Ecommerce: A Step by Step Guide to Validating an eCommerce Product [with a Low Budget]

Ecommerce: A Step by Step Guide to Validating an eCommerce Product [with a Low Budget]

It’s fast to validate campaigns in the affiliate marketing world.

You get some offer recommendations from your affiliate manager.
You reverse engineer competitors with a spy tool to see what’s working.
You “borrow” some landing pages.
And you come up with some angles to make the campaign your own.

I’ve simplified the process, but you can go from idea -> traffic within a few hours. I’m not saying it’s that easy to become profitable, but you can get a sense of the campaign’s potential within a few days.

Speed is important in the online world – the faster you move, the faster you learn.

Many affiliate marketers have transitioned to the world of eCommerce in the past few years. In eCommerce, campaigns launches are slow. Idea -> validation can take months for some people.

And there are more risks involved.

If your budget is less than a few thousand bucks, you can’t afford the “throw shit at the wall until something sticks” method.

What happens if you fail at an affiliate marketing campaign? 90% of the money that you lose is traffic costs. The advertiser takes on the risks of carrying inventory and fulfilling it for the customers.

How does that change with eCommerce? In most cases, you have to take risks with holding inventory and fulfillment. If your supplier requires a minimum order quantity of $2,000, what happens if you’re unable to sell the inventory? You’re stuck with unsold inventory sitting in your garage.

And not to mention the time and energy costs you devote.

That’s why it’s so important to go through the stage of product validation—making sure people want to buy your product before you commit resources.

Here’s one cycle I’ve seen people fall into.

  • Get excited over an idea for a product.
  • Spend thousands of dollars in inventory. They wait for one to two months for the products to arrive from China. 
  • Spend a month building out their Shopify store and creatives.
  • Launch.

Crickets. There’s barely even any “add to carts” in their Shopify dashboard! They wasted thousands of dollars in inventory, and several months of effort.

Here’s the truth: You might have to go through and test 15+ products before you find your big winner. You can do all the research you want, but the market decides the winners.

One mindset I have is to view campaigns as bets—each product you launch is a bet.

The more bets you can place, then the higher the chances you have of winning big. You should be trying to validate your product in the fastest, and cheapest way possible. This gives you the ability to make more bets.

And here’s the best part: your probability of winning increases with each bet you take. You’re leveling up with each launch. 

You’re learning how to negotiate better prices.
You start understanding the ad platform more and more.
You start figuring out which landing page style works the best.

The most important thing is that you keep placing bets.
Nothing guarantees success. You have to keep placing bets and stacking the odds in your favor.

One book that influenced my thinking several years ago was The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Their framework revolves around speed and focusing it on the 80 / 20.

Today I’m going to share some ways for you to validate your ideas faster and cheaper so that ultimately you improve your chances of success.

Bad Ways to Validate a Product

Everyone understands that you want to vet an idea before going all in. But most approaches to product validation have some flaws.

01. Surveying People You Know

Asking people what they think about your idea is horrible.

Me: Hey what do you think about my idea?
Your Friend:  Holy shit that’s an amazing idea! I’ll totally buy it when you have it!

*A Month Later*

Me: Hey you know that product I was telling you about? Well, I have it now in stock! Did you want to buy it?
Your Friend: Oh uhh… Sorry, I’m running low on funds right now. Good luck though!

Surveying can lead you to a false positive. A better way to do a survey is to ask for the sale.

Me: Hey what do you think about my idea?
Your Friend:  Holy shit that’s an amazing idea! I’ll totally buy it when you have it!
Me:
Thanks for your support. Well, I can get some inventory here within a month. I’m actually taking pre-orders now. I can take Venmo or PayPal.
Your Friend: Oh uhh… Sorry, I’m running low on funds right now. Good luck though!

What happened? People don’t like conflict. They might think it’s a horrible idea, but they don’t want to discourage you from your dreams. So they’d rather do the song and dance than tell you that your product sucks.

Men lie. Women lie. The numbers lie.” – Reminder, Jay Z

Asking for money upfront will reveal the truth.

02. Dropshipping 

Dropshipping was the rage several years ago. You sell the product, and the manufacturer sends the product to the customer.

The main problem is that people expect their product within a few business days (you can thank Amazon Prime for that).

Most manufacturers are based out of China. It can take several weeks or even months before the customer gets it. So what happens if it takes them longer than expected? Complaints. Chargebacks. Facebook and Google are now doing post-purchase surveys with the customer.

Bad experiences will get your account penalized. 

