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

9 eCommerce Trends Driving Online Growth in 2022

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

Author’s note: This post was originally published in 2021. It has since been updated for 2022.

2020 and 2021 brought a whole new challenge to ecommerce growth agencies and their partners. As the world shut down in 2020, 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 sales in 2022. 

eCommerce Trends

1. Efficiencies will be rewarded over massive growth.

With the boom of the pandemic, ecommerce companies saw massive increases in sales as users prioritized online shopping versus a retail or pick-up-in-store option. A large amount of ecommerce companies built entirely new business models based on a pandemic economy. Venture capitalists and investment firms saw this as an opportunity to get in at the ground floor and invest significant cash into the ecommerce space.

Flash forward to 2022, with concerns over inflation and some economic rebalancing due to a myriad of factors (including the housing market, the situation in Ukraine, etc.) ecommerce sales remained steady or stagnant for the first time in over two years. This has lead to a lot of investor and venture capitalist panic, and cash in investment rounds (such as your Series A, Series B, etc.) not as readily available.

Companies that have been on a high cash-burn rate trajectory over the last two years are now scrambling to remain as cash flow positive as possible, and find sustainable ways to grow during this climate. We’ve seen it hit scaleups in the tech world the hardest – but ecommerce has certainly been affected as well.

As you continue to advertise your ecommerce brand over the course of 2022, factor in the value of a sustainable growth plan over the most possible growth in terms of volume. Efficiencies in CAC, cost per sale, and more will be crucial for remaining steady over the rest of the year.

2. 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 reached $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.

3. 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?

4. TikTok has changed the game.

While Instagram still remains a great place to showcase products and create great content, the real disruptor in 2022 is TikTok. TikTok was the most visited site in 2021, beating out the likes of Google, Facebook,  Amazon, Reddit, and more. In 2022, that trend has only continued.

TikTok is a great place to showcase your product in a fun, approachable, and informative way. Since it’s a video storytelling platform, it allows e-commerce brands to try new ways to reach their target audiences. Whether it’s advertising user generated content, informational and educational videos, or using the new Spark Ads format, TikTok ads have something for you.

5. 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?

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 2022 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

pulling a report from google analytics

How to Drive Better Strategic Decisions Using Google Analytics’ Attribution Models

pulling a report from google analytics

The way the majority of marketers use Google Analytics’ attribution models to make strategic decisions is broken. I’m talking, “holy cow, this has major implications on our bottom line”, broken.

If you’re making major decisions regarding the allocation of ad spend, or trying to measure the success of a campaign and are using Google Analytics’ default reporting, you’re going to want to read this. 

What is Google Analytics’ Default Attribution Model? 

Google Analytics defaults to a Last Click attribution model for most of its reports (and the key word here is most). Last click attribution gives 100% of the credit to the last source, or campaign a user came from prior to converting. 

Some reports, such as Google Ads breakdown under the “Acquisition” report defaults to a Last Non-Direct Click attribution model. What this means is that Google Analytics will ignore all direct traffic and give 100% of the credit to the last channel a customer clicked through prior to returning via direct traffic. Last Non-Direct click is a preferred attribution model over Last Click for many marketers because most direct traffic has had some sort of interaction with your brand prior to coming to your site. 

What are the problems with using Last Click attribution modeling? Don’t I want to know what made my target audience convert?

It’s true, Last Click, or Last Non-Direct Click can be insightful for measuring the final tactic that caused a user to convert. However, this is an incomplete measurement of the full aspect of the marketing funnel. Chances are, your target audience didn’t convert out of the blue. 

Here are some of the limitations of using Last Click or Last-Non Direct Click attribution modelling: 

  • Can give a distorted view of what is actually driving your target audience to your brand in the first place
  • Doesn’t account for multiple touchpoints in an advertising funnel
  • Silos data and gives 100% of credit to one channel or tactic
  • Doesn’t show how multiple channels and tactics interact with one another
  • Shows an incomplete customer journey

Take this real-client example: if you see that email marketing is accounting for 30% of your e-commerce purchases, and paid social is driving very few last-click purchases (but a lot of email signups!), you wouldn’t want to stop running the social ads that are leading to email signups. In doing so, you’d be shutting down two acquisition channels at once. 

The last-click attribution model is flawed, and doesn’t take into consideration that a customer today has to nurtured to make a conversion. 

Alternatives to Last Click Attribution Modelling

Luckily, Google Analytics offers several attribution models that marketers can use to get a more complete picture of their conversion efforts. There are several ways to do this. 

Want to watch, instead of read? Check out this video! 👇

First, under the Multi-Channel Funnels report, you can select “Assisted Conversions” report and view how many of your conversions were multi-touch. Selecting the “Source / Medium” breakdown allows you to view how different channels function: either as more of an assisted tactic, or a direct tactic. 

assisted conversions in google analytics

A value closer to 0 in the final column means it’s a primarily final conversion tactic. If the value is close to 1, the channel operated equally as a direct and assist tactic.  If the value is over 1, it means the platform assisted in more of an “assist” role. 

