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
Traffic8,691
Emails3,108
Cost Per Email$1.02
Traffic to Email CVR39%

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!  

tuff-six-signs-its-time-to-update-your-facebook-ads

Six Signs It’s Time to Update Your Facebook Ads

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new links and examples for you to use! 

Has your Facebook ads performance dipped? Maybe your ads never achieved your desired outcome like increased eCommerce sales or lead generation. Facebook ads performance can drop off — or never take off at all –– for a variety of factors, but one of the most crucial is your ad creative (copy, images, and video). 

Across our clients, Tuff manages anywhere from $1,500 – $100,000 / month in Facebook ad spend. This article pulls from this experience and outlines six factors we’ve identified that can indicate it’s time to update your Facebook ads creative. 

If you don’t have the time to read these detailed explanations, here’s the tl;dr on when to know it’s time to replace your Facebook ads creative: 

  • Campaigns costs are going up / objective completion
  • Ad frequency is getting high causing dreaded ‘ad fatigue’ 
  • Facebook ‘Ad Diagnostic’ scores are ‘below average’
  • Google Analytics is telling you performance has declined 
  • Facebook makes an update to any part of the user experience
  • You’re not selling more or generating more leads despite an initial bump in performance after the campaign launch 

If your ads just didn’t perform in the first place, check your targeting. Even the best ad creative will tank if you aren’t targeting the right audience.

Before jumping into this read, please note, much of what we discuss is irrelevant if your tracking is out of whack. This article assumes that the Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics, and/or other tracking mechanisms are in place to measure your Facebook Ad performance. Unless otherwise stated, all mentions about measurement and metrics are in reference to data available in the Facebook Ads manager and Google Analytics. 

Campaign costs are going up. Is the cost for your campaign objective going up?

We typically focus on Facebook campaign objectives of traffic, leads (website conversions), or eCommerce website purchases. If you’re seeing the average costs for these objectives go up, it may be time to update your ads. For instance, if your campaign used to average $4 per website conversion, but now averages $6, it may be time for an ad refresh.  

Before you get an update underway, verify that the ad set level learning phase is complete (it takes at least 50 events to exit the learning phase, so depending on your budget and campaign objective, it could take a few weeks to exit the learning phase!), no major edits have been done to the campaign, and that there aren’t external factors at play. For instance, an eCommerce apparel brand might see spikes around the holiday shopping season but then dip at the start of the new year. Or a boot camp designed to help med students study might see huge growth at the beginning of the semester, but then taper off after a few months.

Your ad frequency is getting high (AKA ad fatigue)

Ad frequency is an average of how many times people in your target audience have seen your ads. It’s calculated by dividing the total impressions by the total reach. 

Ad frequency report from Facebook Ads

Although there’s no hard and fast rule to abide by, our team likes to evaluate ads for declines in performance at around a frequency of 2. Ad frequency is more of an art form to evaluate though, because frequencies that trigger declines in performance may vary by industry and audience. We have seen frequencies of over 10 lead to conversions in niche B2B verticals. 

High frequencies often lead to a phenomenon called ‘ad fatigue’ wherein your audience is simply tired of seeing your ad. Unlike paid search where intent is high, social ads are intrusive, and interrupt a user’s feed. High frequency and decreasing performance may mean your audience is tired of your ad, and that you should fire up new copy and creative. 

Facebook Relevance Scores are Average or Below Average

Facebook has assigned a ‘relevancy’ score on ads for years. In summer 2019, they broke out relevancy into three categories outlined below. The relevancy scores are now out of three possible ratings, above average, average, and below average. If your ads are scoring ‘below average’ especially in the ‘conversion rate ranking’ or ‘quality ranking’ category, consider a media and copy update. 

Facebook Ad Relevance Diagnostic Categories 

  • Quality Ranking – does your ad ‘fit’ within your audience’s newsfeed? Your ad will receive the worst rating of ‘below average’ if your audience feels like the ad is salesy, trashy, or spam. 
  • Engagement Rate Ranking – similar to organic post’s engagement metrics, are users liking, commenting, and sharing your ad? If your ad can make these things happen you’ll land best marks of ‘above average’ in this category.  
  • Conversion Rate Ranking – will users take the conversion action you’ve optimized your campaign for? Scoring an ‘above average’ here, means users are more likely to ‘convert’ from your ad than average Facebook ads. 

