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Sugatan State of eCommerce 2020: 10+ Insights and 4 Important Needle Movers

Irakli Zviadadze | Content Marketer | Sugatan.io 

November 13, 2020

State of eCommerce 2020: 10+ Insights and 4 Important Needle Movers

We’re at an interesting point with eCommerce right now. 

Just about everyone is struggling with Facebook ads, CPMs are going crazy because of the elections, COVID is still ongoing, Black Friday coming up and so much more…

Because of this, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen. 

It feels like no one knows anything and everyone is sitting around looking at each other trying to decide what to do. 

Who knows what the overall eCommerce ad situation will look like in a few months.

So, instead, today, we’re going to be focusing on something else. 

Instead of facing the unknown, we’re going to be talking about what’s working instead. We’ll be sharing our personal experiences, what channels we’re secretly (not anymore) focusing on and experimenting with, and share some other behind-the-scenes info.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

There’s a lot to cover here. So, first, let’s take a look at some important eCommerce trends and features of 2020 and what’s been leading up to the current situation.

eCommerce 2020: An Overview of The 5 Most Important Key Statistics and Insights

eCommerce has delivered consistent double-digit year-over-year growth prior to COVID and 2020 is expected to be the strangers yet year with +22% growth driven by the massive shift to online. 

From the way people shop (consumer buying behavior) to the way online business tech is managed – eCommerce is gearing up for some serious changes.

We would be here all day talking about how far eCommerce has come in the last decade. 

But at the end of the day, you’re probably here because you care about what’s going on in eCommerce NOW and where we’re going.

So, let’s discuss that instead.

1. Post-COVID eCommerce online shopping behavior

Probably the most relevant and defining events of 2020 that will have implications for years (and decades) to come.

Especially in eCommerce.

As soon as news of COVID-19 pandemic spread like wildfire, people responded by stocking up (panic buying). 

People respond to crises in different ways. When faced with uncertain, risky situations over which we have no control, we tend to try whatever we can to feel like we have some control.

This is also fueled by wanting to satisfy our 3 fundamental, psychological needs, which are:

  • Autonomy – The need to feel in control.
  • Relatedness – We are doing something that benefits others and those close to us.
  • Competence – That we’re making the right choice.

These 3 concepts are the same reason why retail therapy is a thing. But during a pandemic, there are extra layers to it.

When people hear different advice from different sources, they have an instinct to over-prepare (rather than under-prepare).

So, as people have naturally embraced social distancing, there has been an obvious drop in brick-and-mortar shopping.

As people are making buying choices based on new global changes, the product categories they’re purchasing are also changing. 

According to a study by Nielsen there are 6 different consumer behavior thresholds tied to the post-COVID-19 market. These are:

  • Proactive health-minded buying (for health and wellness products).
  • Reactive health management (sanitary protection, masks, etc.).
  • Pantry-preparation (stockpiling groceries).
  • Quarantine prep (fewer store visitors because of certain product shortages).
  • Restricted living (limited online fulfillment).
  • A new normal (completely different supply chain, possible shipping delays, slow return to daily routine).

Accordingly, there have been several changes in revenue across different eCommerce products and categories as people are spending more on online shopping. And some industries are also seeing significant upticks, such as grocery eCommerce, subscription services, household products, and so on.

2. A new custom experience

On that note, many brands are also making meaningful changes to customer experience, mostly in the following fields:

  • Manufacturing.
  • Merchandising and promotions.
  • Order-taking.
  • Fulfillment.
  • Delivery.

You’ll need to ask yourself how your supply chain has changed, which changes are likely to be temporary, and which may potentially become the new normal.

On a more practical level, optimizing your site with the above in mind can really boost your conversion rates by alleviating your customers’ fears.

Start with your customer service to gain data and insights about your customers. They should know all the important fear and pain points.

  • Find what questions they have about COVID (keyword “corona”).
  • If possible, find questions related to the pandemic and use data to see which messages to write and if it’s worth testing.

ecommerce-covid-safe

People are now more directed in their purchasing behavior process.

It’s more about reliability, convenience, availability, assured deliverability trust, and so on.

To come out on top and boost your eCommerce customer experience, you can focus on:

  • Intelligent search – Customers want a search function that delivers relevance to them. They want to know if the product they’re looking for is in stock, relevant suggestions, accurate up-to-date information, and detailed product information.
  • A personalized experience – COVID-19 has delivered a cultural reset when it comes to consumer’s attitudes to online shopping. As consumers are seeking out a personalized experience more and more, new habits are likely to be formed. 
  • The role of mobile – A strong mobile touchpoint can boost the digital customer experience, especially if that’s where most of your customers are going to be when browsing through your website.
  • Rich content and information – During the pandemic, the importance of information and product availability has gone up as a huge requirement. Accurate information such as product details, stock info, and FAQ can improve the eCommerce customer experience.
  • Flexible purchase and delivery options – eCommerce businesses have a number of online payment options to consider, each promising to provide an intuitive and secure checkout experience. It’s not always the case of the more the merrier, but rather, you should pick purchase options relevant to your customers (also see what your competitors are doing).

3. Biggest Black Friday Cyber Monday to date

After months of quarantine-induced online shopping – it’s hard to believe that the biggest retail weekend of the year is only 3 weeks away.

While 2020 Black Friday Cyber Monday is not canceled, the event will be different, and a bit weird.

Let’s take a look at the data first.

First of all, according to Adobe Analytics, the total amount of customers spend across Black Friday weekend is set to increase by 20% in revenue compared to last year.

