Growth Hacking for Ecommerce Success

Growth Hacking Is a Modern Marketer's Repertoire of Tactics

Growth Hacking
Growth Hacking. unsplash.com / Olu Eletu / unRkg2jH1j0

What Is Growth Hacking?

Growth hacking is a fancy term that indicates using creative marketing techniques for low-cost customer acquisition, business growth, and branding.

Who Invented Growth Hacking?

This is one of those impossible-to-answer questions. But Sean Ellis is credited for coining the term "growth hacking" in an article in 2010, titled, "Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup." The basic ideas around growth hacking have been around for as long as marketing tactics have been around.

The online world allows for some interesting opportunities that lead to highly efficient growth. That's why growth hacking has a lot of appeal among technology startups.

What Are the Tools of Growth Hacking?

Some emerging technologies, tools, and trends have fueled the rise of growth hacking. Primary among these are:

  • Data Analytics

I started my first business in late 1993. At that point of time, we used several marketing channels, including events and newspaper advertising. The problem used to be the classic, "I know that half of what I am spending on gets wasted. I just don't know which half." All that has changed in this day of data analytics. On digital platforms you know exactly what's happening:

  • who is visiting?
  • when?
  • how long they stay?
  • what they do when they visit?
  • where are they located physically
  • using what device?
  • what were they doing before they visited?
  • ...and a whole lot more.

As a marketer, you no longer have to hope that your prospects and customers will fill out market research questionnaires for you to understand them better.

This newfound understanding is an essential component of growth hacking.

  • Social Networking

The time that an average Facebook user spends on the platform is 20 minutes per day. And there are a billion and a half Facebook users. And then there are many other social platforms. In the past, when marketers would like to address audience aggregates, they would have no choice but to use advertising media such as national newspapers and network TV.

Today the growth hacker can use laser-targeted campaigns, and still reach more people than can be reached with TV.

  • Interactive Websites

The earliest websites were akin to online catalogs. Today websites allow you to participate in the conversation. You can rate, review, comment, and participate in many more ways. As a result, it is no longer unidirectional communication. In an otherwise increasingly cocooned world, online interaction is driving people into action.

  • Widespread Use of Mobile Applications

In the early 2000's, we thought that computers had penetrated our daily existence a lot. Along came smart mobile devices and ushered in a whole new age of universal computing. Today, almost everyone understands how apps are downloaded and installed on mobile devices, and that empowers the growth hacker to reach newer audiences.

  • Content Marketing

Lots of people turn to the Internet for content. Google has turned into an Internet giant solely on the basis of helping people discover relevant content. This has given rise to an exciting new avenue of marketing: content marketing – using helpful, sensational, or newsjacked content to drive home your message.

  • Influencer Marketing

Endorsements by celebrities and other influencers have always been used to promote products.

Opinion leaders have often determined what we should consume, and why. But this has been taken to a whole new level in the age of social media. Omnidevice web access and a high speed direct line of communication between influencer and influencee has increased the velocity and efficacy of influencer marketing.

There Are Specific Challenges That Make Growth Hacking Essential for Ecommerce

If the ecommerce industry were to be built the way classic retailers were built, we would see a whole lot more TV ecommerce commercials, not to mention billboards and other forms of conventional advertising. While we do see a bunch of that by established players or recently funded players, there are many examples of ecommerce marketers who have used clever mechanisms to overcome their lack of marketing budget.

While retailing has always been tough business, the level of competition in the ecommerce industry takes matters to a whole different level. Here are some of the specific challenges that ecommerce businesses face that makes growth hacking a necessity.

  • Attract New Visitors

If you have shopped online, you are probably a registered user at some of the most famous online retailers such as Amazon and eBay. Maybe you also have accounts with some of the not so major etailers. What if I set up a new ecommerce website, and required you to register before buying? How compelling would my offering have to be for you to consider registering at one more website. Attracting new visitors has become a monumental challenge, as online brands are gaining in strength. Merely spending much more on branding will not do the trick. What we need is clever growth hacks to attract new customers.

