How to do an eCommerce SEO Audit

How to Conduct an eCommerce SEO Audit and Checklist

How to do an eCommerce SEO Audit

eCommerce stores should always be optimizing (ABO). An eCommerce SEO audit and strategy will help you optimize your website and increase organic traffic and conversions. 

The purpose of an SEO site audit is to ensure that your website is optimized to your customers’ expectations and search engine best practices. 

Search engines use complex algorithms with multiple ranking factors to deliver the most relevant search results for user queries. These algorithms are constantly being updated so as to only display search results from relevant and updated websites. This is why it’s so important to periodically conduct SEO audits of your website to ensure that it remains relevant regardless of the changes to Google’s algorithm. 

What Is an eCommerce SEO Audit?

An eCommerce SEO Audit is an extensive review of your eCommerce website’s SEO efforts accompanied by recommendations on how to supercharge your eCommerce growth. It helps you figure out which SEO issues your website has, which issues to prioritize, and how to increase your organic reach, traffic, and conversions.

Essentially, an eCommerce SEO audit points out the problems, if any, and how to fix them. It helps you figure out how to optimize your website better and increase organic traffic

Why Is An eCommerce SEO Audit Important?

An eCommerce SEO audit takes stock of your current SEO efforts and incoming organic traffic. Just like any other channel, maintaining and growing your traffic source is crucial to surviving and thriving in business. 

But unlike paid channels, organic traffic is long-term. The effort that you put in today will likely benefit your business years down the road, which makes it that much more important. 

Organic traffic is typically one of the highest converting channels, if you’ve done your keyword research correctly when building your content strategy

How To Audit an eCommerce Website 

We typically use SEMrush, Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and an extensive manual review to conduct eCommerce SEO audits. These tools will help with technical SEO issues and traffic data but there’s nothing like manually reviewing your most important web pages. 

What To Look For In An SEO eCommerce Audit/ SEO Audit Checklist

There are very important things that you must access while you’re running your eCommerce website audit and they are:

  • Technical SEO
  • Website architecture
  • User experience
  • Off-page SEO
  • On-page SEO & CRO
  • Competitive analysis
  • SEO Content

Technical SEO

Site health audit of a Tuff Client

The technical SEO of your website requires analyzing the structure of your website and its relevance, indexing, and ranking of the website by search engine crawlers. It examines and recommends fixes for indexing, duplicate content, 404 errors, broken internal links, your XML sitemap, and more.

For eCommerce specifically, you’ll want to make sure that you have product structured data schema in place for your product pages. 

Crawlability

The discoverability of a website is hinged on the internal and external links and this is how search engine crawlers are able to discover your website’s content. These crawlers, through the links, analyze the structure of your website and deduce its relevance and ranking in SERPs. 

The homepage is your most important page. The crawler crawls all links from your homepage and determines how important they are based on the crawl depth and the number of internal and external links pointing to it. 

Indexing comes before everything when ranking. If it’s not indexed then it can’t rank in SERPs. So, if your webpage isn’t optimized and relevant for a specific search term, search engines won’t send their users to it. 

XML sitemap 

Your XML sitemap should contain all the indexed pages on your website. It’s important to make sure that your sitemap is auto-populating when pages are added or removed from your website.

Having pages in your XML sitemap that no longer exist and vice versa will cause technical SEO issues and will make it tougher for you to rank in SERPs. The XML sitemap is what is submitted to Google Search Console and is the first place that Google’s crawler will crawl so it’s important to make sure that it’s up-to-date and optimized. 

For eCommerce websites, we’ll also want to make sure that we have an XML sitemap index and separate sitemaps for blog posts and product pages. That way if there’s ever an issue with a product page it’s easier to identify and fix.

No Duplicate Content Issues

Duplicate content refers to content that appears on several pages either on the same domain or across many domains. Most eCommerce websites have filter pages that create the risk of having duplicate content. 

Duplicate content arises from filtering products based on some specifications, and copying and pasting product descriptions from manufacturers. An SEO audit helps to detect and prevent the presence of duplicate content by the introduction of canonical tags. These tags specify to search engines which URL they should index and rank.

No Broken Internal Links, 404 Errors, and Redirect Loops

A technical SEO audit will detect if there are any broken links or 404 errors. Broken links typically occur if a page has been (un)intentionally deleted from a website or two pages are accidentally linked together with the same URL. Broken links distort the user experience and also make it difficult for search engine crawlers to crawl your website.

404 errors really hinder the user experience when a user lands on one, no matter how great your 404 page is. If dozens of broken links or 404 pages are discovered it will severely impact your chances of ranking high in SERPs. The technical SEO portion of the SEO audit helps you find these issues and fix them before your users find them.

A redirect loop is another version of a 404 error and it is essentially a redirect that redirects too many times. This happens when you redirect an old page to a new one and then later on you redirect that new page to a newer page. We want to avoid redirect loops because they’re essentially 404 pages that take even longer to get to.

HTTPS

This ensures a safe connection to your website. The SSL certificate used by HTTPS encrypts the data that is transferred from the website to the server. You must ensure that all your website data is hosted on a secure URL using the HTTPS protocol. Enforcing HTTPS on all your pages is a best practice because Google has confirmed that it is a ranking signal.

On-page Analysis 

An on-page analysis is focused on a webpage’s content strategy as well as the HTML elements that allow search engines to recognize the relevance of the webpage during a search query. Every on-page optimization done on the webpage should be based on keyword research. Keyword research determines your title tag, meta description, heading, and interlinking.

eCommerce Customer Service Content

eCommerce customer service content example

eCommerce Customer Service Content is one of the most important on-page SEO optimizations that an eCommerce website can make. This refers to the SEO-optimized content that is below your product listings on your product listing page. 

Take a closer look next time you’re ordering from a larger retailer such as Amazon, Best Buy, and others. You’ll notice that they all this customer service content. 

The purpose of this content is to answer frequently asked questions while also giving your page a better chance of ranking in SERPs. When selecting which questions to answer, you want to make sure you’re using target keywords and semantically related keywords in your answers. 

Crawl Depth and Orphan Pages

The crawl depth refers to the number of clicks it takes, from the homepage, to reach a page on your website. Crawl depth is important because search engine crawlers consider your homepage your most valuable page and then they value each other page based on the crawl depth, among other factors.

An orphan page is a page that doesn’t have any links pointing to it. A crawl depth is taken during an SEO audit and it is used to find orphan pages and important pages with a crawl depth of more than 3.

You can improve your crawl depth by improving your internal linking. Adding links to the header and/or footer is a quick way to lower your crawl depth.

Title Tags and Meta Description 

Title tags appear when the webpage is displayed in SERP, browser tab title and when you share the link on social media. Since it appears in these places, the primary keyword of the page should always be in the title tag. 

Meta descriptions are very important in boosting click-through rates. Although it doesn’t determine the ranking of your webpage, it increases traffic to your website. 

Keyword Research

Keyword research and competitive analysis are always essential when doing SEO. It’s too much to get into for this article so I’ve linked out to some useful blog posts throughout this article that will help with keyword research. 

Product Pages

Through keyword research and keyword mapping, you want to make sure that every single product page is SEO-optimized for a unique target keyword. 

Example of Ecommerce Keyword Mapping

Here’s how to quickly conduct keyword mapping for your individual product pages:

  1. Export a list of all of your URLs along with their SEO title and meta description to a spreadsheet. ScreamingFrog is a great tool for getting this information. If you’re using WordPress with the Pro feature of Yoast then you can also export the target keyword from the Yoast field as well. 
  2. Once you have a list of all of your product URLs, add a column for the target keyword and fill in the target keyword for each product URL. You can deduce the target keyword from the URL, SEO title, and meta description. If you can’t, then the page isn’t correctly optimized for a target keyword. Make note of it and come back to it. 
  3. As you go through all links, make note of pages with no target keyword, irrelevant or incorrect target keywords, and keyword cannibalization issues. 
  4. Once you’ve built your list of pages that need new keywords, conduct keyword research and optimize each individual page for the new target keyword.

Internal Linking

linking all your web pages makes it easier for search engine crawlers to navigate your site and find all the important pages. More so, it makes it easier for users to find your products if they’re linked throughout blog posts and “Related Products” sections. 

Example of suggested products

Off-page Analysis

This refers to all external backlinks and signals that can influence your eCommerce website’s ranking in SERPs. You can conduct a backlink audit using SEMrush to see what percentage of your backlinks are higher quality or low quality. 

You can also view backlinks that you’ve recently lost and reach out to the webmaster to regain that backlink if you choose to. 

Content Gaps and Opportunities 

By running a keyword gap analysis against your competitors, you’re able to not only find keyword and content gaps but also potentially content type gaps. 

By analyzing your competitors’ top pages you’re able to see which types of content are driving the most organic traffic. Maybe they have an infographic that is outranking all of their product pages or maybe it’s a guide or landing page.

By finding and filling the gaps you’re creating comprehensive coverage on your website and giving yourself a much better chance of ranking in SERPs.

