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.

Running ads on a computer.

Using Programmatic to Assist Your Growth Marketing Channel Mix

Running ads on a computer.

At Tuff, our team is well-versed at a variety of growth marketing tactics. On a daily basis, we partner with clients to set the roadmap and then get to work experimenting with a variety of different tactics based on their goals. 

More recently, when we identify our channel mix and consider how we’re going to diversify across the entire user journey, programmatic has continued to make its way into the conversation. 

In this post, I’m going to break down what this means and how it could impact your acquisition channel mix. 

What are programmatic ads?

Programmatic advertising is the leveraging of automation tech for media buying. It leans on data insights and algorithms to deliver ads to users at the optimal time to drive them to a specific action (buying a product, filling out a lead form, etc.)

Programmatic offerings take control of where and when your ad gets placed on the web. Some campaigns even go as far as generating ad creative for you as well. These campaigns use automation to help you hit your marketing goals. Chances are, if you’ve done any sort of digital advertising in the last few years, you’ve used programmatic ads in one form or another.

What are some examples?

Almost all modern digital ad platforms have some aspect of programmatic ad buying baked in. There’s automated app ads on PPC platforms, dynamic product ads on paid social platforms, and countless other examples within the channels most digital markets are familiar with. 

A great example of the shift towards programmatic is Google’s newest campaign type, performance max. This offer allows users to upload a number of images, videos, logos and headlines to a campaign. From there, the Google algorithm combines these and places them across the web. This campaign can show up as a youtube ad, display ad, or an ad in someone’s gmail inbox. 

On the paid social ads side of things, Facebook’s dynamic product ads have some programmatic elements to them. They still allow the user to dictate the audience, but ad creative is pulled from a product catalog uploaded to Facebook. The Facebook algorithm will then select product images based on the users interests or their activity on your website, and deliver ads across Facebook, Instagram and their audience network.

How did we use programmatic channels at Tuff?

As a growth marketing agency, we are always looking for new avenues and channels to help our partners grow their businesses. This typically manifests itself through a variety of paid and organic acquisition, with conversion rate optimization and creative strategy layered in.

Programmatic solutions offer us a great way to complement these strategies and bring in new customers that wouldn’t be found through more traditional methods. That being said, we’ve learned that these more automated strategies can’t really carry the full weight of growth marketing strategy. While they are great at finding users to convert who you wouldn’t find with more traditional methods, they often struggle to achieve results at scale. This makes programmatic campaigns the perfect tools to complement strategies that can achieve results at a higher spend.

Where does programmatic fit into a paid acquisition strategy?

Let’s look at this through a real breakdown of one of our partners. They are an ecommerce brand that brought us in to use paid acquisition to drive new customers to purchase online through their site. 

We were having a unique problem here that was tough to solve with our existing channel mix. Cold traffic was converting at a great rate with really strong results, but the price of getting users who have already interacted with the site was too high to be sustainable. This led us to explore alternate channels to re-engage these users, ultimately ending with us launching programmatic ads on Mountain.

Mountain has a few different campaign types, but we take advantage of their display network in the context of this partnership. Our strategy with this channel is very focused, using their display network and dynamic, programmatic ads to target users who have added items to their cart, but not completed a purchase. 

Like I mentioned earlier, these strategies can struggle to work at scale, so it made sense for us to use it on a smaller, highly interested audience. We also leaned on Mountain’s programmatic tools to help build ad creative for this campaign. Mountain allows us to build a template where they’ll pull in relevant product images through an uploaded Shopify catalog. This means that the user is seeing ads with images of products they added to their cart on the website.

After extensive testing on this channel, we found that spending any more than $5k/month here would result in a higher than acceptable cost per purchase. Keeping the budget on Mountain at $5k/mo (which is about 5% of our total ad spend across channels) resulted in CPAs that were half of what we were seeing on our next top performing paid social channel, Facebook. 

This campaign was a huge success for us in an area where other channels struggled. After introducing this as a technique to target users who have added to cart, we’ve kept it running as an incredibly efficient tool for bottom of funnel spending.

There are definitely programmatic channels out there that can handle a larger spend (Google performance max comes to mind) but for our needs bringing in Mountain to pick up high intent users did the job incredibly well at a low budget. 