If we combine this with the info from the survey conducted by Wells Fargo, there will be a very different Black Friday.

The Wells Fargo survey showed that 70% of consumers aren’t planning on returning to physical stores in the foreseeable future. This means that the increase from 25% to 30% in the eCommerce marketplace (from the pandemic) is here to stay.

With a 20% increase in revenue over Black Friday and more and more consumers shopping online, we can safely expect Black Friday 2020 to break records.

If you want to make the most out of this record-breaking weekend (or week), you need to prepare (if you haven’t already).

A strong eCommerce strategy is key for BFCM of 2020.

Here are some of our tips, insights, and what to expect:

  • Sales will start early – BFCM sales creep earlier every year. But 2020 will see some of the earliest yet. Some brands already announced holiday plans in October. Expect competition to be extremely fierce, CPMs to go high, and you will need to work harder to fight for your customers’ attention.
  • Big retailers will close their doors after Thanksgiving – Due to crowding and safety reasons, many big retailers will close their doors for Thanksgiving 2020. This means there might be an even bigger switch from shopping in stores to online shopping.
  • Supply-chain bottlenecks – Expect increased demand to put a strain on the supply chain management. This can lead to delivery delays and even increased shipping costs as a result of intense demand.
  • An extended season of holiday sales – Many top retailers are avoiding a single Black Friday offering. Their goal is to avoid the typical rush of traffic and to spread out the sales over the holidays.

eCommerce stores will face tough competition if not prepared.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Start collecting emails early – Email marketing will be one of your strongest weapons during BFCM. The more emails and warm audience you have, the more sales you’ll generate.
  • Beef up your online experience – Is your site ready for all the traffic and customers you’re about to receive? You should make mobile a priority, remove any unnecessary JavaScript plugins, and try to increase your site speed.
  • Pre-buy and schedule media – Pre-buying media is a smart and efficient way to start the customer acquisition process earlier. As a rule of thumb, media buying DURING BFCM will be extremely difficult and expensive. Regardless of your offer, you might find it difficult to stand out amidst all the ads. So, you should start early.
  • Incorporate SMS marketing too – This is an extremely simple way to generate more purchases. For our SMS campaign, we sent out an email asking people to send us a message to a specific number through their phone to get an extra 5% on top of our Black Week deals. We received 451 messages, out of which 41 people bought our products.
  • And more.

Looking for more actionable BFCM strategies and eCommerce insights? Check out what we’re doing in our full eCommerce Black Friday guide and learn how to generate 45% of your yearly revenue in 3 months.

4. Improved chatbot experience

As the combination of personalization and AI capabilities, chatbots can serve as the viewer greeter and salesperson.

eCommerce chatbots are becoming increasingly popular as they get more innovative and useful. This also represents a cheap and effective customer engagement, acquisition, and traffic directing tool. In eCommerce, chatbots are also being used for many different and specific tasks, such as getting quick answers to FAQ, resolving problems or complaints, or even placing orders.

ecommerce-chatbots

In reality, according to one study, more than 60% of customers report they prefer talking with bots and other digital self-servicing tools (such as websites, apps, and other ways to answer their simple inquiries). Especially for millennials, who hold an increasingly large purchasing power, chat is the preferred support channel.

For now, chatbots are great customer support in eCommerce. Over time, they might drastically change how people shop online altogether. They’ll become one of the most important marketing tools and even help with the self-checkout experience.

5. Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and enhanced eCommerce websites

Currently, around 60% of traffic is coming from mobile devices. It’s essential eCommerce businesses provide the best experience to engage their audiences. While mobile traffic is growing, conversion rates are not. Mobile traffic still accounts for around 16% of total conversion.

And according to Google, whenever an eCommerce store switches toa Progressive Web App, they generally witness a 20% revenue boost overall, with conversion rates sometimes even doubling in some cases…

A PWA is technology that allows businesses to build web applications that have the look and feel of native mobile-apps while using native web technologies like JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and so on.

PWAs run in a browser and gives users the experience of a native app through key features like:

  • Access to the app through the mobile home screen.
  • Offline app access.
  • Push notifications.
  • Full responsiveness and browser compatibility
  • And more.

And benefits include:

  • Wider audience reach.
  • Reduced development cost and time.
  • Speed and accessibility.
  • Better conversions.
  • Increase in mobile traffic and engagement.
  • Increase in average session percentage.
  • And more.

For more info on how PWAs can work in eCommerce as well as a few options for building your storefront, check out this article.

Now, let’s get more practical and focus on eCommerce needle movers you might want to keep in mind for 2021.

4 Biggest eCommerce Needle Movers We’re Focusing on and Other Underrated Marketing Tips for 2021

These are the top needle movers we’re experimenting with right now. They have a ton of potential and some of them are also extremely underrated marketing tactics.

Only a few brands can execute them successfully as these needle movers are a long-term play. 

Because Facebook ads seem to be crashing for just about everyone, now is the time to consider other media, marketing channels, and growth-hacking strategies.

Here’s what we’re experimenting with and focusing on:

  • Community building.
  • Reddit.
  • Better meetings (management).
  • eCommerce product launches and sales formula.

Simple tactics, with potentially very powerful results.

Let’s start from the top.

1. Community building

This is a long-term effort but is something you need to focus on if you want to go over the $3m/year+ mark.

Community building (or just community marketing) is a strategy to engage, build, and grow your audience in an active, non-intrusive place.

Depending on where your audience is active the most, you should grow and build your community pod accordingly.

Few places include Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, forums, Quora, Reddit, and so on.

