In the past five years, growth hacking has exploded in popularity among savvy internet marketers, SaaS companies, and technical product entrepreneurs.
Growth hacking is a fairly simple concept: It’s the idea that every strategy, idea, project, or tactic you develop and implement at your business should be centered around one thing: Driving growth.
For most businesses, growth ultimately equates to one thing: boosting profits.
Although growth hacking has historically been something reserved for product teams and savvy marketers, it’s starting to be slowly adopted and used by other types of businesses, such as small brick-and-mortar shops, big corporations, and, you guessed it, e-commerce businesses.
The whole point of growth hacking is to develop and run lean tests, campaigns, and programs that can help you better identify viable strategies, channels, and focus areas that you can use to scale your business.
So where do you start?
Here are 17 simple growth tactics you can try implementing next month to fuel growth at your e-commerce business:
1. The user-generated content sections
Summary: You can launch a beautiful website, create compelling social ads, and write a captivating brand story, but none of your marketing and advertising efforts will ever come close to being as powerful and effective as a genuine word-of-mouth recommendation from an actual human being who loves your products.
This tactic is all about leveraging word-of-mouth messages — user-generated content in the form of reviews, written testimonials, unboxing videos, and other forms of customer praise — as a way to drive new customers to try your products.
How to get started: To implement this tactic, try incorporating more reviews and testimonials on your homepage, product pages, and even on your about page. You can also incorporate testimonials in advertisements and include them in the emails you send to your subscribers. Your e-commerce platform likely already includes a way to leverage reviews and testimonials throughout your shop, but if it doesn’t, you can use a tool like Yotpo to easily add user-generated content to your website.
2. The guest post
Summary: Blogging on your own website is a great way to build and nurture relationships with potential customers, but in order to drive more traffic and connect with more people who would be interested in buying your products, you need to reach new audiences and attract new customers. One of the best ways to do it is by offering to guest post on another blog that you know has a similar audience as your own.
How to get started: Make a list of potential blogs that you would be interested in guest posting on. The blogs you choose should relate to or align with your product and business in some way. Reach out to the managers of a few of the blogs and see if you can secure a guest post. For tips on how to write your guest post outreach email, read this blog post from Mention.
Don’t make your blog post promotional. Just offer value, and the rest will work itself out. Make sure to link back to your blogs and website in your guest post, and set up tracking so you can identify whether the people who came to your site from the guest post ended up converting.
3. The thank you card
Summary: We’ve talked about the value of customer delight on this blog before, and we’re mentioning it again now. Why? Because it really does work. Sending handwritten thank you cards to new customers is an incredibly easy way to impress them, convince them to buy again, and influence them to tell others about you and your business.
In an age when everyone is over-automating to the point where people can’t tell whether there are actually people behind the business they are buying products from, you can stand out from competitors by offering personal, genuine, and thoughtful service to you from actual human beings.
How to get started: You can start small with this one. There are really two ways to do it: you can either hire interns to manually write thank you cards for you and send them in the mail, or you can use a service like Thankbot (yes, it technically is automation – but every card is handwritten by an actual person).
The goal here is to get your newest customers excited about doing business with you so that they spread the word on social media, so don’t be afraid to ask them to tell their friends about you — you can incentivize it by promising a special promo code or coupon that will be delivered as soon as their update mentioning your company shows up on social media.
4. The product page A/B test
Summary: Running A/B tests is probably one of the more common growth hacks that companies use to drive more conversions on their website. In e-commerce, you can test all sorts of things in order to drive sales. For this tactic, you’ll want to focus on your product pages specifically. What you’re trying to do is make small changes to the look and feel of your page in order to influence more sales.
How to get started: To run A/B tests on your product pages, you can use tools like Optimizely or VWO. Alternatively, you can hire a full-service shop like Experiment Engine to set all your tests up for you. To drive more sales, try testing one of the following ideas:
- Bigger product photos vs. smaller product photos
- Include a trust badge vs. don’t include a trust badge
- Add limited supply information vs. don’t include limited supply information
For even more ideas, check out this blog post from Optimizely.
5. The exit intent pop-up
Summary: As an e-commerce professional or marketer, you likely spend a lot of time thinking about how to drive more people to your website and how to improve the experience visitors have once they finally land on your site — but what are you doing to catch them before they leave?
The purpose of exit intent pop-ups is to capture web visitors who try to leave your website without buying. The goal is to change their minds by offering a discount on your products, or at least capture their email address so you can attempt to nurture them down your funnel.