Another favorite tool to compare Google Analytics’ Attribution Models is the Model Comparison Tool. At Tuff, we often use the “Last Interaction” vs, “First Interaction” report to identify demand generating campaigns and platforms. 

Google Analytics’ Attribution Models

In this report, we see that Facebook and Google ads have a 20% and 47% increase in attributed conversions when using the first-click attribution model. Google Analytics’ first interaction attribution model gives 100% of the credit to the first source a user interacts with before converting. 

A savvy marketer can also apply a secondary dimension to view campaign filters applied to dig into which ad campaigns on specific platforms are driving the majority of the initial interest in their brand and product. 

Using Google Analytics’ Attribution Models to Make Strategic Decisions

As you’ve probably guessed by now: the answer for how to use Google Analytics’ many different Attribution Models (we haven’t even touched on Time Decay, Linear, or Position Based models, or how to measure via Zero Party data) is not a “one size fits all” solution. 

Instead, we recommend comparing the different models, identifying what campaigns and channels are generating demand and interest for your products, and leveraging different optimization tactics to drive revenue for your brand. It takes more time to compare models, but the savings can be immense. Ready to see how Google Analytics’ first-click attribution modeling can unlock major demand generation wins at the top of funnel for your brand? Drop us a note.

customer analytics dashboard on computer for ecommerce

Using Customer Insights to Unlock eCommerce Growth

customer analytics dashboard on computer for ecommerce

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

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

What e-commerce metrics matter, and why? 

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

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

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

Identifying What Customer Insights are Important to Measure

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

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

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

Data Analysis With Customer Insights in Mixpanel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future of Customer Insights

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

team planning a fintech marketing strategy

Developing a Successful Fintech Marketing Strategy

team planning a fintech marketing strategy

Fintech is an exploding market, accounting for over 650 VC-backed deals in Q2 2021 alone, with $30.8 billion in funding. Market Data Forecast anticipates that Fintech will grow by over 23% annually through 2026, reaching a market value of over $320 billion in that time period.  As the fintech market fills with startups and scaleups, standing out above the noise will be a critical challenge for any fintech organization that desires to be successful. Fintech organizations that have a growth marketing strategy to acquire and convert inbound leads will have a leg up on the competition. 

Before we dive into growth marketing strategies, let’s chat about inbound marketing for a moment. 

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing for Fintech

A lot of B2B organizations rely on outbound marketing for lead generation and driving sales. Traditional outbound marketing efforts, like trade shows, seminars, cold calling, are slowly fading out of favor with B2B organizations because of the manpower and cost required to manage these efforts. Inbound marketing, however, relies on capturing demand and meeting users that need you: not the other way around. 

Think of it this way: it costs significantly less for organizations to convert a lead who is coming to them, than it is to generate a prospect and convert them via cold calling. Fintech marketing teams that may have previously generated customers via outbound marketing are now shifting to an inbound marketing strategy. 

Know Your Target Audience

It seems obvious enough, right? Every growth marketing strategy should start with identifying the target audience and the value propositions for the organization. If this sounds fundamental, it’s because it is. 

Knowing your target audience rules out potential strategies that were on the table, and unlocks opportunities you may not have previously considered.

For example: if you are a B2C fintech organization – you probably aren’t going to put the majority of your ad spend on LinkedIn. 

Alternatively: if you are a B2B fintech organization that provides solutions to SMB owners, you may discover subreddits or Youtube channels that are large gathering places for your target audience that you can add in your targeting. 

Knowing your target audience also helps you figure out how to communicate with them. Since there are SO MANY fintech startups and scaleups, being able to speak directly to the needs of your target audience clearly will help you stand out above the noise. If you are developing a fintech marketing strategy, grab the Value Props Exercise spreadsheet from the Tuff blog and start identifying your target audience’s needs. 

Know Your Funnel 

The marketing funnel has three main components, top, middle, and bottom of the funnel. Matching your messaging and strategy for each stage in the funnel is incredibly important. 

Many channels, such as Facebook, can serve as multiple stages of the funnel for fintech marketing efforts. Here are some examples of an effective funnel for a fintech organization that Tuff currently partners with: 

  • Top of Funnel: Prospecting ads on Facebook centered around value propositions, Youtube Ads with a brand-focused video that directly addresses value propositions
  • Mid Funnel: Non-branded PPC Search Campaign, Retargeting campaign on Youtube, remarketing display ads
  • Bottom Funnel: Branded Search Campaign, Retargeting campaign on Facebook with an introductory offer

Some additional funnel strategies that could be a good fit for your organization: 

  • Lead capture in middle of funnel combined with a bottom funnel email marketing drip campaign aimed at converting leads 
  • Prospecting on Reddit, LinkedIn, or other demographic-based acquisition channels
  • Partnering with influencers to reach your target audience

Focus Efforts on Demand Generation 

In order for inbound marketing efforts to be successful, people need to know about your organization and how exactly it helps them. One of the most common issues fintech organizations run into is that users don’t know that they need their services or product to be successful. 

