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2020 eCommerce Strategy

As you march forward it’s important to reflect on the past. The world is changing (fast), consumer behavior is evolving, new competitors are emerging, strategies that worked in the past and now ineffective.

As you grow and build your team new challenges emerge. Where once you personally handled every pixel now you can’t. So you hire competent people to help (both in-house and outsourced).

But these people can’t help if you don’t change your mindset. Because here’s the thing: the things that brought you from point A to point B in the past aren’t going to take you from point B to C in the future.

Having worked with 100s of very successful and very smart eCommerce companies in the last decade I find leaders unintentionally develop sacred cows with their marketing strategy. For example, if clean design worked in the past they are nervous about making the site copy heavy, if an understated copy style drove conversions 2 years ago they’re nervous about introducing a more confident tone. If showing lots of lifestyle images worked in the past they become “untouchable”.

Note: Clients aren’t the only ones who struggle with change, I do too. I bloody hate changing; so I know firsthand how hard this is.

But you can’t have breakthrough marketing if you aren’t willing to challenge the past.

Forest fires sound bad but they serve a crucial ecological purpose: allowing the forest to reinvent itself.

So what should a leader do?

First, let’s state what one shouldn’t do: a site redesign. There are very very few instances when a site redesign is the best solution. How often have you rebuilt your home because the kitchen cabinets were looking dated?

Instead, do this:

Step 1: invite radical ideas from your team and people outside your organization. We significantly undervalue outside perspective. We think, “what does an outsider know about my unique business?”. We invite outsiders precisely because we’re looking for a fresh take on a tricky problem.

Step 2: give each participant 5 hours to research and pitch their one idea. No more than 5 hours. This also includes providing mockups. Compensate people for their time. If it’s in-house team members consider offering a $500 Amazon gift card for the best pitch.

Let everyone know the total budget for the project is $3,000 (includes implementation). Why $3,000? If a marketer (or aspiring one) can’t show directional ROI in $3,000 I guarantee they will not do better with a $20k budget. We’re not expecting them to definitely prove their idea is better, but it has to show traction. Otherwise, it’s just a pipe-dream.

Step 3: ask people to submit ideas in writing along with visual designs (these can be crude). The written proposal should include a detailed “how I plan to implement and measure impact” section.

Evaluating submitted ideas: 

— When evaluating the idea ask yourself, “would I have paid someone $500 for this idea?” if the answer is no, reject it.

— If an idea doesn’t sound good in writing it’s most likely a bad idea. People who can’t clearly communicate in writing should not lead marketing projects.

— If the implementation plan seems unrealistic (for example, “make site mobile responsive”), reject it.

— If this project will likely cross the $3,000 budget, reject it.

— If measurement plan seems impractical, reject it.

— If the projected impact seems unrealistic, reject it.

— You’ll find the best ideas are copy (written word) ideas. Copy ideas rock because they’re a simple change and easy to test. Examples:

–>> If you have a lot of product options a smart idea is to add a link called “too many choices?” and on click show content tailor-made for people who would click such a link.

–>> If your product page gets a lot of visibility but doesn’t convert as well a good idea is telling a better story on this page.

–>> If you have a paid search landing page that gets a lot of visitors a good idea will be reworking the pitch on this page without altering the page design.

–>> Putting together an email for your mailing list.

–>> Putting together an email to people who haven’t purchased in the last 12 months.

–>> Putting together an email to people who purchased product X but not your bestseller (product Y).


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