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32 Top eCommerce Hacks to Try in 2021 [Free Playbook]

Here are the top eCommerce growth hacks you should try including - SEO, CRO, Email Marketing, Omnichannel, SMS + Push notifications + free tools & resources.

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We've all heard about growth hacking, right?

It is a term that was coined in 2010 and describes any strategy that you use to drive growth for your business. Traditionally, growth hacking was applied to online services and tech startups but it's just as helpful in eCommerce.

When an eCommerce business focuses on growth it builds an "experimentation culture" that is focused on improving conversion rates and driving more sales. This is one of the secrets behind Amazon's massive growth. In order to become the world's biggest online marketplace, the Amazon team spent over 20 years rigorously testing every detail of the site.

The leading eCommerce stores do the same thing today. They constantly test new marketing channels, creatives, formats, and strategies to try to discover the winning combination for their business.

What is an eCommerce growth hack?

A growth hack is any accelerated growth technique that aims to increase the conversion rate and sales of an eCommerce business. This can include optimizing campaigns for potential customers, doing conversion rate optimization, relocating digital marketing budgets, and much more.

A growth hack is not some kind of gimmick, it should be a central part of your eCommerce marketing plan. You might want to hire a growth marketer or an entire team that can run experiments to improve your eCommerce conversions.

Now that we’ve defined the term, let’s jump in.

Click here to get our growth playbook with 100+ eCommerce strategies.

mayple's ecommerce growth playbook

Here are the top eCommerce growth hacks that you should try in 2021 to unlock massive growth.

General eCommerce Growth Hacks

We’ve divided the list into 4 main sections - general hacks, product pages, checkout optimization, and omnichannel strategies. These include methods to increase your customer acquisition as well as customer retention.

Let’s dive in.

Display social proof notifications

One of the greatest ways that eCommerce brands get more online sales is by displaying social proof. Use a tool like Fomo to display notifications on the bottom left or right corners of the user’s screens. You can display a message that says “Peter just bought product X in San Francisco” to local residents, based on the visitor’s location. You can also display product scarcity notifications or special promotions to your VIP customers.

Fomo notification example
Source: FOMO

** for all non-Millenials out there, the term FOMO means = fear of missing out. That’s a cute play on words, isn’t it?

Display smart trust badges

Another great way you can increase trust is by using trust badges. This is a fairly simple hack but a very useful one. Most online stores use generic banners that don’t match their brand colors and look a little spammy. Use a tool like Ultimate Trust Badges by Conversion Bear to make these badges your own.

Trust badges

Use exit-intent popups

Don’t let users leave your site without getting an offer. Display a popup right as a user is about to exit with a product-specific promotion, a giveaway, or an email newsletter sign-up request. Studies show that 10-15% of your site visitors can be saved by an exit-intent popup.

exit-intent-popup-example

Optimize your top menu for conversions

The top menu is one of the most critical elements of your site. It’s used by shoppers at every stage of the customer journey - when they just started shopping and when they are ready to checkout. Use a tool like Google Optimize or Optimizely to optimize the menu by running A/B tests on the most used tabs, and then display them first. It will improve your conversion rate dramatically.

Oflara-Menu-optimization-ab-test

Automate your UGC and product reviews

Everyone knows that having user-generated content is important. What brands don’t utilize enough is a system to automate the process of gathering these customer reviews and product images and displaying them on your site. Use a tool like Loox or Yotpo to set up email flows that ask your loyal customers for video or photo reviews and then display them automatically on your product pages and email campaigns.

ugc gallery loox

Pro tip: another advantage of displaying user-generated content as product reviews is that they pique users' interest and help decrease your bounce rate. Also, sprinkle UGC or influencer shots among your regular product images on your product and category pages.