Conclusion

For this partner, programmatic is only a piece of the puzzle. Without support from our social ads channels (Facebook, Pinterest, Tik Tok) as well as PPC channels (Google search and Youtube,) it would fall flat. This is a specific example of how to work programmatic ads into your channel mix, but it’s representative of how we treat this advertising technique here at Tuff. It can be a very effective tool, but it’s not a silver bullet. Mixing programmatic ads into your larger acquisition strategy is the best way to achieve results. 

The partners we work with often require a complex channel mix to achieve their goals. The digital advertising landscape is always changing, and the growth marketers and channel experts here at Tuff love testing new campaign types and channels. 

If you’re looking for a team to put together an acquisition plan and execute on it, drop us a note!

working to increase budgets on different ad platforms

How To Scale Ad Spend Quickly (Without Spiking Costs)

working to increase budgets on different ad platforms

Scaling effectively is one of the hardest things to do with your Facebook ads. As a growth marketing agency, one of the problems potential partners come to us most often with is that they’ve gained some sort of traction with their Facebook ads, but don’t know how to efficiently ramp up spend. 

To someone not well versed in Facebook advertising, this seems like an easy solution. You’ve got campaigns that are working, so just jack up your daily budgets and start counting your profits! Makes sense right?

If only it were that easy….

Anyone who has experience running Facebook ads knows just how fragile account performance can be. A number of different factors can take your performance for a roller coaster ride, and changing ad spend is one of the largest ones. Growth Marketers are on a seemingly endless quest for stability and predictable results. While that quest will likely never be completed, being mindful of how we adjust our spending on Facebook and our other ad channels will get us one step closer to the promised land of steady results.

Before you can begin increasing your spend on Facebook you need to answer an important question.

Is my ad account ready to start scaling?

One thing we really stress here at Tuff when looking at budgets for our social ads channels is that adding additional budget at an underperforming channel or campaign won’t help your results. There are many problems in life that can be solved by throwing money at them, but poor advertising results isn’t one of them. 

There are three stages to running campaigns on Facebook when you’re looking to achieve success at scale:

  1. Traction 
  2. Scale
  3. Profit

To sum these steps up, traction is where you put in the work to achieve consistent profitable results, scale is where you increase budgets steadily while still maintaining profitability, and profit is where you swim in your money Scrooge McDuck style.

You’ve got to walk before you can run. The traction phase is where you define what profitability looks like from an account results standpoint. This benchmark will vary greatly depending on your business model. It could be a specific cost per lead, ROAS number or cost per new customer. Whatever it is, you need to understand this tipping point before considering scaling up your budget. This should really be figured out before running ads at all, but that’s for another blog post.

Once you’ve defined your profitability metrics, you’ve got to go out and hit them. Go test audiences, ad creative, and copy combinations until you’ve determined the targeting and messaging needed to hit your profitability metrics.

Before you start scaling, you’ll want to be sure you’re hitting these numbers with some consistency. With how volatile Facebook advertising can be, it’s very likely that you can hit these goals one day, and not even come close the next. You’ll want to see results above your profitability threshold for a significant amount of time before you begin scaling. The amount of time will be different depending on what budget level you start at, but a good rule of thumb is 2-3 weeks of hitting KPIs before increasing your budget.

So now that we’ve got traction, it’s time to look at increasing our budgets, which is the whole reason you’re reading this article. As I mentioned earlier, scaling up too quickly can shock the Facebook algorithm and tank your results, so we always look to scale methodically to avoid that. There are two methods of scaling that we use, which we refer to as vertical scaling and horizontal scaling. We use a combination of these to increase overall budget. Let’s get into what they are. 

Scaling vertically

Vertical scaling is the easiest way to increase your ad spend on Facebook. When you scale vertically you’re taking your existing campaign structure and increasing the daily budgets for those campaigns or ad sets. In reality, this is just fancy marketing speak for taking your budget and making it larger, but there is some nuance involved.

It is possible to kick your ad sets back into the “Learning Phase” if you increase your budgets too quickly. An ad set being in the learning phase is an indicator that the algorithm is still working to stabilize your results. While in this state you can expect more volatility and higher than normal costs per action. An ad set leaves the learning phase after about 50 conversion events, at which point performance stabilizes a bit.