Example of Keyword Gap Analysis

User Experience 

Your website should always meet the expectations of the user and search engines. For example, no user or search engine would like to be on a website that is extremely slow to load. For eCommerce websites specifically, this can lead to cart abandonment and that can decrease your conversion rate. 

Conclusion

Although it takes time, with SEO tools at your disposal, and some experience, you can learn how to quickly conduct audits and spot these issues whenever you’re browsing your eCommerce store. You can also choose to hire an eCommerce growth agency to take care of all your eCommerce needs.

 

As already stated, different aspects of SEO optimization act together to make your website trustworthy, not for the search engines alone, but for your potential customers. As an eCommerce business, it is important to have a reliable website.

An Ecommerce Guide to Optimize Product Page SEO

With so many ecommerce companies using paid search ads, you might be thinking—does product page SEO really matter? The answer is yes.

Businesses need a holistic growth marketing strategy that combines SEO and paid search. It is not an either/or situation – and as an ecommerce growth agency, we incorporate both strategies for our partners. 

Paid search can help you grow fast and stay competitive. If your site is new, it can get you to the top of search results faster. However, you pay for every click that comes to your website. On the other hand, organic search provides sustainability and long-term growth. You don’t pay for clicks, and you could get traffic from SEO-optimized product pages and content years after it was first published. 

Here are just a few reasons why organic search is so important to ecommerce businesses.

 

What is product page SEO? 

A product page is a landing page on your website that provides all the product information that a customer needs to make an informed purchase. Great product pages don’t only provide product information–they are intentionally designed to entice visitors to buy. 

Product pages are transactional, meaning that most visitors are in the market to buy. However, that doesn’t mean that they will. If your product pages are not optimized for conversions or SEO, then they aren’t generating nearly as much revenue as they could. 

Product page SEO is the practice of optimizing product page descriptions, structure, content, and other elements to increase your visibility and overall organic search traffic. With SEO-optimized product pages, you can rank higher in search results and get more visitors to your site. 

How to optimize your product pages 

There are a lot of elements to consider when creating product pages–increasing conversions, providing shoppers with product details, creating the best user experience, and more. How does SEO fit in? 

SEO’s impact may not be obvious on the page, but it is a key part of why many ecommerce brands have been successful. To optimize your product page SEO, follow these tips. 

1. Include keywords in your product names and titles. 

What makes a good product page title? It should be descriptive, but also include keywords.

Keywords are the search terms that your potential customers are using when they search for products like yours. To determine if a query is a good keyword for you, conduct keyword research. 

Look for terms that have high monthly search volume and low keyword difficulty. For example, if someone is searching for “fanny pack”, the search volume looks like this: 

Now, the keyword difficulty, or competition to rank is fairly high, but it’s not impossible to rank. To really develop your keyword strategy, you’ll want to add variations and long-tail keywords.

  • A keyword variation might be a description like the available colors “pink fanny pack” or a synonym like “belt bag”.
  • Long-tail keywords are queries that have around 4 words or more. They are usually in the form of questions, but not always. Although they aren’t usually product page keywords, they are great for longer-form how-to or informational SEO content.

Now, once you have a list of keywords that are associated with your products, you can create SEO titles. 

If you search for “fanny pack” (and many other products), you’ll eventually see Amazon in the results. It’s because Amazon is using product page SEO best practices. Its product listings have specific requirements for titles. If you look at Amazon’s product naming guidelines, you may notice that they are designed for SEO. 

For instance, they must include a descriptive keyword, and they have title length limits. Amazon’s title length is 80 characters max, but we recommend under 60. 

Here’s an easy-to-use format for creating SEO-friendly product titles: 

  • Primary Keyword – Description (material, color, or size) – Brand Name

It’s also important to note that you may rank for product category pages with SEO, in addition to individual product pages. Category pages tend to have more general keywords (belt bags and fanny packs), whereas, product pages may be more specific (faux leather belt bag). 

2. Make sure your product URL structure is descriptive.

The URL structure of your product pages is more important than you may think. The URL appears at the top of the browser, and although, it may not be read by shoppers as much as your title, search engines are reading it. 

Good URL structure helps Google crawl and index your site. Bad URL structure can impact your organic search performance. Common URL issues for ecommerce sites are duplicate and non-descriptive text. 

Avoid URLs that look like this: 

https://company.com/skincare/collections/product/index.jsp?productId=1234567

It’s long. It includes a lot of numbers that are not descriptive. Plus, it’s missing keywords. Instead, opt for a URL like this: 

  • https://company.com/product/keyword

Cooking company Caraway does this beautifully. For instance, look at the product page for its fry pan

The keyword “fry pan” is right in the title and URL. Overall, the URL structure is short, descriptive, and SEO friendly. 

3. Use canonical tags to eliminate duplicate content.

Even if you have a consistent, keyword-rich product URL structure, there are common SEO issues that happen with every ecommerce site. This is because ecommerce sites may have many variations of the same product. 

For instance, you could have one product, but different sizes, materials, and colors. Each product variation creates a unique URL, even though the content on the page doesn’t change much. 

In addition, many ecommerce sites use breadcrumb navigation. The URL structure changes based on how you clicked through the site to eventually land on the product page. 

This creates duplicate content issues for ecommerce sites. To solve this, you’ll want to implement canonical tags. 

Canonical tags tell Google and other search engines that a specific URL is the master URL. 

By implementing rel=canonical tags, you let Google know that it’s not duplicate content.

4. Add unique product descriptions.

If you don’t have unique product descriptions, you’ll run into two major problems–duplicate content and likely, lower conversions. Product descriptions are written first for buyers, not bots. 

That said, a good product description for buyers should also be good for SEO. Here are some tips for writing product descriptions for SEO and conversions: 

  • Include the most important information above the fold. 
  • Highlight benefits, but provide a bulleted list of product features.
  • Include keywords in your product description.
  • Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes.
  • Make it skimmable–include icons and bulleted lists.
  • Eliminate empty words–every word should add meaning to the description.
  • Answer common questions–what is the product, what does it do, and why is it worth buying?

For an example of product page descriptions that work, look at Glossier. 

The product description for Glossier’s milky jelly cleanser includes all the important information (pricing, sizes, etc.) above the fold. It includes keywords like “conditioning face wash” and “gel face wash” throughout. It is also easy to read with short descriptions, product images, and bulleted lists. 

5. Add high-quality product images, but watch out for loading speed.

A fast loading speed is critical to ecommerce websites. Unbounce reports that 70% of shoppers say page speed influences their likelihood of buying from an online store. 

Page speed impacts the user experience, and it’s a ranking factor for search engine optimization. Ideally, your pages will load within one to two seconds. 

Many factors impact page loading speed, but the size of images is one of the easiest that you can control. The rule of thumb for images is to keep the size below 70 KB. 

If you are having a difficult time reducing the size without impacting quality, you can try a smaller image size. You can also change image formats. For example, a JPEG image usually has a much smaller file size than a PNG. 

6. Name image files with keywords and add alt text.

Speaking of product images, make sure that when you upload them, they are named descriptively using keywords. For example, instead of adding a product image that is titled “image1.png”, rename it with a descriptive keyword like “blue-fanny-pack.png”

Then, add alt text. This is descriptive text that appears for screen readers, and in case an image doesn’t load on your site. It’s not only important for SEO but for accessibility standards.

7. Embed product videos.

Video content can vastly improve your product page conversions. Combine it with SEO, and you can have more traffic and potential customers. 

Sometimes, the best way to describe how your product works is by showing how it works. Site visitors that watch a product video are 73% more likely to buy. Of course, the quality of the product video is important too. Some quick tips for product videos are: 

  • Keep it short–under 30 seconds.
  • Show how your product solves a problem. 
  • Bring the product to life–go beyond an image and show the product in action.

Another advantage of product videos for SEO is that, if they are set up with schema, they can appear in Google’s rich video snippets. (More on that below.)

8. Add schema markup to appear in rich results.

Google is continuously adding more search results features to help users discover products. Rich results, also called rich snippets, are Google search results that go beyond the basic text and blue link format. They can be image carousels, videos, or interactive elements. Common rich results for ecommerce companies are:

  • Product – (Popular Products)
  • Reviews – (Star ratings and customer reviews)

To appear in rich results, there are specific product page SEO requirements–mainly structured data or schema markup. You can test whether or not your product pages support rich snippets by adding the link to Google’s Rich Results Test.

9. Include social proof, most importantly reviews.

Out of all the elements on a product page, you can bet that people will read reviews no matter what. In fact, 93% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase. 

It is probably obvious by now that reviews influence a customer to buy a product. However, did you know that reviews also impact SEO? 

Reviews act as trust signals for customers and search engines. If you feature reviews from real customers on your site, you could be rewarded with a higher search engine ranking. 

Allbirds has some of the best product page reviews. For example, on the product page for its men’s wool running shoes, visitors can search inside reviews. It signals that Allbirds cares about customers’ experiences, and makes it easier for new customers to research. 

Visitors can sort and filter results to look for past buyers that have similar shoe sizes, widths, and more. 