  • Convert Visitors to Customers

You may end up attracting visitors by spending tons of money on PPC advertising, by effective ecommerce SEO, or by some other method. But that's just step one. What about converting visitors? Today customers are spoiled for choice. Though the levels of discounting have lowered in most markets, there are just too many deals and offers at play. Coupled with that, ecommerce websites are getting increasingly complex. In my opinion, this situation is ripe for some kind of disruptive hack to convert customers.

  • Lower the Cost of Customer Acquisition

There was a time when it seemed like "profit" had gone out of fashion. Armed with hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital, ecommerce players were not sparing any effort in acquiring new customers. That is now ancient history. Today, there is an acute realization that ecommerce players will have to make a profit. When marketing budgets were in abundance, many did not feel the need for creative and intelligent marketing tactics. But the focus on profitability has created a necessity for marketing folks to hack their way to customer acquisition.

  • Gain Popularity and Name Recognition

When I hear the term "publicity stunt," I always associate that to cheap behavior. Yet, there are an increasing number of growth hackers who are coming up with creative and low-cost methods to constantly remain in the headlines, and as a result enjoy top of mind recall.

  • Retain Customers and Encourage Repeat Purchases

Basic marketing techniques to enhance sales and encourage loyalty have existed all along. If you were a retail customer in 1980, you were probably:

  • invited to participate in some form of a loyalty program
  • encouraged to buy a little more
  • subject to an upselling attempt just before checkout.

These basic ideas, among others, have been taken to the cutting edge in their digital avatars. A repeat customer is the best kind of customer. Any elegant hack, even if that sounds like a contradiction, to encourage repeat purchase has to be worth doing.

Brainstorming Some Growth Hacking Ideas

Growth hacks are limited only by the marketer's imagination. Here are some ideas that might work wonders if implemented right. Please note that this is not intended to be a how-to. The expectation is that you will, at best, take these ideas as a starting point and come up with your own versions, adaptations, or derivatives.

  • Unboxing Videos

For some reason that isn't easy for me to comprehend, customers seem to love product-unboxing videos. Opening the box of a newly purchased product can be exhilarating and some of that exhilaration probably comes across vicariously while watching an unboxing video. So, instead of relying on your customers publishing their unboxing videos and publishing them on Youtube, why don't you go ahead and do this yourself?

  • Breathing a Second Life Into Abandoned Shopping Carts

For most ecommerce marketers, shopping cart abandonment probably features as the greatest headache. Why not get creative about it? I know of one health products etailer

  • App Notifications for Price Reductions and Related Products

If prospect have abandoned their shopping carts, they have provided you with invaluable clues about what they are looking for. Even if they were to empty their cart at some point of time, you know that they had considered buying a certain product. Maybe it would make sense for you to send out smartphone app notifications in case that specific product goes on sale, or a related new product is available.

  • Infinite Scrolling Pages

Blogs and other content websites have already realized the many joys of an unending page. The way this works is that the reader reaches the bottom of a page, and the next page automatically loads in a scrolling format. Given that this kind of navigation is not too uncommon for content destinations, I wonder why ecommerce players are not making the most of this by having infinite category pages, or even product pages where related products keep loading as one scrolls down.

  • Swap Some Equity for Marketing Dollars

Here's something that might seem out of place, but is probably a cool growth hack in case you can manage the relationship effectively. If you look closer, most growth hacks are driven by the marketer's need for low-cost tactics. What if you turned that logic on its head and go in for a large marketing spend, but without having a large marketing budget? Sounds stupid? Well, what if you were to purchase advertising on mass or niche media by paying for it with some of your equity instead of paying cash?

Growth Hacking Techniques Come With an Expiry Date

You may have loved some of the growth hacking ideas I presented you, or you may have found them uninspiring. In either case, keep in mind that there isn't really a growth hack that just keeps paying dividends. So the growth hacking way of moving forward requires you to be a constant innovator.