This post is by David Jaeger, CEO of Global SEM Partners, an ecommerce PPC agency and training company, specializing in delivering results for clients in 45 days or less. David has a passion for empowering both small and large ecommerce businesses, and has helped over 200 companies drive sales from the internet using paid media.
Many eBay and Amazon sellers have invested time and money into their own website, but have never really succeeded in getting sales off the ground.
PPC advertising is a fantastic way to build sales on your own site, but it’s hard to get on the right track. Really hard. You may have tried PPC before, but found it nothing more than a way to burn good money fast.
But the holiday season is different. For some businesses, up to 80% of sales come through during the holidays. More importantly, conversion rates are higher – for many of our clients there’s a point in the season that conversion rates double! Buyers shorten their research process, and just start buying the gifts they need as quickly and simply as they can.
That’s a huge opportunity for you, the store owner. You can start PPC advertising this holiday season and enjoy higher volumes and conversion rates, with a much smaller investment than you would normally need. This is truly the best time of year to learn PPC and get a real return on your money.
And, like the holidays, this opportunity comes but once a year.
But my website isn’t up to scratch!
You need to have a website that inspires trust, and convinces buyers to purchase from your site, and not from your big, established competitors. Once you have this website, you need drive traffic profitably.
That’s the advice I normally give.
At any other time of year, the economics of paid media aren’t in your favor, especially initially. I often tell people that “Your first $10,000 spent on PPC, won’t be nearly as profitable as your next $10,000.” If your site isn’t well designed, attractive and easy to use, you should spend money on fixing those issues before investing in advertising.
But the holiday season is huge for ecommerce, and that changes some of the rules. The big bump in volume and conversion rates can start as early as November 20th, and run through to December 15th-24th.
Even if your site is not quite good enough, and just limping on, you might still be able to get a return on investment from PPC. If you can kick-start your sales now, that could justify investing more in your store throughout 2016.
Shipping and pricing is 80% of the battle
A lot of people (myself included) will push ecommerce business owners to spend a lot of money on a good, modern website design. That can be cost anywhere from $4,000-$50,000, depending on the site. However, the secret is that customers care a lot more about pricing and shipping.
Especially if you are in a commoditized business (selling branded goods, for example), then consumers are really looking for the best price, and fast or free shipping. Offer the best price, and fast or free shipping, and it can more than offset conversion rate losses due to unprofessional design and imperfect usability.
I’ve worked with many multi-million dollar ecommerce companies that had shockingly bad sites, and still did extremely well. We’ve also seen redesigns on those types of sites that had only a minimal impact.
The bottom line is…
If you have great pricing and shipping, your site design doesn’t matter (during the holidays)
Seriously, if you haven’t yet ventured into PPC advertising, or invested in your site, the holidays are the perfect time to start generating sales. Just get started, even with just a couple of hundred dollars, and see how much money you can make.
Where and how should I start my holiday marketing?
So, you’ve decided to do this crazy “holiday PPC marketing strategy”, but where do you start?
Here’s some guidelines:
Small Budget – You probably don’t want to be spending much out of the gate. I’d recommend budgeting a couple hundred dollars for your PPC campaign to begin with.
Conservative CPC’s – Look at your conversion rate, and create a target of “the most you would like to spend per sale”. If you need help with that, check out our webinar recording about goal-setting. For example, if the average purchase on your site (or through the marketplaces) is $80, and you can spend up to $20 to get an $80 sale, and your site conversion rate is 0.5%, then set all of your initial bids to $0.10 ($20 x 0.5%). Once you get some sales on your better performing products, you can raise the bids for those. But don’t be aggressive, unless you are looking to rapidly expand (and spend!)
Best Channels – Your best channels are going to be Google Shopping, Google Remarketing and Bing Text Ads. Once you tackle those, you can expand to the regular Google text ads, which drive quite a bit of volume, but are also not as profitable.
PPC Knowledge – If you don’t have much familiarity with Adwords, and their games, here are a couple of simple tips. If you don’t follow these tips, and don’t have a good familiarity with Adwords, then you risk wasting all your money. On Google Shopping, make sure to just feed your top selling products. Don’t waste money (at least initially) on products that aren’t proven winners. You will either need to use a plugin for your shopping cart platform, or a feed management tool like GoDataFeed or Feedonomics. Also, make sure to use a “mobile bid modifier”.
Proof of concept – Keep in mind that this is something that could fail, and you’re just giving yourself the best shot at winning – during the holidays when conversion rates are far higher. That said, if you can scale up, and make an extra $10k to $20k this holiday, I’m sure it would be some nice cherries on top for you!
Timing your PPC launch
Many people over-complicate the “holiday launch” checklist.
There’s just one thing you need to do in order to make the most out of your holiday PPC campaign. Look at last year’s sales, find out when the holiday sales jump happened, and when it dropped off. Simply, launch your PPC campaigns the exact day that the increase is there, and be prepared to pull back drastically on the same day when that drop-off happened.
What to do when the holidays are over?
Okay, so you got some wins (and money) over the holiday season, what should you do next?
Seeing how your ads performed can tell you whether you should continue to run PPC as-is for the rest of the year. If you are still profitable after the holiday, just keep on going, either by really learning PPC yourself, or by using an ecommerce PPC agency. When you’ve got the return you’re looking for, scale it up.
If you find that your site did “meh” during the holidays, or more “meh” afterwards, and you know your site isn’t where it needs to be, you should do some research before just “hiring a designer”. The same goes if you just want to invest more seriously in the website sales channel.
How to weight the redesign odds in your favor
If you don’t like risk (and who does?) then do some research before having your site redesigned. By using a mix of surveys, user testing and an expert heuristic analysis, you can ensure that your website redesign is successful.
You’re going to want to do a thorough competitive analysis of both your site, and your competitors. Walk through the buying process on each, and identify what areas need to be improved. Also use surveys to get an idea of what your customers really think about the shopping experience. Remember, you’ve acquired customers already, so go ahead, ask them about the experience on your site:
- What worked?
- Why did they buy from you?
- Would they recommend you?
- What didn’t work?
- How you can do better?
We mix user tests, expert heuristic audits and surveys to get data on what we should fix to improve sales, and we recommend you do the same.
Gain a headstart for 2016
The above strategy should take you no more then 10-12 hours over this holiday season, and can potentially launch a new channel for you in 2016.
Getting stuck? Feel free to ask any questions in the comments here.
Good luck, and happy holidays!