[21 Strategies] Growth Hacking for E-Commerce Business

Growth hacking, growth hacker – are these just fancy words marketers made up to sound scientific? Can't we just do with the good old marketing if, deep down, it is all the same?

Well, it's not exactly the same. Growth hacking is definitely a form of marketing; however, it is both narrower and broader. It uses all available marketing techniques and methods for a single purpose – growth.

According to Sean Ellis, the man who invented and named growth hacking, “a growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth”. Thus, growth hacking is a strategy that is focused solely on growth. This is its main difference from marketing – while marketing also aims for growth, it is not the only goal.


In achieving its goal, growth hacking uses some common marketing practices, adapts others to fit its purposes, and invents new ones. This is precisely what we are going to talk about today. Moreover, we will talk about the growth hacking for ecommerce business, as it very much depends on growing its user base. And so, here is our list of 21 growth hacking strategies for the 21st-century e-commerce business!

Growth hacking strategies for brand and product awareness

Your growth hacking starts with techniques to spread the information about your product or service. These hacks can help you bring users to your website – and that is already half the battle.

1. Publish guest posts

Keeping your own blog is a good practice to remind your loyal users of your brand. However, if you are focused on reaching a wider audience, step out of your comfortable blog and explore other platforms. In 2018, you can find dozens of resources that accept guest posts; however, they may have rather stiff acceptance criteria. The top ranks are held by well known names such as TechCrunchLifehacker and Business Insider; however, you can try others that are more relaxed about accepting guest content.

The main thing is not to write a direct ad. This strategy may fail at the acceptance stage and, even if you manage to get your piece posted, readers usually reject blatant advertising. Rather, write your insight on a related problem or an industry review with a subtle mention of your brand as an example. Always try to backlink to your blog to drive traffic to your own resources; however, such links should always be organic.

2. Engage influencers

With influencer marketing, you are going to ride on the success and popularity of media personas using their connections, audience and media presence. Media celebrities using or wearing your products boost the public interest towards your brand and drive people to your website. The options are quite wide – blog posts where your product is mentioned, Instagram posts with photos featuring your items, vlogs showing how your product is used and enjoyed.

You can reach influencers personally; however, there are also dedicated platforms for influencer marketing. Depending on your market niche, you can connect with an influencer who will promote your product. Try, for example, OpenInfluence, which offers marketing services for various categories of products and services.

With influencer marketing, you will be in good company, as many global brands do it. Take, for example, the H&M network, which ran a campaign with fashion blogger Julie Sariñana and model Ela Velden. On their Instagrams, the celebrities posted their photos wearing H&M outfits, which earned a huge following for the brand.


Image source: Julie Sariñana

3. Use piggyback marketing

Partner up with another brand that complements yours to run a joint campaign. Both brands will get access to each other's user base, thus increasing their own. The trick is to create truly genuine content that features both products organically. Post it on your website and link to your partner – and let your partner do the same.

4. Run a referral campaign

With referral campaigns, your users do the promotion for you. There are quite a number of referral techniques that you can use – offering discounts to both existing and new customers, giving away promo codes and gifts. Through referrals, you are killing two birds with one stone – retaining your customers and bringing new ones.

Referrals work because we tend to trust other people better than advertising. On the other hand, everybody loves gifts and discounts. Add the curiosity factor making us want to try something new – and your user base will grow.

5. Make your website load quickly

This recommendation may seem out of place in a marketing article; however, it has a direct relation to the user base growth. The statistics show that a one-second delay in your website loading time loses you 7% of your conversions.

This research is almost ten years old, but today we are used to even faster loading and responsiveness. Thus, make your website load within three seconds – this is the optimal time when the user is not annoyed yet. Today, you can find a variety of tools and platforms that can guarantee fast loading.

Growth hacking strategies for user engagement

Now that you have lured your new user to your website, you need to make them stay and, ultimately, buy from you.

6. Build your homepage to stimulate conversion

This is another way of saying that you should aim for a sleek, clear and smart design of your homepage. Easy navigation, straightforward flows, lack of clutter – this is a description of a website that users will want to explore.

Make sure that your brand, logo and contact details are present and can be found easily. Give the central spot to your current promotion with a clear call to action. Implement an advanced search engine to help users find items in your catalog. Try to avoid moving banners and animations that can annoy your visitors.

Let us boost your creativity by mentioning one of the best home page designs of 2018 – New Chapter, a producer of vitamins and supplements. A special offer shown front and center, an option to create a personalized plan, links to products and ingredients – a user discovering the website for the first time will definitely want to stay a bit longer.