These Facebook Ad Relevance Diagnostics are scored comparatively across ads on Facebook. The ‘below average’ rating in any category will also tell you if you’re in the bottom 35%, 20%, or 10% of ads overall. Poor marks in ad diagnostics are one of the best indications your ad creative should be updated. 

What does Google Analytics reporting tell you?

Google Analytics can be a great arbiter of truth by offering an unbiased look at your Facebook Ads performance. At Tuff, we’ve made it a practice to gut check Facebook campaign reporting with Google Analytics reporting (don’t be surprised when you see that the analytics differ between the two platforms – we often find our Facebook metrics to be slightly inflated compared to Google Analytics). 

Reviewing Facebook Ads with Google Analytics data.

Using UTM parameters on all Facebook ads allows us to see how the campaign objective, audience and creative perform. In Google Analytics, take a look at your Facebook campaign and individual ad set’s cost per session over time. Look at goal completions. If costs are going up or conversions are going down as reported by Google Analytics, it’s a good indicator that it is time to refresh your ads. 

Facebook makes (another) update

Facebook and Instagram are constantly evolving to improve the user experience, and some of those changes call for updates to your ad creative to stay timely and relevant. For example, TikTok and Instagram Reels have changed the way people watch video. Short, vertical videos edited in a style that matches a particular sound are killing it right now. 

When an update like this happens, it might be time to update your antiquated video creative to stay relevant. Remember, social ads interrupt a user’s feed – make sure you’re interrupting it with content that makes sense. 

How’s your bottom line looking?

Facebook and Google Analytics tracking isn’t perfect for a variety of reasons, so at the end of the day, it’s important to evaluate your own balance sheet. Are more or fewer customers becoming leads or making purchases online? Have increases to Facebook campaigns correlated with upticks in business? 

Because of differences in attribution between the two platforms, we often see goal increases in organic and direct site traffic that correlate with an increase in Facebook spend, even though Facebook has a seemingly negative ROAS. 

Is that uptick starting to wane? Use common sense, if you launched a $10,000/month Facebook campaign and saw an uptick in business, the campaign is likely playing a role. When performance declines, it’s time to reset.

Conclusion

Facebook thrives on novelty. People are on Facebook for a number of reasons, but when they’re in the app or on Facebook.com, it’s rare they’re looking for an advertiser’s product or service specifically. Ads should be optimized to stop someone’s scroll and get them to take action. 

As a rule, it’s often good to start planning your next round of Facebook ads before performance ever dips. This way, you’re not caught on your heels when one of the above factors causes a dip in performance. Though great ads paired with ideal audiences can have a tenure of several months, we like to plan for new Facebook Ads creative every 4-6 weeks.

Facebook shops.

Facebook Just Shook Up Your ECommerce Strategy With Facebook Shops

How to setup Facebooks Shops and Instagram shopping.

Instagram Shopping and Facebook Shops are here, and they allow businesses to sell physical products directly through the Facebook and Instagram apps. The game-changing aspect is that there is check-out functionality so users can buy after a click on tagged product without ever leaving the apps.

In this article, I’m going to share details on how it works, how to set it up, and pros and cons of this new service. 

Here’s what’s included:  

  • What is Instagram Shopping and Facebook Shops? 
  • Purchase Flow From Post to Check-out
  • How to Set-up Instagram Shopping  
  • How to run a Facebook Ad that Includes a tagged product or catalog. 
  • Strategic Implications for ECommerce Brands 

What is Facebook Shops and Instagram Shopping? 

On May 19th Facebook announced a new service, Facebook Shops to “…make it easy for businesses to set up a single online store for customers to access on both Facebook and Instagram.” Importantly, they also said, “We’re starting to roll out Facebook Shops today [May 19th, 2020], and it will be more widely available in the coming months.” So if you’re reading this in early summer 2020, there’s a chance this feature hasn’t been enabled for your Facebook Business Manager account yet. 

