The Ultimate Ecommerce Growth Opportunity Checklist
Ecommerce growth opportunities are seemingly endless. Each open door could have a massive impact on your business, but which ones are right for you? And if you’re like most businesses, you may not even realize all of the areas of opportunity that you should be looking at. Missing certain ones could mean missing out on high-impact, low-hanging fruit.
As an ecommerce growth partner to some of the largest brands in the world, our job is to look at a business holistically and identify key areas of opportunity for growth. In order to do this well, we’ve developed a checklist of every area of opportunity within a direct-to-consumer business. This is something we’ve NEVER before released. It’s extremely valuable, so use it wisely.
Here’s our full checklist of growth opportunities that you should consider and assess for your business. As you work through this list, be sure to prioritize them in line with your business objectives. The multitude of opportunities can be a distraction if they aren’t properly prioritized.
Think of this checklist as an ecommerce health checkup. The list is split into the primary areas of the business. In each of these areas, take a hard look at your business to see how you’re doing and how you could improve.
There are a few prerequisites that your brand must have dialed in if you want to take advantage of pretty much any other growth opportunity.
- Great Product: Sell a fantastic, trustworthy product.
- Great Story: Develop your brand story (and tell it to the world).
- Great Photography: Use high-quality photography (both product and lifestyle)
Without these, no matter what tactics you try, your growth will be limited.
Pro tip: Another brand element to consider is including a personal voice in your brand. Putting a personality behind the brand communications make you more approachable. This could be the founder or someone core to your brand story.
Review these business metrics and make sure you have a healthy business model and the cash you need in the bank in order to grow.
- Strong Profit Margin: This is essential for ecommerce growth, because a large profit margin is what will enable you to invest in other opportunities as you grow. We recommend at least a 5X return, but ideally profit margin should be in the double digits.
- Business Proforma: Make sure you have a budgeted strategy for how you will achieve your expected business performance over at least the next 12 months.
- Action Plan: Do you have a written action plan for achieving your goals (revenue or other)?
- Capital: You can’t always bootstrap consistent growth. You might gain some viral growth through word of mouth, but maintaining growth takes capital. Whether that’s money in the bank or outside investment, make sure you have the capital that you need to sustain your growth.
- Product Line Strategy: Expanding your product line needs to be in the forefront of your mind, especially from an investment perspective. It takes money to create new products. Plan to invest substantially in R&D to ensure that a limited product line doesn’t hinder your growth potential.
Having a great product and a great story isn’t enough. You must couple this with an irresistible offer.
- Welcome Offer: Offer first time customers free shipping or 10% off just for signing up to your email list.
- Create Urgency: When running a promotion, make an offer your customers can’t refuse. The best way to do this is by creating urgency around a purchase by limiting the time the offer is valid or by creating a feeling of scarcity.
Average Order Value
Always be looking for ways to increase your average order value. A healthy AOV is essential to being able to sustain acquiring customers in a very noisy digital market.
- Cross-sells and Upsells: Offer targeted cross-sells or upsells in your ecommerce funnel. This can be on add to cart click, at cart, or immediately after checkout.
- Subscription Options: Think creatively about how you can incorporate the subscription model into your ecommerce business. You might not think your product line lends itself towards the subscription model, but we’d challenge you to explore this as an option.
How are you building your brand’s credibility and awareness in the marketplace? Many brands have abandoned this concept, but even without direct revenue attribution, this is key piece to an effective strategy. Here are a few areas to consider.
- Thought Leadership: Create free evergreen thought leadership content in your field.
- FAQs: FAQs are very powerful. You may even want to consider featuring a few key FAQs on your homepage. This serves many purposes. 1) Many potential customers will have the same questions or objections to buying your product for the first time. Answer these questions before they ask them to remove any barrier to purchase. 2) FAQs are a great way to generate meaningful content around your product that is likely to rank well in search results.
- Comparisons: Write an article comparing you to your competition. Help your customers decide which product to purchase. These are often pages that rank well in search as customers try to discern the difference between your product and the other guys.