Something else I’ve noticed is that some Americans have become anti-China due to the pandemic. Seeing a package shipped from China can trigger them emotionally (even though 90%+ of the stuff in their house is made in China).

Dropshipping could work if the manufacturer is close enough to the customer. Try to get it to the customer in under one week.

The Lean Product Launch Method

I’m going to share a rough framework for launching a product. With this framework, you can go from idea to launch within a few days.

Your goal is to find a winning product as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter. 

1.1. Product and Niche Selection

The first step is to choose a product. Here are some of the things I look for in a solid product.

A. Is this part of a growing trend?

You always want to be a part of a growing trend. If you’re entering a market too late, then there’s going to be way too much competition.

Google Trends: Keyword trends straight from Google. If more and more people are searching for something, then there’s growing demand. 
Trends.co: A publication dedicated to researching growing trends and businesses.
JungleScout: Product data from Amazon. It’s amazing to see how competitive different niches are.

B. What are the problems with the existing solutions? How does your product aim to solve that?

People buy products to solve problems. There’s a high probability that you already have competition for your idea.

One mistake people make is that they give up when they see that the idea already exists.

ah man, the idea’s already done. I’m already too late

Don’t be scared. Competition means that your idea is validated. Imagine the opposite and there’s no competition. You’d be wondering if it’s because your idea sucks.

Realize that every business has an Achilles heel—a weakness you can exploit. Imagine if Google got scared because of Yahoo! Or Apple being scared of Nokia.

The sweet spot is being able to offer improvements over the existing incumbents, rather than offering “me too” products. Research what people are complaining about with the existing solutions. You can go to YouTube comments, Amazon reviews, TrustPilot, etc.

Complaints = opportunity. I’ll share an example of this approach.

One product that has caught my eye recently is Monkey Feet. This is a device that allows you to attach dumbbells to your feet. There’s a growing trend towards working out at home. And this product solves a problem (it’s hard to directly strengthen your hip flexors).

I’m on their website and reading all the negative reviews. People are complaining about two things.

  1. It’s uncomfortable. There isn’t enough padding, and it hurts using it.
  2. It takes forever to put on and off. It’s an inefficient design. 

This tells me there’s a ton of opportunity to improve the design. Imagine if you could create a version that’s more comfortable, faster to put on, and more stylish.

You’d crush it.

C. Back of the Napkin Math

You have to be able to sell your widget at a cost where you’re making a decent profit margin. Open up a spreadsheet and do some simple math.

Estimate the shipping and fulfillment, taxes, traffic costs, your profit margin, cost of goods sold, etc. This can be hard if you don’t have experience. 

If you want to keep it simple, you can use the 4x rule. Sell the product for 4x your costs.

If buying the product costs $10, sell it for $40. This should cover the cost of goods sold, traffic costs, and leave you with a decent profit margin.

With eCommerce, think about the business model that you’re going for.

One framework is to think about the average order value and the frequency of purchase. Here are two that I’ve seen work over and over again.

1. The first one is a high average order value, but a low frequency of purchase.

High profit margins with each order, but people are not purchasing them frequently. The biggest example that comes to mind are luxury handbags or watches.

D2C mattress companies such as Casper and Purple also come to mind. Having such high average order value is what gives them the profit margins to run such aggressive campaigns. 

2. The second is a low average order value, but a high frequency of purchase.

Think Dollar Shave Club.

There’s not a lot of profit in razor blades. Their goal is to get you onto the subscription program so that you’re charged monthly. 

Imagine if you’re stuck in the middle:

Low average order value + low frequency = dead store.

This explains why supplements and skincare can be such great businesses.

(Credit to Nik Sharma for the above framework)

High profit margins + monthly subscriptions = GOLD

High average order value can also come from bundling products together. While you’re focusing on a single product, keep in mind what else you could bundle together in the future.

If you buy a mattress, what else would you be interested in? A pillow, bed sheets, a bed frame, etc. If you buy a skincare cleanser, you might be interested in a toner, moisturizer, sunblock, etc.

Some items are harder to bundle. If I buy a watch, I’m not really interested in buying anything else to compliment the watch. 

D. What if Your Product Doesn’t Exist?

eCommerce sellers tend to fall into two categories.

1. Resell Alibaba Products. You find a product with some potential on Amazon. A great story and fancy packaging can take you far.

This is the fastest way to approach eCommerce. The main problem is that anyone can easily rip you off. Once you gain some traction, then you should work with the manufacturer to make some customizations to your best-selling products.