10. Pair product pages with high-quality SEO content.

Product pages are instrumental to any ecommerce site. However, they are designed for people that already have some idea of what they want. In other words, visitors may be in the consideration or conversion stage of the customer funnel already. But, what if a purchase requires a little more education? What if a customer is familiar with a product, but isn’t sure what size or other features they need? 

High-quality SEO content like how-to blogs can help educate consumers about your products in ways that product pages can’t. 

Take REI for example. The outdoor gear and clothing store is taking a holistic approach to its marketing. You can tell because they appear on the first page of results in paid search, organic results, and rich snippets for highly relevant keywords. It doesn’t cannibalize keywords because each result is different. For example, there are local searches for retail locations and keyword-based results. 

In addition, when you search for “sleeping bags”, REI appears in Google’s Popular Products as well as general search results. 

Now, in addition to optimizing its product pages for SEO, REI is optimizing content. Using sleeping bags as an example, a question that people searching for sleeping bags often have is what temperature rating do you need? 

Temperature ratings are a sleeping bag product feature that new buyers may not be familiar with, so it’s worth educating them through long-form SEO content. In fact, REI does just that. Looking at this blog on How to Choose a Sleeping Bag, you’ll see one of the first sections is “Understanding Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings”.

 

REI is currently ranking for the keyword “sleeping bag temperature ratings”, as well as other sleeping bag-related queries.

Of course, much more goes into optimizing product pages for ecommerce. It’s a good idea to A/B test changes to a product page to see how it impacts conversions. Fixing technical product page SEO issues can be much more complex too. Features like adding structured schema can take a lot of time and attention to detail. These tips can set you on the right path, but if you want to dive deeper, you may want to seek an ecommerce growth agency with experience in product page SEO to get additional expertise. 

holiday ecommerce sales

How We Used Mountain for Tea Drops to Boost Their Holiday eCommerce Sales

holiday ecommerce sales

When it comes to growth through paid acquisition, diversity is the name of the game. Diversity in messaging, diversity in tactics and diversity in channels. In this case study, we’re going to be talking about the last one: Channel Diversification. 

There are so many different channel options out there, it can be difficult to choose what’s best for your company. As part of being an ecommerce growth marketing agency, we’re always on the lookout for new channel options to help our partners hit their revenue targets. It’s important to have a healthy mix of channels to hit users on different platforms at various stages of their buying journey.

Looking to generate very, very high level awareness? Maybe try ads through a programmatic connected TV platform.

Picking up users who have an interest in the types of products you sell? Facebook and Instagram would be a good fit.

Want users who are searching directly for a solution your product provides? Google ads will do the trick there. 

Building a comprehensive growth marketing strategy typically includes a combination of all of the above, with some more channels sprinkled in. This is exactly what Tea Drops, one of our partners, asked us to do for them when they teamed up with Tuff towards the end of Q3 2021. 

Tea Drops and Tuff

Tea Drops is a CPG brand that figured out a new, unique take on one of morning’s most simple pleasures, the cup of tea. Their compressed drops dissolve in hot water, giving you the perfect cup of tea without dealing with the bag. 

“Tuff is an amazing team, extremely organized, and driven to produce results! We have churned through multiple agencies in our lifetime, and have been so impressed by Tuff.” – Sashee Chandran, Founder and CEO at Tea Drops (See all Google Reviews here).

Tea Drops came to us in September looking for help growing their brand and sales online through paid acquisition. They had seen some success in the past but needed a team to bring some stability to their network of acquisition channels, as well as a strategy to make these channels work together. At the time of the partnership starting, we had identified 5 channels we wanted to run ads on for them:

  • Facebook/Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Tik Tok
  • Google
  • Bing

This combination of channels would give us full coverage of the funnel and allow us to hit users at any point of their buying journey. 

As we moved closer to Black Friday/Cyber Monday we saw success across channels but were running into an interesting problem on paid social: We were having trouble converting retargeting traffic. We saw strong results coming in from cold traffic, but when going after users who had already been to the site we didn’t see the same efficiencies. Retargeting is typically an area where you see higher efficiency, so this was clearly a problem that needed addressing. 

At this point we knew that we needed a different solution to convert retargeting traffic that our existing channel mix couldn’t provide, so we turned to Mountain.

How we used Mountain for Tea Drops.

As I mentioned earlier, the team at Tuff is always trying to expand our channel expertise. As we take on different types of partners, programmatic ads have been showing up in our channel mixes more and more. There are a ton of different programmatic channels out there for advertisers, but Tea Drops had an account set up with Mountain already with historical spend, so we started there. 

There are two main offerings from Mountain, connected TV ads and display network ads. Since we’re focused on driving last click conversion for Tea Drops, we stayed away from the connected TV offering and decided to introduce ads on the display network (for more info on how to decide which attribution model is right for you, check out this post.)

We needed a solution for the very bottom of the funnel, so we set up our campaigns to only target users who I’ve added items to their cart, but have not completed a purchase. On the creative side, we used one of Mountain’s dynamic options to set our ad creative to populate with products that that user had either added to their cart or had browsed on the website. This was accomplished by making sure that the link between Shopify and Mountain was populating the product catalog correctly on the ad platform side, and that our Mountain pixel tracking was set up properly.

The dynamic aspects of the ad creative alongside a 15% off offer yielded really strong results f

dynamic ad creative for holiday sales

or us almost immediately after activating this campaign. As we moved past Black Friday and Cyber Monday and into the month 

of December, which can always be a tricky month for e-commerce advertisers, we were able to rely on Mountain to deliver low cost, bottom of funnel purchases where our other paid social channels fell short.

This channel was treated as very much a supplementary channel to our overall mix. Given that we were only targeting users who have added to cart without purchasing, we didn’t need to dedicate a large amount of budget to Mountain. For the month of December, we decided that this channel would take 1.5% of our overall ad budget. We have the benefit of testing it for a couple weeks before moving into this crucial holiday to find where the optimal spend would be for our audience.

Results

Tea Drops did very well advertising on the channels that we outlined earlier during Black Friday and Cyber Monday but there was a big question mark around how we would perform early in the month of December. This is a time of year that people typically associate with increased purchasing but it can be hard to forecast revenue numbers and purchase intent coming off the back of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which is typically a more lucrative time for e-commerce businesses. 

As we moved into early December, Mountain really started to pick up in terms of purchase volume and efficiency where some of our other channels took a step back coming off Black Friday deals that we were advertising. 

For Tea Drops, we have very clear CPA goals for each of our channels we’re running ads on. During the first two weeks of December, Mountain was able to deliver purchases at a cost of $14.14 each, which was more than 50% lower than our target CPA across paid social channels. This is a huge boost for us, especially considering that we were not seeing efficient purchases coming at the bottom of the funnel with our Facebook and Instagram ads, which were taking up the majority of our budget. 

By placing only 1.5% of our ad budget to Mountain, it generated 3.5% of our total attributed purchases for the month of December. This might sound like a small number, but when you’re dealing with larger budgets, this can make a big difference to the bottom line.

Conclusion

If you’ve gotten this far in the post you might be asking yourself “Why is there an entire post dedicated to a tactic that took 1.5% of a partner’s budget?” 

This is really the core of what Growth Marketers and Channel Experts do here at Tuff. If there’s any opportunity to find more efficient results by using different tactics or different channels, it’s pretty much a guarantee that we are going to explore it. This might sound corny, but driving great results for our partners is what gets us out of bed in the morning. It helped us bring great results Tea Drops during a crucial time of year for them and it’s an approach that we take all of our partners.

If you’re interested in seeing what sort of Channel mix our team would recommend for your eCommerce business reach out and set up a call with our team. We’d love to chat.

customer analytics dashboard on computer for ecommerce

Using Customer Insights to Unlock eCommerce Growth

customer analytics dashboard on computer for ecommerce

Alternative analytic programs to Google Analytics are becoming a dime a dozen. Especially since the rollout of iOS 14, advertisers are flocking to more third-party sources for attribution modeling and customer insights. As an e-commerce growth agency, we’ve worked with several of these third-party platforms: Mixpanel, Amplitude, and Daasity for starters.

Each of these platforms has their own pros and cons – but Mixpanel in particular has helped unlock e-commerce metrics that are crucial for long-term growth far beyond what comes with Google Analytics. 

What e-commerce metrics matter, and why? 

A lot of growth marketing metrics that are crucial for growth can be found in Google Analytics: acquisition channel-specific conversion rates, product sales by acquisition channel, individual sku performance, multi-channel funnels, and more. However, customer-level insights are harder to identify in Google Analytics. 

Some of the customer level insights that e-commerce growth agencies identify using Mixpanel:

  • Customer retention by product 
  • Conversion rate effect by specific events (specific URL views, landing page, etc.)
  • Cohort analysis by specific groupings (product purchased, acquisition channel, etc.)
  • Event identification for high-converting customers 

Identifying What Customer Insights are Important to Measure

Because Mixpanel measures each event for each of their identified users, you can get super lost in the weeds looking for insights. Before you start scouring individual customer profiles looking for commonality, take a high-level approach at the data. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What actions on my website do I consider to be important in the purchasing decision? 
  • What existing user flows am I using to generate sales? 
  • What does my ideal customer look like? 
  • What products do I sell that my customers actually care about? 
  • Have I made any updates or changes to my e-commerce site that could affect performance? 

