Episode 13: Off-season Marketing for Ecommerce Businesses
The holiday rush has transitioned into January doldrums for many businesses...but it doesn't have to be this way! Here's how to handle off-season marketing.
00:00 Stewart Anderson: Welcome back to the Spend $10K a Day Podcast. I'm Stewart Anderson. With me, as always, my friend, Steve Weiss. Today, Steve, we're talking about something that's a little bit less happy than some of our other topics. I'm talking about the slowdowns. Off-season promotion when people aren't constantly buying stuff, like they are during the holiday season. January, February, right now, people, they're not pulling out their credit cards and buying as much stuff online.
00:27 Steve Weiss: You have all these people who are like their whole New Year's resolution is about saving money. "I wanna save money. I don't wanna pull my credit card out every time a nice Facebook ad comes up on my newsfeed." So when you see, especially in the paid acquisition, paid social, Google search world, you see a drastic decrease in the amount of paid searches for specific products as well as the actual click-through rates, and the acquisition numbers on Facebook in the January and early February range? So this whole podcast I wanna discuss some of the tactics that we use to hike up conversion rates.
01:01 SW: Little split tasks, little optimizations inside your campaigns that we do on a daily basis in January to keep fresh, to really try to keep upping our conversion rates because it's the toughest time of the year right now just to survive because people aren't buying. It's one thing in December to have, for it to be competitive. Well in a competitive market people are buying. [chuckle] In January no one's buying. So what do we do? And I really wanna discuss, just talk about some of the stuff that we've done and share with you all some of the stuff we've had success with.
01:35 SA: Yeah. Definitely. So let's... Start in to these optimizations I think one of the things we should definitely talk about as well is we talk about the products that potentially could be better for selling online during January and February.
01:47 SW: Early Q1 fitness related products, do really well. You try to line your product you are offering with a lot of people's so-called "New Year's Resolution" so obviously a lot of people want to save money. So the value add or the... It would be really nice to have products, the expensive luxury products. They always take a hit this time of year. Even the subscription boxes that, you know, you have different source of products that the... It'd be nice-to-have products really take a hit this time of the year but...
02:19 SA: Anything with any element of price consideration, sticker shock, 'cause everybody is just like, "I just spent a ton of money on gifts. I spent a ton of money on holiday travel." Most people are, they're about to prepare to pay taxes and there's like I've taken a big hit in the wallet. They're not looking to make any big ticket purchases.
02:36 SW: Exactly. One thing to be very aware of is that I feel a lot of brands are so into the discount culture over the holidays of just moving out product. And they don't focus on actually doing marketing for their current product.
02:50 SA: That's true.
02:51 SW: Their whole marketing is based on coupon and I think that's one of the biggest pain points for brands is how you transition from a couponing marketing strategy to a full-life cycle strategy. When you're not couponing, you're not discounting, you're actually getting a person into your funnel without having to devalue your product.
03:12 SA: Yeah, and it actually brings up another good point about the season too is not only have you been doing all these discounting and promotions and now you're going into a period where you're not doing that and conversion rates are probably gonna drop because of that, cause you're selling it at a higher price. You're combining that with this kinda, off-season phenomena where people are buying less in general. It's almost like a double hit. It sucks.
03:35 SW: And people will get known to couponing. People will get known to coupon. They just get known. If they've seen your ad over and over again for a coupon, they just don't click on it. They don't, they don't... They care less about value, they care more about the product. How the products fits into their life. So number one suggestion for you guys who are trying to really scale up your conversion rates this time of the year, number one, get away from the couponing strategy.
04:01 SW: Number two, Facebook as you guys know is all about conversion rate, conversion rate, conversion rate, and a lot of brands and a lot of e-commerce sites, every one is worried about driving a profitable return on ad spend.
04:13 SA: Definitely.
04:14 SW: But remember, Facebook serves your ad to people most likely to do a specific action. So you're taking a million, two million audience, and because you're telling Facebook, "Serve my ad to the people most likely to do a conversion," Facebook is always serving your ad to a small segment of that million or two million audience. So we've seen a little... A little tactic that we used is we used the, instead of using conversion objective top of funnel, what we do is we optimized for impression reach with a lot of our video campaigns like really good creative to a really good audience. 'Cause our goal here remember for this time of year is to drive new people into our funnel with knowing that people are most like to buy down the funnel.