Remember, make tweaks that benefit the customers!  

2. Creating Products From Scratch, aka Inventors.

Most people naturally fall into the creator category when they first start.

You identify a problem, but what happens if no product is solving it in the way that you want?

You could manufacture this product from scratch. The problem is that it’s expensive and time-consuming. You’re taking on substantial risks if the idea isn’t validated yet.

The solution? You should try to sell the closest thing possible to your idea.

I can’t emphasize this enough—creating a custom product from scratch is a time-consuming and expensive process. It’s much better to validate the niche first and make sure you have a solid form of distribution. THEN you can start creating.

You have so much more leverage once you have an established customer base. You can do a small test run with your existing audience through pre-sales. Or you can launch a Kickstarter.

Advanced: Let’s say you’re dead set on creating a product from scratch. You could always hire someone to create 3D renders of your product.

Create a landing page and feature renders. Run the traffic. If the idea is validated, THEN start bringing your idea to life.

I’ve written quite a bit on product brainstorming over the past year. If you want to read more, here are the links to those articles.

2.2 Lean Fulfillment

You’re taking a risk when you hold inventory for the first time. Let’s say that the manufacturer has a minimum order quantity of $2,000.

What happens if you order $2,000 worth of inventory, and you’re not able to sell any of the product? 

You’re out $2,000—unless you want to give your inventory out as Christmas and birthday gifts for the next few years. 

So, how can we sell the product while keeping the risks low?

Here are two ideas.

The first one is to launch without any inventory in stock. If you get an order in, then just refund their order. 

Email them immediately.

“Hey [First Name],

I’m so sorry, but your [Widget] is out of stock. It literally just ran out of stock a few seconds before your order was placed, but our database didn’t update in time.

We’re still facing some supply issues due to the pandemic, and I estimate that we won’t have it again in stock for another 4 weeks.

I’ve gone ahead and issued you a full refund. Once again, I’m so sorry for this!

However, I can offer you a discount code for 30% off for when we do get it back in stock. Let me know if you’re interested!”

– John Smith, Founder

P.s. what was the #1 reason that you decided to buy this product? We’re a small family-owned business, and it would really help!”

Be careful with this tactic. I don’t think the payment processor’s going to be too happy processing so many refunds. 

The second idea: Order on Demand from Amazon

If you’re interested in selling an item from AliExpress, then chances are that someone else is already selling it on Amazon.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Sell the item on paid traffic. 
  2. You get an order!
  3. Order the item from Amazon to yourself via Prime Shipping. Re-package the item once it arrives. Ship it to the customer. The customer gets it within a few days of their ordering.

No, this isn’t the most efficient method. But remember that the point is to validate demand. Once you validate the demand for the product, then you can order directly from the manufacturer with confidence.

Note: Some people will be wondering, why would someone buy from your Shopify store if they can buy the same thing on Amazon? Great question!

You’re giving people too much credit. Most people are impulsive buyers. If they see your ad on Facebook, their first thought isn’t to go find it on Amazon. And depending on what you’re selling, they may not even be sure how to find it.

2.3 Creating a Converting Landing Page

Landing pages can make or break your campaign. You don’t want to have an amazing product and have the campaign fail because your landing page sucked.

This is the one area I’d recommend spending a significant amount of time on.

The biggest mistake I see people make is they send traffic to a product page, rather than a landing page.

What’s the difference?

  • Product Page: Designed to give general information about the product. It’s meant to appeal to the masses. Think of it as a page in a catalog.
  • Landing Page: Stand-alone page designed to convert cold traffic. They’re usually longer and contain more information. 

Here are two examples from the brand Kettle & Fire.

Product Page

Kettle and Fire Product Page

The product page is pretty standard. It’s short and to the point. It’s designed for people who are familiar with the brand.

Landing Page

Kettle and Fire Landing Page

What difference do you see? It’s much longer, and there are way more “conversion levers” on the page. It’s designed to sell to someone who has never heard of bone broth before.

Which one do you think converts better on cold traffic? The landing page, of course.

So, why don’t more people send traffic to landing pages?

First, because most eCommerce people don’t have a background in running paid traffic. Sending traffic to a product page is the simplest route.

Second, it’s hard to customize the product page on Shopify. Shopify’s product page customization sucks. It has been on their roadmap to release “sections” for years.

So what are your options now to build a landing page in Shopify?

1. I recommend building a landing page in Unbounce. Then you can connect Unbounce to Shopify for the actual fulfillment. 

2. You can use a Page Builder designed for Shopify such as PageFly or Shogun. Be careful that sometimes these page builders can slow down your site speeds.