For people who have been in eCommerce and managed a catalog on Facebook this announcement was a long time coming since Facebook rolled out a Buy on Instagram beta this time last year to brands like Adidas, Uniqlo, Pottery Barn and other major retailers.

Key Features of Facebook Shops 

  • Tag products and collections in posts, stories, and live feeds  
  • ‘View Shop’ button on Instagram Profile 
  • Shop tab on Facebook Profile 
  • Facebook and Instagram Check-out (Requires a Facebook Commerce Manager account) 

From Post to Check-out; Instagram Shop Purchase Flow: 

Posts with products tagged from Facebook Shops will show a small briefcase. 

Example of a post with products tagged from Facebook Shops.

A white dot and view product overlay appears on the post when opened. 

Example post with products tagged from Facebook Shops

When the image is clicked the product name and price appear. Click again and product details open. 

Example post with products tagged from Facebook Shops.

Similar to an eCommerce checkout flow, a click on “Add to Bag”, transitions the user to the shopping cart with the option to proceed to checkout. 

Example of Facebook Shops user flow.
Checkout functions as you would expect on an eCommerce website or Amazon, but here’s where it gets weird: you’ve never left Instagram.

This checkout on Facebook and Instagram approach comes with two downsides.

  • A 5% fee paid to Facebook (Be sure to confirm this amount in the Facebook Commerce Manager in case the fee has changed since this article was published). The 5% transaction fee is considerably lower than Amazon’s 14-17% fee for apparel, though it’s likely Facebook is keeping this fee low to entice sellers to join.
  • Instagram Checkout makes it so users don’t visit your website, which may cause you to lose valuable analytics audience data, and the ability to retarget to users who start, but don’t complete checkout.  

The implications for Facebook and Instagram checkout are profound. Facebook is essentially becoming its own eCommerce platform. It’s likely they have ambitions for Amazon and Shopify’s new Shop app. Layer this eCommerce ambition with Facebook’s own Libra currency, and we could see a day when people around the world are pushed to use Libra rather than their own currency to transact in this environment, but this level of functionality is likely years in the future.

For those who don’t want check-out to take place in Facebook or Instagram either because of web traffic concerns or the Facebook transaction fees, there was an option to list products in Facebook Shops, but with a redirect back to a website as seen below. 

From Dan at Facebook Support, We have updated our checkout experience in order to create a more seamless and safe end-to-end shopping experience on Facebook.

This new feature will no longer allow users to be redirected to a third-party website. The checkout method available has been established within the Facebook site, and it can be managed through your Commerce Manager.

Moreover, you can still create posts promoting your products and your website and redirect users to your website using a URL link…

… the product that has been tagged in your Instagram Shopping will have an ability to redirect to your website, as long as your account has been approved for the Instagram Shopping feature.

Also, you can still tag the products and let the user redirect to your website.

The implication of this statement is that Instagram Posts like the one below will continue to have a ‘View on Website’ option as long as they want it, thus bypassing check-out in Instagram (or Facebook). 

Instagram shopping example.

The Three Steps to Set-up Your Instagram Storefront

Official Facebook Business Instagram Storefront Guide

1. Determine Eligibility (Must answer yes to all five questions)

    • Are you in an eligible market?  
    • Do you sell physical goods? (Facebook has hinted service offering will be available at a later date)
    • Can you comply with commerce policies? You’ll want to review Facebook’s 25 prohibited product categories. 
    • Is your Instagram Account setup as a Business Account? 
      • How to check: go to your Instagram settings, if there’s a settings option that says: “Switch to a Professional Account” then your profile is still a personal account.
    • Is there a Facebook Page connected to your Instagram Account? 

2. Get a Catalog Connected 

  • Option 1: Use the catalogs feature in your Facebook Business Manager account, which includes connecting to an existing catalog.
  • Option 2: Us a partner integration. Instagram Storefront catalog partners include: 

eCommerce integrations with Facebook.

