The traditional model of buy ads, get eyeballs on your product, and make sales is a tired model. Sometimes when a new ad platform debuts there's a brief period where ads are so cheap it's easy to get in and get a ton of eyeballs on your product but eventually those cheap ads disappear.
You can continuously innovate in the advertising space making more and more advanced ads to minimize your advertising costs. Or you can choose to not play that game and instead invest in a product that markets itself.
One of my favorite parts of my job is asking people “why?”.
When it comes to conversion rate optimization for e-commerce we use a lot of heuristics (aka rules of thumb). Things like:
Use short forms
Don't make people login to checkout
Have the add to card button above the fold
There are thousands of pretty widely held heuristics. And CROs swear by these as a good starting points. And while many of these are important they're not the holy grail. These rules can be broken and you can still make sales as long as you have the right product.
Sharing a Joke
Earlier this week I sent an image I found on Pinterest to my friend who loves Moscato.
A shirt you can wear and point at when you want a refill
And a few hours later she asks me which color should buy. And a few texts later she purchased the shirt.
Not How E-Commerce is Supposed to Work
This is not at all how experts say e-commerce works! There's supposed to be consideration, price comparisons, reading reviews, and then getting stuck somewhere in the checkout.
Let's go through the problems any CRO would point out.
1) No Website
The first issue is that she wanted a particular joke. But didn't know where to find it. And she has particular needs. She doesn't like typical crew neck shirts. She wanted a tank top. So she did a search.
Search engine results page for “Hakuna Moscato”
She finally ended up on lookHuman which was the 5th result on Google. She had to scroll past or explore 2 Etsy links & 2 Amazon links to find the right site.
Not to mention all of the sponsored results. There were similar products all over the place and she navigated to the 5th site.
Everything was done on mobile. Which I find fascinating. I find it incredibly frustrating to type on the mobile keyboard and god forbid entering checkout information.
But for my friend speed was exactly why she decided to use her mobile device instead of a computer.
I had my phone with me. I hardly ever use a computer anymore. So I would have had to start and login to my computer which would have taken several minutes including walking downstairs. I did have several tablets handy, but they are devices I share with my husband and kids and don't have autofills options like my email for PayPal saved in. So it would have been slightly slower and more steps.
She used mobile knowing that there are some fields her phone will auto-fill instead of going downstairs to use the computer.
And she used PayPal. I've used the PayPal app on my phone and that makes checking out with PayPal much more convenient. So I assumed she also used the app.
But she didn't she manually typed in her PayPal account & password. I don't even know my PayPal password! 🤯
I've done a lot of transactions through PayPal and like their buyer protection and customer service. And not having to enter in my shipping or billing address is convenient. Not as big as a difference nowadays with autofills and such, but those don't always fill in correctly and using PayPal I don't feel like I have to double check everything several times to make sure it's right. It's what I'm used to using so I'm more familiar and comfortable with it which helps me make a faster transaction.
It is nice to hear from users that they do like the buyer protection on PayPal. It reduces risk and it's much easier to use than canceling a charge on your credit card.
4) Too Much Chrome on Mobile Device
On the mobile site there's a lot of “chrome” or useless interface. The URL, the social icons on the bottom (which I partially cut off), and the annoying chat button that covers up the product description.
The actual screenshot she sent me asking about colors.
And there's things you can even see without scrolling down.
Add to card button
These are important considerations on a product page and I'd make sure to put them above the fold. The color especially since as you choose a new color the product page changes you can see what you're going to purchase.
The worst aspect is that you don't know you're missing information. There's no indication that there's more information and you should scroll. On mobile you'd have to scroll down to see the different color options, select one, and then scroll back up.
That's a lot of work to do on a mobile device. And my friend did all of this, followed by taking a screenshot of each color, and sending me three screenshots. That's a lot of work on a mobile device. I constantly have to google “how do I take a screenshot on my mobile device”.
The biggest lesson is that you don't need a perfect site. If someone wants to buy something they'll figure out how to do it. They don't even have to be that motivated. If someone tells someone a joke they might want to buy a t-shirt with that joke on it.
In this specific case:
Brand didn't matter
SEO didn't matter (other than getting on page 1)
Advertising didn't matter
A mobile optimized site didn't matter
Cluttered product page didn't matter
Only having one product photo (per color) didn't matter
Reviews didn't matter
Free shipping didn't matter
Typing a password to checkout via PayPal didn't matter
To be clear: I believe all of these things do matter to an extent. But more important than all of these is:
Having the product the user wants
If so, the rest will help you get a step up on your competition but they aren't necessary. Store owners need to focus on quality products first. Then work on branding, SEO, mobile optimization, and everything else.
Black Friday is the day where you're make so many sales your store goes from in the red (owing money) to in the black (making money). To do that you need to make a lot of profit. The keyword there is profit not revenue. If you aren't making enough profit on each sale you could still be losing money.