Cross-sell and upsell

Increase your order value by displaying complementary offers on the product page, cart page, and during the checkout process. You can display related or similar products, accessories, or upgrades. You can also display those products that your user recently purchased like Amazon does on its home page. Use a tool like Bold Upsell to set it all up.

upsell bundle example

Display dynamic content

Personalize your site to help your site visitors to relate to your brand better. That means dynamically changing your home page content for each visitor depending on their geography, interests, and the products they browsed in the past.

products also viewed similar products widget

Use sales countdown timers

Use a countdown timer to increase the urgency of your promotions. You can use these on your popups, top banners, email campaigns, text messages, and push notifications. Amazon, for example, uses these on its product pages.

countdown timer amazon

Run flash and holiday sales

Run regular holiday promotions on every major holiday. That includes long weekends like memorial day weekend and veterans day.

It's also important to have a sale tab on your site, where you run promotions of seasonal products, new product launches, and slow inventory that you need to sell quickly.

home decor sale

Launch interactive quizzes

Use interactive quizzes on your home page to quickly engage your user in your brand and get them customized product recommendations. Vitamin brands use this hack all the time. For example, Care/Of displays their quiz prominently on their home page.

care/of interactive quiz

Once the user fills out this quick form they get a customized product recommendation. It makes the user experience so much more engaging and gets their email so the brand can retarget them via email and social media.

Create holiday shopping guides

Here’s another great hack that can help you get more organic traffic. Create long-form holiday / seasonal shopping guides or comparison guides for similar products. Target each specific segment of your sales funnel with a different piece of content to better personalize their shopping experience.

You can also collect leads using popup by offering a content upgrade on each of your shopping guides. You can also use this content to promote a giveaway or a referral program for your loyal customers.

Birthday ads

Speaking of a personalized experience, what could be more personal than a happy birthday wish from your favorite brand. Happy Birthday emails are a standard practice in the eCommerce world. Take the next step and display a social media ad to each customer for their birthday.

startup drugz facebook happy birthday ad

Bid on competitors' phrases

A common practice among SEO experts is where you bid on keywords that have to do with your competitor. For example, if you are a shoe company that sells a similar sneaker to the Nike Pegasus you might want to bid on that keyword on Google. It’s a great way to get more clicks on your ads and increase your eCommerce sales.

bidding on competitor keywords on ppc

The free shipping progress bar

Offering free shipping is a no-brainer. It’s the norm these days. Studies show that 73% of shoppers are more likely to buy a product if it comes with free shipping. And 24% of shoppers would pay more to qualify for free shipping.

A more engaging way to show off your free shipping and increase your average order value (AOV) is to display a free shipping progress bar. The bar displays how much more the visitor needs to add to their shopping cart to unlock free shipping.

free shipping progress bar example
Source: Privy

Use a sticky CTA bar on mobile

A great way to increase conversions on mobile is to display a stick CTA bar. It’s a bar that is continuously displayed as the user scrolls down the page. It helps the user convert without having to scroll all the way up the page.

sticky bar on mobile example

Record user behavior

A lot of marketers make the mistake of relying on their intuition instead of looking at the data. Often the growth marketer itself is not representative of the broader audience and their behavior.

The best way to gather data is by recording people using your site through either video or heat maps. It’s a great way to see which elements are used on the site, what doesn’t make sense, and what should be improved. The best tools to use for this are LuckyOrange and HotJar.

lucky orange user session recording
Source: LuckyOrange

Star ratings in SERP & Google Ads

Another great way to improve your eCommerce sales is by displaying product reviews on your Google search results and Google Ads. Use any eCommerce product review app to integrate with Google and import all of the reviews from your site into Google’s system. This way every time someone sees your ad or your product page on a search result, they will see stars next to it.

allbirds customer ratings and reviews on google

Launch visual search

The most important visitors to your site are those with the highest purchase intent. Imagine this - if you go to Amazon.com and already know what you’re looking for, you’d simply search for it and buy it right?

The same would happen on any site.

That’s why brands should put more resources into their search.

One way to dramatically improve the search results is by displaying them visually. For example, let’s say you’re searching for a “red shirt”. You put in the word “red” and you get to see several images of red shirts. And you can see which one you want without having to click on each one.

Visual search is much more interactive and makes it easier for users to find the products that they’re looking for. Use a tool like Syte or Klevu to set up your smart visual search.

visual search navigation
Source: Syte

Launch on new marketplaces

Last but not least, a great way to increase your eCommerce sales is by selling on 3rd party marketplaces. The list includes giants like Amazon, eBay, Target, and Walmart as well as native commerce apps like TopHatter, Wish, and Shopify’s own app called Shop.

