3 Marketing Basics to Optimize Before You Put a Cent Towards Paid Advertising [Part 1] | Coronavirus Series

marketing basics paid advertising acquisition conversion ROI ROAS

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series that explores the impact the coronavirus crisis is having on the world of ecommerce. Explore daily insights surrounding the coronavirus crisis or check out these additional resources to help you navigate your marketing strategy during this time.

While we’re all confined to our homes for the sake of social distancing, it’s no shock that ecommerce businesses are seeing a surge in sales. As the internet becomes a primary source of both work and entertainment for many, shoppers have taken to their computers for retail therapy.  

In order to capitalize on this influx in online traffic, many marketers are putting their money towards paid advertising channels like Facebook and Google. In fact, 24 percent of brands say they’re spending more on ads now than before the coronavirus. 

Additionally, 53 percent of brands that are spending more on ads are also seeing increased efficiency, according to recent surveys. Cost per 1,000 impressions (CPMs) are down and cost per click (CPC) is flat or down, resulting in their return on advertising spend (ROAS) trending much higher than normal.

All of this suffices to say that spending on ads is a smart move for marketers right now, especially for brands selling new essentials, since ads are capturing larger quantities of shoppers and are more effective than usual.

Before you start funneling money into these channels, though, there are a few things you should first optimize across your owned marketing channels—like email, mobile (SMS), and your website—in order to get the highest return on your investment (ROI) possible.

In this first of this multi-part series, we’re going to cover the basics. So before you put a cent towards paid advertising, let’s take a step back and talk about setting up forms, creating a welcome series, and building out your segments. 


1 | Set up forms

What’s the point in sending new customers to your website if essential elements are missing once they get there?

Paid advertising is a great way to help people discover your brand, but shoppers won’t necessarily click an ad they were served on social media and convert to a paying customer during the very first visit to your website. 

In fact, the buying process can often be lengthy for new customers if they’ve never heard of your brand before. Once you’ve piqued a shopper’s interest, they still may want to compare prices or ask their friends if your products are trustworthy.

This means if you don’t have a form set up to collect new visitors’ email addresses or phone numbers, you’ve potentially missed out on the opportunity to market to them throughout their research stage. 

And even if they’ve shown intent to buy, you’ll have no way to influence the sale. Have they browsed certain items or added something to their cart? Without their contact information, you have no way of following up with them to encourage them to complete their purchase.

Setting up forms should be one of the very first things you do in order to optimize your website and make the most of your acquisition efforts. Start with a pop-up on your homepage that asks new visitors for their email address or phone number in exchange for free shipping or a small discount off their first purchase. 

Additionally, consider including additional fields on your forms to get to know your new customers better. If you sell apparel, you could ask what gender the shopper is searching for. If you sell pet supplies, you could ask if they’re a dog or cat person. If you sell winter sports equipment, you could ask if they’re a skier or snowboarder. 

The more information you collect on your customers when they arrive at your site, the more personalized you can make your marketing messages the next time you try to engage with them—and forms are one of the best ways to ensure there is a next time.  


2 | Create a welcome series

Once you score a customer’s email address, what do you do with it? 

If the email addresses you collect are currently entering a black hole where your shoppers are receiving no communications from you  once they’ve entered their information, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with prospective customers—and possibly even influence a future sale.

A welcome series is typically a high-performer as far as email automations go—brands typically see open rates that are 63 percent higher than a traditional email campaign and click rates that are 86 percent higher. This means that the time you put into creating a welcome series will be well worth it because subscribers are highly likely to open and engage with these emails.

A welcome series consists of one or more emails, usually sent in a drip, that introduce new customers to your company. They provide you with a perfect opportunity to showcase your brand values, products, and some of the qualities your business is known for. 

Additionally, the welcome series is a great place to incentivize your subscribers. Perhaps you save free shipping offers for shoppers who sign up for your emails because they show a higher intent to buy.


3 | Build basic segments

Segmenting your lists is the key to getting more targeted and personalized with your communications to your website visitors and customers. Why blast an email to your entire list when you could send subscribers content that’s personalized to their shopping history, behavior, and preferences?