Getting people in the door is easier said than done. To draw the crowds you have to offer discounts and those discounts start eating away at your profit. So it's a balancing act to offer the right discount to draw people in and still make enough profit.
The good news is that you don't have to run a Black Friday promotion like everyone else. You can give tiny discounts, freebies, or you don't have to run a promotion at all if you don't want.
I'm starting to plan next year's Lift Off Summit so I've been talking to customers as well as looking at what other summits are doing. And what's interesting is that they paint two different stories. So I thought I'd take you through my though process as I decide how I can make this summit valuable for attendees and myself.
A few weeks go I went to Craft + Commerce. It was put on the people behind Convert Kit to help bloggers make money. And I loved it. There were 200+ attendees. Mostly professional bloggers and people who want to sell things on their website. The only thing they have in common is that they value email lists.
It's easy to get carried away with automation. One of the best ways to connect with your audience is to create & send personal video messages.
When people talk about automation in the marketing world I sometimes get a bad taste in my mouth. Because it seems like they want to automate everything. And that's not something I believe in.
I want to be empathetic and I want to help people. And for me that means talking with people and not at them. Automation is powerful but you need to know when to use it. I believe you should automate systems not relationships.
Now in an ideal world there'd be a positive connection between the personal welcome videos and someone purchasing a product. And I was curious if this would help. So I actually ran a little experiment.
I sent 1/2 of the people a personal welcome video + welcome email. And the other half just got the welcome email.
And from the data here's what I found:
Lift Off Summit had 448 viewers (at the time of this writing)
I sent 209 personal video welcomes.
159 videos were opened
84 videos were watched
And 54% of the sales came from people who had a Bonjoro sent to them
But with the number of sales I had. That number is not enough to be statistically significant. So take the above with a grain of salt.
In terms of what it cost me. Bonjoro is free (with some nice features under their premium plan). The real cost was the amount of time. My typical welcome video was 2.5 minutes.
And sending 209 welcome videos at ~2.5 minutes a piece that's 8.7 hours!
So based on the ROI this wasn't a good investment. In fact if you're just looking to make money off of people online do not do this. It's not a good use of your time.
Luckily – that's not the best thing about Bonjoro. At least that's not where I found value.
Deep Customer Learning
Bonjoro is great at building authentic connections. People don't respond to welcome emails. Those are automated and companies rarely respond. If someone takes time to send you a personal welcome message you might actually respond to them.
I sent 209 videos. And I received 21 email responses to the Bonjoro welcome alone.
I learned so much about my viewers. I learned about their businesses, the products they're selling, how they found me & what they wanted out of my live event.
Ellen sells fragrances:
Thanks for checking it out! Everything is still in its incipient stages, so a lot of it is word-of-mouth based right now. Marketing and self-promotion have always been some of my biggest challenges, so I'm looking forward to the Summit and hoping I can learn a lot!
Carla sells furniture:
I’ve been doing my own websites for years, but this e-commerce stuff is fairly new. Even with some professional help, I’m amazed at how much extra time this takes! I just wanna get on to the fun stuff – making videos, blogging and connecting with people – so any shortcuts, or tips for managing inventory, customers & reporting would be helpful.
Looking forward to the summit – I’ll let you know when I come up with any more questions.
And Cara runs a small agency that wants to build more eCommerce sites:
I own a small web agency with one small WooCommerce e-commerce client. I noticed that Rebecca Gil and Chris Lema will be speaking at Summit and the schedule has such valuable content — just could not afford not to take part! So much to gain and to give back to my client base. Plus, I would like to take on more e-commerce sites and this will jump start my process.
This is just a paragraph or two from 3 of the 21 responses I got. I found this information extremely valuable.
Different Than an Email Auto Responder
I made jokes with people. When I accidentally pronounced their name wrong I asked them how to properly say it. And I shared a little bit about myself.
In some videos I was walking around down town and I talked about that, in some I was walking through the art district and I talked about that, for some I was on the patio outside my favorite coffee shop, and for others I was at my parents house in DC and was getting rained on.
Automation doesn't impress us. People taking time out of their day to make our lives better impresses us.
And I think there's another reason. When you give people personalized adviceyou're actually providing value.
Every time I prepared to send a personal video message I looked at the persons email address and if they had their own domain I would check it out. I found a pastry shop, and author, and all sorts of physical good stores. And based on what I found in their site recommended specific sessions at my summit.
So if you're looking to increase revenue don't sent personal welcome videos. If you're looking to be authentic, to connect with your audience, and to help people then use these videos. They're a great way connect.
Note: if you want me to send you a personal welcome email sign up for Lift Off Summit and I'll send you one. 🙂
PS: If you want to know how Lift Off Summit went I'll do a full write up next week.
My link to Bonjoro is a discount link. I get a discount on my plan if you upgrade to the premium plan. As you can see from this post I clearly enjoy the service and would recommend it even if there wasn't a discount available.