3. Signup in the Instagram App.

  • Go to your business settings and tap ‘Business’ then tap ‘Instagram Shopping. Follow the prompts to set-up your Instagram Shop. 

That’s it! After step three there is an eligibility review period which will likely take 2-7 days depending on Facebook’s review bandwidth. Once approved you may begin product tagging within posts and stories (image only at this time, but additional placements including live feeds are in the works) on Instagram and Facebook. You’ll also have a ‘Instagram Store’ button on your profile.

How to run Instagram Ads with tagged products

Currently, there is no way to tag products when creating an ad in the Facebook Ads manager. What you can do however is use an organic post for your ad. 

When creating an ad in your Facebook Ad Account, use the “Use Existing Post” option. Select an Instagram or Facebook post with a tagged product or collection. 

Steps on how to run Instagram Ads with tagged products

If your account has had shopping enabled, the post will have a ‘Checkout’ toggle. 

Steps on how to run Instagram Ads with tagged products

Turning it on, will allow you to include the tagged product and a check-out in app. 

Strategic Implications and Considerations for ECommerce Stores Determining if They Should Use Instagram Shopping 

The huge pro for eCommerce retailers moving forward with Instagram Shopping is the ability to reduce friction for shoppers. Clicking a post with a tagged product to ordering it can be done in under a minute. Facebook and Instagram store user billing and shipping info (You’ll now see this info in your own personal Instagram App settings), so there’s no need to add it on a seller’s website. In fact, there’s no need to visit a website at all, which in its current flow, will typically require users add the products to a cart, go to the cart, and check out. 

Another benefit is your listings can be on the Facebook Marketplace. Prior, the Marketplace was more like Facebook’s version of Craigslist for people to sell second hand items locally. The Facebook Marketplace is evolving to include product listings, and promoting products there both organically and in a promoted capacity could increase sales. 

For people interested in attribution, Instagram Shopping is huge. With actual transactions relayed through the Facebook Commerce Manager, there should be no question as to if a sale should be attributed to Facebook. This is huge for advertisers who grapple with website analytics not matching what’s reported by Facebook. 

There are downsides to Instagram Shopping. Facebook will be collecting a 5% transaction fee. This fee will likely rise overtime. There are lost analytics as users no longer interact with your website. This means there’s not an opportunity to build retargeting segments based on how far a user progressed with checkout. Should a company become too dependent on Instagram Shopping as a sales platform, they could face issues with changes to functionality and policies to the platform as is often seen with Amazon. Here’s one example of this (on Amazon) from a seller policy change last year.

As a brand new feature it’s also likely there will be bugs and hiccups along the way. Right now for example, it’s not clear how data from behavior in Instagram Shopping and Facebook Shops will be shared with the Facebook Ads manager data that’s often critical for Facebook Ads optimization. 

There are 120 million Instagram users in the US alone, and one billion users worldwide*. Facebook, Whatsapp, and Oculus have billions more, so leaning into this and allowing users to transact easily will make sense for many brands despite the downsides. 

I’d love to check out your account and see what’s possible for your eCommerce company. If you want to schedule a 30-minute strategy session to learn more, please do! 

A person shopping online.

How To Optimize Your Google Shopping Product Feed

Example of Google shopping ad.

Google shook up the world of eCommerce when it announced earlier this week that it was opening up it’s Shopping search results to free, unpaid listings. The historically paid-only placements will be made available to unpaid product listings, starting next week, as Google ramps up its plans to compete with Amazon to become a primary online shopping destination.

This exciting development will allow eCommerce companies, like Tuff partners Renogy, to unlock more premium placements in Google Shopping results, at no extra cost. Although paid Shopping product ads will take the top & bottom positions on each page of Shopping search results, free products will now make up the bulk of products featured.

What This Means For Your Shopping Strategy

With bidding & targeting out of the picture for most placements on Google Shopping search results, it is now feasible to expect that the majority of your Shopping impressions, and therefore clicks, may come from free Shopping search results as a result of strong product feed optimization. At the very least, it will provide a new source of free, high quality traffic to your products – and how often do those come around?

It’s a new kind of SEOShopping Engine Optimization (trademark pending) – and the opportunities are very exciting.