Chris Walker at Refine Labs says the following

“Most marketing teams only focus on capturing existing market demand. They wait for people to look for them. Then try to capture it with SEO, SEM… They spend all their time and effort and money fighting over the 0.1% of the market that is actively buying…All of the upside is in marketing to the 99% of the market that isn’t actively buying.”

A common example I use in explaining demand generation is Uber. Before Uber, people had taxis, or they relied on friends or daily for rides when they needed it. People didn’t know they needed Uber, until Uber came along and showed everyone why ridesharing was a better alternative to the status quo. 

Explaining your organization’s solution to a problem can be tricky. This is why it is important to spend time with value propositions and identifying how to best drum up demand. 

One disclaimer on-demand generation: using tools such as Google Analytics to determine attribution is only as accurate as the data it is being fed. Not all engagement, consideration, and offsite activity can be measured in Google Analytics, and can possibly make your demand generation efforts look less effective than they truly are. This leads us to…

Rely on Your Zero Party Data

Once you’re up and running with your campaigns, generating leads, and possibly sales – it’s time to figure out how you are capturing your target audience’s attention. With demand generation efforts, analytic tools can be inaccurate as to true attribution. This applies to both inbound and outbound marketing efforts. 

For inbound marketing efforts, if a user hears about you via a Facebook campaign, but does not click the ad, and later finds you via organic search, Google Analytics will tell you that the user found you organically – and make you feel great about your SEO efforts. For outbound marketing efforts, replace Facebook with a trade show, direct mail, or even a cold call, and you could run into the same issue.  

The way to solve this is easy: generate zero party data. Zero party data is data that customers share with brands. Intentionally collecting zero party data can be as simple as asking users how they first heard about you when they sign up. Zero party data is only as accurate as the information is being shared with you, so instead of relying solely on analytics tools or zero party data, look at both often, and develop insights from there. 

Spend Time with CRO 

CRO, or conversion rate optimization, is the ongoing effort of refining your site’s user experience to improve your lead capturing abilities. Getting traffic is one thing – converting them is another. Fintech organizations that spend time continually evaluating their site, implementing tests, and smoothing the path to conversion can see higher returns on their acquisition efforts. 

Some ways that CRO can be included in a fintech marketing strategy are: 

  • Testing different value propositions in the hero section of your landing page
  • A/B test call-to-actions or sign-up perks
  • Incorporating gamification, or other engagement tools on your site

The great thing about CRO is that it is a continual process – as your learnings grow, so do the possibilities.

If you are unsure about how CRO, zero-party data, or demand generation can be incorporated into your fintech marketing strategy — let’s talk.

startup team working on growth marketing tactics

5 Common Questions Startup Founders Have About Growth Marketing

startup team working on growth marketing tactics

This year, Tuff has been fortunate to work with AARP Innovation Labs to connect with startup founders and collaborate on developing growth marketing strategies for their growing businesses. As a startup marketing agency, we’ve partnered with 50+ startups, but the opportunity to work with a dozen startups in a cohort at the same time has been an exciting and informative experience for the Tuff team. Through our AARP partnership, Tuff has provided growth marketing workshops, office hours for one on one discussion with startup founders and problem-solving, and tactical hours for the implementation of strategies for select startups in the cohort. 

In our time as a startup marketing agency, we’ve discovered that while no two startups are in exactly the same situation, there’s a LOT of commonality in the questions founders are asking about growth marketing. To get a sense of the questions our founders would ask during our first AARP Innovation Labs cohort, we sent a pre-workshop survey before our 8-week program began. Here’s some of the common questions we noted in the survey, and additionally revealed themselves over the course of the workshop series and office hours. 

  • What initial marketing channels do founders typically use?
  • What initial marketing channels do founders typically see their best results on? 
  • How are founders supposed to manage their growth marketing efforts?
  • How do you prioritize marketing channels? 
  • My product / service appeals to so many people – why is no one purchasing / signing up? 

What initial marketing channels do founders typically use?

chart of marketing channel mix

In our pre-engagement survey, we asked founders what initial marketing channels they use.  We broke it into two types of channels: paid acquisition, and non-paid acquisition. The most common response across both survey questions? Email marketing is being used by 71% of the founders we surveyed. 