Getting on these marketplaces is a two-step process. First, you have to apply on each marketplace and get approved as a merchant. Second, you need to look for an integration app on the particular eCommerce platform that you’re using and set up your inventory to sync between your site and the marketplace.

biggest online marketplaces in the us

That’s it for our general list of eCommerce hacks, now we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty - product pages, checkout optimization, and omnichannel strategies.


Product pages

Product pages are a super important area of any eCommerce site, and there are a lot of elements that you need to get right. You need to optimize your descriptions, use the right images and videos, and prominently display your social proof.

Here’s how to optimize your product pages the right way.

Improve your product descriptions

One of the biggest missed opportunities on eCommerce sites is the product description. Trendy DTC brands sometimes ignore this area of the product page when in reality it is super important for SEO. Search engines have an easier time ranking your product pages if you include all the relevant keywords in your product descriptions.

Use a tool like Ahrefs or Frase to compare competitor product pages and get more keywords.

love pure coconut oil product

Tell your product story visually

Don't just stop at a basic product description. Tell your entire product story. Include images and videos of how your product is made, what materials are used, and a video of how it's unpacked and enjoyed by the customer.

nectar mattresses product page description

Use smart UGC galleries

Not all UGC galleries are created equal.

There are 3 main places you should place a UGC gallery:

  • Home page - use your best influencer shots
  • Category page - display images of the top products in this category
  • Product page - display images of each product on its product page

In order to display the right images on each product page, you would have to manually download all the images from your social media pages and then upload them to each UGC gallery or widget.

Save yourself time by using a tool like Pixlee that scans social media platforms and imports all of your user-generated content based on your hashtags or mention. They are all put into one easy dashboard where you can tag your products and they get automatically displayed on the correct product page.

pixlee ugc gallery old navy example

Add video to your listings

Video is an absolute must and it provides a great way for potential customers to see the product from different angles before they make the purchase. Display the video among the images on the top part of the product page as well as underneath the fold as the user scrolls.

Here are several ways you can use video on your product pages:

  • Display how the product is used
  • Show how the product is made
  • Show customers/influencers using the product
  • Showcase your brand or greater brand cause

Here’s an example from the accessory company Bellroy:

bellroy slim your wallet

That’s it for product pages, up next - the checkout process.


Checkout optimization

The checkout is by far the most important section of your site. We didn’t start with it because 80%+ of eCommerce brands use Shopify for hosting their site and they have optimized their checkout to a tee. But if you’re one of those brands that don’t use Shopify, then these tips are for you.

Remember: if your checkout process is broken and doesn’t convert highly enough, then it won’t matter what marketing efforts you try for your online business. Any prospective customers you bring to the site wouldn’t convert because of the low conversion rate of your checkout process. Solve the checkout bottleneck first, then work your way up the marketing funnel.

Reduce the number of fields on your checkout

One of the biggest reasons shoppers abandon the checkout page is because it’s too complicated. Consumers don’t want to jump through too many hoops to make a purchase. Make the checkout experience seamless by reducing the number of input fields. And while you’re at it, reduce the number of steps also.

bolt checkout example
Source: TechCrunch

Optimize your checkout for mobile

With over 50% of website traffic coming from mobile users it’s super important that your checkout is optimized for mobile. That means making it short so the user doesn’t have to scroll down and making the buttons larger for easy clicking. Add an extra step if you need to make sure that everything fits and is clearly visible on a smaller screen.

mobile checkout optimization from bolt
Source: TechCrunch

Offer a guest checkout option

Some shoppers don’t want to create an account on your site. They want to save time and just put in their payment info and get on with their day. That’s why you need a guest checkout option. It provides a quicker way for people to buy your product and increases your conversions.

guest checkout ecommerce
Here’s an example of Nordstrom’s guest checkout

Offer a 3rd party checkout

Speaking of going through checkout quicker, a lot of people use Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Paypal. These digital wallets have all their credit card info saved and help shorten the checkout process down to a few seconds.

googlepay-paypal-integration
Source: eSeller365

Offer a guarantee

Guarantees are super powerful because they communicate the quality of your product and decrease the user’s anxiety. One of the strategies that made Casper, the first DTC mattress company to become a unicorn, really successful is its 100-night trial guarantee. And the best part - free returns. So if you try the product and don’t like it you can return it for free.

casper mattress guarantee

Now that your checkout is optimized, let’s talk about your marketing channels.