How do you design a converting landing page? Even though eCommerce landing pages all look different, they tend to follow a general framework.

Here’s a Simple Framework You Can Use:

  • Hero Shot – Headline / Product Shot
  • Big Media Social Proof – As seen in the New York Times! Skip it if you don’t have anything.
  • Value Propositions – This is where you share your biggest value propositions. You have to illustrate it in a way that’s easy for people to understand. Show, don’t tell. Videos, animated GIFs, and comparison tables do well.
  • The Product – Various Photos. Bullet points. For this section, look at what the top sellers on Amazon are doing. 
  • Testimonials – Text-based is okay. Conversation rates skyrocket if it’s video reviews where the customers are holding your product.
  • Guarantee – Share your refund policy. The stronger the refund policy, the better. 
  • Reviews – Your product reviews. Don’t have any product reviews? Use Loox where you can “import” reviews. I’m going to keep it real—most people just make up reviews until they get some legit ones in.  

I have two pieces of advice to improve your landing page.

The first is to demonstrate visually. Imagine you’re selling green superfood powder. You need to have a section explaining the ingredients in your supplement. 

Here’s the most basic way of doing that. 

Ingredients: Moringa, Mint, matcha green tea, wheatgrass, beets, spirulina, chlorella, etc. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You grab some stock images and type some text. Easy doesn’t stand out. 

Let’s look at what Organifi does. They created an infographic that is so much more visually impactful.


 

Pro tip: You can easily create something similar yourself. Or pay someone on Fiverr to do it. It’s these small details that elevate your store to look like a brand.

Which one do you think leads to more conversions?

My second piece of advice is to show proof. People are skeptical online. The more proof you can show of your claims, then the higher your conversion rates.

Think of it in terms of levels. 

Level 1: Text-based.

“This organic green juice is so awesome. I love it!” – John Smith

It’s all right, but this can easily be faked. How do people know you didn’t make this testimonial up? And this testimonial doesn’t move the customer emotionally.

Level 2: Pay someone on Fiverr to do a video review.

You can pay people on Fiverr to do video reviews. This is leagues better than a simple text-based testimonial. 

Level 3: Video review from someone real

Once again, people are skeptical. In the back of their mind, they’re wondering if your reviews are legit or not.

The highest level is when you can prove that the review is legit. For example, a YouTube Video review from someone with over a million subscribers. Or you share a video review linked from a customer’s Instagram profile.

You might have to settle for “level 1” when you’re first starting. But as you gain more experience, you have to advance the levels of proof to increase your conversion rates.

Let’s talk about store design. It matters. You want to come across looking like a high-end D2C brand, rather than a run-of-the-mill marketer using the Debut theme.

Some ideas:

  • Upgrade your theme. If you have the budget, I highly recommend upgrading your Shopify Theme. Out of the Sandbox makes the best themes. I recommend Turbo.
  • Professional photos. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and the manufacturer has solid photos taken. What if they don’t? If you have some budget, you can send the product to a photographer on Fiverr. That’s the simplest way. You can always learn basic photography skills and take the photos yourself. You can also throw in some professional photos from Pexels. Don’t steal photos from a competitor.
  • Good fonts and color scheme. Good fonts and color schemes are the cheapest way to make your store look more “premium.” You can use different Chrome extensions to see what fonts and what colors a store is using. Good fonts + color schemes + professional photos from Pexels = solid looking store for free.  

2.4 Generating Traffic

It’s time to send targeted traffic to your landing page. There are only a few traffic sources that are capable of sending targeted traffic.

1. Facebook Ads / Google Shopping Ads

Facebook and Google Shopping are the kings. They are the most targeted traffic sources you can use. If you can’t make it work here, then you won’t be able to make it work on other traffic sources.

These should be your main focus.

2. Instagram / TikTok Shout outs 

An alternative to Facebook and Google ads are influencer shout outs. I’m not as big of a fan of them because it’s much more time-consuming. You have to find the pages to target and negotiate with each one.

There are two types of Instagram pages. The first are influencers, and the second are meme pages. Influencers are people. They’ve built expertise and trust with their audience. If you’re going this route, go for the Nano influencers. They typically have between 5,000 – 10,000 followers. Their audiences are more engaged, and the prices are more affordable.

Meme pages are pages full of memes usually created by anonymous people. Meme pages tend to be a lot cheaper for shout-outs, but the traffic doesn’t convert as well.