Veterans of Google Shopping and Merchant Center know that this has always been a deciding factor in winning paid Shopping placements. 

As an example, I recently created a new product feed for a Tuff partner, and set up Shopping campaigns. When I launched the campaign, I kept the product titles and descriptions the same as the Shopify site. I wanted to see how the products would perform with the original titles and descriptions.

The blue line on the chart below shows the impressions the campaign has received since launch. The red arrow indicates the day I made optimizations to the product feed, including updates to the titles and descriptions.

Google shopping feed optimization chart.

Almost immediately after I spent some time digging in and optimizing the product titles and descriptions, the impressions shot up. 🚀

It’s safe to assume similar optimizations will be necessary to rank high organically in the new, unpaid Google Shopping listings. 

How You Can Optimize Your Product Feed

If you’re a Google Shopping veteran, you already know the value of optimizing your product feed to give your product(s) the best chance at appearing on Google search results by matching with sought after search queries. Since you can’t target keywords on Google Shopping like you can with normal Search campaigns, strong product feed optimization has always been the way to effectively target keywords for your products.

However, with the opening of Google Shopping search results to unpaid listings, we can realistically expect a flood of eCommerce companies registering for a Merchant Center account for the first time to take advantage of this free, premium placement. 

This means more competition for the free search result placements as more eCommerce sites rush to link up their products to Merchant Center.

It’s time to dig-in and use product feed optimization to ensure your products climb to the top of the unpaid search results like they deserve to be.

Focusing on the following optimizations will give you a great start.

Product Titles

Sometimes there is no secret, just adhering to best practices to give yourself the best shot. When it comes to Shopping results, this is very true, especially in regards to how you title your products in your product feed.

When optimizing your titles, consider how you search for items on Google when you are actively shopping, and use that as initial guidance. 

You want to keep your product titles simple, yet descriptive, featuring a primary keyword string that will help your product surface for your desired search terms. You also want to make sure your title reads naturally, and you avoid ‘keyword stuffing’ your title.

As time goes on and you collect more data, be sure to evaluate the search terms that are triggering your products to surface. 

  • Are these the keywords you want? Great! 
  • Are you showing up for searches you don’t want? Add those as negative keywords. 
  • Have you found search terms you didn’t think of but are driving desired results? Consider adding them to your product title to trigger more often

Product Descriptions

In addition to your product title, your product descriptions are the only other spot to optimize product feed with text. Oftentimes, product descriptions in Google Shopping are underutilized. 

Google generously gives us 5,000(!) characters to use in this description. This is a lot of real estate to accurately describe your product while effectively including keywords that you want your product to surface for.

To put it another way, we are just now about to hit the 5,000 character count on this post in the next sentence (that wasn’t planned, but is a cool coincidence).

Just like with your product title, it’s important to keep your product description accurate and descriptive, while avoiding unnatural phrasing and ‘keyword stuffing’ that will negatively impact your products’ search results.

But with 5,000 characters to work with, be sure to create a lengthy description that hits a few of your target keywords, but most importantly,  is useful for shoppers and entices them to click.

Product Images

Speaking of enticing shoppers to click on your products, what could entice them to click more than a high-quality product image? 

A crisp, clean, high-quality product image is paramount to your success on Google Shopping. This image should consist of the product centered on a white background with no text over the product. 

Although the image doesn’t contain text, it does send one of the strongest signals to Google that helps determine your ranking in search results – click-through rate. 

The higher your product’s CTR, the more Google’s algorithm learns that this product is intriguing to shoppers who have searched for this particular search term. Because of this, Google’s algorithm will favor your product to surface more often, and in better positions on search results over time.

Over to you!

With free product listings launching on Google Shopping, the competition for unpaid placements will be fierce.

Now, possibly more so than ever, an optimized product feed is paramount to your success on Google Shopping. 

Using these optimization strategies, you’ll be well on your way to an optimized product feed and Google Shopping success.

 

Advertising brand on Instagram.

A Crash Course in Instagram Audiences for Your Social Media Ads

Advertising brand on Instagram.

