The 5 Pillar Strategy: How I Grew eCom Revenue From £50k to £250k/mo in 2 years
This strategy is not for all brands, these 5 pillars should only be your focus if you have found product market fit and are turning over at least £10k per month.
This strategy allowed is designed to shift your focus to high-performing areas and is the strategy I implemented to generate over £250k pm and now over £1m pm.
If you’re looking to scale your eCommerce growth from 5 to 6 or even 7 figures per month this strategy is for you
If you’re running a brand that is making close to or more than 7 figures a year, it is likely that you will already be actively working in the 5 areas below. However, the key is understanding how to wield them differently to propel serious growth. I’m not one to drag things on, so I’ll get right to the point. But first, some background.
The brand I was working with to achieve this success had a great foundation. They had a great brand, a great product an AOV of £60 and a clear space in their vertical. It’s important to understand that you can only scale success if you have the right foundations in place. Maybe down the line, I’ll write something more on this, but as I mentioned above, I’m making the assumption you’ve already got this nailed.
1. Hyper focus on these three KPIs - Sessions/Engagement, CRV and LTV
eCommerce comes with a catalogue of hundreds of KPIs. Many are helpful, but for this strategy, I want to focus on the three that have the most impact.
This is a no-brainer, at the end of the day, if you don’t have traffic, you don’t have customers. The main idea is to get people out of the cold and engaging with your brand (showing interest). This is why I measure both sessions and engagement as one, as they both highlight the same thing.
Many sub-KPIs show someone is interested in your brand:
- Session (less than 60% bound rate)
- Post like, comment, share
- 50%+ video view
- Social follow
Focus on building this audience pool and nurture their interest, don’t go straight for the sale, instead, get them involved in your message. It’s like dating, you need to wine and dine your customer first before, well you know…
Brands that go straight for the sale will see this demand shrink, for scalable growth, you need systems in place that are feeding this audience pool. More on this later.
CRV is an obvious one, but it’s surprising how infrequently brands focus on this. This isn’t a one-off job. You should constantly analyse how people interact with your brand and learn to dissect why they didn’t purchase. Expectations are always evolving, and so should your brand and the user experience you're providing your customers with. Give your conversion rate the same attention you give your marketing as the smallest increase here will have a huge increase in your revenue.
The third and also the most important should be frequency - not CPA and not ROAS. Frequency is all about taking one sale and making it 1, 2, 3 as many as you can. As you know, turning 1 sale into 2 is far cheaper and a lot easier than that initial sale. Give the goal of increasing order frequency the same attention as the goal of a new customer and your sales will skyrocket.
Here are the best channels for this:
- Social Media
- Ads (remarketing)
- Your website
By shifting focus to frequency, you will find you can greatly increase your CPA target to ensure you get the right customer. Keep your message front of mind. If you do this right, you turn a sale into a customer and then into a brand advocate, which in turn creates new customers. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, but so many brands focus on the initial sale.
These are the three most important KPIs in the user journey.
- Focus on brand engagement and build remarketable audience pools
- Increase conversions through CRV focus
- Increase your LTV by focusing on order frequency
2. Creative is King
Have you found scaling your ads kills your ROAS? The reason is probably because your creative has run out of steam.
Targeting is dead - well almost. And you know what, although this makes our life a lot harder, it’s for the best. Too many companies have sprung up with cheap products and cheap ads, but because they can get them in front of the exact potential customer, it worked. Now brands will have to focus again on quality and USPs to make a sale. Good!
Look, targeting isn’t completely dead; there is too much data out there for it not to be a great tool in your marketing arsenal. To really succeed, however, you need to adopt the attitude that you are back in the ’50s, and your ads are being stuck on billboards with no real targeting available, where 95% of people will ignore them, and you have a split second to pull their attention and get your message heard. I use the term ‘billboard ads’ with my team to ensure they’re constantly thinking like the above. Creative has been a second thought to structure and targeting since CPC began, but now it needs to be your main focus.