Community building is a long-term measure of customer loyalty. But to earn that loyalty, you have to give as much value as you can first.

This is exactly what we’re doing in our own private Facebook group – eCommerce Growth Hacks | Facebook Ads, Creatives, Email & More | by Sugatan.

Join for more exclusive, behind-the-scenes content.

sugatan-ecommerce-group

More and more companies (eCommerce or not) are realizing that providing a platform for exchange and moderation within a community is a sustainable investment. 

Communities provide insight into customer needs, their pain points, the EXACT language they use, and so much more.

And the best thing is, you’re not competing for CPM.

Strong communities are much better than any type of paid ads.

If you’re successfully “recruiting” people for your brand, they’ll be so proud of being a part of your community that they’ll spread the word of your brand on their own.

This way, people become part of your tribe, become brand evangelists, and do word-of-mouth marketing for you.

In a way, it’s like a cult:

You need to have a very strong voice, mission, and enemies to throw stones at with your members. Your community should also have its own unique language or vocabulary.

Some key community components include:

  • Strict but fair rules regarding value-posting and self-promotion.
  • A group of people with a common interest in your topic.
  • People who care about each other.
  • People who support and feel they belong together.
  • A place where people can ask questions and engage each other.

In turn, community building helps fuel growth for your business. It can

  • Reduce your dependency on paid ads.
  • Increase customer retention through ongoing engagement.
  • Give your customers a voice in the direction of your business (as well as allows them to engage with you in a transparent way with other people).
  • Allow you to sell directly to your community (with better reach than paid ads).

A great resource on this is ‘The One Sentence Persuasion Course’ book by Blair Warren.

In it, he talks a lot about persuasion. But that one specific sentence which is so relevant to community building is as follows:

“People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions, and help them throw rocks at their enemies.”

one-sentence-persuasionBe sure to read the whole book though, it’s full of gems like this.

The fundamentals behind persuasion require a total understanding of human nature (or, at least, your community and target audience).

And this is essentially what’s behind the most successful community groups.

Some proven strategies to help you get started and get people to fall in love with your brand include:

  • Participating – Sounds obvious, but people join communities to connect with others, share information, research, and learn more about whatever topic your brand falls into. It’s your job to be active, answer some questions, and be relatable once your community is growing. The goal here is to be authentic.
  • Contribute like a pro – Remember, you’re the expert in your field and topic. So, you should know what type of content your community will respond well to. When you focus on actually helping your community instead of using marketing, you’re much more likely to build loyalty.
  • Be accessible – Nobody likes to be ignored. Make sure you take the time of your day and devote it to your group. 
  • Advertise in an informative way – Have a new product or a service you want your community to know about? Make sure you educate them about it first and explain the benefits.
  • Stay consistent – Finally, as you grow your community, keeping track of everything might become difficult. Consider investing in community managers or get VAs you can trust to moderate your group for you. Just make sure you don’t lose your brand voice while doing so.

Eventually, customers will start asking questions, interact with each other, and post on their own.

Another way you can leverage community groups is by using them as a place for research for your copymining.

Community copymining

Another great benefit about community groups is that there’s plenty of fan-made groups or ones made by other brands you can use to your advantage.

With copymining, you can look into other relevant community groups for your niche and use them for inspiration.

There, you’ll find all sorts of gems – the exact language your target audience uses, their pain points, competitor reviews, what they look for in a product, and more.

This is essential for doing copywriting research.

To find community groups based around your niche, all you have to do is go on Facebook (or other sites, but Facebook is often a gold mine for this), type in your related keyword, and filter for groups.

For example…

facebook-group-skincare

Ideally, you should be doing copymining by combining a few different marketing channels.

And you should have a Google Sheet or a Document where you’ll be storing all this information for future reference.

But here are some of the copywriting markers we’re looking for in these communities:

  • Explanations – Features, objections and resolutions, credibility markers, damaging admissions.
  • Benefits – What the product does for the customer. For example: “’You will lose ten pounds, which means you will have a sizzling bod that fits in those jeans you bought ten years ago, which means…”
  • Usage – Note down the language your target market uses when describing the product in action. “Quick method, don’t need a lot, and then you see your face de-puff. Pushes the wrinkles away.”
  • Themes – What themes do they associate with your product? What are they thinking about when buying your product? This can be motivation factors (“speed up healing, skincare, etc.), anxiety themes (quality, price, safety), value themes (quality, price, customer support), and so on. The more themes you can separate, the more copywriting angles you’ll have to focus on.
  • Word-for-word quotes – Every once in a while, you’ll come across gold nuggets you can copy and paste into your ads or repeat the pain points back to your customers. 

Finally, another thing you can do is to join relevant Facebook groups and make the most out of the search function. Just type in relevant keywords and you’ll find your target audience discussing the exact topic, in their own words, their struggles, and motivations.

facebook-group-stress

Another great copymining resource place is Reddit. The same technique applies here.

  1. Find relevant subreddits for your niche.
  2. Filter by all time posts or search for relevant keywords if you want to be more specific.
  3. Look at the language they use to describe what they like and don’t like.

Here’s a quick example of this from Brian Dean’s copywriting guide on protein bars.

If you’re selling paleo protein bars, you’d look under reddit.com/r/paleo (how Reddit splits up communities) and search for “bars” in the community.

In there, you’d find something like this post which is a goldmine for copywriting.

reddit-copy-mine

After you know their pain points, you can reuse that in your landing page or Facebook ad.

“Are you looking for a paleo bar that doesn’t feel like eating shoe leather?