Needless to say we want to get out of the learning phase as quickly as possible and stay out of it.

learning phase in ads manager

“Large edits” to a campaign or ad sets will move ad sets back into the learning phase, with large increases to budget being one of those possible edits. Specifically, more than a 20% increase in spend to a campaign or ad set will be enough to get sent back to learning phase time out. 

All of this is to say keep your daily spend increases to 19% or less of your budget if your ad sets are out of the learning phase. If your ad sets aren’t out of learning just yet, it’s probably a good idea to wait for that to happen before increasing spend.

Scaling horizontally 

There is always going to be a point when scaling your existing structure starts to yield diminishing returns. As much as we’d like to scale effective campaigns and ad sets to infinity, there comes a point where you’ve maxed out the amount of spend you can pump into a campaign structure before you have to expand outward to find new efficiencies.

Horizontal scaling is where you look for opportunities outside of your existing structure, usually in the form of new audiences, to spend budget. Audience testing is a huge part of being successful with Facebook advertising and chances are if you’ve made it to the point where you are scaling up your budget, you’ve done your fair share of audience testing already (remember finding traction?)

You’re definitely going to want to find these avenues of potential scale before you need to, so as you’re scaling vertically, it’s always a good idea to test new audiences to see if you can gain traction outside of your existing structure. 

When introducing new ad sets, it’s generally best to set the daily budget equal or lower than what your other campaigns/ad sets are at. The last thing you want to do is introduce a new audience at a really high daily budget only to see no traction and burn through a significant amount of ad spend without much return.

Once you see traction from a new audience, you can apply the vertical scaling principals I outlined earlier in the article, rinse and repeat.

Conclusion

Facebook loves consistency when it comes to running an ad account. Want to make a big change to an existing campaign? You’re usually going to get punished in the form of higher costs for a period of time. When scaling up your spend, make sure to stay below that 20% per day threshold to avoid having your ad sets get kicked back into the Learning Phase. Seeing rising costs as you’re scaling your existing structure? It’s probably time to look to scale horizontally with some new audiences.

Want to learn more about how we help our partners achieve results at scale? Set up a call with our team to discuss how we can apply our growth marketing expertise to your business! We’d love to hear from you! 

marketing team working on a split test

How to Create a Split Test (and Why) with Google Optimize

marketing team working on a split test

No matter what you’re promoting online, whether it’s products, services or platforms, conversion rate is one of the most important metrics you need to be watching. You can have the most engaging ad experiences in the world, but if your website experience is lacking, don’t expect to gain any new customers.

At Tuff, website conversion rate is always top of mind. It is an incredibly important part of the equation that determines if our efforts are profitable or not. It is a metric we’re always looking to improve through a tactic called Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO.  There are a couple of different ways to do CRO, with our favorite being landing page split testing. 

There are a number of different tools out there that can help you get split tests set up and begin your CRO work, but our favorite is Google Optimize. It integrates well with Google Analytics, is easy to set up, and it’s free. 

Why should you be split testing?

Before we jump into how you get set up with Google Optimize, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves why we should be split testing. Why is conversion rate so important? Let’s look at this hypothetical example:

Say you own an eCommerce business that sells running shoes. You’re using paid channels (Facebook ads, Google ads, etc.) to drive traffic to your site. These are the average metrics you see on a monthly basis:

Visitors 100,000
Average Order Value $95
Conversion rate 1%
Purchases 1,000
Revenue $95,000

Congrats! You made $95,000 in revenue! On the flip side you’re making less than $1 per visitor on your site, which is not a great position to be in considering the average cost to get someone to click on an ad through paid channels. Now, for the sake of the example, let’s say that through CRO you’re able to increase your conversion rate to 1.8%. These are what your site numbers are going to look like.

Visitors 100,000
Average Order Value $95
Conversion rate 1.8%
Purchases 1,800
Revenue $171,000

You just increased your revenue by $76,000 without increasing your site traffic at all. That’s the magic of CRO. So much focus gets put on cost per click, but we also need to be paying attention to what those clicks are doing once they get to your site. 

While this article won’t detail out how to identify which tests to run, we do have some great CRO test examples you can start with in our article on Increasing Ecommerce Conversion Rate. 