The opportunity with influencers is price inefficiency. Some TikTok influencers are new to the game and may not know their true value. You can take advantage of that.

2.5 Is This Product Validated?

How do you know this product has potential?

First, you have to spend money generating traffic. I think 10x the sales price is a decent number. If your product sells for $50, spend at least $500 on traffic.

I can’t emphasize this enough, but the more you can spend, the better. You need to spend enough for statistical significance.

From there you have to see what the ROI is.  

If you’re profiting, congratulations, you have a winner! You can confidently go “all in” on this product because you’ve barely optimized it yet. 

For most people, I suggest trying to get at least a -30% ROI.

That means if you’re spending $500 in traffic, are you generating at least $350 in sales?

Yes, you’re losing money. But remember that you haven’t optimized anything yet!

Where’s the future profit coming from?

  1. You’ll have additional products. More products means you can bundle them. You can increase your average order value.
  2. Economies of Scale. Instead of ordering the MOQ, you can place bigger orders. Bigger orders mean bigger discounts.
  3. Paid Traffic Improvements. Keep split testing your creatives. If you’re running Google Shopping, you’ll see which keywords are converting.
  4. Landing Page Improvements. Your paid traffic strategies will be more efficient. Split test your landing pages. Get a professional to take better product shots. Redesign your Shopify store.

So what happens if you’ve spent $500 and you have no sales? It’s time to move on to the next campaign.

You’ll know a winner when you see it.

Be careful of getting emotionally attached to your idea. I’ve been there, done that. You’ve put so much time into building your store. You still think it’s a great idea. If people aren’t buying, then you don’t have a business. It’s simple as that.

Go back to the drawing boards and launch the next product.

This is what separates the winners from the losers.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Churchill

Speed is King

I was watching an interview with Kobe Bryant. One thing that resonated with me is how he woke up at 4 am to practice.

Most professionals practice twice a day. By getting up at 4 am to practice early, he was getting one additional practice in. How much does that add up after five years?

A large part of success is getting reps in. If I want to improve at chess, I can go to chess.com and play dozens of games a day. There’s no cost to me getting in reps other than time.

Let’s bring this back to any sort of online marketing. You have to get your reps in. It took me 14 tries until I got my first profitable affiliate marketing campaign way back in the day.

That’s the same mentality when it comes to eCommerce. Each product you test out is a rep.

Learn how you can get more reps in with the limited amount of resources that you have. 

How Copy Above Product Grids Increases Ecommerce Conversions

How Copy Above Product Grids Increases Ecommerce Conversions

 

Good copy above your product grids can reduce costs, increase conversions and add to the user experience.  This is true even though that same copy sometimes pushes products below the fold.

So how do you have a conversation with branding, design, UX, paid search and operations to get them on board with adding copy above the product grid?  Simple, speak to them in their terms, not in yours as an SEO or content creator.

Below you’ll find three ways that I use with my agency to approach the design, finance, branding and marketing teams.  I use facts, data and examples that relate to their departments.  By relating to them I am speaking their language vs. talking like I would to my team.

Please note I use “collection” instead of “category” when referencing pages because I got feedback many of my readers are on shopping cart platforms that call categories collections.

We Will Save Money From Live Chat, Customer Support & Returns, or Warehousing

In this approach you’ll want to pick a specific category or two and look through live chat records.  You can also talk to the shipping and returns teams to verify the amount of specific products that get returned.

If live chat is regularly answering the same questions about a specific category of products and/or the warehouse is getting the same products back because the products in the category weren’t compatible or didn’t have a feature your customers need, you are in good shape to get copy added to the product grid.

The first thing to do is talk to finance and logistics about the costs associated with returns, warehouse logistics and shipping.  Now create your pitch to the marketing and branding teams about reducing costs and make sure the Finance is included on the email so you have their support.  Now create your pitch using the information you got from live chat and logistics and have some content examples in your presentation.  I’ll use t-shirts for this example.

“If you’re looking for blue t-shirts that are stain and wrinkle resistant for more than 100 washes, and that are designed to hide problem areas like a beer belly, our shirts are a “fit” for you.  Each of the blue t-shirts below is made form our patented fabric that is both machine washable and super comfortable.  Best of all they are stain and wrinkle resistant with a 2 year money back guarantee.”

By having the example copy you can now make a case that by including these details above the product grid you can reduce the need for as much Live Chat support answering questions about wrinkles and being dry clean only.  By adding copy above the product grid you are answering the questions you would normally pay live chat to handle which frees them up for more important tasks, answers questions customers that hate live chat have, and this can save you money.