Omnichannel strategies

Omnichannel marketing means using various marketing channels in tandem, to better convert leads and delight existing customers. Marketers that use three or more channels in their campaigns saw 3X the engagement and conversions, 90% higher customer retention rates, and 18% higher order values (Omnisend).

Here are a few of the best omnichannel hacks.

Automate your SMS campaigns

Who has the time to manually send a text message to each customer? Practically no one. That’s why winning brands are using SMS automation to send cart abandonment campaigns to their customers.

The best part is that tools like Cartloop will set you up with a live customer service team that will personally reply to every customer, offer a discount, solve their problem, and help them convert.

cartloop sms cart abandonment campaign
Source: Cartloop

Send cart abandonment push notifications

Here’s another way you could reclaim your lost carts - by sending push notifications. These are messages that appear on your mobile device or on the top corner of your browser. You can use a tool like PushEngage or PushOwl to send all kinds of push notification campaigns.

cart abanondment push notification campaign example
Source: Business2Community

Resend emails to non-openers with new subject lines

Whenever you send an email campaign there are always people that haven’t opened it. Chances are, the subject line wasn’t appealing enough for them. Send the same campaign 24 hours - 2 days later with a different subject line to just the segment of non-openers. This will increase your open rate and get you more sales.

Chatbot giveaways

Chatbots are one of the most engaging and powerful marketing channels. A study by Neil Patel showed that a chat message campaign on Facebook Messenger gets open rates of 80% and CTR of 50%. If you’re already using chatbots one way to improve them is to by setting up a giveaway.

Here’s an example campaign from Recart that helps you get email subscribers from your giveaway comments and entries.

Step 1: Publish a post about the giveaway
Step 2: Send a Facebook Messenger broadcast message
Step 3: Set up your chatbot to automatically message each person that commented on the giveaway post
Step 4: Send a message asking for their email address
Step 5: Add them to your email list.

facebook giveaway recart email leads
Source: Recart

Pro tip: use an engaging live chat widget to further improve your user’s shopping experience.

Send Whatsapp newsletters

Whatsapp is not as popular in the US with only 60M of the 2.5 billion users globally, but it’s quickly gaining traction. Brands are increasingly using Whatsapp to send messages, cart abandonment campaigns, and add subscribers to newsletters.

Source: XCart

Pro tip: combine SMS, chatbots, and email drip campaigns into one unified omnichannel strategy to help your abandoned cart visitors complete their purchase. Use marketing automation to make the process run on its own.

Recap

This is by far not an exhaustive list of effective eCommerce growth hacks that you could use for your online business, but it definitely covers the main ones. To summarize, break down your growth strategies into four areas:

General site upgrades - use various content marketing strategies, write blog posts and shopping guides, use Facebook ads to retarget your users, and improve your CTAs (call to actions) and landing pages.

Product page optimization - personalize the user’s shopping experience by displaying UGC from customers and social influencers,

Checkout optimization - optimize your checkout process to decrease loading time, the number of steps and input fields involved, and make the entire process easier to navigate.

Omnichannel strategies - automating your abandoned cart campaigns across multiple channels such as retargeting ads, chatbots on various social networks, SMS, and email marketing campaigns.

Remember - do one change at a time, otherwise, you won’t be able to isolate the variables and really know what led to business growth. If you incorporate growth hacking tactics into your overall marketing strategy then you will be able to increase brand awareness and boost sales to your online store.

If you want to see more examples of eCommerce growth hacking strategies, check out our eCommerce Growth Playbook with over 180+ examples of strategies and tools you can use.

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