These questions identify a plethora of interesting analysis opportunities, and a skilled e-Commerce growth agency can help you take the findings and turn them into actionable takeaways. 

Data Analysis With Customer Insights in Mixpanel

Mixpanel’s reports allow for the data curious to create custom dashboards where KPIs can be monitored on an ongoing basis.

Let’s start with this question: “What products do I sell that my customers actually care about?” from our earlier section. The 80-20 (Pareto) rule suggests that 80% of what we do stems from 20% of our input, or in e-commerce land: 80% of our sales typically come from 20% of our catalog or efforts. Here’s how you can make a dashboard that allows you to monitor product performance in a way that develops insights. 

  • Product Combinations: Taking the “Order Success” event, add a filter of product handles, with a breakdown of the ordered products. This provides a list of frequently purchased product combinations. This can help identify product bundles and upsell opportunities to create higher average order value. 
  • Trending Products with Your Purchasers: Using the insights report, add “Product Viewed”, add a filter of a cohort of users who have purchased a product, and add a breakdown of product handle to ID trends in product interest with your high intent users. This can help identify trends in seasonality, what products your purchasers are most interested in, and areas to amplify marketing efforts.
  • Retention by Product: Using the funnel report you can identify repeat purchasers by using the order success event with an inline filter by product handle, and then a second order success within a certain time frame (90, 180 days, etc.), and breakdown by product handle to evaluate retention by product. Make sure you’re familiar with your platform’s retention parameters when setting up this report! 

These three reports can provide lots of actionable insights on an ongoing basis. Take, for example, the trending products report. You can use this report to compare sales and product page views – and determine which of your products are resonating with your purchasers. Monitoring this on a compared time basis (rolling 7-day, 14-day, and 28-day windows) also allows you to identify seasonal trends, underperforming products, and opportunities to cross-sell. With this dashboard, you can begin to answer the question, “what products of mine do my customers actually care about?”, and focus efforts on what will move the needle for your e-commerce business.

How an E-commerce Growth Agency Can Capitalize on Data Insights with Mixpanel

Growth agencies can use data insights from Mixpanel to make a variety of improvements to their e-commerce growth strategy. At Tuff, we use data from Mixpanel, and other alternative customer insight platforms to implement improvements to our marketing funnels and make strategic decisions surrounding user experience. 

We commonly look at cohorts of users broken into categories such as initial source, and evaluate their on-site activity, their conversion percentages, and their retention to determine an accurate LTV. Segmenting our cohorts and evaluating their long-term performance allows us to optimize our paid efforts and determine the effectiveness of individual campaigns, platforms, and even userflows.

Speaking of user flows, an e-commerce growth agency that specializes in CRO, such as Tuff, can identify common trends using Mixpanel to make UX recommendations. We’ve used product combinations, low conversion rates with specific cohorts (such as purchasers, serial product viewers, etc.), and conversion rates by specific events (such as specific collection page views, etc.) to prioritize and deprioritize elements with our user experience. Whether it’s making a navigation update, or changing the prioritization of collections within the collection page, you can measure the effectiveness of these updates using the Impact tool in Mixpanel as well. 

The Future of Customer Insights

As Apple, Google, Facebook, and other major internet players continue to fight over privacy, using a third party tool such as Mixpanel, Daasity, or Amplitude provides a significant advantage to e-commerce companies. Their data can help in all facets of product marketing: identifying trends, helping match with better lookalike audiences, and optimizing their funnel. If you want to talk to an e-commerce growth agency about how you can leverage your customer insights better, book a free growth marketing session with Tuff today! 

shipping pre order and delivery

Fill That Pipeline! Our Top Tips for Pre-Order eCommerce Advertising

Global supply chains, amirite? One of the most interesting and complicated disruptions in eCommerce advertising in 2021 has been the global supply chain crisis caused by COVID-19. Seemingly unrelated, right? Think again!

Even if the particularities are news to you, you’ve probably felt the repercussions. Many manufacturers who typically produce consumer goods either stopped manufacturing entirely during COVID, or quickly refocused on masks, hand sanitizer, cleaning products, personal protective gear, and more. 

Now, normal manufacturing has (mostly) resumed, and demand for shipping from Asia is at an all time high, causing 6-8 week delays in inventory for many eCommerce websites. And a lot of headaches. Experts anticipate that the backlog could potentially not be resolved until Q1 2022. 

This leaves eCommerce companies without fulfillable inventory for 6-8 weeks (at least), but no way they can simply stop taking orders. Especially while their competitors continue to proceed as usual. 

It’s become a total shift in thinking: instead of the instant satisfaction of next day shipping from Amazon Prime, many people aren’t getting their orders for two months after they’ve ordered it. And, as we see it, this shift is here to stay. (Even Shopify agrees with us). What started as a necessary pivot to compensate for major manufacturing hiccups has become a proof of concept that can benefit eCommerce businesses long after we say, “see ya” to 2021. A quick few reasons:

  • Positive effects on cash flow
  • Flexibility on product launches
  • Risk offset

For our clients to stay competitive as their industry shifts around them, we’ve developed and tested multiple pre-order strategies to create new user flows and define new best practices for eCommerce pre orders. 

Use Your Own Data

The boogie man of digital advertisers—iOS 14.5—has thrown wrenches when it comes to attribution and data collection for many eCommerce companies. If you’ve been heavily reliant on Facebook Ads Manager for attribution reporting, you likely are feeling the burn of the change, and are looking for different ways to target users and discern how effective your campaigns are. 

The good news is that despite iOS 14.5 causing tracking issues within Facebook Ads Manager, Google Analytics and your own proprietary data within your eCommerce CMS should have emerged from the iOS 14.5 battle unscathed. If you are using manual UTMs for your advertising campaigns, you can still audit campaign performance in Google Analytics, Mixpanel, or your other tool. Further, you can segment this down to the campaign and ad level, so there’s no shortage of data you can pull – time on site, CVR, pages per session, etc. that can help you optimize your eCommerce advertising campaigns

If you’re using an eCommerce CMS such as Shopify, you can also use your existing customer data to optimize your eCommerce pre-order campaigns. Some of the many ways you can utilize this data in creative ways to increase your total pre orders:

  • Take the emails of your customers, upload to Facebook as a Lookalike audience, layer on additional targeting parameters, and drive traffic to your site for more pre orders.
  • Take the emails of abandoned cart users, upload to Facebook and retarget with ads to improve your CVR.
  • Take the emails of abandoned cart users and create a special drip campaign to improve their knowledge of your product and offer a discount to convert.

Test Different Campaign Optimizations

Effective eCommerce advertising campaigns take a three-prong approach: Top of Funnel, Middle of Funnel, and Bottom of Funnel. The movement from awareness, to consideration, to conversion is essential for creating an engaged audience who would pre order from your eCommerce brand. 

One of the best tests for pre-order campaign optimizations is trialing different campaign objectives and bidding types. Take, for example, Facebook. To exit the learning phase, Facebook requires approximately 50 optimization events before the campaign starts delivering at an optimized level. If your conversion metric is a purchase event, that’s 50 purchases before your campaigns start delivering normally. 

For top of funnel campaigns, consider optimizing for a higher funnel conversion metric like landing page views or video views. The primary focus is to drive awareness and consideration prior to purchase, so consider a cheaper optimization event so you can focus on converting users deeper in the funnel. 

For middle of funnel and bottom funnel campaigns, consider optimizing for add-to-cart events, or checkout initiated events prior to optimizing for the purchase event. 

The same applies for PPC campaigns, even though they aren’t as affected by iOS 14.5 as Facebook. If you’re utilizing Google Search or Shopping for driving pre orders, consider testing different conversion metrics and bidding types (max clicks vs. max conversions, manual cpc vs. target ROAS, etc.) to see what works best for collecting pre orders. 

Using Facebook’s lead generation objective is way overrated. 

Many agencies are promoting the collection of first-party data as a response to iOS 14.5 – namely, increasing the number of tangible items they can target users with. As a result, there has been an increased focus on collecting emails, and then using them to nurture users through a lead funnel. The thought process is pretty simple: if you can collect an email for a reasonable rate, say, $2.50 an email, you can use your email service provider like Klaviyo or Mailchimp to nurture the lead into a normal conversion rate. The problem is that it’s not quite that simple. 

Normal eCommerce email conversion rates for top of funnel campaigns are decreasing. According to Klaviyo, the conversion rate for eCommerce email can vary from 0.96% to 2.13%. If we take the average of that, 1.54%, and then look at our cost per lead, the expected cost per acquisition would be approximately $162. 

($2.50 x 100) / 1.54 = $162

For a lot of eCommerce companies, this customer acquisition cost (CAC) would far surpass the lifetime value (LTV) of their customers. In addition, this is an average across all industries and email capture techniques. Typically, leads generated from Facebook have a lower quality than leads captured on a landing page. 