Adding Copy Increases Your Conversion Rates

The most common feedback I get when I say I’d like to add copy above the products is “We don’t want to push products below the fold?” or “We don’t want our products going lower on the page”.  Oddly enough this is normally said by companies that have large hero images on the tops of their collection pages which also makes no sense.  But that is for a different post.

Having good copy above your product grids can and likely will increase your conversion rates.  But only if you write it for the end user.

In this situation the concern from your company is losing money by pushing products down and potentially decreasing the chance of getting the person to a PDP (product display page).  So instead of sharing non-tangible examples like above I use data to show that copy will increase the likelihood of reaching a PDP, not prevent it.

We’ll go with baby crib mattresses for this example.

Here are the estimated monthly search volumes for a few keywords.

  • baby crib mattress – 8,100
  • baby crib mattress size – 880
  • baby crib mattress pad – 320
  • baby cribs with mattress included – 260

You’ll see that in the phrases above roughly 1 in 10 people are looking for mattress sizes and 1 in 20 people are looking for pads.  There are also questions about safety and cleaning.  In total about 1 in 4 people have questions when shopping for baby crib mattresses and this is where you want to make your case.

Start by mapping out the keywords and their search volumes like I did above.  Next try to get some of the live chat conversations with time stamps to show these questions are real and are not just a trend question because of a recent or social event (i.e. a baby getting hurt on a mattress or a news article about a material being potentially toxic).  Now write sample copy for your pitch.

“Each baby crib mattress from XY brand is not only easy to clean, but is certified safe and non-toxic by AB organization.  If you’re looking for a baby crib mattress with a pad, sort by “with pad” using the filters on the left or look for the purple circle on the product images.  You’ll love the all-natural-odor resistant fabrics and stain-protecting materials.  Not to mention the peace of mind you’ll enjoy when baby has an accident because with your new crib mattress, clean up is a breeze thanks to our patented XYZ.

And best of all each mattress below fits all standard baby and toddler crib sizes.  If you already have your crib picked out, select the brand on the left to find each mattress that will fit perfectly with your style.  If you don’t have a crib picked out, click here to see our selection of baby cribs and save when you bundle the crib and mattress together.”.

Copy Does Not Take Away From the User Experience, Copy Adds to It

In the two examples above I shared how copy above a product grid adds to the user experience.  Good content on your collection pages not only reduces your companies expenses and increases sales, but it also adds to the user experience.  And to prove this I run some tests.

The first is to get the ok to install the copy.  The next is to find which product categories have the most questions or make your customers have to use the sorting and filtering features.

For this example lets use cargo shorts.  Here is the estimated monthly search volume for the phrase.

  • cargo shorts – 49,500
  • mens cargo shorts – 49,500
  • womens cargo shorts – 18,100
  • camo cargo shorts – 3,600
  • black cargo shorts – 2,900
  • khaki cargo shorts – 1,900
  • big and tall cargo shorts – 1,600

The first thing I do is look for which subcategories we will have for a long time (and also convert well).  If we carry kahki but not camo, even though camo has the higher search volume it is irrelevant.  Send camo to the product team for future consideration and focus on what we do have which is kahki.

Now I write the copy for the main collection page for “cargo shorts”.  Because it could be men’s or women’s and we have a couple of colors and sizes, I’ll do my best to incorporate them in naturally.  By doing this and adding internal links we provide a good user experience by helping our customers reach the most relevant page and without having to scroll through a menu or use a search box.  We’re also building site structure so this is a win-win!

Now it is time to measure the positive impact on user experience and revenue.

To measure the impact I set up funnels in Google analytics, I use a tracking tool like this one (this is my affiliate link and I’ll hopefully get a commission if you click and shop without using a coupon code), and we look for increases in total sales and decreases in page views per checkout.  The decrease in page views is because we made it easier to find the right product faster which reduces the time on the site and also reduces the strain on our servers.

“Let’s face it, we all need extra pockets and that is the beauty of cargo shorts!  You always have an extra pocket.  Whether it’s men’s or women’s styles, or if you want a classy kahki cargo short for everyday wear…  And we carry all sizes from petite options to big and tall cargo shorts.”

In the example above I’d use internal links to direct visitors from the main collection page to the sub collections.  It helps them find the products they are looking for faster and also helps search engines learn about the topic and products on each sub category.

Adding copy to your category pages isn’t just for SEO, it is a way to enhance the user experience and increase revenue.  If you’re looking for ideas on how to get started writing your copy or setting up tests, click here to contact me today.