With a global following of over one billion active monthly accounts (as of June 2018), it’s no wonder Instagram (IG) advertising is such a popular way for brands to build awareness. But where does one even begin on this beast of a platform?

Like with any platform, finding your ideal audiences will be a good start, and segmentation is a very effective way to do this (and it can be easily done on Instagram!). Once you’ve narrowed these down, you can start to test and segment your audiences to determine the very best ways to target them with social ads. Finally, you’ll want to keep them engaged over the long term so that your brand can continue to thrive, grow, and prosper.

In this post, we’ll talk you through ways to build Instagram audiences for social media ads, plus share ideas of how you can put these audiences to the best use.

How can I narrow down my Instagram audiences for ads?

Most likely you’ve already defined your brand, but if you haven’t already, it’s the first thing you’ll want to do. A solid understanding of your brand or brands will give you key insights into who your demographic is so that you can start narrowing down your Instagram audiences. It’s not rocket science, but you do want to be strategic. Doing so will save you so much time when crafting your content.

By the way, your Instagram audiences ARE your target consumers. On Instagram. That being said, not all of your target consumers are on Instagram, and not all Instagram users are your target audience, so a little IG research is going to go a long way.

Assuming you know the who, the what, and the why behind your product or service, you can start searching Instagram for the brands most similar to yours. For example, if your company makes simple graphic design tools for users, then maybe you’ll want to search for brands like Canva, PicMonkey, and Crella, for example. Dig deep here and figure out how their followers are engaging with them.

During your research, see if you can gauge which users are actual customers of your competitors. It’s really easy for people to like, follow, and even comment on Instagram, but if you can determine which ones spend (or intend to spend) money based on how they’re engaging, this will be really useful data.

Speaking of Canva, here’s an IG post for a current campaign of theirs where they’re donating all proceeds from paid images to Australia emergency bushfire relief and recovery programs.

Instagram ad example.

Check out the user comment on the top right and compare her comment with the user’s comment at the bottom with the clapping emojis. While there’s nothing wrong with claps because they still signify engagement, the user at the top is indicating more interest. Of course, there’s no concrete proof that she’s a Canva user, but it appears she has an affinity for the app. The more intel you can gather on users like her, the better. Take note, as these will be the types of followers you’ll want to go after (in your respective niche, of course).

What are some ways that I can test my audiences on Instagram?

Once you’ve narrowed down your market and gotten that part out of the way, the most daunting part of building up a following is done. The fire is lit, so what’s next?

For starters, you’ll want to determine how your followers are engaging with your Instagram content, and analytics tools are great for this. There are quite a few effective IG analytics tools that are totally free and there are some great ones that you can pay for as well. It really just depends on the types of features you want. There’s nothing wrong with reinvesting a little cold hard cash back into your brand, but it’s also nice to save those dollars from time to time. Try mixing it up.

IG analytics tools can give you actionable insights about your followers’ behavior –– information like when they’re online, what they want to see in their feeds, and what types of products they’re buying. This is going to help you to really target your audience which, in turn, will help you allocate your marketing budget more effectively.

Here are three of our favorite free and paid Instagram analytics tools:

  • Sprout Social: Sprout Social’s data-driven IG analytics tools is one of the most powerful analytics tools out there. It lets you do things like identify top posts during specific times, schedule and streamline your posts, and monitor hashtags. Plus, the reports themselves are very clean and easy to read.
  • Instagram Insights: IG Insights is, of course, a freebie and you definitely don’t want to underestimate its robustness. After all, it’s got the insider’s inside scoop on what’s happening with your audience, and it’s a very user-friendly tool as well. You can analyze your followers and access your precise demographics as well. Like Sprout, the reports are also easy to read, and the metrics it provides are super valuable.
  • Union Metrics: Union Metrics offers a full suite of tools for a fee, but they also have a free Instagram Account Checkup Tool. With the checkup tool, you’ll have access to detailed reports that analyze your most dedicated followers, average post engagement, and show you what your top hashtags are. It allows you to easily understand your metrics so that you can generate more effective campaigns.