In a recent project with a Tuff client, the client provided an email list of 3,200 users generated by another lead generation agency to fuel a pre-order crowdfunding campaign. The email list had the relevant, important data you would expect – first name, last name, and email address. The average email lead cost was $1, and the product they were selling retailed for approximately $95. The entire list was subjected to a drip campaign, and generated 22 purchases for $2,200 in total revenue, and a CAC of $145 ($50 more than the AOV / expected LTV for a single purchase product). In this instance, the email list generated a conversion rate of 0.67%, while all other traffic generated a conversion rate of 1.42% overall. All this to say – email can be an incredibly effective compliment to your eCommerce pre-order campaign, but should not be your primary focus. 

Over-Communicate With and Educate Your Customers:

Purchasing a product online can be stressful, even though most consumers are used to buying products online at this point (Statista estimates that 230 million Americans will buy something online in 2021). The added lag time of delivery for a pre-order product can cause consumers anxiety and second guessing. You can tackle this head on in three simple ways:

  • Be transparent about pre-order delivery estimates
  • Keep users updated with relevant order information 
  • Spending time educating customers on the benefits of your product (especially in top of funnel marketing campaigns) 

The objective of these three strategies is two-fold: 

  • Educating—using your ads and landing pages—on product benefits helps prospective customers buy into your brand and know their purchase is worth the wait. You’re fighting a consumer base that is trained to expect their Prime delivery within 48 hours, so they really need to believe in you to fulfill their expectations.
  • Perform an audit on your ad creative: are you using your copy to provide testimonials, product benefits, and use cases? Is your creative showing the product in use? Don’t lead with a cold sell in your top of funnel campaigns. Educate your users before your sole objective is to get them to buy. 
  • Being transparent that your product is backordered or pre-order only, and spending time keeping users updated on estimated delivery dates (delays, etc.) can help reduce the amount of order cancellations, churn, and negative consumer sentiment. It’s all about managing expectations. If you pre order a product with a two-month wait time, and a month into the wait you receive an email saying it’ll be an additional two weeks for delivery, it’s much better than sitting there waiting with no context or information. Save your customer support some time and be proactive in your communication. Communication is a core component of creating positive customer experiences, and should be a focus point for your pre-order campaigns.

Don’t Focus Solely on Last Click Attribution

Because eCommerce advertisers are more reliant on using Google Analytics to optimize campaigns, it’s easy to make assumptions regarding which campaigns are driving sales. More often than not, these assumptions are part of a larger picture. Since pre orders require multiple touch points and larger consideration time than a normal purchase behavior, spend time familiarizing yourself with the multiple routes users take to make a purchase decision. 

For this Tuff client, 67% of all their pre orders are made with two or more interactions with the website. Some of the top conversion paths include Google PPC to direct or organic sessions that convert, Paid Social to direct conversions, and more. Understanding how your customers reach a purchasing decision, and monitoring the amount of interactions it takes to convert, can help eCommerce advertisers know how to optimize their spend and campaigns. 

Google analytics attribution information

Taking pre orders can be an essential part of an effective eCommerce strategy. If you’re hoping to grow your eCommerce business and are looking for a partner to supercharge your growth, schedule a free Growth Marketing Strategy session with Tuff today!

shoes for an ecommerce case study

Stacking the Top of the Funnel: How We Captured High-Value Email Leads for Canoe Club

ecommerce quiz example

Among our list of eCommerce partners, the central focus of nearly all of their growth marketing strategies is the same: grow revenue. So, in order to do this, channel selection and tactics are primarily focused on driving customers to their websites who convert the most efficiently. That way, we’ll be able to scale their businesses and put marketing dollars towards the channels with the highest return. Winning.

While there are many metrics to keep track of and many ways to measure the success of revenue-driving campaigns, at Tuff, we cut through the noise and hone in on last-click attribution. This is the best way to quickly learn which channels are most effective and deserve the most attention from our paid ad budgets. 

9 times out of 10, last click is a great performance indicator for growing a brand, But what about the other 10% of the time? What’s the right strategic approach for eCommerce brands that have longer customer journeys? We most often see these longer journeys associated with luxury items that are higher priced—here, the customers spend more time in the consideration phase, making sure their decision to buy is right before they pay the high ticket price.

In those scenarios, we still keep last click as our preferred attribution model, but instead of locking in on just revenue as our main goal, we add leads into the equation as well.

Here’s how we do it: 

eCommerce Lead Generation: is it right for me?

For eCommerce lead generation to be a smart tactic for your brand to employ, you need a dedicated email marketing funnel—one that you’re managing relatively hands-on and improving on a regular basis. You also need some sort of sales strategy designed to convert your leads. You also need a way to qualify leads and have a measurable way to determine their value or potential value. Without these two mechanisms, lead generation will not work for your eCommerce brand. 

I have an eCommerce popup, does that count as lead generation?

To get super pointed with a definition: lead generation is defined as the initiation of consumer interest into products or services of a business. 

While eCommerce website popups are one proven way to grab website visitors’ emails in exchange for a free shipping or percentage offer discount, they can limit the consumer experience and hurt your perception (blame this on their overuse in the last decade). 

Our new favorite eCommerce Trend for lead generation is to develop a standout quiz or poll to capture contact information and provide you with the following: 

  • A way to prove your industry expertise.
  • A non-aggressive tactic to grab consumer insight.

Can you show me an example of an eCommerce Lead Generation Strategy?

Why yes, we can!

One of our partners, Canoe Club, is a high-end fashion retailer based in Boulder, CO. 

From a marketing standpoint their products differ from traditional eCommerce brands in two distinct ways: 

  1. Their inventory is ever-changing. Products from their brands are purchased in low quantities so what might be available one day won’t necessarily be available the next day.
  2. They’re a retail brand store, so they are selling other brands’ products. These products are on the higher end and have a higher barrier to entry. 

Due to these distinctions, Canoe Club’s customer lifetime value is higher than average, but finding individuals who meet their criteria doesn’t happen at a mass scale. 

Many people need time to find their Canoe Club fit and often times that won’t be on their first, second, or even third visit to the store. 

Additionally, even if Canoe Club has something a new visitor likes, they might not necessarily have it in their size. Their product lineup is based on buying seasons and quantities are limited per size. 

So instead of paying expensive costs to keep customers in an advertising funnel’s consideration phase, we worked with Canoe Club to develop a lead generation machine that captured leads at a high rate. We originally spotted this opportunity when we noticed the high traffic to email conversion rate

While we drove much of the strategy that laid the foundation for this successful tactic, we couldn’t have done it without the Canoe Club team. They developed a highly addicting, user-friendly quiz that drives prospective customers to sign up with their email. 

Appropriately called the Style Compass Quiz, this interactive quiz uses sophisticated TypeForm logic to assign users one of four style archetypes. 

We fell in love with the Style Compass Quiz the minute we laid eyes on it at Tuff. It’s far from stuffy and spammy, and is so unique that our Growth Marketer, Kristin said:

Slack message about Canoe Club quiz.

And she wasn’t wrong. On Instagram, Facebook, and even Reddit – the quiz has done insanely well at generating leads for Canoe Club. Here are our Campaign Results to date: 

Campaign Results 
Spend $3,191.43
Traffic 8,691
Emails 3,108
Cost Per Email $1.02
Traffic to Email CVR 39%

With this style quiz, we’ve been able to increase Canoe Club’s email list size significantly and provide a way for them to capture people in the awareness and consideration phase at a low cost. 

From here, Canoe Club can do what they do best, which is to provide their subscribers with email marketing updates on their ever-changing lineup of fits and seasonal brand drops.

And we can keep doing what we do best, driving qualified traffic from established and niche ad channels that take action. In this case, the action is subscribing with an email address.

We are currently using Facebook to hone in on luxury audiences that may not convert on the first few website visits, but are great consumers to have in an email marketing flow. 

The other channel we are using is Reddit. Often left out of most Growth Marketing Strategies, Reddit presents a unique opportunity for brands to leverage their extensive collection of niche communities on topics ranging from fashion and style to bitcoin to sports (to name a few). 

Reddit advertising allows you to get in front of these niche communities with an offer. In this case, it’s for our style compass quiz: 

Canoe Clube Reddit Ad

While generating revenue from Redditors isn’t the easiest, we’ve been fairly successful at generating email leads from these communities. 

To conclude, finding a piece of content, quiz, or poll that your potential customers can interact with and leave their contact information is a great way for you to grow your email list, prove your expertise in your industry, and learn about your consumer. 

Finding the right channels and audiences to market this to is the challenge, but when done correctly can diversify your business’s revenue streams and provide an opportunity for you to grow other parts of your business aside from daily revenue. For more eCommerce growth tips, head to our eCommerce Playlist

Typing on slack.