Here are a few segments every marketer should start with when creating their email lists: 


Shoppers who haven’t yet purchased 

By segmenting your lists to create a non-purchasers category, you can focus your efforts specifically on influencing their first purchase because you know your goal for this segment is getting the people who are in it to buy. 

As mentioned, you could use an incentive such as free shipping, a discount, or a bonus item to convert these shoppers. But you also might want to try tactics that aren’t motivated by monetary rewards or savings, such as highlighting your best sellers or most highly-rated products. Since you know these products already perform well among your current customers, they’re perfect candidates to entice a new shopper. 


Repeat purchasers

If a shopper has bought from your brand before, you’re probably trying to influence their next purchase in your email marketing. This is an extremely important segment to focus on considering repeat purchasers make up 40 percent of a brand’s total revenue.

One valuable differentiator between purchasers and non-purchasers? You already know what they like based on their purchase history. Use this information to cross-sell by showing them similar products to what they bought or other products that might go along well with it. For example, if they bought a winter hat, you could show them more winter accessories like gloves and scarves, or you could show them other hat styles.

Additionally, you can still segment further within this past purchaser category. Consider differentiating email content based on whether someone purchased once, twice, or more than two times in order to send hyper-targeted messages based on repeat purchase rate. 


VIP customers

Your VIP customers are your brand advocates, ambassadors, and promoters—in other words, they’re your biggest fans. But how you segment this audience largely depends on what you sell.

You could segment by average order value (AOV) or placed order count if you’re a brand that offers a lot of different SKUs, like a beauty brand. On the other hand, if you sell a luxury product or high-value item such as a mattress, which people typically only buy once every few years, you might instead look at lifetime revenue (LTV) to determine VIP customers.

Either way, your objective with this audience probably differs from the other two segments. Instead of getting them to buy, for example, you might want to focus your time on getting them to refer a friend, collecting feedback on their experience with your brand, or encouraging them to leave a review of the last product they bought.


A segmentation strategy for the coronavirus crisis

Another segmentation strategy to consider during this unprecedented and unexpected time when you’re likely earning a lot of new site visitors and purchasers is to put them into a segment of customers that you’ve acquired during the coronavirus crisis. 

Mike Altman, senior retention manager at Who Gives A Crap, recently mentioned that he plans on creating unique marketing campaigns for customers acquired throughout the crisis. 

“I think anytime you see an influx of new customers, especially during a major event like this, from a marketing perspective, you can expect that they may behave differently than your previous cohorts,” said Mike.

“Our first step will be to get a baseline understanding of that new audience and then we’ll likely create a new onboarding experience for this group, which we’ve already been working on.”

Mike acknowledged that there’s likely going to be a disparity between incoming shoppers that are familiar with the brand and those who are just looking to make a quick purchase, which means there might be additional work to do when it comes to educating new customers post-purchase.

“Right now, we’re trying to segment our audience to understand, out of all the people who signed up to receive updates from us, who is in each group and how large is each group? Then, we want to separate the new customers from the returning customers and try to share that new onboarding story.”

New customers might be shopping with your brand for various reasons. Perhaps they need a certain product to make their home lifestyle more comfortable or they like that your brand is giving back to the community during this time and want to support you. 

It’s uncertain whether they intend to buy again in the future, but after the coronavirus crisis has subsided, you might want to create unique messaging for these shoppers. By acknowledging that they probably came in for a certain reason and your brand has much more to offer, you can open their eyes to the possibility of a future purchase they may not have considered. 


Make the most of your ad spend

It can be tempting to throw your marketing budget at acquisition channels right now as more and more consumers flock online to make the majority of their purchases, especially since nearly half of shoppers are buying from brands they haven’t bought from before. What marketer wouldn’t jump on the opportunity to earn their share of new customers?

But before you go forth and try to conquer the rise in online shoppers by ramping up your ad spend, take a look back at your owned marketing channels and make sure they’re properly optimized so you can make the most of these incoming prospects. And bear in mind, a new shopper landing on your website will be more valuable to you over time based on the experience you create for them through your highly-personalized marketing efforts.


Looking for more information to help you adjust your marketing strategies as you navigate the coronavirus crisis? These resources may be helpful. 

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