Companies like Socialbakers, Iconosquare, and Squarelovin also make great analytics tools. The best way to test your audience is to switch up your ad content as often as possible and to try as many different tools as you can.

Another fantastic way to collect valuable data on your audiences is by taking advantage of the Instagram stories and polls feature to learn more about their likes and interests. The more data you’re gathering in different ways, the more you’ll be able to spot trends with accuracy so that you can really finetune your targeting tactics.

How should I segment my Instagram audiences?

Once you’ve uncovered some key trends within your audience, you can then start showing relevant ads to different segments of your IG followers. The reason why marketing segmentation is so important, in general, is that you can maximize your marketing budget and resources by targeting them more effectively. So, let’s get to segmenting on Instagram, specifically, and show you how to do this effectively.

First, if you’re using IG’s hyperlinked hashtags feature, this can be a great place to start. Presumably, by now, you’ve been doing your homework and testing your audiences, so you know who’s clicking on what. Your hyperlinked hashtags can give you some of the most valuable information you’ll collect on your followers because it tells you precisely which products they’re browsing. It’s also something that brings them one touchpoint closer to a purchase. If certain audience members are clicking repeatedly on specific hashtags, you now have some valuable information you can use to segment.

Generally, segmentation can be broken down into four main categories:

Instagram audience segmentation.

  • Geographic: Geographic segmentation lets you target your customers based on where they live. It’s effective because audience interests, values, trends, and preferences are going to vary in different cities, states, countries, and regions.
  • Behavioral: Through behavioral segmentation, you’re targeting your audience based on things like their purchasing habits, how they go through their decision-making process, and their attitude toward the brand.
  • Demographic: Demographic segmentation is the most popular segmenting strategy among marketers. It involves the process of dividing your followers up based on variables like age, gender, family size, and income, among other things.
  • Psychographic: Psychographic segmentation can be a little more challenging because it’s highly subjective, but it’s also very effective because of this. You’re targeting based on intrinsic traits that have to do with your respective audiences’ values, personalities, interests and opinions, motivators, and lifestyle choices.

If you’ve been in business for a while, but you’re simply trying to get more Instagram engagement (or you’re new to the platform altogether) the good news is that you probably know most of this stuff. Once you’ve figured out how to navigate Instagram and do the things we’ve already covered, like narrow your market and test your audience, you can segment based on what you already know about market segmentation.

After you’ve narrowed down your segments, Instagram lets you easily create custom audiences for your business by going to the “Audience” tab on your insights dashboard.

Custom audiences on Instagram.

Once you select “Audience”, you’ll be given the option to “Create a Custom Audience” from the dropdown menu. Follow the prompts from here to start creating your segments. Once you’ve done this, you can start using your marketing prowess to create ads that appeal to your different segments. Easy-peasy.

When is it time for me to test new audiences?

Finally, if your I.G. marketing strategy just isn’t working anymore, then it might be time to test out new audiences. Something to keep in mind is that demographics are always changing. New trends are constantly emerging, audiences get older, and populations become more racially and ethnically diverse. Remaining nimble and ahead of the curve will be a better tactic than simply waiting until your engagement is dropping, but if it does get to that point, try to act fast. Stay on top of what your followers are doing as well. All of this will help you to regroup and re-segment if and when necessary.

Other good times to test new audiences are in situations where you’re introducing a new product or service, or if you’re going through a company rebrand. If you’re already in the habit of constantly retooling your marketing message and adapting your product or service to suit a wide array of demographics, then an adaptation marketing strategy can also be very effective. When you have a business that experiences steady growth, then it’s a near guarantee that your audience is going to evolve and change, so just be prepared.
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Understanding your Instagram audience is the best way to create growth strategies that work. The platform has the highest average engagement rate of all social media platforms, so it really is one powerful tool. Use these tips and tricks to make the most out of it so that you can start segmenting effectively and continue watching your brand soar to new heights.

Got more questions about finding your perfect audience using segmentation? We have answers. Give us a shout at hello@tuffgrowth.com or schedule a 30-minute strategy call with our team here. We’re looking forward to chatting with you and helping you plot your growth.