To expand your audience and create more demand, you must reduce the granularity of your targeting. Therefore, to succeed with broader targetting, your creative and copy needs to be on point. Ensure your message is informative, on brand, unique, and includes social proof and the products USPs. The hook is everything!
Create a sandbox environment in your ads where you’re harvesting demand (BOF) to test new creative and copy ideas. You do this here as if it doesn’t work here it will never work when creating demand (TOF). When you find what works, move it up the funnel and make the appropriate changes, as the audience is different for demand creation and nurture (MOF), and so should the message. Stop spending 80% of your time on targeting and spend 80% on your creative and copy. The results will surprise you!
Try to test 20+ variations of ads per month, this can be minor changes such as new copy, a different hook, a different background or it can be completely new creative/message.
A Glossier ad - this is a great example highlighting the product at work with clear an impactful imagery, simple copy and a user/poduct reference. Quality ads don’t also need to be complicated.
If you’re not investing in your creative and copy you will run out of steam, it’s that simple. Targeting will get harder and harder so shift focus now and test, test, test. The brands who know this are already winning. Don’t just focus on your ad creative, focus on creative brand wide throughout all channels and your website. When we shifted our resource to this effort we were able to scale our ads whilst retaining a strong ROAS.
3. Reassign Your Advertising Budget and Evolve your Structure
Too many brands focus on harvesting demand for short term success. Large brands realise that this is only a temporary solution and to really scale you need to be investing more in creating demand than harvesting it. If you want to see real growth, you can’t keep playing it safe. Invest your budget in creating more and more demand, sack off the ROAS obsession and replace it with building a sustainable and scalable audience creation machine.
The most important thing in growing your advertising is having the balls to move away from the attraction of a high ROAS. To get this brand to £250k/mo, we initially focused on ROAS and had to ensure every penny spent was contributing towards sales. However, as your brand grows, you’ll find the initial high-return ad structure harder and harder to scale. That’s because your audience size will shrink, and the audience intent will reduce. We also had to consider new privacy laws, as this had a big impact on our ability to target.
I think at the time, 85% of our budget was going into harvesting demand and only 15% into creating it.
When I read a whitepaper by WARC, I learnt that most brands are also doing this and their budget distribution is the opposite of what it should be. In fact, it should be split 80% into creating demand and 20% into harvesting it. That’s nuts, right? But it’s the brands that do this that have long-term growth. They’re not obsessed with the short-term and instead are focusing on consistent and scalable growth, which you can only achieve if you create vastly more demand than you are harvesting. It sounds pretty obvious when you think about it. Look at Coca-Cola, the biggest advertiser in the world, you don’t need their ads to get you to buy a Coke, but they still advertise to ensure they are front of mind and consistently present.
I created my own split of 60% creating/nurturing demand (TOF/MOF), 30% capturing demand (BOF) and 10% retaining demand.
Now, you’re not going to be able to make this leap straight away as it has a big impact on your short-term ROAS, but you can ease yourself into it by moving more and more into creating demand. Start with 80-20, then move to 70-30 etc.
To help with this transition, you can run some incrementality testing on your highest ROAS space - Google brand search and Meta DPAs, probably. Incrementality testing, in its simplest terms, is pulling budget from certain areas to see if you would have achieved the sale anyway. You’ll find a lot of the budget you invest in high-return advertising is actually unnecessary. Look at it this way, is it worth losing 15% of your sales to move most of your budget towards creating demand? In the short term, you’ll lose 15%, but in the long term, your audience grows to a far greater size, greatly offsetting this. If someone is Googleing your brand or has already added to cart but not purchased, it’s highly likely you’ll get that sale eventually, so take that budget and invest in creating the next wave of demand.
Advertising is vital to scaling an eCom brand but you have to rethink this space. The days of huge ROAS are gone and to align with this you must shift your focus to creating demand. It’s a longer play but the only one if you want sustainable, long-term growth.
Well why wouldn’t you? You put all this effort in to get people onto your site the last thing you should then do is be complacent and assume the UX decisions you made when the site was first built will be right and account for every customer. The key to this pillars success is doing it consistently, like you would manage any other marketing channel you should always be looking for areas of optimisation.
