your demographic on your first try – or your hundredth, as it will continuously change over time. Commit to continually improving your advertising to get the best return on your investment.
Great Web Design Ties It Together
Throughout your marketing and advertising, you’ve had one goal: get the right people to look at your website. Great web design is both the final stage in the acquisition process and a powerful driver of many technical marketing strategies (such as SEO, as mentioned earlier). Make sure you don’t skimp, or what was it all for?
When a potential customer clicks through from your marketing or advertising, they should see a website that is consistent with the brand impression they’ve already formed. This means that not only should your color scheme and design elements match, but the tone and personality should also as well.
Trellis Tip: When you’re building a website, work with your designer to make sure that everyone that has a stake in your company’s online presence is on the same page about visuals, personality, tone, and core messaging. Communication between all parties should be frequent and clear so that everyone can be on the same page.
Pay attention to the information that comes through in the user’s UTM parameters, or the data that comes through with their click. This may mean specific demographic information (if they’re coming through from a social media platform), the keyword they were searching for, or the link that led them to your site. Make sure that you personalize the content to reflect what your customer has already told you!
Trellis Tip: The best way to “wow” customers is to show them that you were listening. Invest in a personalized suggestion engine for your online store to make sure that they can always find what they’re looking for. We love Nosto, an app that offers onsite recommendations, emails, and even behavioral pop-ups and Facebook ads!
If the customer is clicking through from an advertisement, or maybe a specific social media platform, you can drive them to a landing page that is more likely to appeal to them. Don’t feel that you have to limit yourself to just driving people to your home page.
The best part about landing pages from the perspective of an entrepreneur? Not only are they effective, but you can easily make them yourself! We love Shogun for this because it’s drag and drop (no tech experience needed) and you can put a page together in minutes.
Trellis Tip: Landing pages can be incredibly effective, and they can also be much more simply designed than the rest of your website – but make sure you keep the core elements around, or your customers may think they’ve gone to the wrong place.
The Most Common Errors
Since inception, the Trellis team has helped many brands grow from small, home office-bound side-gigs to thriving businesses. However, as every entrepreneur knows, there is very rarely a defined path to success. We’ve seen our fair share of mistakes, and some are much more common than others. Here are some of the most common errors budding entrepreneurs tend to make.
FOCUSING TOO MUCH ON NUMBERS
An important point to keep in mind about driving traffic is that it’s not just about the numbers – your store needs to attract the kind of people who would be interested in your product. This is a classic case of quantity vs quality. While it can be tempting to focus on visitor counts, never lose sight of the fact that your real goal is sales. Creating a band of loyal customers can be more impactful than a flash flood of one time purchases. The numbers will always change over time so do not fret as they ebb and flow daily.
TRYING TO DO IT ALL (ALONE)
It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed when it comes to the topic of acquisition, so it’s important that you prioritize asking for help. After all, each channel is an entire industry in and of itself; trying to manage all of a growing company’s marketing, advertising, and PR campaigns single-handedly can be a recipe for disaster.
The honest truth that we’ve seen working with hundreds of brands is that, in all likelihood, you’re going to be really great at one or two strategies for each category. We encourage you to experiment with your campaigns but specialize in what works best. Find what gives you the most value and repeat it – you will get much less out of a mediocre presence everywhere than a really amazing campaign in one category.
EXPECTING A LOT FAST
Marketing takes time and especially things like social media and search engine optimization can take years to see solid results. It takes a lot of hard work to build up a strong marketing presence and none of this is going to happen overnight. Don’t get discouraged because you are not seeing results right away, even small tiny improvements is a good sign. Keep pushing and work for the long haul not the short term.
TAKING AN IMBALANCED APPROACH
There’s marketing you own, and marketing you rent. When you’re doing SEO, writing all of that content, and slowly climbing up in search results, that’s something that you own. It takes a while to build up, but once you have it, it sticks around if you maintain it. Whereas with advertising, you can get results instantly, which is why it’s so great – but the second you stop paying, it’s over. The best approach is to balance it. Leverage your risk by operating in both sectors.
One of the most common mistakes we see is when a company invests all of its time and money into a really great (and effective) campaign, but it’s a completely different tone and message than what their website delivers. Advertisements that do not match a company webpage will leave customers viewing the site feeling confused, misguided, or uninterested. A well-thought-out marketing campaign is only as good as the site or landing page it refers them to. Align all aspects of the campaign to ensure brand consistency throughout.
Never Forget: It’s About People
Driving traffic to your website can often seem more like a tedious math problem than anything resembling human interaction, given the number of dashboards and analytics that you’ll look at on a daily basis. Resist this feeling, especially when you’re dreaming up new campaigns. Remember, in the end, your online store isn’t that different than a brick-and-mortar shop on a busy street – it’s all about catching your customer’s eye, enticing them with a great display, and then rewarding them with exactly what they wanted when they finally walk inside.