ECommerce Growth Tips From Experts (Tuff Roundup)

If we told you that $1 in every $5 spent in the entire retail industry was spent in online stores, would you believe us? Good news, you don’t have to take our word for it – the U.S. Department of Commerce released figures showing that e-commerce businesses made $245.28 billion in Q4 2020, up 32.1% from the previous year. This was nearly double the growth in 2019 – thanks in part to COVID-19.

It’s not like retail sales struggled in 2020 either. The entire retail industry grew by 9% even in lockdown: which makes the rapid growth of e-commerce sales all that much more impressive. 

What does that mean for Ecommerce business owners? If you’ve got an online store – the competition is growing, and driving traffic is more important now than ever to make sure you’re not falling behind. At Tuff, we’ve worked with over 50+ brands in 4 years to develop and execute eCommerce growth marketing strategies. As such, we’ve learned a thing or two – so we asked the team to share some tips from their experiences. 

Kristin:

 “Buckle up, because the way that performance marketers use and report on Facebook advertising is about to change big time.” 

Since Apple announced iOS 14 and all the privacy updates that come along with it, we’re expecting some major changes to the performance of Facebook ads for e-comm brands, especially when it comes to retargeting and attribution. 

As users begin to opt out of sharing data with apps like Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitter, the pixels for those channels — the ones that allow us to track and retarget users that visit your site — will be kinda useless on mobile devices. This is going to make our retargeting audiences small, slow to populate, and skew the audience pool towards users on desktop devices.

Having a holistic strategy and diversifying on multiple acquisition channels is going to be more important than ever. How has your ECommerce brand prepared for iOS 14? 

John:

“Your number one focus as an ECommerce Brand should be to generate targeted performance content that search engines will slap on page one.”

Acquisition isn’t solely about paid advertising – ECommerge growth is also influenced by a brand’s organic content marketing strategy. ECommerce content strategies are slightly different than a B2B, or SaaS content strategy, but the principals are mostly the same. Instead of writing white papers, or case studies, ECommerce brands can create product pages, guides, and how-to articles that are stacked with highly optimized content for search engines. 

If you aren’t utilizing performance content to reach potential customers – you’re ignoring a long-term strategy that can reap loads of benefits in the long run. 

Matt:

“Simply put, product descriptions really do matter.”

Engaging and optimized product copy can enhance the SEO of your ECommerce site, while copied descriptions from manufactures or other websites will make certain that Google’s algorithms keep your pages from ever ranking. 

When you write something you have to consider the SEO value and how Google and other search engines will see it. Additionally, at the end of the day, that 75-100 word product description is what is going to push your customer to convert. This is your chance to differentiate what makes your product better than the other 100 products out there like it – so get to it. 

McKenzie:

“When it comes to launching successful Facebook and Instagram ads for ECommerce brands, we take a two-pronged approach with prospecting and retargeting campaigns.” 

Our prospecting campaigns focus on bringing in new customers with interest-based and lookalike audiences. Once we’ve generated enough traffic and/or conversions on the website, we’ll launch a retargeting campaign using Facebook’s conversion tracking pixel to re-target people who have visited or engaged with the ECommerce brand’s website. Retargeting campaigns are crucial for eCommerce brands in order to yield more conversions and sales.

Having a strategy that works users through a funnel helps improve awareness, consideration, and ultimately purchase from customers. Tailoring every campaign we create, testing, and optimizing campaigns to quickly drive ROI is what makes social advertising at Tuff so different. 

Richard:

“Many brands don’t fully utilize personalization on their websites to its fullest potential. Whether you’re looking to increase average order value by product upsells, or just improve conversion rates – personalization is the hottest trend in ECommerce optimizations right now.”

How many times have you browsed an ecommerce website thinking you were going to buy one thing, and ended up buying another? Seeing content sections such as “Customers Also Viewed”, or “Top Selling Products” utilizes personalization to provide customers the opportunity to make sure they are choosing the best product for their needs. 

Personalization is directly tied to higher average order values, and higher conversion rates. Whether you’re trying to cut down on abandoned carts, increase session time, or just upsell – personalization has a solution for you, so test, test, test!

Chris: 

“For ECommerce brands, Google Shopping is a must. The lower-than-search CPCs coupled with buying intent is a win-win. But, it’s important first to create a well-structured shopping feed and strong negative keyword list to avoid wasted spend and to give your products the best chance at showing in searches for the ideal search terms.” 

Google Shopping is an excellent mid-low funnel placement, that when coupled with Search and Youtube campaign strategy can be highly effective. Because users are reviewing loads of products in their searches, you will have a fair mix of users who click to price-compare, or are doing initial research. Since the CPCs are lower, however, it’s still a very cost-effective platform. 

A major added bonus of Google Shopping is that it occupies valuable real estate in SERPs (search engine result pages). If your product is featured, and you also happen to have a search ad appearing for the same keyword – you’re occupying a lot of space at the top of the page that is very valuable for attracting customers. 

Because Google Shopping utilizes a broad match technique – making sure your product feed is optimized for searches pertinent to your product keywords is essential. Having optimized titles and descriptions is one way to match to better search results and stand out against competitors. Making sure that you’ve also added a negative keyword list can help reduce spend and take full advantage of users browsing Google Shopping ads. 

eCommerce in 2021 and Beyond:

eCommerce is a constantly evolving industry – what is best Ecommerce practices now, may not be effective a year from now. What we can say for certain is this: eCommerce is here to stay, and brands need to pay attention to their eCommerce strategy. It’s an industry that only will get bigger – and with more participants, comes more competition. 

If you’re in need of an eCommerce Growth Expert – look no further than the Tuff team. Download one of our sample growth marketing proposals, and check out how we can take your ECommerce brand to the next level.

Where Search Happens: Using YouTube to Find Your eCommerce Customers

With the pandemic accelerating eCommerce spending in the US by 44% in 2020, and nearly ⅔ of shoppers saying online video has given them ideas and inspiration for their purchases, it’s easy to see why YouTube advertising has presented a perfect opportunity to enhance an eCommerce brand or product’s presence and drive online sales.

Advanced and wide-ranging targeting options coupled with low CPVs help make YouTube even more appealing to eCommerce brands looking to grow their online revenue.

YouTube knows it’s value to the eCommerce world as well, with the website recently announcing it is testing automatic product detection in videos, with the goal of showing those products in a list to viewers while they are watching the video. 

As the world of eCommerce continues to be influenced by a shift to video, we’ve put together a few pointers on how you can leverage YouTube marketing to grow your eCommerce business and turn YouTube into an eCommerce platform.

Effectively Using YouTube for eCommerce

To set your YouTube channel up for success, it can help to first take the time to create a successful organic strategy, and this starts with creating an awesome channel layout and strong, SEO-optimized content.

Tuff partners and eCommerce brand, Canoe Club, have nailed their YouTube channel layout, creating a memorable aesthetic with thumbnail continuity and easy to navigate playlists, enticing user engagement.

YouTube channel for eCommerce brand.

While having a strong organic YouTube strategy complete with a content calendar and SEO-optimized YouTube content is beneficial for your channel’s growth, particularly in the long run, having a strong organic presence is not necessary to get started taking advantage of other YouTube eCommerce marketing strengths. In fact, one of YouTube’s biggest strengths for eCommerce brands is its ability to launch ads and reach a massive, engaged audience on its ad platform quickly.

Often, budget is cited as a barrier to launching video ads for eCommerce brands. But, if you believe that engaging and effective video ads are too expensive for your brand or product, you may want to reconsider this assumption. Low Fidelity video ads (to chill/study/relax to), or ads that look more like they were shot with someone’s iPhone, are all the rage. This is because savvy marketers like Tuff’s own social expert, Kristin, have learned that these videos can outperform high budget, “professional” videos when competing side-by-side. Knock down those assumptions and pull out your smartphone – it’s time to get on YouTube.

Strategies for Paid YouTube eCommerce Marketing

Once you’ve got that perfect unboxing or product-in-use video ready, you can, within minutes, get your campaign launched and views rolling in. But before launching, you should carefully consider the true goal of your YouTube campaign to determine which campaign type will give you the best chance at success. Are you hoping to increase brand awareness and introduce your product to viewers for the first time? Or are you looking to reinforce your product and re-engage shoppers already familiar with your brand to drive click-thru conversions?

To get the most out of YouTube marketing, consider these effective eCommerce strategies for your campaigns.

Introduce & Engage with Sequences

To create a top-of-funnel interest generating prospecting and awareness campaign, we teamed up with our partner, QuietKat, to develop a YouTube video sequence that would introduce the brand to new prospecting audiences with a branded-focused ad first, before highlighting purchase incentives, such as free trials or 0% financing, or other unique selling points in subsequent videos. By coupling this sequence with a strong target audience, we’ve been able warm up cold traffic and drive new, engaged visitors to the site.

Retarget to Abandoned Carts & Product Viewers

Have a large audience of abandoned carts and product viewers without purchases? Tired of spinning your wheels with crappy display placements that never seem to drive a strong enough return? 

