The past couple of years have blown the eCommerce space wide open, with more merchants and DTC brands competing for custom than ever before. And with a subsequent rise in the cost of digital advertising, those that want to thrive need to find creative ways to encourage business growth, and keep acquisition costs down.

According to Shopify’s latest trend report, it’s one of the biggest challenges in eCommerce for 2022. The report’s findings show that, between the second and third quarters of 2021, cost-per-click for paid search ads rose by 15% - but brought less return then previous.

Those price hikes aren’t set to slow down anytime soon. And given that the competition isn’t going anywhere either, it’s time to take a different tack. 

So what are your options? The key is to focus on relationship building, driving loyalty and customer lifetime value, whilst at the same time encouraging new custom by using the tools already at your disposal. In short, it’s time to invest in your brand over paid marketing campaigns. 

1. Signal Trust With Google Seller Ratings

First thing’s first - we’re not suggesting that you give up entirely on paid advertising. What we’re looking to do is achieve greater ROAS, and one of the best ways to do that is to bag yourself a Google Seller Rating. This gives you stars next to ads that act as powerful trust signals.

According to Google, these stars can increase CTR by up to 17%, whilst boosting your Quality Score and lowering CPC at the same time. And because you’ve established trust at the very start of the buyer journey, the traffic driven by your ad campaigns is more likely to convert. 

To achieve Google Seller Ratings, you’ll need to work with a Google Licensed Partner. Once you’ve hit the review count threshold, you’ll be awarded stars that significantly improve the performance of search and shopping ads. 

2. Build a Brand Community

Today’s online consumers want more than bargain deals and next day delivery. They want to be a part of something. Their purchase decisions are heavily influenced by shared values, shared experiences, and a desire for self expression. And the best way to facilitate all this is by building a brand community.

How that works in practice depends on the nature of your business. For cycling apparel brand Fat Lad at the Back, it’s nationwide riding groups that share a passion for promoting inclusivity in the sport. But whatever community looks like to you, it works. Trust, loyalty, advocacy - they all develop when you create a sense of belonging. Acquisition comes through word of mouth, customer lifetime value soars, and paid marketing is replaced by organic growth.

It’s not a short term strategy. It takes time to foster relationships - first between you and the consumer, and then amongst your customers themselves - but it’s a sustainable approach with long term gain. 

3. Focus on a Retention Strategy

The most profitable customers out there are the ones that already know you. On average, repeat shoppers spend more per transaction than first time buyers, so look for ways to keep your existing customer base coming back for more.

There’s a couple of techniques we’d recommend here. First, look at implementing genuine eCommerce personalisation that enhances both the on and off site experience for the entire customer lifecycle. Personalised recommendations and offers, review attributes that help them make better purchase decisions, it’s all the small things that add up to greater value for the customer, and thus greater retention. 

Second, roll out a loyalty programme. There’s a lot of ways you could approach this, but we recommend using our integration with platforms like LoyaltyLion to reward customers for leaving product reviews. Why? Because it comes with multiple benefits: 

  • The customer has a reason to return to your store
  • You encourage more product reviews, which boost conversion rates on the traffic that does come through from paid ads
  • Those product reviews are synced with your Google Shopping listings, and can help reduce ad spend

4. Optimise Your Tech Stack

We can’t emphasise enough the importance of having an integrated eCommerce solution that allows for the most effective use of customer data. When all your systems work together, you can unify that data, strategically segment your audience, and drive relationships with highly targeted campaigns. All with the bonus of automation, and without the skyhigh cost of paid ads. 

Take for example the combination of Shopify, REVIEWS.io and Gorgias. Here we’re covering store interaction, review collection and support, which throws up some pretty insightful data for every individual customer. Send that data through to an ESP powerhouse like Klaviyo and your email marketing just became highly profitable. Add LoyaltyLion into the mix, and you’ve got rewards covered too. 

It might be an old school method, but email marketing still ranks as one of the most effective. And with intelligent eCommerce solutions that work as one, it's a powerful alternative to paid ads.

5. Push Video Review Collection

The same Shopify report that cited the rise in paid advertising costs also gave us this statistic:

  •  46% of consumers want to watch product videos before they buy. 

It’s no surprise given that video is by far the most popular form of online content, and far more authentic than stock images and written product descriptions.

Even more authentic again though is when those videos are user generated. By collecting video reviews you gather engaging, relatable and persuasive content that sells through a genuine product experience.

You also get authentic UGC that can be published straight away across all your social channels. Content that didn’t cost you a penny to create or post, and comes with real organic reach potential.

Bonus Tip -  Get Influencers on Board

Now you might think this sounds expensive and/or unachievable, but we’re not necessarily talking A-list celebrity influencers. . There’s a lot of value to be had by focusing on micro level influencers too - those with follower counts in the high thousands. These figures, considered experts in their niche, have stronger relationships with their audience, and are said to attract four times the engagement of sponsored posts. Which means they can do a lot for your acquisition efforts, particularly if they already have an interest in your products. 

Our Influence feature can help you here. It’ll show you a dynamic list of Instagram users that have either made a purchase from you, left you a review, or mentioned you on their social channels. It’ll show you this list by follower count, so you can easily identify your most powerful brand advocates. Once you know who they are, you can reach out to collaborate.It’s an innovative feature that can help you combat the rising cost of acquisition by using the social prestige of your biggest fans as a marketing tool.

Grow Your eCommerce Business With Reviews

The rising cost of customer acquisition is something no eCommerce business can afford to ignore. But instead of seeing it as a burden, consider it an opportunity to diversify your marketing efforts. There’s still a place for paid advertising, but it should be one small part of a mutli-channel approach. 

And of course, if you’re not yet using customer reviews it’s definitely time to throw them into the mix. They’re the single most effective way to build consumer trust and convince potential customers to buy. Sign up for a REVIEWS.io account today, or chat to our support team for more information. 

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