Finally, a paleo protein bar that doesn’t hurt or get stuck in your teeth…”

So, to recap, you can use community building to:

  • Build and grow an online community that’s exclusive to your brand. Share value, engage with your tribe, and grow your brand. 
  • Do further product and competitor research for your copywriting.

Now, the next eCommerce needle mover we’re experimenting with…

2. Reddit media buying and PR stunts

We mentioned Reddit above, but Reddit ad buying is a different beast.

Reddit is the 7th biggest website online. Many brands (including eCommerce) are driving traffic to it but using the platform as an opportunity to go viral or as a PR stunt is a huge challenge.

If you’re planning to tackle Reddit as a marketing channel, you need to make sure you have your customers’ voice down to a T.

But here’s the thing:

Redditors hate advertisements with a passion. They WILL call you out if your content is mediocre or if you’re trying to blatantly promote your product or service.

So, there are 2 problems with this channel:

  1. Redditors hate advertisers, especially outsiders who are too self-promotional.
  2. Reddit ads are still more or less new and some of its features aren’t as advanced as Facebook.

Similarly, there are 2 ways to approach Reddit. Let’s take a look at each.

1. Reddit ads

If you’re experienced with PPC marketing, the ways you can target audiences on Reddit will already be familiar to you.

reddit-ad-buying

  • Interest – Pretty straightforward. You can target users who have recently interacted with certain categories of content.
  • Community – You can target specific communities (subreddits) based around a specific topic. E.g. /r/skincare, /r/fitness, so on. Reddit communities get pretty niche, no matter what your topic is, there’s probably a community for it.
  • Targeting expansion – To show ads to people who engage with interests related to those selected in the audience section of campaign setup.
  • Device – Desktop or mobile.
  • Location – Location targeting by country, city level, or worldwide.
  • Time of the day – Which hour or the days of the week your ads will be shown.
  • Custom audiences – Custom audiences are for the US only. This way, you can reach an audience based on previous engagements with your business. Upload a list of emails or mobile app ID (MAID, IDFA for iOS, and GAID for Android) through the ads dashboard to create a custom audience.

reddit ads

You can find more info on Reddit advertising as well as some more practical use cases here.

Now, as for the ‘how-to’ on Reddit advertising, there aren’t a lot of best practices and guides out there on the topic. Seeing as how it’s not exactly the most popular advertising platform.

One thing you should keep in mind though is authenticity. As mentioned above, Redditors hate overly pushy ads. So, the key is to be authentic and not push your product actively.

Advertising on Reddit is not for every brand. But it can be the right channel for you.

Glossier launched a sweepstake really well during their 7-day hype marketing campaign on Reddit.

reddit-skincare-ads

Their promoted post introduces the brand and communicates a clear value offer with the copy “sign up for a chance to win”.

They also chose a relevant subreddit (skincare addiction) which aligned with their target audience’s interests. 

Once clicked, Redditors were taken to a custom landing page that asked for an email opt-in for the chance to win their new product.

Then, they went one step further by customizing the landing page as a unique page for Redditors with the copy (“Greetings Redditors…”)

Not all landing pages are one-size-fits-all. If you’re running a special promotion (e.g. for one specific segment audience, for Black Friday landing page, etc.), consider creating a custom landing page like Glossier and then treat the launch day as an event.

There’s a lot you can learn from Glossier, and we’ll be looking at some of their other marketing strategies below. So, keep on reading.

Do you have any experience or results with Reddit ads? Let us know in our Facebook group or in the comments below!

2. Going viral on Reddit

Most marketers believe that having their single piece of content go viral will help them achieve tremendous results across the social network and beyond. 

But it’s not usually like that.

The truth is you’ve got to be consistent.

In Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, he explains that the 6 key steps to drive people to talk and share follow the STEPPS acronym:

  • Social currency – People talking about things to make themselves look good, rather than bad.
  • Triggers – We talk about things that are on the top of our heads.
  • Ease for emotion – When we care, we share. The more we care about a piece of information or content, the more likely we are to pass it along.
  • Public – When we see other people doing something, we’re more likely to imitate it.
  • Practical Value – The idea of news you can use. We share information to help others or to make them better off.
  • Stories – How we share things are often wrapped up in stories and give us a reason to care or listen.

Reddit subreddits are like a group of people having a real conversation. If you want to add to it, you need to make sure you’re not talking like a marketing chatbot.

Avoid vague and disingenuous information about the features of your product and how it can help them. Instead, focus on educating or entertaining them.

If you’re producing content about your eCommerce product, joining and getting involved in the right subreddit can be a great way to get the word out.

  • Your post can’t be a carbon copy of your product description.
  • You need to address them directly.
  • Write as you talk.
  • Don’t post and leave.
  • Most importantly, consider making a text post instead of posting a link directly (depending on the subreddit). And format your content to be Reddit-friendly.

When doing self-promotion on Reddit, you have to make sure it’s structured well for that channel. It should hold their attention, give out a lot of value, and be well formatted so that someone can read it easily.

So, if you’re producing advertorials (educational, SEO blog articles work well for this), Reddit can be a great way to promote that content and try to go viral. Obviously, you should also include links in it so that you can drive traffic back to your site.

But the key is to give value first, and THEN ask for something in return (e.g. link back to your site if they want to read the full article).

There are subreddits for just about everything, so you should have no problem finding a community relevant to your brand.

  • Fitness.
  • Skincare.
  • Travel.
  • Health.
  • Beauty.
  • And so on.