Email marketing is a common initial channel recommendation by startup marketing agencies, so it’s no surprise that it’s up towards the top. However, we were surprised to see SEO content and PR be the second most common non-paid marketing channel founders said they had used. SEO content can be an effective marketing channel, but one of the common issues startups face is getting quick wins. Since SEO is a longer play, we typically recommend pairing SEO efforts in conjunction with paid acquisition so there is a consistent acquisition source while a startup site begins to rank. For PR, 

What initial marketing channels or tactics do founders typically see their best results on? 

marketing channels for startups

In our initial survey, founders felt positively about paid acquisition channels for their initial test efforts, in particular, Facebook and Google. However, one of the most common complaints founders had regarding Facebook and Google ads is that they are easy to initially implement, but difficult to master. Some of the common questions we heard in workshops, office hours, and surveys regarding mastering these acquisition channels were….

  • “How do I make my Facebook ads more effective with my small budget?”
  • “How do I gain the attention of my target audience on Facebook?”
  • “How do I use my data to make better decisions on my Google Ads?”

The last one in particular stands out to us, because at the start of our most recent cohort – 67% of our respondents said they are able to use data to make simple decisions, but 33% of them said they are not able to read their data to make any sort of decision. In the early phases of a startup – being able to interpret data is critical for making quick decisions that will impact a startup’s growth trajectory.

chart from survey about marketing data

How are founders supposed to manage their growth marketing efforts, and how do you prioritize marketing channels? 

Our most recent cohort had a 50/50 split on whether or not they had utilized a startup marketing agency or freelancers for their growth marketing efforts. This implies that most founders have a very, very, close relationship with the day-to-day implementation of their growth marketing strategy: either they work closely with an agency, freelancer,  team member, or they do it themselves. 

Prioritization is the hardest part of being a founder. With no less than 1,000,000 things requiring your attention at all times, marketing can take a back seat. Add limited resources to the equation, and all of a sudden, you have a recipe for unstructured chaos. 

In our experience as a startup marketing agency, we create growth marketing strategies based on a few criteria: 

  • How easy is it to implement this test? 
  • Has this idea worked before? 
  • Have I done something similar previously? 
  • How quickly can I gather learnings from this? 
  • Will this lead to additional insights for other tests? 

This same methodology can be used by founders to manage and prioritize their growth marketing efforts. For example: if I’m a founder, and a long term goal is to have 50% of my leads come in via organic search, I could utilize paid search initially to test a keyword strategy to get quick insights as to how my target audience responds to our product or service. Rather than spending six months writing, publishing, and optimizing content, you can gain insights as to if that keyword is relevant to your business within weeks by running paid search ads. 

To get started with mapping our your efforts and priorities as a founder (as it pertains to growth marketing), we recommend starting by putting your ideas on paper. From there, evaluate all the growth tactics you’d like to test based on the above questions. Look for quick wins in low-hanging fruit, low-cost efforts (in time and money) that can provide rapid learning opportunities, and start there. 

Last but not least on the subject of prioritization: many founders feel the need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to digital marketing, because their product or service is so innovative. While we applaud and support innovation and testing – it’s always best to start grounded with a fundamental strategy before reaching for the stars. 

My product / service appeals to so many people – why is no one purchasing / signing up? 

Tuff’s creative strategist, Elle Ossello, loves to use this Kurt Vonnegut quote in relation to product and service marketing. 

“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and share your story with the world, your story will get pneumonia.” 

When it comes to product and service marketing, having wide potential appeal doesn’t make your product or service a market fit. Very few brands that are successful started off by focusing on appealing to everyone. Instead – when evaluating your target audience, we highly recommend focusing on the people who are most likely to buy your product, or sign up for your service first, rather than trying to reach large audiences of people. 

You can figure out who is most likely to buy your product or service by doing qualitative or quantitative research: by checking out your existing customers and asking them questions, by evaluating your demographic behavior in Facebook or Google Analytics, or reading what people have to say about you or your competitors in comment threads online. 

By digging deeper into the best potential customer or client fit, you can evaluate their common characteristics, what their buying motivation may be, what they may be purchase objections, and figure out how to communicate directly to their needs. This can help tremendously with refining your messaging, your product or service, and more. 

Pro-tip: Once you’ve identified your target audience – evaluate their “life before” your product, and their “life after” your product, and you’re pretty close to having a good grip on your value propositions. 

Not all startup marketing agencies are created equal…

A quality startup marketing agency should collaborate with founders on setting them up for long-term success by getting quick wins and lots of learnings. Additionally, they should be flexible – ready to pivot based on testing and the analysis of their results. 

And if you’re an early-stage startup, you probably don’t need an agency. When your startup is moving a million miles an hour and any small decision can set off powerful reverberations across your company, stretching a thin budget to hire a full team simply doesn’t add up. If you’re ready for growth marketing help and considering a growth marketing agency, check this out first. 

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!