7 ways to increase ecommerce revenue without spending on ads

These days, scaling ad campaigns isn't the most effective way to boost ecommerce revenue. Increasing ad costs and external factors like the iOS update have shrunk the gap between ad spend and profit generated.

As someone running an ecommerce brand, you must have noticed the declining ROI of ecommerce ads, too. Maybe you're wondering, how can I increase the ROI on ad spend; or, how can I direct the marketing budget in other direction than ads for more impact?

In this article, you'll find the answers. Read on for tips that'll help you push revenue numbers without spending an extra cent on ads.

1. Upsell and cross-sell effectively

Goal: Increase AOV and LTV

If you run ecommerce ads, you probably know what ROAS (or return on ad spend) is. But in case you don't, here's the formula: 

ROAS = Total ad campaign revenue / Total ad spend

One goal of this article is to teach you to increase ROAS without changing the denominator (i.e., Total ad spend). Meaning, the only possible way is to increase total revenue from whatever ads you are running.

Upselling and cross-selling are the most effective ways to increase average order value (AOV) or revenue per customer. Here's what the terms mean:

  • Upselling encourages customers to buy a higher-priced product. For example, selling an iPhone 12 to someone who came to buy an iPhone 8.
  • Cross-selling encourages customers to buy more products from your store. For example, selling AirPods to people who bought an iPhone.

You simply have to set up a post-purchase app like CartHook on your Shopify store to upsell and cross-sell, post-purchase. CartHook allows Shopify stores to show complementary products based on pre-set triggers. For instance, you can set triggers like: 

  • If someone buys peanut butter, cross-sell the bread 
  • If someone buys a 500-gram jar, upsell an additional 1-kg jar

2. Make your customers affiliates

Goal: Get more customers

Already have a decent customer base and want to spend $0 on ads? Convert your customers into affiliates.

Affiliate marketing is a word-of-mouth marketing strategy that incentivizes customers or professional influencers to promote products or services to their social circle. It's a performance-based marketing technique wherein an incentive (typically 10-20% of revenue) is shared per successful sale.

Increase ecommerce revenue, airbnb example

Airbnb affiliate program example

Businesses like Airbnb, Uber, Dropbox, Robinhood, etc., use affiliate/referral marketing to acquire new customers. So if you don't have an affiliate or referral program yet, you're missing a chance to grow your brand. 

You can install an affiliate app like Social Snowball ‚ņ— a CartHook app partner ‚ņ— to automate affiliate and referral marketing on your Shopify store. It converts all your customers into affiliates and motivates them to share your products with their friends & family with personalized coupon codes and affiliate links.

3. Focus on CRO

Goal: Increase conversions

Research by Growcode shows the average ecommerce conversion rate is 2.27%. Meaning, for every 100 visitors that visit an ecommerce website, a mere two people complete a purchase.

However, the top 10% of ecommerce companies see 3-5 times that average. How do they do it? With CRO!

CRO (short for conversion rate optimization) is a process of increasing the percentage of website visitors that take your desired action (purchase, subscribe to the newsletter, follow on Instagram, etc.). In other words, you can increase ROAS significantly with CRO.

You can test a zillion things on your website to reach the ideal conversion rate, but these are top tips for ecommerce CRO:

  • Use high-quality images
  • Simplify checkout
  • Offer free shipping (TIP: People love free shipping. So use it to your advantage by asking them to buy the upsell or cross-sell product to get free shipping)
  • Use scarcity (example: only 10 left!)
  • Use urgency (example: Get 20% off; offer valid till midnight)
  • Test CTAs. For example, Lifeproof increased monthly revenue by 16% by changing its CTA from "Store" to "Shop Now."
Increase shopify revenue without ads
Shopify revenue increase without ad spend

4. Run email campaigns

Goal: Increase conversions and retention rate

In 2019, on average, email marketing returned $42 for every $1 spent. It not only increases the conversion rate/ROAS but also positively affects customer lifetime value (LTV).

To run email campaigns, you need two things:

  1. Email addresses or lead lists
  2. An email marketing software

Getting email marketing software is the easiest part. You can pick from any popular ones - Klaviyo, Sendlane, Shopify Email, Seguno, etc.

Step two is a bit tricky: You have to build an email list and send effective emails.

In ecommerce, there are two types of email lists: 

  1. Customers: These are people who have already bought from you and given their emails in the process. With your email campaigns, you'll upsell/cross-sell to them, recover their abandoned carts, and send promo emails to increase retention rate and customer LTV.
  2. Potential customers: These are people who visit your store but don't buy. You have to get their emails using techniques like newsletter popups, contests, live chat, lead magnets, etc. Then, you send emails to welcome them, engage them, make them familiar with your brand, and eventually get them to purchase from your store.

5. Invest in organic social

Goal: Build brand awareness

Ecommerce brands spend a lot of advertising budget on spreading and maintaining brand awareness. Organic social efforts can replace part of it.

Organic social is any social media activity you or your customers do to promote your brand without paid promotions.

Here are a few tips to win with organic social:

  • Spend most of your time on high-reach platforms. For example, short-form video content platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram Reels give maximum reach nowadays. So, focus on making the best short-form content and distributing it on relevant profiles.
  • Create share-worthy content. People share entertaining or educating content with others.
  • Post frequently. It takes about seven interactions with your brand/brand message before your potential customer becomes a customer.
  • Encourage UGC. You can host giveaways, offer incentives, or make your brand so cool or niche that your users generate content for you and share it with their social media followers.
  • Engage with your followers. For example, like and share quality UGC, reply to followers' comments, ask for their opinions with polls, etc.

6. Optimize your SEO

Goal: Attract potential customers

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a process of pushing your ecommerce brand to the top ranks of search engine result pages (SERPs) for related keywords.

If done right, SEO can replace most of what you do with ads until retargeting. Why? Because people use search engines like Google when they are looking to buy. And with proper SEO, your brand will show up among the top results. For example, if you sell headphones and successfully rank for "best headphones under $100," people will click on your site URL.

After that, you can retarget them. Conversion rates, in this case, will be a LOT higher than targeting a cold or unaware audience.

Check out this guide by Backlinko to get started with ecommerce SEO.

7. Set up live chat

Goal: Increase conversions, AOV, and LTV

Live chat supports customers and provides a better customer experience.

Closing Thoughts

Ads are great. They work. But you can do much more than just fueling the ad campaigns to increase store revenue:

  • You can use strategies like email marketing, CRO, upselling, cross-selling, affiliate marketing, live chatting, SMS marketing, etc., to make the most of the visitors and customers your ads bring.
  • And/Or, you can focus on long-term strategies like organic social and search engine optimization to replace ads.

  We suggest you do both.

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