How to Use Instagram Shopping to Drive Product Sales

How to Use Instagram Shopping to Drive Product Sales

Have you used shops on Instagram? With over a billion active users and growing, Instagram may already be one of your favorite places to promote your e-commerce store. However, lots of opportunities exist for marketing on the channel, so it can be a great place to build a follower base and get the word out about your products and brand.

What if you could take passive interaction to the next level and actually buy and sell directly from the platform? That’s possible with Instagram shopping. This can be enticing for Instagram users and e-commerce shops who want to keep their interaction, from discovery to sale, right there on Instagram itself.

What Is an Instagram Shop?

Instagram shops are an option for Instagram account holders who have e-commerce brands to sell directly from the Instagram platform.

They provide a way for Instagram users to interact and shop with brands they love, find new brands they might like, and purchase through the Instagram app.

An Instagram shop exists like a mini e-commerce store, within Instagram, as an extension of your brand’s page. As a brand owner, you can build collections that are customizable and reflective of your style and perspective.

Shops can choose to allow purchasing directly from the app, using Facebook Pay, or they use their Instagram shop to point to an off-site e-commerce store. Either way, they can build a more interactive shopping experience for their users.

How Does Instagram Shopping Work?

Instagram Shopping is a pretty simple process for Instagram users. The whole idea of this feature is to make things more enticing, so users spend more time on the app, checking out the shops they love, as well as discovering new brands.

To find shops you want to explore or buy from, go to the little shopping icon that looks like a shopping bag on the app:

From there, you will see shops from brands you already follow, as well as some that are recommended based on your interactions on Instagram. You can also check out “Editor’s Picks” to see different categories, such as Gift Guides, and to explore collections and other recommendations.

If you click “Browse Shops,” you’ll see a listing of brands you already follow who have shops on Instagram. This can be a great place to start when you’re exploring because you probably already have an interest in the products and may have even purchased from them in the past.

Once you click on a shop, you’ll see the products and collections they have available.

From there, you can learn more or choose to buy, just like you would at an e-commerce site.

How to Set Up an Instagram Shop

To set up a shop on Instagram for your brand, you must have an Instagram Business account, and you must be eligible. According to Instagram, eligibility includes but is not limited to:

  • Operating in a supported market (dependent on your location)
  • Having an e-commerce website from which you sell products

Remember, an Instagram shop is an extension of your e-commerce store, not necessarily a replacement for it.

You will then have to connect your Facebook account. More later on how those two are connected and why it matters for your Instagram Shopping account.

You then follow the steps to set up your account, load your product images, and “turn on shopping.”

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you go through those technical steps:

  • Use high-quality, editorial images for your products and collections: Think of your Instagram shop as a type of interactive catalog. Be selective about the images you are using for your products. Make sure they stand out and show lots of detail.
  • Have all your product information on hand: Again, thinking about this as a catalog, you will need to enter all the descriptive information about each product, including prices, colors, sizes, flavors, types, etc. You’ll also need information about shipping and other details. Keep it all at the ready before you dive in.
  • Get ready to tag: After getting your Instagram shop set up, the last step Instagram recommends is to start tagging. When you upload an image, select “Tag Products” and type in the name of the product you want to tag to that post. You will be able to do this in Instagram Stories as well.

Benefits of Having an Instagram Shop

Why would brand managers want to take the time to set up shops on Instagram? First, let’s look at some numbers. According to Instagram, 60% of people interviewed said they discover new products on the app. Facebook says 70% of people referred to as shopping enthusiasts turn to Instagram to shop, and 36% of all Instagram users consider shopping to be a hobby of theirs.

The best reason to set up shops on Instagram is to tap into that enthusiasm. Think of Instagram Shopping as the trendiest mall from back in the day, with eager buyers walking around and window shopping. You want to be there with your brand too, right?

Here are some more benefits of having a shop on Instagram:

  • It’s free: Yes, you can set up your Instagram shop for free. The only fees associated would be a selling fee when customers place an order and the fee for any ads you use to promote your products or shop.
  • It’s another online storefront: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, they say, and that applies to online shopping too. If a hiccup occurs with one platform, you’re already set up somewhere else.
  • It’s a mobile catalog: Instagram has designed these shops to be very clean and scannable. They are easy to peruse and to get an overall idea of a brand’s look, as well as to dig in and learn more about the products. For this reason, you can think of shops on Instagram as a kind of mobile catalog. You may even find yourself sending people there to get a feel for what you sell, just because it’s so easy to scroll through.
  • It’s a way to build your following: As we talked about earlier, people are going on Instagram looking to shop. Setting up your shop there is a prime way to draw buyers who are ready to make a purchase, as well as to build a following for your Instagram account (which probably supports your overall social media marketing strategy).