Image source: New Chapter

7. Run A/B tests

A/B testing is an age-old technique that can still boost your growth. Use it to validate your marketing ideas by running two versions simultaneously. For example, through A/B testing you can verify how efficient your new home page design is, or which promotion feature works best. The key is to change only one item at a time to get the most valuable results.

Needless to say, a proper analytical suite should be used to validate the results of your A/B testing. The analytics will help you to understand how a change in page layout, promo conditions or even the color of the CTA button can drive conversion.

8. Use the FOMO technique

The fear of missing out – we all know about it, but fall for it over and over again. We may browse the website just for fun but when we see the “Only 2 left” or “7 other people are looking at this right now” written in red, we get a bit worried. What if it is no longer available tomorrow or even in a couple of hours?

The scientific terms for this technique are scarcity and urgency. By showing that there is only a limited supply of a particular product and that it is available only for a limited time, you urge users to make decisions faster. There are different ways you can stimulate the FOMO in your visitors:

  • A countdown timer showing the time left for the offer;
  • The number of available items;
  • The number of other customers browsing the same product;
  • The “Somebody just bought” message.

Booking.com uses the FOMO technique to the max – almost each hotel listing returned by the search will have multiple urgency prompts. You see how many people are looking at it right now, how many times it has been booked recently, and how few rooms are left. Finally, the CTA reads “See our last available rooms”, and you just cannot resist.


Image source: Booking

9. Show discounts and match prices

If you are running a promo, show the exact saving amount. It works much better than showing the percentage. When you put the standard price and the discounted price side by side, your user immediately sees the savings without having to do any calculations.

If you cannot offer discounts on your items, throw in free delivery starting from a certain purchase amount. With this technique, you encourage your visitors to add items to qualify for the free delivery conditions.

Another good practice is price matching. Announce that you will match any lower price for the same product or even beat it. This way, you are suggesting to your customers that they are getting the best deal possible and – equally importantly – that they can still bargain after the purchase.

When you browse the “Sale” category on the Zara website, you see the crossed out original price together with the discounted price, which immediately gives you the exact figure of your savings. Moreover, this helps you to subconsciously estimate the total of your cart, so that you are not surprised at the checkout.


Image source: Zara

10. Cross-sell

This little trick works great with such items as makeup, clothing or accessories, home decor. Suggest items from the same collection or matching items to complete the look, outfit or interior. Moreover, if you express your suggestion as “Customers who bought this item also bought...”, you are creating a sense of peer recommendation. We have mentioned already that we like to believe other people's advice, and here this technique works well too.

Houzz home decor online shop uses both cross-sell methods. Whenever you select an item from the catalog, you see both the “Related Products” section and the “People who liked this product also liked” list. With these suggestions, the shop encourages visitors to browse more and to put together whole sets of matching items.


Image source: Houzz

11. Implement easy checkout

Your customer is at the finish line, so don't lose your chance of a sale with an awkward checkout. A complicated and non-transparent checkout procedure is among the reasons of cart abandonment, so make yours as easy as possible. Just the name and delivery address followed by the payment details – this is enough in most cases.

If you support user registration, build your checkout so that it populates the fields with the stored details. Of course, the user should be free to change anything they like, but when they arrive at the checkout with all their data already filled-in and only the credit card number missing, they are going to appreciate that.

Important note for businesses operating in the European Union! Check the GDPR rules to verify that your user data management procedures comply with the requirements.

Growth hacking strategies for user retention

The ultimate art of selling is not in making the user complete the purchase but in making them come back for more.

12. Create an unboxing experience

The magic word is “experience”. Unboxing your product should turn into a pleasant adventure. Imagine your user's first encounter with your product and try to make it as exciting as possible. Elegant packaging, a personalized thank you card, a free sample – these are small things that make the user believe that they have made the right choice.

Thrive Market, an organic food retailer, delivers its shipments in branded boxes with each item individually packed to protect it from damage. A welcome card and a thank you note create a warm sensation and make customers plan more purchases.


Image source: Thrive Market

13. Use email marketing

While “email marketing” may seem like a very broad term, we are talking about personalized emails intended to make the customer return to your online store. The “pretext” for such a message may vary:

  • A sales campaign;
  • A notification that the item the customer was browsing is back in stock;
  • A reminder about the items in their abandoned cart;
  • An offer for customers who have not visited the store or made any purchases for a certain time.

In any case, your goal is to make the customer visit again. However, if you promised an incentive, make sure you deliver it.

StrawberryNET, a cosmetics store, mails its “We miss you” messages to customers who for some reason have not shopped with them for a while. Apart from reminding the customer of the store, the message includes a personalized limited time offer for the sole purpose of bringing the customer back. And an extra 10% off may be convincing enough!