- Telling Stories: Stories are the glue that customers grab on to. You should invest in telling not only your story, but the stories of your customers succeeding with your products.
Email List Growth
Growing your email list is key to growing your brand. It’s the only marketing channel you own.
- Lead Magnet Content: Offer free content as an incentive for visitors to enter their email address on your site. You can also try offering a very low cost product and then work to upsell them over time via through email.
- Entry Offer: Make sure to have an entry offer for new visitors to your site. We typically recommend 10% off or free shipping (if you don’t already offer this site wide).
- Provide Valuable Content: Capturing email addresses isn’t the entire story. You also want to keep them from unsubscribing. Provide value to your subscribers through your content to keep them engaged.
AKA Mailbox Money. A healthy ecommerce email program should account for at least 15% of your revenue. Automated email sequences make money in your sleep and they serve customers well. Make sure you include at least these 3 automated email sequences in your marketing.
- Pre-Purchase Nurture Sequence: This is for visitors who joined your email list but have not yet purchased. Teach them about your product and your brand and then hit them with a strong offer.
- Post-Purchase Sequence: Ideally this should be tailored for each product (or at least product category) in your product line. Teach customers about your product and how to use it, ask for a review, and incentivize them to share with a friend.
- Abandoned Cart Sequence: If a visitor makes it through to cart, they have shown substantial interest in your product. Don’t let this potential sale go to waste. Follow up 3 times, hitting them with a strong offer at the end of the sequence to try to close the sale.
Wondering how to create a successful email program that drives sales? Buy our guide to ecommerce email domination here.
Use text messaging and Facebook messaging cautiously. This may or may not be right for your brand, but it can be useful when it’s done well.
One way to use text or Facebook message reminders is for abandoned carts: There are ways to capture the phone number or Facebook account of customers prior to checkout (before they enter their email address). This can be a powerful way to communicate with customers that abandon your site prior to a purchase.
Building trust is essential on your ecommerce site. It is the thing that can increase your conversion rate faster than any other tactic.
- Customer Product Reviews: Social proof sells. Incorporate product reviews on your site through a platform that sends reviews to Google, automatically sends out review request emails to purchasers, and makes it easy to manage reviews. Okendo, Yotpo, and Stamped.io are a few that we use often.
- Google Customer Reviews: This allows customers to review their experience on your site. Positive Google customer reviews will improve your Google ad performance as well as your performance in search.
- Video Testimonials: Ask for video reviews from your customers. These are great to use both on your site and in ads.
- Credentials: Make sure to feature places your brand has been seen or featured or prominent brands you’ve worked with. This increases your credibility with site visitors.
- Site Security: Prominently feature your trust badges to make sure customers feel comfortable shopping on your site.
- Guarantee: Offer a strong guarantee on your product (ideally a lifetime guarantee). This takes all of the risk out of the purchase so customers have no reason to say no. Give this a try and see how it impacts your conversion rate.
Make sure you have your data tracking in order. Without good data, you will not know what is working and what is not working. It sounds boring, but accurate data is literally the key to your success.
- Google Analytics Advanced Ecommerce: Install Google Analytics on your site and turn on advanced ecommerce tracking to ensure you’re tracking all ecommerce data (especially conversions).
- UTM Tags: Tag any links in your marketing efforts (across every channel) with UTM tags so that you can view performance globally within Google Analytics.
- KPI Dashboard: Build a dashboard of the unique KPIs for your business in Google Analytics. This will give you quick insight into how your business is performing. You can then work to influence each KPI individually.
The platform and tools you use to run your ecommerce website is the crux of your business. If this does not work, all else fails.
- Great Website: Your site needs to be simple and clean, well-designed, easy to use, and mobile friendly. Implement best practices in your design. Create the perfect homepage. There are places to get creative on your website, but the shopping and checkout experience is a place to be cautious. Typically following the expected shopping flow will result in the highest conversion rate. For more info, check out 10 of our best practices for landing pages.