Here’s a great example by Sah Kilic who managed to create a viral Reddit post and drive 100,000+ views to his travel blog and 100+ comments on Reddit. Also consider the post structure he followed so that it’s not too self-promotional.

reddit-promotion-post

The most important part is your link placement as Reddit users hate leaving Reddit.

So, instead of writing an intro and then providing a link to the full blog post, you should try to post the entire write-up in a text format natively. 

If you give extraordinary value to people with no strings attached, your CTA will be that much more powerful and people will be glad to naturally check out your website.

What’s more effective?

  • “Click here for my latest article.”

Compared to:

  • “I mentioned this idea in my most viral article on my site a few months ago…”

If your post has little gold nuggets that are formatted to be more casual and intriguing like the second example, more people will be likely to click on them.

You can also follow this tactic to share:

  • PR pieces.
  • Educational blog posts.
  • Your thoughts, experience, and lessons working in your industry.
  • Behind the scenes knowledge.
  • Tips, tricks, and other practical advice for your industry.
  • Other content that might be worth sharing to your target audience.

makeup-tips-banner

Advertorials are great because you can also use them in your ads.

For the most part, we use 2 different types of advertorials:

  • Emotional storytelling – So far, we’re using stories generated by our customers and by the business owners themselves. When we survey the customers and ask why they bought the product, a lot of them say the owners’ story resonated with them so well that they wanted to try out the product. If there’s a particularly compelling story behind your eCommerce business, you can leverage it in your advertorials.
  • Educational content.- Self-explanatory. This advertorial educates people on many issues. We take an umbrella approach here and test different articles that our potential client could read and see which one resonates with them the most. 

Considering launching PR stunts and other forms of non traditional marketing? Check out our podcast with Saul Colt, the self-proclaimed smartest man in the world, for more info on word-of-mouth marketing and how to stand out.

3. Better meetings (management)

Want to save time? Cut down on the number of meetings you’re forced to have? Change the dynamic of your team and have them lead your business meetings on their own?

This is exactly what happened with Deividas – as he explains in the podcast.

He realized he was only dealing with 5 types of meetings within Sugatan:

  • Problem-solving.
  • Weekly check-ins.
  • Monthly check-ins.
  • Quarterly check-ins.
  • Brainstorming and innovations.

Sounds repetitive, right?

As a solution, he decided to make an SOP out of each so that they would happen without him being present in each meeting.

Enter: Amazon problem-solving meeting formula.

Here’s how that works:

  1. Before a meeting starts, you send out questions with all the problems your team is facing and put them in a Word document.
  2. In the meeting, you read through all of the comments and responses from the document.
  3. Then, you start the discussion.
  4. In the end, the “lead” of the meeting goes through the document to address everything and wrap it up.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of meetings you have like Deividas, you can ask one of your department’s heads (or operation manager) to lead the meetings (with the above process in mind). 

Then, you have a much quicker meeting with that “lead” to recap the status of the project.

These one-on-one meetings are much faster and once you have a list of things you need to address, everything becomes much more convenient.

The Amazon problem-solving formula provides a six-section template for what makes a good briefing note:

  • The Challenge – Where we are now. Always either a problem or opportunity. E.g. delivery date, deadline shifted due to unforeseen circumstances, etc.
  • The Undesired Outcome – Where we don’t want to be. What will happen if the problem goes unaddressed. E.g. if unable to release new product before the holiday season, your revenue might be hit.
  • The Desired Outcome – Where we want to be. Obviously should be better than the undesired outcome. E.g. to get the project back on schedule and hit all the deadlines.
  • The Proposal Solution – What steps must be taken to avoid the undesired outcome and achieve the desired outcome. E.g. hiring two new product designers.
  • The Risk Remover – Why the proposed solution is likely to succeed and unlikely to fail. E.g. already have 4 new candidates in mind with the right skillset who will need to be quickly onboarded.
  • The Call to Action – The decision you want to be made that will put the solution into motion to achieve desired outcomes. E.g. Immediately increase the budget for the project.

Typically, each of these six points consists of a paragraph each, which means you should be able to get the whole briefing document to fit onto one single-spaced page. But if the project is more complex than that, each section can be 2-3 paragraphs long.

The act of preparing the briefing forces the organizer to consider in more detail the proposal – which in turn results in a far better-prepared document for discussion.  

On that note, Amazon has also banned PowerPoint.

One might argue that you can create a PowerPoint presentation template with those slides ready to go. But realistically, you might end up with 5 slides per section.

A powerPoint presentation might have fewer words than the briefing document, but depending on your ability to explain, interpret and comment on each slide, it might take even more time.

And since the initial slides will be dedicated to identifying the problem, chances are, you’ll be spending 10-15 minutes discussing “who’s to blame” for the problem. 

So, PowerPoint discussion meetings can be an easy way to fall into rabbit holes of side discussions that turn 30-minute presentations into 60-minute ones.

By contrast, if you begin the meeting with a briefing document, attendees will probably either skim the memo or read it closely in the beginning – which should take 2-5 minutes at most.

Now, the attendees of the meeting will probably have some questions about the memo, but since everyone is (literally) on the same page, those discussions are less likely to fall into irrelevant rabbit holes.

So, let’s compare:

  • PowerPoint meetings – Up to 60-minutes discussing the slides, with only the last few minutes focused on the decision you want to make.
  • Amazon problem-solving meeting – With a briefing document, the attendees spend 2-5 minutes reading the memo and maybe up to 18 minutes on an informed discussion that’s likely to reach a verdict.

