"E-commerce is a Bear” that’s how Andy Dunn describes the current e-commerce environment in his popular article on Medium. It refers to the fact that it is extremely difficult to create a competitive advantage in the vast e-commerce landscape. That might be true for most of the e-commerce businesses. But those with the right mindset and a kick-ass product have the potential to achieve jaw-dropping results. It’s a matter of getting the right focus, re-arranging the budget and leveraging some unconventional growth hacking tactics to leave your e-commerce competitors behind.
Welcome to the backstage of our e-commerce success story. We’ll explain how we helped our Client reach 75% growth in revenue year-to-year, pushed the boundaries, transformed their mindset and made them hungry for more. Ready to know the secret sauce?
Meet Foxford Woollen Mills, an Irish company with a rich history and insanely beautiful woven products. Established in 1892, their mill is still actively in use which makes the brand unique. Foxford is one of the iconic companies within the Dublin Mayo county. They sell various products such as throws, scarves and clothing of their own brand as well as third-party products/brand, like Zuiver. They also run three brick-and-mortar stores across Ireland.
The One Metric That Matters for Foxford Woollen Mills (FWM) was a humble 50% growth in revenue year-to-year. But somewhere in the Q1 of 2018, we realised:
“Wait a minute… With the results we’re driving now we will probably reach our yearly goal not later than in Q2. Let’s go to the next level!”
And so before the Q1 was over we updated the OMTM to 75% revenue increase. It was a bold step but we had no doubt we could achieve that. In the end, we exceeded it by 1,5% on a yearly basis.
To make it more notable we have to mention we really had limited resources. When we first met Foxford they were just starting with their online business. Considering that they were able to spend not more than 60% of their yearly marketing budget on growth hacking services (including media spend), we think we did a pretty darn good job in just about 12 hours per week (including client contact and internal brainstorm sessions).
Before we started performing our growth hacking magic some initial work needed to be done:
1. Setting up a roadmap to success to visualise how we would achieve Foxford’s One Metric That Matters (OMTM)
2. Conducting all the audits and analysis needed to get a clear picture of what was underperforming and needed fixing ASAP:
3. Implementing and/ or fixing measurement systems (Hotjar, Google Analytics)
4. Sending out and analysing the results of the Product Market Fit Survey (it turns out people are crazy about FWM products!) to create a Customer Desire Map
Once we had this solid base (documented analysis and audits) we could move on to what we like the most - delivering the actual results. Creating a backlog of the first 100 growth hacks for Foxford was a piece of cake. There were lots of things we could do to gain quick wins. The hardest part was to prioritise the ideas. With just a few hours per week, you really have to plan sprints carefully.
That’s why we decided to start with CRO issues. We already had loads of information from the PMF survey to start with. This was already enough to take action and provide a significant increase in conversion rate. For example, we suggested changing their product photos from vague to high-quality ones that matched the brand’s value. Additionally, based on their customers’ feedback, we recommended adding clear images with dimensions of some of their products.
Unfortunately, we could only fix the critical issues on the website. The rest of the optimisations our analysis suggested doing did not fit in the budget or took more time than we had available.
Another challenge we faced was cooperation with a third-party agency maintaining the website. The fact that those guys are based all the way in Canada was a huge drawback in terms of communication. Whenever we needed even the smallest optimisation it took loads of time to communicate and execute that (the time difference is 8 hours!). That’s why we proposed to switch to our sister-company DotControl next year. This way we will be able to run experiments at the speed of light and as a bonus, we have awesome creative support from DotControl designers and art directors.
Once we started seeing significant improvements in website performance, it made sense to start optimising other channels. Let's go through the biggest winners: email marketing automation and tapping into search ads.
Everyone knows email marketing is crucial in e-commerce. But it’s not enough to send email campaigns with new products or discounts once in a while. That’s how Foxford’s email marketing looked like. So it was a no-brainer to introduce marketing automation. Due to the limited time, we had to focus only on the basic email flows:
On top of that, we implemented pop-ups to ensure stable growth of the email list.
Only by setting up this simple structure we increased revenue from email marketing by 250% year over year (not to mention the fact that after doomsday on 25.05.2018 (GDPR) we had to reduce the email list by almost half!). Now, we spend less time on email marketing and we are able to make a bigger impact. Besides, we have more time to optimise other channels and support the FWM team in their daily work.
While implementing email automation we were thinking in terms of scalability because we always think beyond the yearly target. For us, it’s important that our clients’ potential to grow is pushing their boundaries as well as ours. That’s why we make sure everything we do is put together into a logical and scalable system that will not require more workload as the business grows.
Paid Search was a fairly untapped channel. We can’t give you the specific numbers but we went from 0 to 100(k) revenue real quick. Revenue is a great metric to focus on when you first start working on your growth ambitions. But if revenue is the king of metrics, ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) is definitely its queen. As you continue optimising your traction channels, metrics of efficiency become more and more relevant. This is why we always keep an eye on our ROAS when working on advertising campaigns - and FWM was no different. We helped them increase their ROAS by +300% within just one year.
Reaching a goal is a collective effort. That’s why a solid part of our time was invested in training for the FWM team and providing them with clear instructions on how to perform certain tasks. Every time they had to do something new they’d receive a documented process on how to do that so that anyone on the team was able to work it out.
Besides that, we made sure the team was thinking in data-driven terms. We provided them with actionable dashboards which helped them make the right decisions and present their results to the Board. With those dashboards, the digital team at Foxford was able to communicate FWM’s online revenue and costs to the board.
Additionally, we paid a lot of attention to our Client’s feedback. There’s nothing more important than a solid communication and listening carefully to what your client is saying. At RockBoost we have a feedback system which dictates that we regularly ask our clients for their happiness score and feedback to improve our services and remove any obstacles. It was not different in the case of Foxford Woollen Mills. Once we heard from the FWM team it was not always clear to them what we were doing and due to our digital marketing jibberish, it was hard for them to follow us, we adjusted our language and always took time to explain anything that was unclear. We also provided them with extra digital marketing training and made sure we summed up every meeting with a clear list of action points for everyone.
Our growth hacking spirit dictates that we learn from every step we take. Working with Foxford Woollen Mills taught us many lessons about e-commerce business. We’ve collected them and put them together in our very own e-commerce business growth playbook which is the base for every new client that starts working with RockBoost. This way we make sure we remove single points of failure and prevent ourselves and our clients from making the same mistakes.
Focus on the big wins
you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Make sure you use your limited resources carefully. First, listen to what the data says and act upon that having in mind which optimisations are realistic to execute and bring you the best possible result.
Think in terms of scalability
those who build scalable systems and frameworks achieve amazing results while working less.
Empower the team and listen to their feedback
break the silo and make sure everyone is on the same level, all the team members speak to each other and understand each other. Then reaching your monthly targets goes as smooth as butter.
Exceeding our yearly target of 75% revenue growth by 1,5 % made us realise Foxford Woollen Mills has a huge potential to grow further. That’s why we organised a strategic session with the whole team (including the higher management) during which we defined a roadmap to doubling our client’s revenue in the next year. We’re all thrilled and looking forward to the next challenges. Moreover, in 2019 profit is king and we are gradually shifting our focus from Revenue to ROAS and LTV to have a better overview of the business.
This project was a collaboration between RockBoost & DotControl.
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