How to get started: There are a number of tools you can use to easily and quickly add exit intent pop ups to your website. A few worth looking into: SumoMe, Bounce Exchange, and Gleam. Before you sign up for one of these tools, think about what you want to offer your visitors at the moment when they try to leave your site.
For e-commerce, a good place to start would be a coupon or special discount (like free or reduced shipping) that can be instantly applied to any products in your shop.
To read more about exit intent pop-ups, read this great blog post from Gleam.
6. The order confirmation share request
Summary: We’ve mentioned it a few times on this blog before, but it’s worth mentioning again here: in e-commerce, your job isn’t done once you make the initial sale. In fact, it’s only just beginning. Once you get someone to convert and make a purchase on your website, it’s up to you whether you want to use them as a viable tool to connect with more prospective customers — or let them fade into memory.
One of the easiest ways to get your customers to spread the word about your business is by including a message on their order confirmation page or email that encourages them to share the news about their purchase on Facebook or Twitter.
How to get started: One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to do this is by using a tool like Click to Tweet to build a pre-written message that new customers can share with their followers. An example of a message might look something like this:
I just bought my brand new top hat from @AbeLincolnHats! Can’t wait to get it in the mail! Get yours: [link to shop]
If you want to go the extra mile, build a custom landing page specifically for this campaign — include a special offer on the landing page and link to it in the pre-written Twitter update you ask your new customer to share.
7. The IRL social engagement ask
Summary: Another great way to spark social engagement and spread the word about your business is to include an actual printed card in the order package that you fulfill and send to your customers. If your customers are excited at the moment when they order from your shop, they’re even more excited when the package they’ve been waiting for actually arrives at their doorstep!
It’s the perfect moment to encourage them to snap a photo and tag your business on Facebook or Twitter.
How to get started: Use your internal designer or hire a freelance designer to design a creative flyer to include in your shipment packages. If you want to go above and beyond with this one, tell your customers that they will be rewarded with a coupon or free gift for sharing their social media update.
Remember: The goal here is to help your customers become your salespeople. If customers do share social media updates mentioning your company, make sure to respond to them authentically — your future customers are watching!
8. The buy again email
Summary: Your current customers are more valuable than your prospective customers, so it’s important that you do what you can to get them to buy from you again. This tactic is pretty simple: after a customer buys from you, send them an email 10 to 15 days later inviting them to buy again. It’s an easy way to remind your customers that you’re still interested in helping make their lives better, easier, more fun, etc.
Your email can include a link to the product they bought last time or links to related products (cross-selling). You can even offer them something special in return for buying again, like free shipping, a free added gift, or a discount on products.
How to get started: Design your email in Mailchimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, Remarkety, or whichever tool you use for email marketing at your e-commerce business. Most of these tools allow you to set up email drips based on certain triggers (such as ‘Send Email 15 Days After Subscription.” Design an email that invites your customers to buy the same product again, or a related product that they might also like.
For more help with e-commerce email marketing, read this blog post from Magento.
9. The personalized homepage
Summary: This tactic requires a bit more work on the development/integration side of things, but the rewards can be big if you can pull it off. Here’s the idea: you customize the look and feel of your homepage for returning visitors. The goal here is to present potential customers with a personalized landing page that caters to them as an individual.
For example, if you know they looked at a particular product but did not buy that product, you could customize their experience the next time they land on your website to specifically promote or remind them about the product they were last reviewing in your shop.
How to get started: The best way to get started with this tactic is decide what you want to personalize on your e-commerce website. To do that, I recommend reading through this blog post from Crazy Egg — it’s full of ideas that can get you thinking about your own store. Once you’ve educated yourself a bit more on website personalization, decide what you want to focus on for your own site. Then use a tool like Evergage or Bunting to build out your personalization campaigns.
10. The referral program
Summary: This is one of the more obvious tactics on this list, but it’s still worth mentioning. One of the best and easiest ways to drive customer growth and sales at your e-commerce business is by launching a referral program that rewards customers for sending new business your way.
In addition to being a great tactic for connecting with new prospective customers, it’s also a great way to get your current customers to buy again using the rewards they receive from referring people to you.
How to get started: The easiest way to get started with this tactic is to set up an account on ReferralCandy,Forewards, Sweet Tooth, Ambassador or another referral program software. All of these tools will walk you through the process of building a custom referral program for your e-commerce business.