This brand has had multiple versions of its website and multiple iterations of each site. We were constantly working on ways to increase conversions and provide a better UX. Afterall, every £1 spent in CRO generates £4 in revenue, but still, everyone is always focused on advertising. Advertising is the cool kid, and CRO is the nerd, but as we know thanks to Daddy Elon, the nerd wins in the long run. There are always new ways to improve your conversion rate, and there are always new technologies.
Here’s a small list of things I was testing/evolving to increase conversion rate by 35%:
- Delivery options
- Return policy
- Payment methods
- Checkout design
- Checkout messaging
- CTA design
- Landing pages
- Site speed
- PDP information
- Customer experience - account - help center - live chat
Use tools like Hotjar to give you a deeper understanding of your customer and how they interact on your site. Heatmaps, recordings and surveys all help you to improve their experience and move that all valuable conversion rate up.
Speak to your customer, run a competition to incentivise people to fill out a questionnaire. Making assumptions is bad when all you need to do is ask. The good thing is that people love to tell you what your doing wrong, so use this to your advantage.
5. Email Flows
Email is an underestimated channel, but it has become vital again due to GDPR. The beauty of email is in its ability to impact the initial order and also order frequency.
There are three key areas to being successful with email, lead gen, content and automation.
Klaviyo, you beauty. I love this tool. Like most, I started with Mailchimp, but Klaviyo opened me up to a world of automation and options far past what I was doing. Email flows allow you to evolve your direct communication with a customer and create systems that used to need a dedicated team to execute.
For this to work, you need to ALWAYS be building your email list; we were running lead-gen in Meta and on-site, along with periodic competitions and partnerships with other brands and members-only sales to keep our list growing. This grew our list from 4K to 100K in two years.
Once we had their email, it was game on. We had multiple flows set up through Klaviyo, which I’ve listed below. The key is treating email like ads, always testing and utilising segmentation to ensure your message is well received.
- Welcome flow
- Browse abandonment flow
- Abandoned cart flow *
- Thank you flow
- Customer flow - turn a purchaser into a customer
- Win back flow - Bring customers back who haven’t ordered in a while
- Review flow - incentives them to leave a review
- Cross-sell and up-sell flow - increase your LTV with intelligent product suggestions
- Out of stock flow
- Birthday flow - Add to your personalisation with a birthday treat
- Ambassador flow - Turn a customer into an ambassador
Utilise segmentation, especially for your cross-sell and up-sell flows. Group customers by their purchase behaviour and make informed product recommendations they are likely to purchase.
Email is another beneficiary to your increased investment in creative and copy (pillar two). No one likes to be spammed so make sure your email content is relevant and quality.
We also began to work with SMS. Now, I was hesitant at first as SMS has a bad rep. You need to do this right and reserve this for only the most important of messages. If you do it right, it will see great results with an average conversion rate of 25%. Do this poorly and you’ll lose them for good. “With great power comes great responsibility”
*One caveat is that we use Cloud IQ for our abandoned cart flow. The reason why is that they are partnered with PayPal, meaning that if you’re signed in to your PayPal account, you don’t need to include your email to join this flow; you just had to accept. Although more costly, this drastically increased the numbers who entered this flow and, in turn, converted.
Generate - Always be growing your list
Segment - Segment your audience to ensure message relevancy and expand your reach
Produce - Work with quality creative and messaging - DON’T SPAM
Automate - Build flows that run whils you sleep this is how you scale this channel
The 5 Pillar Strategy Summary
- Move your budget out of harvesting sales you would of got 80-90% of anyway and invest it in createing future demand
- Make your creative and copy your main focus point
- Focus on nurturing your audience, increasing your conversion rate and increasing your LTV
- CRO should been constantly analysed, always be learning from your visitors and get more over the line
- Invest in email flows
Automation - To truly scale, take the above points and build systems that allow you to continually analyse and test. Utilising data to make fast decisions.