Generally, digital marketers and eCommerce brands will first think of Google Display, Facebook, or Instagram for their retargeting efforts, but as long as you have 1,000 users in your retargeting audiences, consider warming up those audiences further by staying top of mind and driving traffic back to your site with low-cost in-stream ads on YouTube. This retargeting approach is particularly beneficial for products that are best highlighted with video vs. static display images.

Leverage TrueView for Shopping Campaigns

Similar to the recently announced but not yet live product detection algorithm discussed above, TrueView for Shopping Ads give eCommerce brands the opportunity to feature their products on cards below or to the side of the video player when running YouTube ads. This option is already available for advertisers, and is an excellent option for eCommerce brands looking to drive lower-funnel click thru conversions from their YouTube ad campaigns.

YouTube ad preview

To take advantage of TrueView for Shopping campaigns, you’ll need a Merchant Center account and product feed set up. Once your feed is set up, you’re ready to begin leveraging these interactive video ads, featuring up to 6 shopping cards on your ad at a time. These cards can also be filtered to show only the most relevant products for your ad. 

Bonus Tip

Regardless of the campaign type, the best performing YouTube ads have one thing in common – they introduce the brand and/or product within the first 3 seconds of the video. The chart below shows why this is so important. 

Even with high quality content, nearly 50% of viewers will press the “skip ad” button within the first 5-10 seconds. By introducing your brand and product within the first few seconds, you’re sure to at least get your brand name or product in front of the viewer and top of mind before they decide to continue watching or skipping to their selected content.

As shoppers continue to leverage video in their purchase decisions, the benefits of YouTube for eCommerce marketing can’t be overstated. If you’re ready to take your brand’s growth to the next level and leverage the reach and engagement of one of the world’s largest websites, let’s chat about making Tuff your eCommerce growth agency.

A laptop computer on a desk showing an online shop for furniture

9 eCommerce Trends Driving Online Growth in 2021

A laptop computer on a desk showing an online shop for furniture

We get it, we’re sick and tired talking about 2020 just like everyone else. But hear me out: As the world shut down, companies unprepared to sell virtually rushed to bring their products and services into digital spaces. As a result, Shopify, like many other eCommerce CMS (content management systems), saw massive growth, increasing revenue by an unbelievable 89%. This translated to a mind-boggling $2.9 BILLION dollars.

If you recognize your own eCommerce business as part of the above trend, it’s probably time to re-evaluate your online store to see if it’s adhering to best practices and staying up to date as we move further away from 2020 (cheers to that). We put together this guide to help identify areas of growth for your eCommerce revenue in 2021. 

eCommerce Trends

1. Mobile: where shoppers are spending. 

79% of smartphone users have made a purchase on their phone in the last six months. That says it all, doesn’t it? It’d be nice to tidy up this section with two sentences, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Online shopping continues to move more to a mobile-dependent space. In 2016, mobile commerce sales totaled at $0.97 billion globally. That figure is projected to be $3.56 billion in 2021 – over 3x growth in five years. In addition, it’s estimated that up to 73% of eCommerce sales will take place on a mobile device in 2021. Why such a large increase in such a short time frame? 

Mobile commerce has skyrocketed for three main reasons: convenience, accessibility, and increased screen time. 

In the US, mobile device users are spending 24% more time on their smartphones daily than they were in 2016. Social platforms and ad networks have adapted, prioritizing ads so that they’re served on mobile-friendly websites and incentivizing advertisers to have a mobile-friendly experience. 

Mobile shopping isn’t only about purchases online though. With the rise of BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store), users are spending more time reviewing products online to make informed purchasing decisions. Also, over 80% of shoppers said they have used a mobile phone inside a physical store to look up product reviews, or compare prices. Mobile commerce is more than a trend. It’s a movement. If your eCommerce site isn’t designed mobile-first, you may want to re-evaluate. 

So, the question is: does your site have a beautiful mobile experience? If not, get your booty to UpWork and find yourself a UX designer yesterday.

2. Subscriptions: not just for binge watchers. 

A screenshot of Fuego Box's subscription options.

The subscription movement may have started with Netflix, but it sure didn’t stop there. Subscriptions themselves have transformed from a service or product subscription in niche categories to a more practical auto-renewal subscribe-and-save program. By locking in users for auto-recurring orders, brands often reward users with a discount.

This helps eCommerce businesses tremendously; they can pay more to acquire customers because the LTV (lifetime value) of a customer increases tremendously when their purchase auto-renews. This practice largely started because of Chewy.com’s Autoship program, but CMS such as Shopify and Woocommerce are adapting to allow apps and plugins to do the same thing for smaller online stores.

Is your service or product rife for subscription? Have you found success?

3. Social commerce: the real scroll stopper.

Social commerce broadly references a user’s ability to purchase products directly within social media platforms. You’ll see this most often in Instagram—a platform with over 1 billion active users per month. Of this massive number, 130 million tap on shopping posts every month. That’s a lot of volume.

Instagram has been slowly introducing their social commerce platform over the last year and a half, adding tagged products to posts so users can browse catalogs within the app, and now, Instagram Checkout allows users to purchase products without ever leaving Instagram. 

Instagram is putting theory into practice: the fewer clicks, the more likely a purchase. Shopify has been quick to respond by rolling out updates to their marketing channels to allow product catalogs to directly sync with Instagram and Facebook. Since so much of eCommerce user acquisition happens on social channels, this will drastically affect paid social campaigns in 2021 and beyond.  

What’s your best selling product on social? Are you putting enough firepower into activating its full potential?

4. Headless commerce: leaving Shopify out of it. 

For large-scale brands, headless commerce promises to be an early disrupter. This API-driven approach uncouples the front end of your site from a back-end eCommerce platform. Instead, systems communicate via APIs. 

Why do this? For starters, it allows for customization far beyond standard eCommerce CMS. As great as Shopify, Woocommerce, and Magento are, for large scale companies like Nike, Overstock, and more, their needs far outweigh what most CMS provides. 

Additionally, the usage of APIs allows for content management beyond the eCommerce site. Headless commerce can allow for the easy distribution of mass data between the data source and marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay, and Walmart. For large-scale companies distributing their products across multiple platforms, this is a transition that provides scale.  

Even if you’re not an Overstock or a Walmart, understanding the future of eCommerce can help you plan for your business’ future: what are you doing to adapt?

5. DTC growth: not just a COVID phenomenon.

I know I already mentioned that we’re all sick of talking about COVID, but this is the last time I’ll bring it up. I promise. 

DTC (direct to consumer) sales skyrocketed during the start of COVID-19, and continued throughout the end of the year for an increase of 24% annually in the US alone. Direct to consumer eCommerce places an emphasis on users going directly to the brand for purchase, rather than relying on a national marketplace, such as Amazon. 

This affects international brands who are shifting to a hybrid approach to sell direct to consumer as well as retail and marketplace sales. It also affects small businesses who likely can benefit from direct to consumer acquisition instead of paying platform fees to marketplaces or service providers. 

That’s not to mention supporting local businesses, a focus that was sharpened throughout the pandemic married with an increasing dissatisfaction with the way Amazon does business. But that’s a blog post for another day. 

The short story: we all want to better support local. What’s your company doing to help us help you?

6. Pay options: dollar bills are a thing of the past.

A screenshot of QuietKat's homepage advertising a pay overtime option.

Have you noticed that a lot of eCommerce sites have banners promoting buy now, pay later options through third-party services like Affirm, Klarna, or Paypal Pay in 4? Payment flexibility within eCommerce platforms has introduced a new wave of users who finance larger purchases that they wouldn’t normally make. Breaking a large purchase up into four monthly payments, while still allowing for the vendor to be paid immediately, sounds too good to be true – but it isn’t! 

It doesn’t stop with financing options – digital wallets allow for quick and easy payments on eCommerce platforms. Online shopping becomes even easier with one click payments such as Apple Pay, or PayPal checkout. Ease of use, coupled with additional payment options allows users to pay however is convenient for them, and opens up a new market of potential customers.

Don’t have a payment plan installed on your site? You’re missing out on beaucoup revenue!

7. AR/VR: more than just for gamers. 

Augmented and virtual reality is becoming a powerful tool in the customer experience. One of the major complaints about ecommerce is that users don’t  have the ability to test or visualize how products will be in person. Augmented reality changes that and allows users to see 3D models of products for a much better idea of what they’re actually buying. 

Virtual reality goes even further and allows users to place items in the world virtually so you can see how a vase looks on your counter, or a photo on your wall. 35% of users say they are more likely to purchase a product online if they could virtually “try-on” a product before purchasing. This also helps cut down on return cost and potential customer dissatisfaction, building brand loyalty. 

Plus, it’s pretty damn cool. Where does AR or VR fit into your customer experience?

8. Personalization: making your customer feel like you only have eyes for them. 

When advocates or politicians talk about the need to have privacy online, rarely is it ever discussed how data creates a personalized web experience. Certainly there is a need for increased privacy for users, as well as better data collection practices, but this should not come at the expense of a personalized web experience. It’d be bad for advertisers, it’d be bad for users both to have a non-personalized ad experience on social platforms, display networks, and more. In short: there’s a more nuanced way to approach this. 

