I recently spoke with a client about where to take their e-commerce website next. Up until now, they've experienced incredible growth through word-of-mouth, influencer support, and social media exposure. Their business has passed the 8-figure mark but is plateauing, and they see an opportunity to grow.
An interesting thing can happen after brands like this experience rapid growth and try to level up—conversion rate falls.
Let's imagine a scenario similar to this client. The brand had a few posts go viral on social in 2020. Some popular influencers repped their products, and in months, their e-commerce business exploded. They're seeing a better-than-average conversion rate and haven't spent a dollar on marketing.
Eventually, the business starts to level out, and they see an opportunity to raise the bar. They begin investing in paid marketing campaigns across Meta, Google, and TikTok.
The brand is now spending more money to get more eyes on its products. As traffic increases, conversion rate slips. And slips.
During the organic growth period, most of the traffic coming to the website was highly qualified. People saw their friends or favorite influencers promoting the brand and were customers before they even landed on the website.
As the virality faded, the brand turned to paid marketing to sustain growth and build its customer base. While the ads have effectively driven traffic, folks visiting the website came through an ad—not someone they trust.
See how this plays out below. I'm using simple numbers for demonstration purposes.
In stage 2, the brand is driving 75% more traffic to the website. Conversion has fallen significantly. Revenue is steady, but the brand is paying for the traffic. CAC is rising fast.
In stage 3, the brand recognizes an opportunity to optimize the website alongside paid marketing efforts. They're able to keep traffic on track while steadily increasing conversion. It's not the same growth they saw in previous years, but they're on the right track.
To avoid the fate of stage 2 altogether, let's look at some tactics brands can explore to keep growth steady, even when conversion slips.
1—Welcome New Visitors: Does the brand's website immediately show who they are? During the viral phase, a vague website with confusing navigation may not have deterred dedicated fans, but now, first impressions are critical. The homepage should clearly reflect the brand, showcasing popular products, easy-to-navigate categories, and notable collaborations. Our client recently collaborated with a major fashion brand—the website said nothing about it. Making that first impression count for new visitors less familiar with the brand is non-negotiable.
2—Optimize for Best Practices: Is the website easy to shop and browse? Some brands are more sensitive to e-commerce best practices than others, thinking they'll tarnish the brand. It's important to find a balance that aligns with the brand. For instance, email/SMS pop-ups have proven to be effective. Maybe you don't trigger them for a few minutes or when someone leaves the website, but regardless, avoiding these tactics can make it challenging to grow. Also, considering most brands see high mobile traffic, an easy mobile-first experience is a priority, which involves everything from sizing and spacing to re-designing modules or navigation for smaller screens.
3—Get to Know Customers: How well does the brand understand its customers beyond the initial sale? Many brands think they have a good idea of their customer, but it's their target audience they can describe, not the people buying products. Setting up post-purchase surveys and customer interviews are great tools for learning more about customers and what they love about the brand. Leveraging these insights to refine the brand's marketing approach and personalize the customer experience can be a game-changer.
4—Create Synergy Between Channels: Are the brand's marketing and website efforts in sync? If the brand hasn't experimented with landing pages, now is the time. Landing pages should directly connect with any marketing campaigns running on social. Aim for parity in messaging, imagery, and products. Landing pages can focus on specific use cases, audience types, or product categories. These pages can serve as a testing ground for what engages different audience segments, making them not just a bridge between ads and the website but a strategic tool for effective customer engagement and conversion.
5—Leverage Your Community: Is the brand leveraging its user-generated content? The content that fueled the brand's initial viral success is a powerful tool for authenticity and trust. Showcasing real customer experiences and stories on the website and in marketing campaigns can attract and engage new audiences in the way it did at the start, using the power of the community to its full advantage. Tools like Tolstoy are great for activating this content throughout the shopping experience, making it interactive and integrated.
This post originally appeared in #64 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.