Ten years ago, the term “growth hacking” was non-existent. Entrepreneur Sean Ellis coined it to explain what his service to startups entailed:
“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.” - Sean Ellis
Ellis explained that at their onset, startups and ecommerce websites didn’t need a traditional marketing approach, but rather growth in their customer base – and a quick one at that.
That’s why ecommerce growth hacking often uses unorthodox methods and techniques to achieve fast business scaling. This strategy doesn’t hinge on marketing efforts alone. It includes sales, human resources, product development, and even finance.
Growth hacking has a simple goal: sell more. How? Grow your customer base.
All growth hacking strategies revolve around the target of long-term repeatable growth. Of the several cases I considered while picking growth hacking strategies that actually worked, several repeatable processes stood out. These steps include, but are not limited to:
Create, make or sell products that people actually love. Throw in some freebies.
Allow several methods for your target customers to learn about and test your product.
Ensure your product is worth sharing, or make it a bargain.
Create excitement and anticipation around your product.
Always keep your promises to your customers and don’t forget to always be cool.
Rinse and repeat.
You don’t have to use all of these at once – just find what fits your target customer and tweak it to your best interests. The founding principle behind any growth hacking strategy is creating a sustainable system of acquiring new customers that works over time while helping you attain exponential growth.
Ecommerce is a difficult industry often plagued by price wars and customer disloyalty. Let’s take a look at how these ecommerce sites successfully used growth hacking strategies to outpace their competitors.
How would you feel if someone told you they could cut your marketing budget down to just $500? Dodocase is a great example of an online store that beautifully implemented growth hacking strategies before even launching their product.
Dodocase makes and sells iPad cases. When the first iPad was released, Dodocase hired street teams on Craigslist to hand out coupon codes to people waiting in line at Apple stores. Founder Patrick Buckley explains:
“We went on Craigslist and we found people in different cities to basically go out to Apple stores and hand these out. We gave everyone a code so we could track who sold what and we gave them a commission on whatever they could sell.
So, they only got paid on what orders they could generate so there was very little risk for us. We were able to get college students and people who were just enthusiastic and energetic about a new Apple product. So they went out and they evangelized our product before we even had any product. We made basically two cases at that point. And that just snowballed, really. I think we spent about $500 on marketing and that’s it.”
Etsy’s success did not come on a silver platter. Instead, the online market for arts and crafts growth-hacked its way to an IPO and over 50 million users.
In the beginning, Etsy created favorable conditions for sellers who felt frustrated by the kind of institutionalism at eBay. Etsy offered a great platform that actually lived up to users’ “crafty” expectations.
On top of this, Etsy relied on genuine word-of-mouth, and participated in offline community craft fairs to meet reputable sellers. This helped Etsy to rake in a pool of loyal customers who spread the word about the platform.
Etsy also had a value proposition for users - and a simple one at that. Most comparable marketplaces take 20-30% of a sale, while Etsy takes only 8.3-10.1%.
All these strategic moves were geared towards growth, relevant to Etsy’s cause, and replicable and scalable over time.
As you read this right now, there is someplace – offline or online – where your potential customers must be congregating. A good starting point lies in figuring out a way to tap into those gathering places.
AirBnB’s first major traction came from this exact growth hacking strategy. The brand simply created software that cross-posted new listings on Craigslist. Those links on Craigslist linked back to the original listings on AirBnB.
AirBnB was able to drive loads of traffic to their website by going where the target customers were congregating.
Since growth hacking is about scalability and replication, you need to know how you can adapt this tactic to your business. All you need to do is think about where your potential customers usually hang out online. Next, think of creative ways to catch their attention there.
Credits: Luxy Hair
What free resources can you create for your target audience to attract them to your website?
These tools or products will get people excited about visiting your site, and push them toward your products. You’re giving away a product or service for free, so you can then sell something related to the product or service.
Moz has perfected the art of using free tools to give people a taste of their paid, premium SEO tools. Luxy Hair also uses a similar strategy. The brand marketed their hair extension products by creating video tutorials offering styling tips. With this technique, their YouTube channel amassed over 150 million views and more than one million subscribers.
You don’t have to use all of these tactics to growth hack your ecommerce site at once, but they will help you understand how growth hacking works.
Keep in mind that there is no ultimate growth hacking guide. It is a creative and individualized process. What works for one business might not work the same way for another. But with this guide to get you started, you should soon be able to find the right growth hacking strategy for your ecommerce business.