Even more so, personalization is incredibly important for eCommerce businesses. Personalization for eCommerce can be as simple as having recommended products based on the user’s browsing history within your site. It can be as complicated as dynamic content based on acquisition source and A/B testing user flows for a multi-touch personalized experience. 

Personalization is such a fascinating concept because it’s an easy way to increase conversion rate, average order value, and engage recurring customers on your site. AI powered personalization has produced many fascinating results, showing that revenue lift can be directly tied to a personalized user experience within your eCommerce site. 

Let’s get personal with your customers. What does this look like for them?

9. eCommerce content marketing: welcome to Tuff’s world.

A screenshot of a Tuff content strategy Trello board

Many eCommerce growth agencies are using paid acquisition channels like Facebook, TikTok, Google Shopping, Instagram, and more to generate revenue and acquire new customers. The problem with paid acquisition, however, is that it can be difficult to acquire users at a ROI that makes sense for your business. 

Tuff has seen success with organic eCommerce content marketing for multiple brands. Ranking for non-branded keywords pertinent to your product can help reach users organically in a much more cost effective way for the long term. We recommend balancing paid acquisition with content marketing so there’s a healthy approach to short-term wins, and long-term gains that can drastically increase the number of online shoppers coming to your eCommerce site. 

Know you need juicy content but don’t know where to start? Let’s talk! 

Conclusion

It’s too soon to tell whether or not all of these trends will be here to stay. That said, it’s likely that many of these eCommerce trends in 2021 will persist long after this year is over. When eCommerce trends stay they turn into best practices for a holistic eCommerce business to implement. Three years ago, Instagram was criticized for its implementation of IG-story advertising, and now it continues to be one of the hottest ways to market to users on social media. 

eCommerce marketing is not as scary as it may seem, but it’s nice to have help. As a growth marketing agency, we’ve partnered with over 50+ brands in the last 4 years to couple eCommerce trends and growth marketing techniques for scaling eCommerce businesses.  Want to learn more? Download a sample growth proposal today

A clean desk with a fresh document up for writing a new blog

Powering eCommerce Growth With Content Marketing

A clean desk with a fresh document up for writing a new blog

When we hear from eCommerce companies how they are powering their growth traction with digital marketing, they usually reference their ads performance, how specific products are selling, or how their revenue growth looks from a year over year perspective. 

Rarely do they talk about their eCommerce growth in relation to their organic revenue and content marketing strategy

From our perspective, as an eCommerce growth agency, that should be the number one focus for every eCommerce marketing strategy: generating targeted performance content that search engines will slap on page one. This, most importantly, drives potential customers to your site. And as a bonus, it becomes fodder for sharing in your email newsletter, on social media, and more. 

What is Content Marketing?

“We have a blog!” is the answer we get when we ask brands about their eCommerce content marketing efforts. 

That’s all well and good, but what exactly is on your blog?

If it’s content written for a specific target audience that helps them solve a problem using focus keywords that will enable the search engines to rank you as an authority figure in your industry, then you’re on track. 

If it’s brand content about what your founder had breakfast then keep reading.  

Content marketing is an inbound marketing strategy that eCommerce companies (but really all companies no matter who you’re selling to) should leverage as their go-to lead generation strategy. That’s a bold statement for an agency that also has a robust and powerful team of paid acquisition experts. 

Used in tandem with search engine optimization (SEO), a strong content marketing strategy produces content (think product copy, written articles, infographics, how-to videos) based on keyword analysis and topics related to an eCommerce site’s industry. 

A content strategy agency like Tuff can help you do it, too. 

Why Content Marketing for eCommerce? 

The answer is simple: would you rather pay top dollar for every single keyword you want to rank for in the form of paid search placements or would you prefer to get top rankings for free? 

We’ll assume you went with the less costly approach. 

You may be familiar with content marketing from other industries outside of eCommerce like B2B and SaaS. They produce content like ebooks, white papers, and case studies that contain information that their audience finds useful based on their own unique industry perspective or product. 

eCommerce content strategies are no different, but instead of ebook and white papers, we’re all about helpful guides, how-to articles, and most importantly product pages stacked with content that’s highly optimized for search engines. 

A content marketing strategy for eCommerce enables you to show search engines and most importantly potential customers that you’re an expert on your industry. Just selling products within your industry space isn’t enough, you need to prove that your product or service is solving a problem by being the authority leader in your space. 

How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy for eCommerce

The good news: getting started growing your business with a content marketing strategy for your eCommerce business isn’t rocket science. But it does take some deliberate planning and focused research. 

First, you’ll want to put together a core list of target keywords you want to rank for. 

You might use words you’re bidding for on Google Search campaigns or do research using a search engine marketing tool to find non-branded organic keywords related to your eCommerce industry. 

These will be your focus keywords. As the name implies, you’ll build content around these keywords. For example, check out the focus keywords for this article: 

  • eCommerce content marketing
  • eCommerce growth
  • eCommerce growth marketing
  • content marketing

We’ve chosen them specifically because we know that there’s an opportunity for Tuff to improve our ranking on keywords related to eCommerce content marketing. And the higher we rank, the more people click through to our site. Although we’re not an eCommerce business, the principles hold true: more clicks = more revenue. (How meta is that?)

Once you’ve done your homework, you’ll want to figure out how to incorporate these keywords into a strategy. While there are a number of different ways to go about creating a content strategy, our favorite is the pillar strategy. This is where each keyword focus represents the foundation and you want to build articles off of your foundation to create a pillar. 

Putting These Focus Keywords to Work

Each focus keyword needs to have different types of content built on it. As mentioned, this could be a variety of content types. Consider everything from articles to infographics—this is where things can get tricky, it’s important to create content that is not just designed to attract the attention of search engines, but real humans looking for real answers to their questions. 

The good news: oftentimes many eCommerce brands already have a huge bank of content that they’ve built up over the years. So instead of starting from scratch, it’s possible to take stock of what you’ve already created and design a roadmap for combing through and strategically infusing targeted keywords. This can kickstart a performance content strategy without bucking up and going from 0-60 out the gate.

How to Optimize Your Product Copy with Focus Keywords

A great way to start using your focus keywords is to assign them to top selling products or your entire product catalog (depending on the number of products within your catalog). You will want each of your products to have keyword focus. 

Then using that keyword, it’s best practice to include it within the product title, product description, SEO title, meta description, and product URL. 

This will provide the foundation for your eCommerce content strategy. From here, you’ll want to produce content that features your focus keywords and links back to the foundation product pages that you assigned each specific keyword to. Simple!

Great eCommerce Content Marketing Examples 

Having trouble grasping what a eCommerce content strategy looks like in practice? Here are three examples to show you how it can be done: 

#1) REI.com 

A screenshot of the REI blog with the headline "Expert Advice"

Meet the little-known retailer called REI (kidding). They have a supercharged content strategy that enables them to pull in potential customers on just about any question someone might have about outdoor recreation products. 

Their blog strategy has morphed into what is more clearly defined as a knowledge base on all things recreation equipment—an incredible, powerful, and most notably profitable achievement.  

Strategically creating a knowledge base is becoming a more and more frequent play for eCommerce brands who want to organize their content in a way that enables them to help potential and existing customers on a range of topics. 

Instead of scrolling through endless pages of blog content, website visitors can easily search their knowledge base using a query-based search feature or by selecting topic categories. 

#2) Quietkat.com

A screen shot of the QuietKat blog

For a second selection, here’s a shameless plug for our client, QuietKat, an electric bike brand based out of Colorado. 

We’ve been working with them for the last year to define their SEO content strategy and product content that helps educate existing and potential customers. 

We won’t get too into the nitty gritty of how we do what we do with QuietKat, but take a drive through the QuietKat blog and check out how we’ve designed a content strategy to inform our existing and potential customers on all things electric bikes. 

#3) CulturesForHealth.com

A screenshot of the Cultures for Health blog

The final example of a content strategy from an eCommerce brand we really love is Cultures For Health. Similar to REI, their content is organized within a knowledge base learning center format which enables their website traffic to quickly access the information they need. They can also host multiple types of content together in an aesthetically pleasing fashion that doesn’t look cluttered. 

Their content marketing strategy has allowed them to lay off the paid search play and focus 100% on producing content that their audience loves. 

Here’s a break down of top keywords they rank for and how much organic traffic those keywords generate: 

  • Kombucha – ranking #13 (368,000 searches per month) 
  • Sourdough starter – ranking #16 (201,000 searches per month) 
  • Sauerkraut – ranking #4 (165,000 searches per month) 

Final Thoughts 

While an eCommerce content marketing strategy is not a quick fix, the benefits of a well thought out and executed SEO performance content strategy are huge.

Don’t be in a rush to start ranking on page one for your focus keywords. Rather, build out a strategy and look at from a quarterly growth timeline: where do you want to be ranking in three, six, nine, 12, and 15 months from now? How much content do you need to produce each month to hit your goals? 

Finally, don’t try to do it all yourself. You’ll need some help along the way.

Let a Content Strategy Agency like Tuff help you with the heavy lifting!