If you have a lot of different types of meeting, this adds up quickly and can save you a lot of time down the road. It’s probably going to take you more time to write up a briefing document than make a quick PowerPoint presentation, but on the bright side, you’ll be driving every meeting discussion instead of merely sparking a discussion.

Then, once you’ve reached a point where you can make an SOP out of every type of meeting you usually attend – you have a department lead (or a manager) take over the process for you.

You’ll be able to cut down on the number of meetings and just check in with that one person instead.

Some other Amazon meeting norms include:

  • Two pizza rule – No meetings where two pizzas can’t feed all the participants.
  • Memo readings – Process described above.
  • No PowerPoint  – To avoid hard to understand and confusing meeting points.
  • Outcome syndication – Before the meeting, align all participants on the desired outcomes.
  • Loose agenda – Have a tight agenda on where you’re going. Meetings are usually for decisions that need to be debated and brainstormed.

Some of our management insights based on experience:

  • Short-term oriented people should not be reporting to long-term oriented people. Meaning, you have to structure your business so that creators who are thinking about short-term revenue are not reporting under those thinking about long-term. E.g. the sales team should not report to the branding/content manager.
  • Learn to map out things and set specific KPIs. For every hire or head of department, try to set a clear KPI for them to hit (e.g. end-of-month milestone KPI for your ad spend, revenue, ROAS, etc.)
  • Companies can outgrow people. As the classic saying goes – “hire slow, fire fast”. 

The thing is, there are different types of personalities and creatives in any organization.

If you want to scale your business, you should think about the bigger picture and how people operate.

We’ve covered this before, but an important insight from Organizational Physics (a book on the science of growing a business and achieving extraordinary growth), there are 4 types of people you need for any teams:

  • Producers – People who are super hands-on, can work for 10+ hours a day, focus on results, and delivering.
  • Stabilizers – Always asking the “how do we do this…” questions behind projects and strategies. Takes the time to plan things out and carefully decide how to approach the project. Does NOT get along with producers.
  • Innovators –  The “idea” guy. Comes up with great ideas and is annoyed when people don’t listen.
  • Unifiers – People-person of the team. Asks how everyone is doing, makes sure people are getting along and working together. 

If you want to grow your business, you need all of them in your team.

The next time you’re faced with new challenges or opportunities, you need to look at the bigger picture on how to approach it – with all of your team members in mind.

Looking for more management frameworks and strategies to scale your business? Check out our eCommerce strategies, lessons, and frameworks that help us scale businesses $30M-$100M+ here.

4. Perfecting our eCommerce product launch formula (2 versions)

Every time we do a new product launch or sale, our overall revenue goes up by 5%-10% the next month. In other words, we experience a 5%-10% growth.

For the sale, we attract people on our email list who are still waiting for a good enough offer to buy.

And during the product launch, we get our loyal customers to try out the new product, which in turn makes them stay with us even longer and increases our retention rate.

The importance of sales + product launch is massive. We try to have a sale every 1-2 months or so and a product launch every 2 months.

1 Month you have a sale, another product launch, and that’s how you grow your business 5%-10% every month.

How do you know what product to develop, exactly?

Ask your customers! Ask them what kind of formula they want, what they don’t want, if there’s anything lacking with your current products, and so on. You’ll be sure to hit a jackpot with your next product launch this way.

We developed our first product launch formula over 2 years ago.

Before, our formula looked like this:

ecommerce-product-launch-formula

1. Pre-Launch

During the pre-launch, we collect emails and set up a VIP list. Those who register and opt-in will get a special discount code for 24 hours (usually 5% more than regular launch discount or just give a free product).

This also hypes them up, prepares them for the sale, and of course, grows our email list.

2. VIP Launch 

In this step, we create 1-2 clear ads, 2 emails, and a separate SMS campaign.

There’s a massive scarcity play here that contributes to the success. We give our customers 24 hours to complete their purchase and we make them feel exclusive. 

To create EVEN MORE scarcity, you can limit the number of items you’re going to sell during the VIP launch.

3. Regular Launch

We plan our regular launches for 2-3 days as we start seeing diminishing returns after that (except for Black Week or Black Month).

We usually use a very simple offer like a discount and prepare all of our traditional eCommerce marketing channels like email, SMS, and ads.

4. Last 24 Hours

Finally, on the 3rd day of sales, we lean on the scarcity play even more.

We create FOMO ads that say the sale is going to end at a certain time, as well as push SMS, emails, and push notifications to inform them about it.

It’s a simple formula but it works. 

If you execute it perfectly, you can get about 20%-30% more sales than from a regular sale.

We mainly used the above product launch formula for sales rather than product launches (though it can be definitely used for both).

The new one is a true product launch formula, without having a discount, but relying on the product itself.

Now, we’re refining this formula even further and we’re experimenting with a new product launch formula.

This is partly based on Glossier’s product launch strategy. 

There’s a lot you can learn from Glossier – from their marketing, copywriting, emails, community-building, and more.

The process goes something like this.

1. Know Your Customers and Ask for Specifics

As mentioned above, the best way to come up with the ‘perfect’ new product is to ask your customers directly.

Here, we focus on:

  • Promotion and slowly building hype.
  • Positioning the new product as THE solution.
  • Raising awareness and educating customers.

Community-building is also an essential part of asking for specifics here as you can ask there directly and even look up what your customers were talking about before.

You can ask questions like: If your product was a movie character – what would it be? Do you have any specifics you’d want to include in the product?

glossier-vitamins

You can also create and send a survey to your customers asking why they buy from you, what you can improve on, and so on.