05:00 SA: Yeah.
05:00 SW: So number two, getting away from being a conversion objective based marketing company. You really have to focus on innovating top of funnel and we say is get away from only thinking about top of funnel conversions.
05:17 SA: Yeah.
05:18 SW: It's really interesting because everyone always asks me like, "Steve, how can I measure, me driving impressions or driving new users into my funnel? How could I measure this over a specific time period?" And I always tell them the same exact thing is that the way you measure how good you are top of funnel or AKA "new user acquisition" is by seeing the conversion rates in the scale down funnel. So how many users are in your re-marketing pool and what the conversion rate of your re-marketing pool is over said period of time that you're running different test top of funnel.
05:54 SA: That's very true.
05:55 SW: So I would say the two, number one, coupon, number two, getting away from being too conversion focused, and then number three, is product selection. Going back to our pieces here of like, people are very budget conscious at this time of the year. People want products this time of the year that are needed for their life, for their livelihood. It's cold outside, they're gonna buy the boots. They wanna lose weight, they're gonna buy the new workout routine. So cherry picking out your products and really understand what is a need and what is a luxury, and then building out campaigns and videos around the need-focused products within your catalogue.
06:39 SA: Yeah, so here's something I'll ask as well, and obviously if we have some more strategies we can include this. Let's say, I have a product that isn't a need, I still want to spend on Facebook ads. I have to obviously spend on acquisition, I wanna acquire new customers in these months. What are some things that I can do as a marketer immediately to the campaigns that I have running, optimization, tweaks, so I can make them more efficient and almost kinda cushion me against this downward pressure that the season has on results? Is it, "Hey, I'm gonna be a little more conservative with placements or bidding. Is it, "I'm gonna be focusing more of the budget around re-marketing and spending a little bit less on prospecting"? What can people do to optimize their existing marketing efforts even if they don't have a product that's really built for the season?
07:30 SW: So number one... That's a really good question. I don't wanna deter market, consumer marketers from marketing this time of the year if you have a luxury item. I think this is the time of the year to really capitalize on your brand. And prices are really low, so I think capitalizing on your brand and buying may be a very low CPC low CPMs, is very important to driving new users into your funnel. So what I would say is this is your time for experimentation, this is your time to really understand your users.
08:00 SW: So, number one, I would start split testing ads on places that you never had ads before. And a great example of this is running video on audience network. Audience network is a placement that most people have not figured out how to make work at scale. And we've seen a little bit of success running video on audience network as a way for top performing success. So number one on that area is figuring out new types of placements to drive brand impressions. Number two, split testing your conversion objectives top of the funnel.
08:31 SW: Stop being so conversion, conversion, conversion-focused and now start driving really high-intent, high-interest users to different areas of our website, to kinda season them to read about our brand, in hopes that they're gonna purchase at a later date. Then number three, start transitioning away from couponing. Couponing is not scalable every time of the year, so I say, start testing how creative that's a little bit far away from couponing.
08:58 SA: That's good. That's awesome. Yeah, it's a good point that you brought up a high level about this season, as it does give you... It's kind of like, a sandbox for experimentation. Expectations are gonna be a little bit lower. Costs on like an impression or click bases are gonna be lower. You can experiment, you can try things out. It's really tough to be experimental when you have a huge demand for sales. When you know it's November, it's December, this is when you have to sell a ton of stuff. You can't really mess up, where it could cost you tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars if you make a mistake, whereas here, you have a little bit more room to work with.
09:41 SW: Yeah, exactly. So I think right now is your time to be a mad scientist in the Facebook Lab. I think that testing out new... I said it earlier, just testing out placements, testing out creative, testing out conversion objectives, I think those are the three things that you should be leveraging this time of the year. And then in hopes that when the budgets and the people start spending again, which obviously is right after Valentines Day, you're gonna be right there at the top of the mind as a source or a merchant that's just gonna leverage and capitalize on that.
10:15 SA: Sounds good. Well, that has been... This episode of the "Spend $10K a Day" Podcast if you have any questions for us about what to do during this kind of barren time here in the frosty winter months, We're always here. Steve@mutesix.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email us directly. We hope to see you next time on the next episode of the podcast.
10:40 SA: Thanks guys, take care.