Instagram Shopping vs. Facebook Shops

You may be wondering how shops on Instagram compare with shops on Facebook. While they are different platforms, they are both under the Facebook umbrella.

Remember that corporate Facebook owns Instagram, which means Facebook powers Instagram Shopping. To set up your Instagram shop, you will need to link to your Facebook account, and, as mentioned, payment is processed through Facebook Pay.

Should you set up an Instagram shop and a Facebook shop? Here are a couple of considerations to help you decide:

  • Link easily: Because you need Facebook to launch the Instagram shop, it may be worth having products on both platforms. You can use the same products and collections on each if that makes sense for your target market and brand.
  • Consider demographics: Your target market may spend more time on Instagram than on Facebook. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure you set up an Instagram shop. If your target market straddles both the demographics of Facebook and Instagram, you may want to set up a shop on each.

Submitting and Receiving Payment for Instagram Shopping Products

How do you go about actually buying and selling with Instagram Shopping? A big part of this question is how money is exchanged.

Remember you can choose to have your products point to your e-commerce site. Buyers will then be directed to your website, in a browser within the Instagram app, rather than processing the purchase through the Instagram platform.

However, if you want to save buyers that step, you can set up payment options to allow the transaction through Instagram. When you set up your shop, you’ll need to link to Facebook Pay. We noted above the relationship between Facebook and Instagram. Facebook Pay is how you receive payments for purchases made.

When you purchase something from shops on Instagram, you’ll need to submit your credit card, debit card, or PayPal information to use Facebook Pay to finalize the transaction.

How to Promote Your Instagram Shop

Once you have an Instagram shop up and running, you’ll want to find ways to promote it and draw potential customers to your new location. Here are some tips for achieving that:

  • Launch timely collections: When you create collections or groupings of products to showcase in your shop, think about the browsing buyers first and what they are searching for right now. Instagram recommends thinking about seasons, holidays, or pop culture moments to create collections that connect with and attract buyers.
  • Make it easy for shoppers: When you create posts and stories, make sure to choose the “Tag Product” option to link directly to your shop products. Also, Facebook recommends adding calls-to-action in your captions to remind buyers of what to do. Another recommendation is to update your bio with shopping information.
  • Invest in ads: Want to reach even more people with your Instagram shop? You could consider launching an ad on Instagram with clickable tags that draw people to your shop.

Alternatives to Instagram Shopping

There could be a few reasons why a shop on Instagram is not the right platform for your brand, or maybe you want to explore other shop options to find a better fit. Some of those reasons may be:

  • It’s not the right demographic: Yes, Instagram is wildly popular, but not everyone is shopping there. If the target market of your brand is not tech-savvy, doesn’t tend to use Instagram, or prefers not to shop on new platforms, you may not want to set up an Instagram shop.
  • There aren’t enough products: Shops on Instagram showcase collections of products well, allowing brands to launch or promote groups of products. If you are only selling one item, it may not be worth your time to set up a shop. However, even one product, if photographed and promoted well, could be popular there.
  • They aren’t physical products: You do need to sell a physical product. Digital products or services are not sellable with the app.
  • It’s not in the right location: As mentioned earlier, you do need to operate in a location where Instagram Shopping is available. If you don’t, you’ll need to find an alternative.

In these cases, or if you’re just looking for more customization or wider tools, you may want to choose an alternative to Instagram Shopping. Examples may include:

  • Like2Buy: With Like2Buy, you can build shoppable solutions, as well as create other calls-to-action, such as requesting email addresses of potential customers.
  • Yotpo: In addition to several e-commerce marketing tools, Yotpo offers an Instagram integration tool.
  • FourSixty: Advertising a design-centric aesthetic, FourSixty provides Instagram marketing tools, including shoppable galleries and scheduling.

Conclusion

Shops on Instagram allow you to interact with your followers (and new buyers!), in a seamless way. You can create collections just in time for a season or holiday and promote your products to an audience that is eager to buy.

This feature allows brand owners to sell on Instagram dynamically. While it may not be the only solution you need, it can be a great addition to your Instagram sales strategy.

Will you be shopping and selling directly on the Instagram app? Or do you prefer a more traditional e-commerce platform?