What you need to set up split testing with Google Optimize

The first thing you’ll need to start split testing on with Google Optimize is an account. Once that is done, you’ll need to take the following steps:

  1. Link your Analytics account
  2. Download the Optimize Chrome extension
  3. Install the Optimize code snippet on your site
  4. Set up your test in Google optimize

Install the Optimize Code snippet on your site and download the Chrome extension

There are a few different ways to do this, but the easiest way is to use Google Tag Manager since there is a baked-in integration between Tag Manager and Optimize.

Click on settings inside your tag manager account and copy your Optimize container ID.

setting up a split test with google optimize

You’ll also see links here to link your Analytics account and download the Chrome extension. These will each only take a second, so knock them out before getting the code snippet installed on your site.

Copy your container ID, jump into your Tag Manager account and create a new Tag. From the options on the right, select Google Optimize as your tag type. Paste in your container ID and set the tag to trigger on all pages. 

setting up a split test with google optimize

OK! We have the infrastructure in place to set up our test within Google Optimize. Now it’s time to decide what will be the “B” part of our A/B test. This will be which aspect of our page we are going to change. That can be anything from changing a headline, swapping out a graphic or reordering content on your site.

Whatever you decide on, try not to make too many changes at once. The best way to split test is incrementally so we really get a good idea of which changes are impacting the difference in performance we expect to see. 

Setting up your split test 

Ore we start setting up our test in Google Optimize,  let’s review what we’ve done so far:

  • Built our Google Optimize account
  • Linked to our Optimize account to our analytics account
  • Downloaded the Optimize Chrome extension and installed our Optimize code snippet on our website
  • Identified our variable for testing

Once we have done all of these things, we are ready to configure our test within Google Optimize. Luckily for us, Google Optimize makes setting these tests up very straightforward.

From inside your Google optimize container, you’ll click “Let’s go” to create your first experience.

setting up a split test with google optimize

There are a few different types of tests you can run here, but for the sake of this example, we’re going to select an A/B test. Give your test a name that easily calls out what is being tested. For our test, we’ll be changing the headline on our form submit page.

setting up a split test with google optimize

From here, click add a variant to begin setting up your first test. Select a name that lets you easily identify which changes are going to be made. We’re going to name our experience “Lead Magnet Page – Headline Test”. Any guesses what is going to be changed on our test page?

Now that we have our experience built, it’s time to add a variant. When naming this, give it a name that tells you what the change actually is. We’re going to name our variant “Headline – Quick wins and long term growth” so we don’t have to dig around to see what the change we made actually was. 

You will now see your original page and the variant you just created listed on top of each other. Since we installed the Chrome extension, we can easily edit our new variant and make changes to the page without using any code.

setting up a split test with google optimize

Once you Click edit, your original page will open with an editing tool where you can drag, drop, and edit different elements on your site. You’ll make your changes and then click save in the upper right-hand corner. 

setting up a split test with google optimize

By default, your traffic will be split 50/50 between the original page and your new variant. You can shift more traffic to your new variant if you’d like quicker results, but we recommend keeping that split even. You can now select an objective which is a list of goals that gets automatically pulled in from Google Analytics. We’re going to select our form completed goal that we have already in Analytics. You’ll want to select whichever goal you’re looking for the user to complete on your site, whether that be a form fill, a purchase, or a different action. 

And that’s that! We’re ready to begin our test. The last thing left to do is click the start button in the upper right hand corner!

Analyzing results

Google Optimize makes it incredibly easy to measure the results from your test. Once it’s launched, you’ll start to see data come in on session, conversion and conversion rate for your original page and your variant. Once significant data comes in, Google Optimize will give a prediction on which variant it thinks will win this test. We recommend waiting until that number is 95% before making any changes permanent and ending the experiment. 

A/B testing is a crucial part of improving the performance of your acquisition channels. It can help make your organic traffic much more profitable and enhance the performance of your paid advertising without any additional ad spend. There are a number of different tools out there to help you get set up, but in our eyes Google Optimize is tough to beat. It lets you get tests set up quickly, integrates well with Analytics and Tag Manager and it has a very attractive price tag at $0.

Interested in learning more about how CRO can impact your bottom line? Get in touch!