11. The bundle/related products suggestion
Summary: Similar to tactic number eight, this tactic focuses on encouraging customers to purchase related products or bundle multiple items from your store that pair well together. In the e-commerce world, these are also known as Add-Ons, Cross-Sells, and Up-Sells. You can learn more about them by reading either of the following blog posts:
- How To Boost e-commerce Sales With Upselling from ConversionXL
- The Art of e-commerce Upselling from KISSmetrics
How to get started: The best way to get started here is to educate yourself on the value and benefit of upselling and cross-selling by reading through the blog posts above. Once you have a better understanding and a few ideas for your own business, you’ll need to find the right tool to help you implement this tactic.
There are a handful of tools listed at the bottom of the KISSmetrics blog post that you can look through and test. They’re categorized by e-commerce platform — there are tools for Shopify, Magento, PrestaShop, and WooCommerce.
12. The social proof statement
Summary: As mentioned earlier in this blog post, statements and actions from real people who have purchased your products before can be incredibly powerful selling tools. One great way to boost sales on your e-commerce site is by including social proof statements everywhere — testimonials on your homepage, number of customers or products sold on your About Us page, and, as shown in the image below, live interactions from other customers as they purchase your products in real-time.
How to get started: You can manually add testimonials and social proof statements throughout your website, or you can use tools like Notify to incorporate live social proof onto your product pages.
13. The retargeting campaign
Summary: Like tactic five mentioned earlier, retargeting ads can also help you capture visitors who didn’t purchase before leaving your website. Retargeting ads ‘follow’ your website visitors and promote products in an effort to drive potential customers back to your store.
Because of how much you can segment and customize when building them, retargeting campaigns are incredibly powerful and effective when it comes to driving people back to your website.
How to get started: To implement this tactic for your e-comnmerce business, sign up for an Adroll or Criteo account and decide where you’d like to launch retargeting ads. I personally recommend starting with Facebook.
To learn more about how retargeting works on Facebook, click here.
14. The urgency statement
Summary: Another great way to drive prospective customers to finish through to the end of the buying cycle is by adding urgency statements onto your product pages. Urgency statements could relate to the amount of inventory remaining for a particular product, the time left on a specific deal that you’re running, or temporary free shipping.
How to get started: To launch a lean version of this tactic, you can use Optimizely to change the wording that displays on your product pages, in your emails, or within social media updates on Facebook and Twitter. Examples of urgency keywords you can use include:
- Act now
- Time is running out
- Limited supply
- Today only
- Ends soon
15. The content upgrade offer
Summary: If you blog regularly on your e-commerce site, you can drive more sales and nurture more relationships by adding content upgrade offers within your blog posts. Content upgrade offers are additional value resources (like an ebook) that you can offer readers in exchange for their email address.
The goal here is to capture email addresses of prospective customers so that you can add them to your email campaigns, nurture them, and eventually convert them into customers. Content upgrade offers only work if you are actually willing to take the time to position yourself as a valuable resource to your customers (as opposed to positioning yourself as simply a business that sells products).
How to get started: The easiest way to get started is to find your most popular blog post, and repurpose it into a short ebook, checklist, or worksheet. You can build your resource using your internal designer, a freelancer, or a full-service shop like The Content Upgrade. In addition to building your content upgrade offer, you’ll also need to build the email drip campaign that will live behind your offer.
The first email in the drip series should contain a link to the resource the person intended to download. The following emails in the series (plan on sending two to three more spread out over a few weeks), can include additional value content and occasional hard-sell statements and promotions relating to your products.
16. The seasonal campaign
Summary: Seasonality is a big opportunity for a lot of e-commerce businesses. Holidays like Christmas and Black Friday can be gold mines, so it’s important to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities these seasons bring to your business.
How to get started: To launch a seasonal campaign that drives more customers and sales, you’ll want to kick things off by thinking about the types of deals and offers you can present to your audience. Next, you’ll want to prepare your marketing materials — Facebook ads, new graphics for your homepage and product pages, email copy and graphics, social media updates, and anything else you think you’ll need. Finally, you’ll want to put together a clear timeline for launching and managing your seasonal campaign.
Give yourself at least five weeks of prep time leading up to the holiday or season you’d like to leverage in order to fuel growth and sales at your business.
17. The trust symbols
Summary: The final tactic in this list is simple: overcome objections and make people feel safe by adding visual trust symbols throughout your e-commerce site. Your prospective customers want to feel confident that the information they share with you is safe and that you’re a reputable company. Adding trust badges to your website footer, product pages, and checkout pages is the easiest way to build trust with new visitors who land on your site.
How to get started: Access the logos provided by the companies you use to keep your e-commerce site safe, then add them across your entire website. Alternatively, you could use a tool like Optimizely to A/B test adding trust badges on certain product pages on your website in order determine whether or not they impact sales.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.