- Current, Modern Ecommerce Platform: Use a current ecommerce platform to host your store (Shopify Plus is our go-to). These hosted solutions have minimal downtime and plug into the latest marketing tools allowing you to easily take advantage of new ecommerce opportunities, unlike legacy platforms. Let’s be honest, you’re not in the business of software development, so stop trying to be. Spend your resources on what you do best.
You’d be surprised how many companies that we’ve worked with that do not have a master calendar put together for the coming year. This is essential from a planning perspective, but it’s not easy to do.
- 12-Month Game Plan: Put together a calendar that shows every single event coming up in the next 12 months as a business, including product launches, promotions, holidays, email campaigns. Once you have this, plan your marketing activities for each channel around these events.
We even made our template available for you to use:
Here’s our Marketing Calendar Google Sheet Template
There are a slew of paid marketing channels that you could use. Here are the ones we recommend making sure you’re considering.
- Search: Use paid search ads, display ads, and video.
- Google: Aside from search and display, be sure to enable Google shopping. When running promotions, don’t forget to update your Google shopping prices as well.
- Bing: Bing ads work very similarly to Google ads. You can even import your Google ads campaign to Bings campaign manager to eliminate double work.
- Social: When running social ads, make sure to focus on creating engagement. Don’t go directly for the hard sell, especially when marketing to a cold audience. Create funnels in your social ads to build the relationship before making an offer.
- Video: Video ads are a largely untapped opportunity for ecommerce businesses. We’ve written a guide on how to create a foolproof video ad funnel here.
- YouTube: With inventory on Facebook and Instagram getting crowded (and expensive), YouTube is a brilliant way to reach cold audiences at a much lower cost. Just remember there are best practices to help achieve better results. Be sure to consult a reliable resource before spinning up videos to run as ads.
- Influencer Marketing: Consider using influencers to expand the reach of your business as well.
Make it easy for search engines to review and index your site by including page titles and meta descriptions and handling any 404 errors. Here are a few additional tips to take your SEO to the next level.
- Google Merchant Center: Send product reviews to Google Merchant Center.
- Product Markup: This helps search engines index your products so that they show up in product search results.
- Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs give your site a clear hierarchy.
- Individual Review Markup: Almost no review platforms do this. Check out Okendo if you’re interested in this feature.
- Site Speed: A fast site is key to ranking high in search results.
If you are able to increase your conversion rate, all of the rest of your marketing becomes more effective.
- Onsite CRO: Test variations of your key site pages, including landing pages, collection pages, product pages, and the cart. Check out how to build your complete CRO strategy.
- A/B Test Emails: Incorporate testing into your email strategy as well, both to increase open rate (by testing subject lines and preview text), and to increase engagement by testing actual email content for clickthrough.
If you’re would like to dive into this topic further (and exponentially increase the effectiveness of every marketing activity you use), we have a useful guide to CRO available for purchase on the Metacake Store. Check out “Oh the Ways You’ll Grow (Conversion Rate Optimization Book)” now!
Increasing the lifetime value of your customers is another way to make the most out of all of your marketing activities.
- Valuable Content: Whether you’re writing blogs or crafting emails, create content that builds fans. Use your brand voice to engage with customers in relevant ways whether they are brand new to your site or have purchased three times. This builds a meaningful connection and helps create fans for life.
- Rewards: Make sure to reward your best customers. Whether this takes the form of a formal VIP program, or you just surprise your best customers occasionally with a thank you coupon, this is a great way to keep your top customers coming back to shop again and again.
Traditional PR can be a hard nut to crack. The key is having the right firm represent you in the right marketing, but it can be a great way to build awareness around your brand and supplement your online marketing activities. This will depend on your brand and the stage of your business.
If you’re an ecommerce first brand and you’ve built substantial traction, moving into wholesale and retail can be a great way to expand your business. It will help build awareness offline and also builds credibility online (especially if you include a store locator with all of your retail locations).
Make sure your products are listed on Amazon. Many ecommerce brands see Amazon as a competitor. This is both true and false. Sure, Amazon may capture some of your potential sales if you weren’t available on Amazon. But it is also a discovery engine where many people may find your product and then come to your website to learn more and ultimately make a purchase. If you use Amazon correctly, it’s still possible to win!