Glossier engages their community in every aspect of their business – you should do the same.

2. Formulate

Then, once you have the info down, you start developing your product based on the feedback.

Make sure you actually keep the customer feedback in mind and include any ingredients, scent, fragrances, or whatever your customers wanted in a new product.

3. Real Customer Testing

During testing, create content around your new product and its materials.

Involve the customer when creating new products and start new conversations where possible.

When speaking to the audience, be sure to reiterate your value proposition around the new product, your brand values, lifestyle, and more.

Consider your touchpoints with your customers here too: social media, Facebook feed, ads, and other channels.

Or, you can go one step above and surprise your VIP customers. Give them something to talk about, invite them to dinner or get them to use your product.

If possible, activate your influencer base and get your VIP/loyal customers involved from here on out.

For example, Glossier has a Slack group that’s invitation-only featuring fans around the world.

They use the Slack group to gather information about customer preferences, behavior, and to facilitate meet-ups in different cities.

They talk about anything from Glossier products and skincare tips, to beauty trends or the books they’re reading.

4. Pre-Launch

After testing, explain your decision-process about the new product. 

Explain your approach, the compromise of quality, and how you listened to your audience to create this new ultimate product.

If you want to get your customers talking early, you can launch your new product to your VIP list only and let them use it for a month or so before everyone else.

Make your new product a Purple Cow so that your VIP customers are posting about it online and doing your marketing for you. This will build hype and intrigue around your product while you’re learning from their reactions.

Steve Jobs used to create a lot of fake review websites to create buzz when not many people had the latest iPhone at the time.

Similarly, you can create more pages to run traffic for your main brand.

For example, if you’re running a supplement store, create a Facebook page called “Top Supplement Brands” (or something like that) and start talking about your own products.

This creates an ‘in the know’ effect and you can even expect lower CPMs from the new Facebook page.

This doesn’t work for all accounts but when it does work, it can be a huge needle mover for your eCommerce business.

5. Launch and Storytelling

When launching, use storytelling elements to show how the new product was formulated.

You can create new content centered around this (3-5 part blog post, long email newsletters, few part YouTube vlog videos, etc.) and then halfway through, include storytelling elements on how your new product came to be. Just make sure it’s natural and not a random self-promotional plug.

There’s a lot of YouTube drama videos in the makeup industry that follow this process. Few videos of drama and storytelling to hook the audience, and then, once everyone is paying attention, they bring up their new product for maximum exposure.

In the past, we’ve used 2 types of storytelling:

  • Emotional storytelling – Stories by the customers or by the brand owner. Where possible, highlight the product benefits that will resonate with your audience.
  • Educational content – Educate people on many issues. Does your new product include something unique? Educate your audience on why it’s THE go-to solution for their current problems.

There are many different ways to tell a story. But regardless of the format, it has to be emotional and capture attention.

6. Re-engagement

As a final step, you can also use re-engagement marketing elements as part of your product launch.

At this point, you probably have a hungry and ready-to-go audience waiting for your product.

All you have to do is retarget them and give them that extra reason to buy.

This can be done by another influencer push or some other social proof angle.

Check out our influencer marketing process on how to generate $350k/mo here.

5 Other eCommerce Trends to Keep in Mind for 2021

Now that 2020 is drawing to a close, it’s the perfect time to draw a forecast for the eCommerce world for 2021.

2020 has already changed dramatically.

Here’s what’s coming up on the horizon for 2021.

1. Voice eCommerce search

Devices like Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby, and others are just a few examples of highly capable voice assistants.

Voice search optimization is a trend that will undoubtedly continue to grow in 2021.

According to research, 55% of all households in the U.S. will own a smart speaker by 2022 and the voice shopping industry is expected to grow to $40B the same year.

Until recently, to get results from SEO, it was necessary to include your target keywords. Often, they are ragged separate phrases. You had to try very hard to convey the essence with one or two words.

Now, voice search optimization has made this process easier. You do not need to write down separate words for voice search optimization, as voice search will become more extensive and colloquial.

One simple way to capture more organic traffic from voice searches to your eCommerce business is to optimize your top-level conversion funnel to include answers to common consumer questions surrounding your product or market.

You should also aim for Google’s rich snippets and understand that we don’t speak-search the same way we type-search.

There are certain linguistic patterns that apply only to voice search. One example is that voice searches are longer than text queries. This is where you can optimize for long-tail keywords too.

For example, someone searching for “how to reduce injuries while running” (which is how they’d ask a question related to their voice search query), could land on your solution-based or educational-based blog post, and in turn, discover your running shoe insole products.

Voice shopping is on the verge of getting perfected, but it should only be getting more popular and better over the years.

2. More payment options

Payment processing is a part of every customer’s journey and plays a critical role in the conversion process. 

The more varied and flexible your payment options are, you can expect more customers on your site to convert.

As of now, most eCommerce businesses accept digital wallets (Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Apple, etc.) apart from debit and credit cards. Cryptocurrency might also be another option, depending on the niche and your target market.

Meanwhile, some people prefer using PayPal for quick transactions (e.g. products under $10).

Also consider interest-free payment options if you’re dealing with more expensive products, or you’re offering a bundle product (e.g. “get 3 bags for a cheaper price”). This can also help increase your AOV.

Figure out which options your customers want to have and provide them with these options.