Image source: StrawberryNET

14. Have a loyalty program

The main goal of loyalty programs is obvious from their name – to maintain the customers' loyalty. A smartly created loyalty program can turn into an exciting quest with customers monitoring their accounts to see when they are going to reach the next level or when they qualify for a free item.

The sense of competition can boost your users' interest and their desire to make more purchases. Sometimes, people are even adapting their purchases to get the necessary points for leveling up or getting a free gift.

Sephora, a cosmetics brand, runs a complex loyalty program where customers collect points that can be used towards getting free items or progressing to the next level. While the bottom level members are entitled to gifts only, those at higher levels get much more significant benefits, such as free makeovers or invitations to special events.


Image source: Sephora

15. Use the “members only” technique

This method is organically connected to the loyalty program. It is based on the principle of making exclusive offers only to members of the program or the community. Of course, a user signing up for a loyalty program provides their data and sometimes access to their contact lists in social media. In exchange, the brand opens exclusive options that are not available without an account.

16. Introduce wishlists

Wishlists provide a true wealth of insights for the online store and are an effective ecommerce growth hacking tool. By giving your customers an option of storing items “for later”, you are getting multiple opportunities:

  • Better stock planning. If the customer put an item on the wishlist because it is out of stock, it prompts you to have it ordered quickly. When the item is back in stock, just send a reminder email urging the customer to complete the purchase;
  • Promotion alert. If the item on a wishlist goes on sale, grab this chance to draw attention to your store. Send an email about the promotion referring to the customer's wishlist – this is going to be a great sales opportunity;
  • Source of analytical data. By analyzing the wishlists and especially the way customers manage them, you can make a lot of conclusions about your marketing strategy. If, for example, your customers often buy an item on their wishlist only after it goes on sale, maybe you should adjust your pricing policies.

17. Remind about making the next purchase

This technique works with products that need to be purchased recurrently – groceries, food supplements, pet food, baby diapers, contact lenses – you get the idea. Some time after your customer makes a purchase, send a reminder email about the time for the next purchase coming up. Calculate the interval so that there is about a week or two before the customer runs out of the previously purchased quantity.

Such reminders draw the customer's attention back to you, show that you care and avoid situations when the customer runs out of the product and needs to buy a replacement urgently. Make repurchasing easy – with a click right from within the email body. Besides, you can also add some cross-sell options by suggesting related items.

Growth hacking strategies for viral marketing

What can be better than your customers advertising your brand? However, you should not just wait passively – on the contrary, viral marketing is something you can control and encourage.

18. Ask for feedback and reviews

You may call it feedback, reviews or testimonials – the main thing is that you need to provide the opportunity for your customers to express their opinion of your product. Create a review section on your website for other visitors to browse. As we have mentioned already, people trust peer reviews more than advertising. Besides, multiple reviews indicate that your store is popular, which increases the feeling of trust and safety.

iHerb, a health and beauty product retailer, includes customer reviews for each of the products sold on its platform. You can find the overall rating, the top positive and negative reviews, and even the customers' photos related to the product. With such a comprehensive review, new users feel that they are making a much better-informed decision when they shop on iHerb.


Image source: iHerb

19. Provide the possibility for user-generated content

Feedback and reviews are not the only way customers can help you promote your product. Ask your customers for photos, or even videos, of them using your items. Recently, unboxing videos have become rather popular. People unbox the product describing their experience at the same time.

Of course, you may encourage your users to create content by offering them an incentive, such as a small discount on the next purchase, or a gift.

20. Incentivize social posting

Your users can share a variety of content related to your business. In addition to liking your brand in social networks, you can offer your buyers the opportunity to share their purchase by including the sharing option in the checkout flow. Alternatively, run a lottery with a prize given to a user randomly selected from those who share posts about your promotion.

21. Use social proof

Social proof drives purchases by showing how other customers are shopping. The FOMO technique that we mentioned before is a type of social proof. When users see how many others have looked at the product or bought it, they get a sense of urgency and take less time to make the decision.

Another benefit of social proof is the sense of community that it creates. When you like something and see that dozens of other people also liked the same thing, you feel comfortable and happy with your choice. This growth hacking strategy is applied by Etsy, an online marketplace, that shows how many people liked the same item that you liked and, simultaneously, other items that those people liked. This way, Etsy convinces its users that they share the same tastes, which may drive the purchase.


Image source: Etsy

Are you ready to grow?

We hope we have not overwhelmed you with this long list of growth hacking ecommerce techniques. Choose the ones that you believe can bring growth to your ecommerce business and start experimenting. If something does not work, use something else until you have put together a killer growth strategy.

Once you have your growth hacking plan ready, we will be happy to help you implement it. Let's build great e-commerce websites together and enjoy business growth week after week.
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