With one of the accounts we scaled to 7 figures, we experimented with the payment options (along with other things) and ended up at a 2.52% conversion rate. Here’s what the final version of the price calculator looks like.

price-calculator-homepage

Few things to consider here:

  • Highlighted box around price per bag.
  • Crossed out numbers to show how much they’re saving with each product.
  • Separate price that adds up total how much they’re saving. This also acts as an anchor point for the final price ($69.99 for 3 bags with a free shaker).
  • Or, if they prefer, 4 interest-free installments using Afterpay.

One of our jobs as marketers is to keep the balance between enough options, but not too many options.

Whenever we have too many options, we get overwhelmed by choice and go into paralysis-analysis and end up not choosing anything.

Check out the full story of the protein coffee product and how we scaled it from 0% to 247.50% growth rate in just 7 months here: eCommerce scaling growth saga part 1.

3. YouTube ads and other media

YouTube media buying is not particularly difficult, but it requires quite a few ads to be tested.

This is the platform we’re testing extensively in 2020-2021 and hope we’ll be scaling $5k-$10k daily budgets profitably.

The only problem here though is that it’s an expensive barrier to entry mainly because of video production.

It requires a certain script to pass through the 5 second mark and it has to include “disqualifiers” just before the 30 second mark (so that you pay less for your ads), voiceover, and great visuals.

So, there are quite a bit of details that need to be fleshed out and to experiment with.

Luckily, they can be cheap compared to Facebook ads, are just as scalable and more stable. 

So, once you find a creative that works, you can let it run for months. Unlike Facebook where you have to be constantly testing the creatives as their shelf life is much shorter.

The strategy with YouTube ads is to start small and once you’ve figured it out, to scale it up.

Find the exact videos your potential customers could be watching to educate themselves on the matter and start testing creatives on these people. Once you have creatives that work, expand horizontally by showing them to broader audiences based on interests. Then, move them to “similar” audiences (same as Facebook’s lookalike audiences).

Start with view-through optimization as Google will charge you ONLY if people watch your ads past the 30-second mark or click to land on your page. You can even add disqualifiers in the first 30 seconds so that only your ideal customers watch past the 30-second mark.

Because of the pricey entry point though, not many eCommerce brands are utilizing the power of YouTube ads.

For a great starting point on eCommerce YouTube ads, you can check out VidTao’s resources on the topic.

We’re also testing Snapchat and TikTok ads, but they don’t seem to be working as well as Facebook and Instagram. Check out our podcast with Fares on how to spend $300k/Month profitably on Snapchat ads if you’re looking for more info on Snapchat.

4. Omnichannel personalization

Omnichannel personalization is a technique that involves offering your customers a cohesive, seamlessly relevant buyer’s journey experience across all channels.

Increasingly, customers expected to be recognized at every step of their purchase, no matter where they are. In an omnichannel strategy, the buyer is recognized no matter where they are and are served content based on the sum of their interactions on other channels.

ecommerce-omnichannel-personalization

For example, if someone expresses interest in a product on your website, retargeting them on their favorite social media channel can draw them back in to finish the purchase. Then, they may receive email or SMS notifications for promotions on complementary products.

As you better understand the customer journey, the steps, and the crucial data to personalize it on a level that’s doable for your business, the better you’ll be able to segment your audiences.

Collecting data is only one step of the process though.

Segmentation is where it comes into play.

As you collect things like location, behavior, demographics, and other information from your customers through interaction with your brand, you can create personalization rules that enable you to use data on all of your channels.

If your customers were shopping for a specific product category, through segmentation, you can make sure that the product category will be shown on the homepage when they arrive next. Or if they purchased particular product size, you may automatically have that size during their next visit.

On that note, you can also expect SMS and mobile messaging to continue growing as part of the omnichannel experience. SMS messages are incredibly convenient for most people and they have a much higher reach and click-through rates as well.

5. Facebook (and Instagram) stay on top 

Diversification has become somewhat of a buzzword in the DTC eCommerce marketing world.

Owners and marketers typically want a channel that generates the same or better returns than Facebook and Instagram at the same or better volume.

But the truth is – such channels don’t exist.

Facebook and Instagram still remain the highest-performing, most-efficient, and biggest bang for your buck moving into 2021.

Why is that the case?

One word: Data.

Having access to the purchase intent from Facebook’s pixel is unlike anything else in the world.

Even though Facebook ads costs are somewhat unpredictable right now, CPMs have shot up, and many eCommerce marketers are facing challenges right now. This is not likely to be the case forever.

Experimenting with emerging channels is smart, but you shouldn’t lose track of what’s currently working.

If you’re having difficulties with Facebook ads, you can:

  • Refresh your ads with new creatives.
  • Fight ad fatigue expanding your audience and going international.
  • Come up with new angles. Testimonials, story video ads, competitor comparison, benefits without the sacrifice, and other creative angles have worked for us well in the past.
  • Do more competitor research and see what’s working for them.
  • Include influencer marketing in your ad stack.
  • Experiment with horizontal or vertical scaling.
  • And more.

Looking for more eCommerce insights and lessons we’re learning? Check out our full article on lessons learned generating $40mm+ for eCommerce brands for more actionable advice.

Conclusion

All in all, there are hundreds of things you can focus on in your eCommerce business daily. But only a handful of things will bring you the desired results.

To identify them, you need strong decision-making skills and you need to be testing everything.

If you’re looking for the latest eCommerce marketing insights and more actionable advice, be sure to join our constantly growing private Facebook community.

Until then, hope you found this state of eCommerce guide helpful! 

Be sure to let us know if you have any comments or if there’s anything specific you’re going to be focusing on in your eCommerce marketing for 2021.

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